September/October indie review: The Lathums, Sam Fender and more
Featuring The Vaccines, The Lathums, Sam Fender, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Lana Del Rey, The Institutes and Tom Lumley & The Brave Liaison.
The music has come thick and fast over the past couple of months with a host of big indie releases to digest. Afraid you've missed anything? Here's a look at the best indie releases and something a bit different if you're looking for a change.
Back In Love City by The Vaccines
On 10 September 2021, The Vaccines released their fifth studio album Back In Love City. It's was their first in three and a half years since 2018's Combat Sports. After their underwhelming March covers EP release Cosy Karaoke, Vol. 1, they provided us with a fantastic new record with plenty of surprises.
The new album is amongst the bands most ambitious, with a cinematic outlook and fictional city concept inspired by Ridley Scott's version of LA in Blade Runner and Comboy Beebop's Fear City. Whilst there's still a sense of the old indie bangers that we've become accustomed to from the London four-piece, there's an Ennio Morricone, country-western influence which adds so much character throughout.
Back in Love City is as stimulating as it is charismatic. It's an effortlessly fun record with plenty of groove and thrills to go around. Justin Young's surreal and despair filled lyricism is complimented so well by the country-western and anarchic work of bandmates Freddie Cowan, Arni Arnason and Pete Robertson. Collectively, they're playing an absolute blinder, achieving soundscapes to support their cinematic city conceptual theme.
For a band to still be in their peak a decade on is an achievement in itself and it's a collection of songs that deserved all the acclaim that came its way!
You can read my full thoughts on the record by visiting my review, The Vaccines prove they're still in their peak with 'Back In Love City'.
Rating - 9/10
Best three tracks: El Paso, People's Republic of Desire, Alone Star
How Beautiful Life Can Be by The Lathums
Upon asking my Twitter followers about their favourite album release over the past two months, The Lathums debut album was a clear favourite! It really wasn't hard to see why either.
In September, The Wigan band delivered an addictively jangly, indie-pop record that justified its status as one of 2021's most anticipated indie albums. Fronted by self-confessed loner Alex Moore and formed at a local music college, The Lathums have the look and sound of a band without pretension. They provide heart-warming, jangly indie-pop anthems that are performed so eloquently for a band so young.
The lasting impression of How Beautiful Life Can Be is just how delightful a listen it turns out to be, with a range of remastered old favourites providing joy and optimism throughout. ‘Circles of Faith’ is as intense as the album gets and opens proceedings, whilst tracks like ‘I’ll Get By’ and ‘Oh My Love’ are right out of The Smiths manual, seemingly cheery numbers about overcoming struggles.
Nice guys don’t always need to finish last and The Lathums definitely are proof of this! With the secret now out and the indie cult band moving closer to the mainstream with this release (and a number 1 album to show for their efforts), it's clear they're only going to get bigger.
You can read my full thoughts on the record in my review, The Lathums debut proves the cult acclaim can go mainstream.
Best three tracks - Fight On, Oh My Love, Artificial Screens
Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender
If you've been following me on my socials of late, you may have noticed just how obsessed I became with Sam Fender's new album! Upon its release earlier in October, I described the Geordie singer's coming of age second album as "a refreshingly honest, substance-filled rock record which takes him levels above his debut".
Seventeen Going Under is reflective and honest for the most part, providing us with a record unique in today’s popular music landscape. The songs are chest pumping and emotional, full of soaring choruses and more subtle moments of beauty. There are radio anthems and alternative gems, with Sam taking inspiration from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The War on Drugs and Mark Knopfler to produce a record that may have a classic influence, but still feels modern and unique.
The lyrics speak of Sam’s frustration growing up in a working-class British town, his crippling anxiety and feeling left behind politically. There’s depth and substance throughout, factors that often let down his debut. Instead, it feels so much more complete. Such is the quality throughout, you can probably ask five people their favourite tracks and you’ll most likely be met with five different answers!
With Seventeen Going Under, the Geordie-singer has taken himself to the next level, establishing himself as a relatable, introspective indie star who simply produces brilliant, texture filled rock songs. Whilst the record is twinged with sadness and anger, there’s still hope to be found if you look hard enough in these grand, epic songs.
There are millions out there feeling lost, alienated and confused who’ll find solace through Sam Fender’s music. The sky really out to be the limit for this guy.
Read my review 'Seventeen Going Under' has Sam Fender fulfil his potential in an album of the year contender for my full thoughts on the record.
Rating - 9/10
Best three tracks: Seventeen Going Under, Getting Started, Long Way Off
Enjoy the View by We Were Promised Jetpacks
A decade ago, I used to be absolutely obsessed with We Were Promised Jetpacks. The name suggested an American pop-punk band, but the reality was an authentic, Scottish-brogued band that produced beautifully textured rock songs.
On 10 September, the Edinburgh band released their fifth studio album. It was their first without founder member Michael Palmer, the guitarist who departed the band in 2019 and left the band as a three.
Judging by the reaction online, Enjoy the View, which was produced by the trio during lockdown, has very much gone under the radar for a lot of indie fans. This is perhaps due to the more subtle nature of the songs, which, in all honesty, aren't as hard-hitting or impactful as These Four Walls (2009) and In the Pit of the Stomach (2011),
However, many of the similar post-rock and post-punk tendencies of old are still found throughout with added delicacy and synths. Truthfully, just aren't as impactful or memorable. A pleasant enough listen, but not one that left a lasting impression.
Best Three Tracks: What I Know Now, If It Happens, I Wish You Well
Blue Bannisters by Lana Del Rey
In April, I described Chemtrails Over the Country Club as Lana Del Rey's best album yet. The New York singer evokes a certain uniqueness to her nostalgic style, an absolute class act in a league of her own in the pop world. She's followed it up with Blue Bannisters, her second of 2021, and another stunning effort (in parts) with a collection of ballads that will take your breath away in moments.
Its downfall is the fact that the record is rather on the long side at over an hour in length. This definitely ensures a lack of focus in the second half and there's a samey quality throughout which may tempt you to not make it far beyond the tenth track (there's 15 in total).
It may lack the variety and succinctly of her last, but tracks like 'Black Bathing Suit' and 'Arcadia' are still up there with some of her best work.
Rating - 7/10
Best three tracks - Arcadia, Black Bathing Suit, Dealer
Collosseums by The Institutes
Another popular suggestion on Twitter for best release in October was for the debut record by Coventry band The Institutes. They produce feel-good indie-pop anthems, catchy and euphoric songs that hark back to the classic bands of the 1990s. And they're definitely onto a winning formula, taking inspiration from the likes of The Stone Roses, The Las, The Smiths and Doves. And, to be honest, it was love at first listen.
Having only just been released at the end of October, it's an album I'm already looking forward to devoting more time to having dipped my toes in for a couple of listens already. Two listens is enough to know this is a record I'm going to love.
The hooks are fantastic, the music as energetic and charismatic as I've heard on a new guitar record all year. There are textures in the melodies, jangling and confident with pounding basslines and shoegazing galore throughout.
There's barely a dull moment in the 38-minute record, each track revealing itself to be a gem and providing a certain feeling of peacefulness and joy.
Give these boys a listen, you won't be disappointed. This is British guitar rock at its best.
Best three tracks - Something Beautiful, I Just Can't Keep Myself from Loving You, Alleyways
Everything's Affected by Tom Lumley & the Brave Liaison
Tom Lumley & the Brave Liaison are one of the most hotly tipped bands for 2021, with the likes of Huw Stephens on Radio 1, John Kennedy on Radio X and Steve Lamacq on 6 Music providing them with acclaim. They've also supported some of the biggest names in the UK indie scene, including The Hunna and Sam Fender.
On 22 October, the Cambridge band released their debut album Everything's Affected after two years of hard graft. These are rock 'n' roll anthems that will knock your socks off. A thoroughly enjoyable 36-minute record.
Best three tracks - Haunted, Fake Friends, Crawling
A tough one in all honesty. Sam Fender, The Lathums and The Vaccines were on constant repeat over the past few weeks. Each artist, all of whom are at different stages of their careers, have knocked it out of the park with their latest works. Sam Fender edges it, just.
Did you agree or disagree with any of the above? Feel free to agree or berate me @BFloodlights.
Want to be kept in the loop with new, regularly updated indie tunes? Check out the 2021 Blinded by the Floodlights indie recommendations playlist.