HALF-HOUR HUMDINGERS: 10 Albums To Soundtrack Your 30 Minute Makeover

© Nick Drake, 1973, who might make a lovely little appearance on this list…

By Alex Lamont

You’ve eaten your bowl of spaghetti, you’ve scrubbed the mundane daily dust from your hard-worked hands, and your half hour power nap is slept away. The big night looms large up ahead. All that’s missing? The tunes. The tried and trusted “BANGERS” playlist just won’t cut it today, you’re in the mood for real music, man, word food for your incoming encounters. 

Here’s ten albums under 30 minutes for when time is of the essence and this niche situation is your blissful reality.

10. Come On Pilgrim by Pixies

© Pixies

The princes and princesses of the 80s and 90s garagey-punk scene delivered a little package of magic in their 1987 debut Come On Pilgrim which will keep you feeling cool all day. There are some real highlights of the Pixies catalogue stored in this 20-minute thrill, including the infectiously optimistic sounding Holiday Song (ignoring the lyrics just for tonight), the Lou Reed lover’s I’ve Been Tired, and banging opener Caribou. You might even have time to throw another album on after too! It must be your lucky day…

9. Camera by Chromatics

© Italians Do It Better

Italians Do It Better’s poster child Chromatics are second to none in providing that ethereal feeling of perfectly balanced headiness and hope. This collection of tracks along with their alternate mixes and versions will help you float your way through the world with a new sense of purpose, sheening your moonlit surroundings in an enticing glow of optimism. Title-track Camera is a fitting introduction to a 24-minute soundtrack of dreaming, while Magazine moulds itself into an electronic 80’s anthem. And when the originals are over you can bookend your night with the instrumentals.

8. Pottymouth by Bratmobile

© Bratmobile

The punk landscape is full to its grimy brim with short flashes of electric brilliance, and this entry arrives and departs just in time to rile you up and send you on your rebellious way. Bratmobile’s Pottymouth is a criminally overlooked bright spot in the confusing 90’s soundscapes, going hard where it needs to and kicking arse while doing it. Cherry Bomb more than matches The Runaways’ original classic, while Panik and Richard growl and groan attitude. 

7. I’m New Here by Gil Scott-Heron

© Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron has one of those once-in-a-lifetime voices that sulks and soothes with its gruff comfort. Combining soul and spoken word, Scott-Heron delivered a beautiful collection of poetry in his first release after sixteen years, all in a concise 15-song 28-minute album, remixed some years later by Makaya McCraven in a fitting posthumous release.  Rich with heart and experience, I’m New Here is an invaluable staple in the Gil Scott-Heron discography.

6. Bestial Burden by Pharmakon

© Pharmakon

Bestial Burden lingers patiently amongst the shadows, its sleek, oily fingers of intoxication pulling back your hair as the end-of-night retching grips tightly to your shoulders, shaking through to your very soul.

In other words, this industrial nightmare may better soundtrack your late-night lavatory visits than your pre-drinks, but worry not! Nightmares don’t last forever…! Only 28 minutes… (Minus the bonus track)…

5. Aretha Now by Aretha Franklin

©Aretha Franklin

Not every night needs bear such a pessimistic outcome though surely? Legendary Aretha Franklin provides the soul food for when you’re feeling lucky, looking sexy and planning a sleepless night. Franklins version of  I Say a Little Prayer is a strong contender for the best song of all time and joins a whole host of worthy company. And hey, if the night doesn’t reach the dizzy, expected heights; just play it alone and fall in love with yourself. Just make sure you took Pharmakon off the queue…

4. RINA by Rina Sawayama 

©Rina Sawayama

Its follow-up predecessor might have received the wider acclaim, but Sawayama’s debut certainly holds its own as a party warm up. RINA is a spotless 24-minutes of primo pop, and it just sounds like an album which could reappear again twenty years from now as a classic. Ordinary Superstar is a doorway into a whole world of perfectly produced joy, and by the time Cyber Stockholm Syndrome hits, you’ll be bursting at the seams in anticipation for the wonders of the night.

3. My Dear Melancholy, by The Weeknd

©The Weeknd

Some might say that it would be wrong to party to an album constructed in a time so evidently difficult for its creator. To those people, I challenge you to listen to I Was Never there‘s incredible beat switch and insist that those aren’t tears of appreciation, rather than sadness. My Dear Melancholy, is undeniably heart-breaking, but it’s so damn good that it can play out just as effectively as an orgasmic climax of sound. I mean Privilege? Whew.

2. Sweet Princess by Dry Cleaning 

©Dry Cleaning

Yeah yeah, I see the ‘EP’ on the album cover, but you’ve read this far, and I haven’t steered you wrong yet have I? I know Pharmakon was cutting it a bit fine, but I promise Sweet Princess is worth it. 21 minutes of spoken word that feels like its coming from your own mouth accompanying jagged post-punk riffs sounds like a good deal to me. A love letter to Meghan Markle and a critique of the party you’re about to attend sounds pretty convincing to me…

1. Pink Moon by Nick Drake

©Nick Drake

I don’t think too much can be said about Pink Moon that hasn’t already been summarised by our universal accepting of its perfection. Whether you’re in your introspective, pre-party mood, or arriving home drunk and defeated, Nick Drake is on hand to wrap his arms around you in a comforting, audible hug. Which Will is in my eyes Drake’s best work, and it would be quite impossible to leave Pink Moon off this list. 

Album Review: Black Country, New Road’s Debut Dabbles In Plethora of Genres

© Black Country, New Road 2021

By Josh Loynes

I realise that it’s largely considered wanker-ish behaviour to quote yourself, but allow it for just this once. After seeing Black Country, New Road live at the start of last year, one of the last gigs I went to before The Event, I had this to say as part of a long, rambling and unpublished mini-essay I wrote recounting the experience.

“One of the forerunners in the current wave of experimental rock bubbling up from the south, Black Country, New Road seem to have struck gold with a sound that has left every member of the “you probably won’t know them” Northern Quarter vibe police painfully erect with no more than a pair of singles and an ever-escalating run of mythical live shows where “you just HAD to be there”. Improv and originality is the name of the game, with the set made up of about 4 or 5 discernible songs weaved together by extended sections of carefully curated chaos.”

A lot has happened since then (and not just the attempted coining of the fantastic term speedywunder-core to describe some of these bizarre young bands harking from the eponymous label and Brixton’s legendary Windmill). With their debut album finally out, it’s difficult to decide whether BC,NR have captured that same sense of electric and eclectic excitement in the studio, and really how much that matters. 

Going into For the First Time there already seemed to be potential cause for concerns about “freshness”, with 4 of the 6 tracks already having been released in one form or another as singles. However with a band who’s discography is so extensively catalogued through live bootlegs, there’s little they can really do to avoid this. Bookending the album are the only previously unreleased tracks Instrumental and Opus, the first living up to its name with a lyric-less slow build-up to a marching avalanche of klezmer rhythm and melody that explodes into screaming, James Chance-esque saxophone, clearing the way and setting the tone for what is to come. Arriving 27 minutes later, Opus has been a staple of their live shows for some time, with it’s furious, howling, and once again klezmer-influenced riff coming full circle to the album opener and inspiring similar feelings of panic as a fire alarm at 4am. Also = who knew every self-appointed indie tastemaker was such an expert in obscure Hebrew folk music? I can’t say I really knew anything about klezmer a few days ago, but thank god we’re surrounded by such authorities on the subject.

But then with a track as synonymous to BC,NR as Sunglasses, any changes to the single that’s been so championed for the last two years was bound to ruffle feathers. Some changes are objectively for the better, the slow, sludgy intro of their live performances has crept into the album version and announces the arrival of the song proudly and defiantly. Some changes however have taken some time to grow on me, most notably the changes to Isaac’s lyrics. Gone is the iconic line “and f*ck me like you mean it this time“, along with most of the other highly quotable but thickly angst laden turns of phrase. And given time and reflection I can see why; it would be silly to not expect his writing and the deeply personal statements within to not have evolved and matured over the last 2 years- it’s not better or worse, it’s just different.

The same is true for the new take on Athens, France, the new subdued mix and lyrical stylings suggest a maturity that could be taken ever so slightly personally by anyone favouring the previous, more angst heavy cut. Still present though is the Slint infused, threatening melancholia simmering beneath the surface, and while the wonderful imagery of “sourdough daily bread” is gone, the addition of “I am very young and working on the glow up” more than makes up for it.

Is it worth the wait? Definitely. Did it live up to expectations? Well, it’s disappointed and thrilled in equal measure amongst those who have been waiting for this since 2019. God bless those who discovered them on release, sans hype and full of wonder. But really, something like For the First Time was always unlikely to reach the levels of originality and unpredictability of what BC,NR have excelled at so far in their live assaults.

And that’s okay. This is their first album, delayed and disrupted by Covid-19 on top of all of the teething troubles of a band embarking on their first major project. The more time that I’ve spent with it, the more I’ve overcome my uncertainty and found myself really enjoying it. The production on all tracks is stellar, and if you’re unhappy with changes in the lyrics then guess what? The old songs still exist! My lasting impression of it can only really be that if this is Black Country, New Road at their first steps, God help anyone still in the race when they learn to run.