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Album reviews with Ian Sinclair

Langkamer, Big Red Machine, Matthew Milia

Langkamer
West Country
(Breakfast Records/TINA)
★★★★

FORMED in 2018, Bristol four-piece Langkamer have now released their debut.

The press release slaps the altcountry label on the outfit, which seems a bit of a red herring. There is an inventive and playful streak running through the set, their music an infectious mix of rock, blues and folk.

Tracks like Humdinger and The Earthquake sound like a throwback to mid-2000s UK indie music, their choruses engendering The Fratellis-levels of singalongs. The self-loathing The Ugliest Man In Bristol is another highlight, while Acker Bilk’s affecting spoken word summer reminiscences are indebted to Pulp’s David’s Last Summer.

The pandemic, the Mendips, river swimming, a town planner and the clarinettist of the song title are all mentioned.

Fans of bands like Broken Family Band, Brakes and The Waves Pictures, who they have supported, will find much to enjoy here.

 

Big Red Machine
How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?
(37d03d)
★★★

ENVISAGED as “some version of The Last Waltz,” How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? is the second album generated by the collective led by Aaron Dessner (The National) and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). 

Accordingly, there is a surfeit of contemporary talent. Single Latter Days finds Vernon duetting with US indie folk star Anais Mitchell, while Ben Howard and Kate Stables from This Is The Kit sing on June’s A River. Elsewhere Taylor Swift and Fleet Foxes’s Robin Pecknold also contribute.

Musically, there is a synergy with much of the duo’s recent work, including the skittish, lo-fi indie of Swift’s two 2020 records. According to Dessner, ideas of “loss of innocence and nostalgia for a time before you’ve grown into adulthood – before you’ve hurt people or lost people and made mistakes” run through this compelling set.

 

Matthew Milia
Keego Harbor
(Sitcom Universe)
★★★★

AS WELL as being the name of his second solo longplayer, Keego Harbor is also Matthew Milia’s hometown in Michigan – “a microcosm of human frailty and occasional triumph,” he says.

Musically the songs sound a lot like Frontier Ruckus, the band Milia has fronted since 2003 – gorgeous, melodic indie-altcountry, with some brilliant pedal steel work from Pete Ballard and harmonies from Milia’s wife Lauren.

The record’s nostalgic melancholy brings to mind the Scud Mountain Boys’ classic Massachusetts album.

Though pretty much unknown in the UK, Milia is one of the great American songwriters working today. So while Condo Lakeshore is, on the surface, about gentrification while Home Improvement mentions the ’90s US TV sitcom of the same name, all the tracks are absorbing short stories in themselves, encompassing a life-sized number of themes and topics.

Delightful, bittersweet stuff.

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