The best new albums of the month, April 2015 edition

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The Mountain Goats 'Beat The Champ' (Merge) buy | stream
It's incorrect to call this a return to form, because to be honest the Mountain Goats are always consistent. However, this (fifteenth!) album recalls the sound of 'Tallahassee' and 'The Sunset Tree' to an extent. It's musically varied with piano pieces, brass sections and their default setting of proper rock n roll power trio. It's a "concept" album of sorts, but delightfully, the subject is the world of pro-wrestling and specifically how it resonates through John Darnielle's childhood.

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld 'Never were the way she was' (Constellation) buy | stream | my review (the 405)
"Billed as “original compositions for horn and violin”, the debut collaborative album from these two Montreal based musicians comes across as an impressive and experimental work, as they twist and manipulate their instruments to create something futuristic, not traditional. Sometimes they gel beautifully, and sometimes the tension between them adds drama and dynamics, bringing their instrumental music into sharp focus."

Colleen 'Captain of None' (Thrill Jockey) buy | stream
Perhaps better known for some beautiful ambient records over the last decade, Colleen has fallen in love with Jamaican music, and although Captain of None is still built around her viola-de-gamba playing, the dub effects, bass lines and the minimal lyrical touches underline the stylistic shift in her music. A worthwhile reinvention, albeit a subtle one. Read my interview with Colleen here (the 405)

Waxahatchee 'Ivy Tripp' (Merge/ Wichita) buy | stream
A more complex, slowburning record than her previous releases, Katie Cruchfield's latest under the Waxahatchee name is none the worse for that. A little more enigmatic than standard indie-rock fare, this rewards repeated listens. It's not all downbeat, and there is a fair dose of quality indie-pop goodness here too.

Built to Spill 'Untethered Moon' (ATP Recordings) buy | stream
I've been giving Built to Spill a wide berth these last few years. On the strength of this album I've been foolish as this isn't far off the heights of their cracking albums from the 90s. Doug Marsh's guitar parts are stellar.

Follakzoid 'III' (Sacred Bones) buy | stream
This Chilean bunch are learning and developing all the time. Their previous album ('II') was great but devotees of Krautrock or late 80s psych-rock would have found much of it familiar. 'III' sees them developing their electronic side over four lengthy tracks - it's less of a freak-out, more of a trance-like immersion - and the vocals are used sparingly, creeping up on you like a ghost in the mix.

GNOD 'Infinity Machines' (Rocket Recordings) buy | stream
There should be more bands, or collectives, or whatever they are, like GNOD. Here the Salford bunch extend themselves over triple vinyl - nearly two hours in length - and their blend of noise-rock, electronics and unhinged sax sounds as good as ever. More politicised and edgy than many other, wordier bands.

Young Fathers 'White Men are Black Men Too' (Big Dada) buy | stream
A fascinating multi-layered record, released with the tagline "file under rock and pop". It's much more than that - a huge mix of styles and genres, belying their pigeonhole as a hip-hop act. Some parts could almost be northern-soul floor fillers, whilst others touch on experimental noise-rock - it is at one moment catchy, and at another moment challenging - yet it is always rewarding.

Braids 'Deep in the Iris' (Arbutus) buy | stream
Another release which people are calling a change of direction. It's not really. Whereas their second album saw them change radically to swap swirling guitars for synths, this one is simply a progression from that. The big developments are in the delivery and the lyrics of Raphaelle Standell-Preston, at times brave and brilliant - check out 'Miniskirt' for example. Oh, and her voice still soars as well.

Ela Orleans 'Upper Hell' (HB) buy | stream
Perhaps surprisingly produced and released by Howie B, this new one from Glasgow-based, Polish born Ela Orleans is a thrilling slice of dark electronica. 'Upper Hell' is where Dante started his descent. This album flicks between spooky imaginary soundtrack music, catchy pop and downbeat atmospherics.

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