1. Tyler, The Creator – ‘Yonkers’
When Tyler’s gang Odd Future played their debut Big Apple show last month, our NYC spies told us that not since Arctic Monkeys’ make-or-break gig there has the city witnessed scenes of such hysteria. These days more than ever, the crucial trait that sets the conveyer belt of jobbing rhymers apart from the stratospheric superstars of tomorrow is not technical proficiency or street smarts. It’s personality.
What Kanye, Wayne, and now Nicki Minaj bring that others don’t are fantastical visions for the kind of rap superhero they’ve decided they’re going to be. OF’s ringleader, Tyler, The Creator, is next to join those ranks.
He’s a dazzlingly astute car-crash skate-rat renegade – as considered as he is unhinged – who cites Stereolab, Blur and Waka Flocka Flame as his key touchstones, eats cockroaches in his videos and spits out verses with content that’d have Slim Shady at his most brutal pleading, “Woah, easssyy!” Eminem’s a good reference point, as over ‘Yonkers’’ skittering beats, you realise that not since MM have we had a rhyming anti-hero with as much potential to conquer both rock and rap.
Jaimie Hodgson, New Music Editor
2. Bright Light Bright Light – ‘How To Make A Heart’
Rod Thomas crafts pop so professional you won’t believe it’s not major label – and so poignant you won’t believe you’re still breathing when it’s done. Elegantly euphoric, this answers its own question: “How do you make a heart rise up, up, up/Until everything is fireworks?”
Emily Mackay, Reviews Editor
3. Foo Fighters – ‘White Limo’
BLIMEY! So Dave Grohl really has ditched the posh digital studios and done the new Foos record in his garage. ‘White Limo’ is a scuzzy white-trash punk record that’s just one hardcore riff and screaming. Properly amazing.
Martin Robinson, Deputy Editor
4. James Franco & Kalup Linzy – ‘I Love You’
“Hello, I’m James Franco. You may remember me from the film 127 Hours. Or perhaps you’ve read my stories? Maybe you’re on my Yale PhD course? Anyway, I got tired of being so unproductive and wrote a song with my performance art partner. The Misshapes mixed it – no biggie. Must dash though, I’m hosting the Oscars tonight!”
Ailbhe Malone, writer
5. Tenebrous Liar – ‘Bomberhead’ (Rehearsal)
They say he killed a man with a guitar string and then took a photo of his shoes. Steve Gullick’s ever-shifting, ever-brutal band achieve more caustic rock action in these 120 seconds than Brother will in an entire and uneventful lifetime.
John Doran, writer
6. Laura Marling – ‘Flicker And Fail’
While her own songs whisper with the ghostly sagacity of decades past, here, on a number originally penned by Papa Marling before she was born, Laura sounds bright and full-bodied, channelling Joni Mitchell and doing kids proud everywhere by giving her dad’s feelings a good hard beating.
Laura Snapes, Assistant Reviews Editor
7. Vessels – ‘The Trap’
This instrumental track has the atmospheric brilliance of 65daysofstatic and the gritty rock of Pulled Apart By Horses – carefully orchestrated and beautifully chaotic at the same time. A persuasive introduction to their album ‘Helioscope’, out in March.
Abby Tayleure, writer
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8. Guards – ‘Born Free’
One of a trio of covers for their latest EP (the others being Metallica’s ‘Motorbreath’ and Vampire Weekend’s ‘Taxi Cab’), Cali reverb-skuzz kings Guards’ reimagining of MIA’s stormer is a motorik freeek-out: amped up, feedback drenched and downright dirty.
Matt Wilkinson, News Reporter
9. Therapies Son – ‘Yellow Mama’
Californian newcomer Alex Jacob is the person to finally write a song that sounds like MGMT covering John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’, complete with Super Furry synth squiggles.
Jamie Fullerton, News Editor
10. Kurt Vile – ‘Baby’s Arms’
Wes Anderson must be masturbating furiously. This somehow manages the peculiar feat of sounding like Nico’s ‘These Days’, Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle In the Hay’ and Nick Drake’s ‘Fly’ woven into one. As sung by a hungover, heartbroken Deer Tick. Mind = blown.
Mike Williams, Features Editor
This article originally appeared in the February 26th issue of NME