This week's playlist features a free download from indie stalwarts Quasi, some 21st Century riot grrrl from Japanese Voyeurs, and an 'ornithologically-themed knee-trembler" from The Besnard Lakes.
1. MIA – There’s Space For Ol Dat I See
Trust her. The internet’s been holding its collective breath for months, waiting for its beloved empress to give a sign that she still cares for her people, and when she finally does release a new song… it’s really weird. True to her recent words, she’s moved away from dancefloor bangers, and this unearthly transmission picks up where the dissipated, weary beauty of ‘Paper Planes’ left off and runs with the odd. Album three is going to be very interesting…
2. White Hinterland– Icarus
Classically trained pianist Casey Dienel, originally from Massachusetts, garnered a cult following with her jazz-inflected, dense, wordy music. For her beautiful forthcoming album ‘Kairos’, though (a Greek word describing an idea of the perfect moment, philosophy fans), she’s done a Dirty Projectors, spring-cleaning her baroque novelettes into gleaming, spacious pop to drown in.
3. New Young Pony Club – Lost A Girl
It’s been a long, long time coming (three years in fact), but there hasn’t been a day in the past week that we haven’t played New Young Pony Club’s brilliant new album ‘The Optimist’. It’s been well worth the wait for the follow-up to 2007’s Mercury-nominated ‘Fantastic Playroom’, then. After repeated listens to this free track, someone should really make a joke about them not being one-trick ponies, but we’re not going there.
4. Xiu Xiu – Gray Death
I bet you thought with a title like ‘Gray Death’ this was gonna turn out to be some kind of melodramatic love note. And you would be right! Well, sort of. The first single to be taken from this experimental indie outfit from California’s unsurprisingly titled new album ‘Dear God, I Hate Myself’, is a coal-and-dagger orchestral affair for the digital age that at once recalls the frantic vocal of Arcade Fire’s Win Butler meshed with the relentless industrial beats deployed by Cold Cave.
5. Titus Andronicus– Four Score And Seven
Since the death of the great, soured romantic Elliott Smith, there’s been little to fill the void for the world’s love-weary down-and-outs. Step up then New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus. Singer Patrick Stickles thinks nothing of stirring emotional coiffeurs with his coarsely hoarse yet strangely comforting vocal bedded over a weepy string section, before the track descends into a flurry of chaos as Stickles screams “You won’t be laughing”, like some American-Irish folk song that’s been super-bastard-turbo-charged.
6. Chapel Club –O Maybe I
January, month of cold hands and warm hearts, snuggling on sofas and holding each others’ mittens, forms the perfect setting for these fresh-faced London boys to get all lovelorn and intense with a sneaky fumble of grandiose indie rock. Aching with romantic possibility, it’s like Editors before they got rubbish.
7. The Besnard Lakes – Albatross
Featuring the musical accessory du jour – a brass band – (both These New Puritans and Liars are suckers – or should that be blowers? – for the trumpet, trombone and French horn), this ornithologically themed knee-trembler is a beauty. Shimmering and reverb-sick guitars courtesy of Jace Lasek sit somewhere between Ultra Vivid Scene and Ride, while Olga Goreas comes on like a one-woman Beach Boys. Either way, it gives NME the horn.
8. Japanese Voyeurs - That Love Sound
There’s nothing NME likes better than the sound of riot grrrl run through 21st century speakers. And no-one does it better than Japanese Voyeurs, whose latest single is an education in doing the deed. And when Romily Alice’s screaming, banshee-wailing vocal, paired with the band’s thundering drums and unrelenting, furious guitar riffs hit you with the salacious lyric “When the water breaks/I hear the noises/Can you feel the shakes”, it’s downright dirty enough to get you all wet and bothered round your nethers. My word.
9. United Nations Of Sound – Are You Ready?
Turns out that post-The Verve’s third coming, Richard Ashcroft has been busying himself not
with a fourth solo album, but a project involving hip-hop production heavyweight No ID (he of ‘DOA (Death Of Auto-Tune)’ and ‘Run This Town’ fame). So while this first taster features some familiar RA trademarks – looped strings, lyrics like “I’m out here in Babylon/Come out here with me” – it is also buoyed by a relentless funk backbeat.
10. Quasi – Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler
French for ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ for all those that scuppered their language GCSEs, the latest track to be taken off indie-rock stalwarts Quasi’s forthcoming album ‘American Gong’, and given away as a free download, is a sombre ode. As delicate piano keys walk you up to Sam Coomes’ burdensome vocal, heavy with regret and nostalgia, you can almost imagine being in a side café off a dark, dank Parisian street, washing away your worries with a bottle of plonk. Simply beautiful.