1. Paul Weller – ‘Wake Up The Nation’
Godlike and modlike and genius he may be, but there’s no pomp, no laurel-resting for Weller. Ballsy, rude and brash, this venom-vocalled rocker, wreathed in harmonium and brass, spits with fiery life. His new album of the same name is only a fortnight away, and the title track demonstrates the kind of surprising verve that’ll leave snobby sceptics slap-faced.
2. Drake feat. The-Dream – ‘Shut It Down’
It doesn’t get much hotter in the world of the hip and the hop right now than Drake, young prizefighter of Lil Wayne’s Cash Money label. His debut album ‘Thanks Me Later’ is out later this year, and this leak is rumoured to be the first single. Stark, bare and smacked-out slow, it’s equal parts sooth slow jam and dark nightmare.
3. Avi Buffalo – ‘What’s In It For?’
Trying to get across the warm, woozy rush that Avi Buffalo’s gloriously melancholic and gentle Neil Young-indebted country rock suffuses our brains with is sending us into something of an adjective-spewing spasm. Honeyed? Hickory-smoked? Sepia-soporific-swoonsome-schmorgle? Words are just pretty pointless when there’s cuddles; so let these new Sub Pop signings give your tired ears a massive hug.
4. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – ‘Round And Round’
Newly signed to 4AD, lo-fi pop maverick Ariel Pink offers the first taste of new album ‘Before Today’. A nostalgic and slightly unsettling late-‘70s weirdo-pop effort, it stitches an unlikely suture between Ladyhawke’s airbrush aesthetics and The Flaming Lips’ complete failure to distinguish between pop songs and batshit lysergic fantasies.
5. Class Actress – ‘Journal Of Ardency’
Once upon a time, Elizabeth Harper was a mournful, sharp-tongued, Smiths-lovin’ indie songstress beloved of arch tastemakers Angular Records. Now it seems the New Yorker has discovered chilly synths and minxy personas, and so we have the p-p-pow dark disco of Class Actress; don’t call it Italo; it’s much more evil than that.
6. Neon Indian – ‘Sleep Paralysist’
Knife-y low synth pulses, 8-bit bleeps and fuzzy, indistinct vocals… Neon Indian’s take on the chillwave sound is distinctly more awake than fellow travellers such as Memory Tapes or Toro Y Moi… he’s at least got one leg out of bed and is thinking about making himself a cup of tea. This serotonin-surfing new single, produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor (now there’s blog catnip if we ever heard it) is a hit of summer mainlined to your aural nerve.
7. The Fall – ‘Bury’
Always and never the same, they say, and indeed, Mark E. Smith’s ragamuffin chameleons are a constant pole, a lodestone of this thing we sometimes call indie because we don’t know what the hell else to call it. Awkward Mark, though, unlike us common fudgers, is a stickler for accuracy and, as he reminds us on this lurching low-slung punk roustabout, he’s not from Bury. He’s from Salford. Alright? Good.
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8. Foals – ‘This Orient’
“It’s your heart that gives me this western feeling”, accuses Yannis. No doubt it’s some complex and tortured exploration of love as postcolonial exploitation or some such, but, musically, it’s on the surface the least comples Foals moment yet, with parts that might be described as euphoric even. If they’ve drawn a blanket of conventionality over their sharp corners, though, we can still see their freaky, staccato little toes poking out deliciously beneath.
9. The Hold Steady – ‘Hurricane J’
Kindly high school counsellor of hardcore Craig Finn is back, and he’s brought his scrubbed and shiny riffs to polish your soul clean. The Hold Steady’s new album ‘Heaven Is Whenever’ is out May 3, and this first taste is a typically punchy hardcore power-pop steering-wheel tapper disguising an emotionally wracked take of damaged relationships, peppered with flashes of wry wit such as “You’re a beautiful girl/And a pretty good waitress… but I don’t think I’m the guy”. Whirlwind romance, you might say… arf.
10. Villagers – ‘Becoming A Jackal’
Melodies; they seem to be in short supply at the moment. if you lack for something to hum wistfully as you do the washing up (no tears in the bowl, mind) come sit by the bonfire of Conor J O’Brien, newest signing to Domino Records. Rich, Spanish-tinged and haunting, his gorgeous folk-rock of the Neil Young school will thrill the heaving hearts of Ryan Adams and Cass McCombs fans. No easy maudlin sentiment, though – “before you take this song as truth/You should wonder what I’m taking from you”, urges O’Brien tensely. Be warned; he’s got out speech already, who knows what’ll be next…