Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
LDR hasn’t tweeted much recently, maintaining radio silence as the noise around her reached cacophonous levels. Her second single suggests she knew there was no need to say anything, as the title track from her debut (out January 30) is a riposte that speaks for itself. That’s not to say it’s perfect: the lyrics are gently apocalyptic, but don’t fully commit to their titular fate, occasionally ringing trite as she begs, “Don’t make me sad/Don’t make me cry”. (The line about a guy who likes his girls “insane”, however, suggests ‘Video Games’ “I heard you like the bad girls” might have been a come-on rather than a scared half-question.)
But as with Azealia Banks’ smooth delivery, to an extent the words needn’t mean anything, carried instead by internal rhymes – “Oh, my heart it breaks/Every step that I take/But I’m hoping at the gates they’ll tell me that you’re mine” – that flow like a melted chocolate waterslide, buffeted by impeccable production. The whipping strings nod to Westerns and Gone With The Wind, the archetypal American signifiers Del Rey loves so much, and the pillowy violins, slowed heartbeat blip and patriotic chord progression are glorious. It’s not going to sway those still blathering about her being manufactured, but hey, they just lost their chance to get in on that Lana/hunk cuddle in the video.
Laura Snapes, Assistant Reviews Editor
Florence & The Machine – ‘Take Care’ (Drake cover)
The Radio 1 Live Lounge offers as much crap as it does decent cover versions (for every Bombay Bicycle Club doing ‘Video Games’, there’s a Kasabian doing ‘Video Games’) but fortunately Florence’s version of Drake and Rihanna’s Jamie xx-produced track falls in the decent camp. How? By turning up the strings and making it Flo-brand EPIC, of course.
Tim Chester, Deputy Editor, NME.COM
The Roots – Redford
The Roots are such big Sufjan Stevens fans that they’ve centred their new concept album, ‘undun’, around a character called Redford, also the name of an instrumental piece on Sufy’s ‘Michigan’. He’s re-recorded the track – adding glowing multi-tracked vocals – for the first part of a wickedly cacophonous four-piece movement that closes The Roots’ new record.
Priya Elan, Assistant Editor, NME.COM
Amy Winehouse – Halftime
Producer Salaam Remi says this “feels like Erykah Badu”, and he’s right. Recorded during the ‘Frank’ sessions, it’s a slice of laid-back, hipster soul that feels strangely detached from her enduring razor-sharp, heart-on-sleeve image, yet serves as another reminder of the power of those incomparable pipes.
Mike Williams, Deputy Editor
Laura Marling & Ryan Adams – Oh My Sweet Carolina
She’s been a fan of his forever; he was so blown away by her stuff that he re-wrote his last album. Now they’re together on a gorgeous retelling of a number from Adams’ 2000 album ‘Heartbreaker’, with Laura doing the Emmylou Harris backing vocal some serious justice.
Hamish MacBain, Assistant Editor
Alabama Shakes – You Ain’t Alone
The standout track from the US four-piece’s debut EP, ‘You Ain’t Alone’ is a classic slab of garage-inflicted blues aceness. Though it’s undoubtedly driven by the primal howl of singer Brittany Howard, it’s the ‘Hey Jude’-style wigout at the end that makes it really special.
Matt Wilkinson, New Music Editor
2:54 – Got A Hold
Cults, Big Deal, Summer Camp, The Big Pink’s downsize – two has definitely been the new four this year. Room for one more? Certainly – in fact, this dark crush of driving guitars and wailing vocals pushes these moody grunge siblings right up to the head of the pack.
Rick Martin, News Editor
Leonard Cohen – Show Me The Place
It’s been almost eight years since we’ve heard from ol’ Len, but everyone’s favourite lachrymose troubadour hasn’t missed a step: the first taster from his new album sees him, with that molasses-thick voice, still puzzling over sex, death and the human condition. ‘Old Ideas’ perhaps, but presented exquisitely.
Ben Hewitt, writer
Air ft Victoria Legrand – Seven Stars
Last year Air were asked to provide a new soundtrack to a silent film made in 1902, Le Voyage Dans La Lune (‘Journey To The Moon’). On this moon-bound taster, a juddering drum tattoo dovetails with the husky assurances of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand before a plummy announcer begins the ignition sequence and sails you on to a sea of tranquility.
Emily Mackay, Reviews Editor
Paul Weller – Around The Lake
If this is a clue to its wider content, Mr Weller looks to be less re-treading old ground, more brilliantly moonwalking over red-hot coals with next album ‘Sonik Kicks’ – particularly as the martial arts movie drum-rolls and Mars Attacks laser-zaps are the least interesting sounds on this high hat-clamped psych number.
Jamie Fullerton, Features Editor
This article originally appeared in the December 10th issue of NME