From Kanye West’s extraordinary interview with Zane Lowe to the announcement of the Mercury Prize shortlist, it’s been a busy month in music. Here, NME writers choose the best songs or albums they heard over the month of September.
Arctic Monkeys, ‘AM’
Arctic Monkeys’ fifth record is absolutely and unarguably the most incredible album of their career. It might also be the greatest record of the last decade. It’s not, however, the work of a band operating at their absolute peak – that’s yet to come. It’s the work of a band still growing, still fine-tuning, still learning and still experimenting; a band who will not look back on this record as a career high, but as the moment they stopped being defined by genre and instead became artists. Not a rock band, definitely not an indie band, but artists. Think Bowie, think The Beatles, think Stevie Wonder and think Bob Dylan. From this point on, Arctic Monkeys can do whatever they want, sound however they like, and always be Arctic Monkeys. But that’s all for another day, sometime in their stupidly bright future. For now, we should celebrate this record for what it is – 41 minutes and 57 seconds of near perfection.
Las Kellies, ‘Total Exposure’
The insidious drift into autumn was brightened up by all-lady Argentine trio Las Kellies, whose fourth album ‘Total Exposure’ is a clean and organically funky take on post-punk and dub. There are obvious comparisons to be made with ESG – there’s a similar, sparse, late-70s, edgy thing happening here – but Las Kellies’ bassy excursions and meandering melodies are a bit dreamier than that. What’s more, legendary lover’s rock don Dennis Bovell pops in to heavy up the mixing desk as Ceci, Betty and Sil chant along like an even more cool Bananarama.
The most gripping thing about ‘Papi Pacify’ from much-touted new artist FKA Twigs is the notion of possibility. ‘Papi Pacify’ could go in any number of countless directions at every one of its seductive moments, twisting and contorting from doom-saying organ-esque chimes through to soulful, near-acoustic falsetto before descending into a gloopy, dark miasma redolent of ‘Mezzanine’-era trip-hop. This is the sound of your most warped and most infinite dreams. As one scenario folds into another you’ll have no idea what to expect next.
Darlia – Queen Of Hearts
In the month where Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ celebrated it’s 20th birthday, arrives a band reminicient of their spit ‘n’ snarl. Welcome, Darlia, three pissed-off sounding dudes with from Blackpool (Or, Smackpool as they call it). ‘Queens Of Hearts’ is both wild, tight and stuffed with promise. Their three-track debut EP ‘Knock Knock’ crashlands at the end of October. Worth keeping an ear on.
Joanna Gruesome, ‘Weird Sister’
I admit it, when I heard of a band calling themselves Joanna Gruesome I tutted, rolled my eyes and cast an assumption that any band making puns of harp-strumming indie darlings are probably best left well alone. What a fool I was, Weird Sister is one of the best albums I have heard not only in September, but all year. The Cardiff band channel the agrression and distorted drive of bands like Sonic Youth and Drives Like Jehu and add melodic choruses any Sarah Records alumni would be proud to call their own. It’s scrappy and undeniably niche, but multiple plays on I’m still finding new things to love about ‘Weird Sister’.
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Bill Callahan – ‘Dream River’
“Bill Callahan’s early work as Smog painted him as a lo-fi sex case, but of late he’s adopted a sweeter, eddying Americana, and ‘Dream River’ takes a turn to lush country-soul,” wrote NME’s Louis Pattison in his review giving the album 8/10.
The Julie Ruin – ‘Run Fast’
“Rather than any dogmatic list of rules, ‘Run Fast’ is fuelled by the ecstatic abrasion of contradictory personalities. It’s a more honest, human, realistic – and totally wonderful – guide to life,” said NME’s Laura Snapes giving the album 9/10.
Chvrches – ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’
“There’s a strong ’80s influence, of course, but there’s also great songwriting: the glacial ‘By The Throat’ could be a lost Erasure single, while ‘Science/Visions’ turns Giorgio Moroder synths into a sinister electronic sacrament. The final song, ‘You Caught The Light’ (sung by Doherty) is the connective tissue between the band’s past and present: its phosphonic guitars and stately, circuitous structure have more in common with The Unwinding Hours or The Twilight Sad than any of Chvrches’ usual touchstones,” wrote Barry Nicolson, giving the album 8/10.
Danny Brown, ‘Old’
Danny Brown studied Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ while writing his third album ‘Old’, listening specifically to the album’s ground-breaking production. “I wanted to have the most amazing beats, but I still want them to sound minimal– it’s still gotta sound like a Danny Brown beat. It can’t sound like no fucking Kanye orchestra shit. That ain’t me. That’s why I took so long with making this album. I was waiting for the perfect beats. And I got ‘em,” he said. From pumping opening ‘Side A’ via collaborations with Charli XCX, Schoolboy Q and Purity Ring, and production from Rustie, A-Trak and Darq E-Freaker, Brown is in a slightly more grown-up mood. Of course there’s kush, molly and bitches but he’s also talking to real life. Album closer ‘Float On’ tackles the stresses of fame and the music industry. It’s one of Brown’s greatest tracks to date and suggests we’re stepping into an nextinteresting phase for the rapper.