Music news belonged to Arctic Monkeys this month: their two massive shows at London’s Finsbury Park felt like mini-festivals as they made their UK return, supported by the likes of Tame Impala and Royal Blood. But this wasn’t just a back-slapping celebration to marvel at the success of ‘AM’: these gigs were about what happens next as much as they were what’s already happened, the first entry in a new bigger and better chapter rather than closing the book on an old one. And judged by the tens of thousands of fans who went to watch, it’s one that plenty of people will have an obsessive interest in following.
But May hasn’t been all Monkeys madness, and away from the huge crowds, there’s been other events to celebrate, too. Here, NME staffers pick out their favourite track or album from the month of May.
Various Artists, ‘Hyperdub 10.1’
It’s fascinating how different Hyperdub’s ten year anniversary comp is to their five year one. ‘5: Five Years Of Hyperdub’ came out in 2009, naturally, and featured gloomy masterpieces from the likes of Kode9 & Spaceape, Flying Lotus, Burial, Zomby, Martyn and Ikonika, who were on the cutting edge of electronic music and remain that way. It wasn’t really a dubstep-only label then (it’s always been too progressive to confine to a single genre), and it certainly isn’t now. ’10.1’ features none of dubstep’s signature thick and sticky bass, and you can damn well dance to it. Many of the same artists (Burial, Kode9 & Spaceape) appear on ‘10.1’ as on ‘5’, alongside newcomers such as DJ Earl and DJ Rashad from the Chaicago footwork scene and UK funky’s Champion and Funkystepz, but everyone’s making dancefloor-ready sounds. It’s a big, but natural, change, and a document of how quickly dance music progresses. This is how it should be, because a label this influential should never stand still.
Tom Howard, Assistant Editor
Lana Del Rey, ‘West Coast’
Could there be a more difficult task than trying to match the anticipation that pre-empted Lana Del Rey’s debut LP following the release of ‘Video Games’? Short answer: no. You simply have to approach the challenge with a completely different tack. So, Lana Del Rey has employed the more earthen sounds of producer and Black Keys man Dan Auerbach for this first cut from her forthcoming follow-up ‘Ultraviolence’. Auerbach’s signature rock sound is immediately recognisable with ‘West Coast’’s rolling drums and drivetime riff. Think the sultry rhythm of ‘Wicked Games’ laced with the breathy lure of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’. Alternatively, the 8-minute stonker of a remix by Solomun offers up something else entirely, proving just how much of a chameleon Del Rey is. Dancefloors, barroom stalls, runways… prepare to see her all over the joint once again.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor
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Lykke Li, ‘I Never Learn’
Presented as the concluding part in a trilogy of albums beginning with her debut, ‘Youth Novels’, it’s safe to assume the narrative arc does not have a happy ending. Lykke Li’s third album saw her jump feet first into the emotional whirlpool of the power ballad, positioning her dark, tear-streaked sound and bleeding-heart tones as the emotionally gushing counterpart to Lana Del Rey’s serial killer pop. A brilliantly intense – if slightly draining – listen.
Dan Stubbs, News Editor
Gruff Rhys, ‘American Interior’
In lesser hands, the story of 18th-century explorer John Evans’ voyage to North America in search of a Welsh-speaking tribe of Native Americans could’ve been drier than a ’70s Open University lecture. As it is, loaded with the wit and melodic talent of Gruff Rhys, perhaps Britain’s most under-apprecited songwriter, it’s an eccentric pleasure from start to finish. While Super Furry Animals remain on a break, they’ll always be missed, but as long as Rhys keep putting out records as diverse as this and Neon Neon, their absence only gets easier to swallow.
Andy Welch, writer
Martyn + Four Tet, ‘Glassbeadgames’
The first cut from new album ‘The Air Between Words’ – out June 16 on Ninja Tune – is an 8-minute long electronic opus. Teaming up with Four Tet, Martyn sets out his stall once more as a producer impossible to categorise. It pops on crunchy UKG beats, cut-up vocal samples, thunderous bass claps and a simple, winding, hypnotic riff. The Dutch, Washington DC-based producer combines house, drum and bass, techno, 2-step flavours to create a journey that resonates with warmth and emotion. I’ve had a sneak listen to the full album and it’s his finest work to date.
Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor, NME.com
Speaking in a recent interview, Four Tet main man Kieran Hebden said that he looked back on the music he bought in 2013 and realised that although there were plenty of good albums, there were not as many big club tunes he was hoping for. Thus he has started working on smaller, one-off projects like this and dubbed 2014 “the year of the banger.” Released under the name Percussions, ‘KHLHI’ delivers on his promise, cutting between a bubbling garage rhythm and a beautiful sample courtesy of ’70s soul singer Syreeta Wright’s ‘Keep Him Like He Is.’ The whole Percussions EP is out now and well worth a listen.
David Renshaw, News reporter
Oliver Heldens X Becky Hill, ‘Gecko’
It’s hard to think back to summer 2013 without having Disclosure’s ‘White Noise’ ringing in your ears. An early front-runner for ‘tune of the summer’ 2014 has to be 19-year-old Dutch DJ Oliver Heldens’ ‘Gecko’ (now with added guest vocal courtesy of Becky Hill). It is, as some would say, a sure-fire smash, a Godzilla of a dancefloor hit, and probably the first record packed in any reputable DJ’s bag of crowd-pleasing songs this festival season. You get the point.
Greg Cochrane, Editor NME.com
Morrissey, ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’
Can you imagine if Morrissey actually had joined Twitter? Sure, he would have tossed out 140-characters of sulky wit like no-one’s business, but why lower yourself to social networking when you can pour scorn on the system just fine as it is? “World peace is none of your business, you must not tamper with arrangements,” he croons here in his warm, fuzzy-headed protest comeback. “Work hard and sweetly pay your taxes, never asking what for.“
Ben Hewitt, writer