From David Bowie getting the James Murphy remix treatment to James Blake’s surprise Mercury win, October has been a fascinating month for music fans. Here, NME writers choose the best songs or albums they heard over the last month.
Pusha T – ‘My Name Is My Name’
For the longest time it has seemed that Pusha T would have to make do with cult rap status as part of Clipse, with pop fans also knowing his rap on Justin Timberlake’s breakout solo hit ‘Like I Love You’. However, with the release of ‘My Name Is My Name’, King Push has pulled up a seat at hip-hop’s top table and confirmed his position as one of the finest rapper’s in the world today. Much of the album’s brilliance lays in its production, with GOOD Music label boss Kanye West acting as executive producer and using some of the same gnarled electronic sounds that appear on ‘Yeezus’. The record is packed with guest stars too. Kendrick Lamar appears on the drug dealers tete-a-tete ‘Nosetalgia’, 2Chainz and Big Sean also crop up while Rick Ross’ verse on the Hudson Mohawke produced ‘Hold On’ is another highlight. Despite a high star count it’s when Pusha T goes it alone, as on the exemplary ‘Numbers On The Board’, that the album really soars. Hopefully this is the album that Pusha T establishes not just his name, but also his status on the game. A strong contender for rap album of the year.
David Renshaw, news reporter
Katy B – ‘I Like You’
The next instalment from Kathleen Brien following her blistering return with ‘5am’ (it’s getting hammered on radio at the moment, and deservedly so). ‘I Like You’ is a little more indelicate. Pneumatic beats march like an army of robots as B purrs over the top, “I like you a little bit” she concedes. “More than I should.” It may have been some wait until her second album ‘Little Red’ finally drops next year – but on this form, it’ll be worth it. Mission – almost – complete.
Greg Cochrane, NME.com Editor
Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’
October is the month that ‘Reflektor’ finally arrived, after a protracted teaser campaign that made even Lady Gaga’s look modest – we first spotted those mysterious symbols back in the summer. There’s so much to unpick on this sprawling album I’ve barely even scratched the surface yet, but it reveals greater charms with each listen. Right now, it’s the towering title track, ‘Afterlife’ and the glam stomp of ‘Joan Of Arc’ that have wormed their way into my brain. James Murphy plus Arcade Fire was always going to be a brilliant combination, and the album was absolutely worth the wait.
Dan Stubbs, News Editor
Cate Le Bon – ‘I Can’t Help You’
You know when you hear a few bars of music or a particular key change or phrase and it sends your synapses mental? In other words the reason why music’s so great full stop? This happened to me in a major way in Cate Le Bon’s ‘I Can’t Help You’. The song’s pretty and quite Laura Nyro-esque until 2.15 when the bridge comes in all dissonant with strange nightmare-circus backing vocals that could be human or machine. “And split me like timber, spilt me like water, banged me like elbows, beat me like egg yolks,” she sings, gorgeously harmonising with her own voice, in the greatest bridge of the year.
Lucy Jones, NME.com Deputy Editor
MIA – ‘Matangi’
MIA’s long-awaited, much-delayed comeback record ‘Matangi’ finally arrived this month and it’s a stunning piece of work that’s as multi-faceted and provocative as the artist who created it. I’ll be totally honest, at first listen I wasn’t immediately hooked – I’d already played the biggest, hookiest moments like ‘Bad Girls’ and ‘Bring The Noize’ to death, and the rest didn’t instantly grab. A couple more spins and I was hopelessly addicted. No song this year has grown on me as much as ‘Come Walk With Me’. There’s a hell of a lot going on in this record, and it’s well worth spending the time to investigate it.
Kevin EG Perry, NME.com Assistant Editor
David Bowie -‘Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA)’
Let loose at last on a David Bowie track, James Murphy made gleeful hay, hollowing out the whole thing and throwing in one big nod to another of his heroes, Steve Reich. The Reich bit’s an appropriation of the minimalist maestro’s ‘Clapping Music’, but the remix gets truly meta when Murphy starts sneaking in snatches of Bowie’s own ‘Ashes To Ashes’. You just know he’s hugging himself in delight by this point. Pulsating slow-burner rather than banger, it’s one for Balearic nights in 1988. Who’s coming with me?
Matt Horton, writer
Bully – ‘Bully’ EP
2013 has been an outstanding year for gritty garage pop with sweet vocal melodies, the kind that don’t tarnish even when they sound like they were recorded in an exhaust pipe (as most of the best Bandcamp finds inevitably do). But that’s what sets the debut EP by Nashville’s Bully apart; singer Alicia Bognanno interned at Steve Albini’s Electric Audio studios and works sound at The Stone Fox, and put her expertise to good use by recording her band’s buoyant four-track herself – it’s dirty but vital, like a freshly skinned knee. Bully are so new that they weren’t around when Leonie Cooper profiled DIY Nashville for NME recently – though their sound actually has more in common with my other favourite US scene, Massachusetts, recalling the sweetly sardonic verve of Boston old-timers Blake Babies (of which Julianna Hatfield and Evan Dando were both members). Bognanno’s lyrics are also excellent, sneaking dismal domesticity behind a sugary façade: “Your lies are thicker than my milkshake/But they both make my stomach ache/And they’re both slowly weighing me down,” she sings on ‘Brainfreeze’. Listen here.
Laura Snapes, Features Editor