The sounds rattling round the skulls of the NME staff this week
Willis Earl Beal – ‘Evening’s Kiss’
“Write to me and I will make you a drawing.” So states the handwritten press release for Willis Earl Beal’s debut single, ‘Evening’s Kiss’. Further down there’s a phone number (001 773 295 2135). “Call me”, it says, “and I will sing you a song”. The Chicagoan has been hiding himself away for the past four years, picking up famous and not-so-famous devotees as a result of leaving his fractured but often brilliant home-recorded CDs around public places. He’s kind of like Jandek meets the real-life, male, soul-stirring version of Audrey Tautou’s Amélie in the film of the same name – all about mystery and with just as alluring a backstory as the French enigma.
The newest signing to XL (via freshly launched imprint Hot Charity), his debut single is an ever-so-slightly cleaned-up version of one of those early songs. We say ‘slightly’ because it’s in no way polished – Willis strums harshly at a battered guitar, and background hiss cuts through like a razor. Then he whispers a heroically sad tale of denied love and loneliness. Sure, Willis might initially seem like just another dude with a voice, but he’s roughly a billion times more captivating than the legion of lightweight singer-songwriter bozos who rule the mainstream at present. Listen to him, pick up your phone and get drawn deep into his shadowy world…
Matt Wilkinson, New Music Editor
From a girl who denounced God at 12, you might expect something more unholy than this Noah’s Ark of sex, sweetness and progressive synth-pop that sits somewhere between ‘Deep Cuts’-era Knife, ‘Hollaback Girl’ and the soundtrack to some cunts-in-capes computer game. But subtlety is Grimes’ virtue, and this sees 4AD’s new signing on peak form.
Mike Williams, Deputy Editor
A skeletal, dour triumph from the sessions for The xx’s long-awaited new album. Coming off like a cousin of ‘Shelter’, here we find Romy Madley Croft providing a sadcore vocal bouquet over shadowy guitar, forsaking their old Chris Isaak vibe for entrancing, Chet Baker-indebted melancholy.
Priya Elan, Assistant Editor, NME.COM
Another taster from new album ‘Plumb’, which is out in February and, if there’s any justice at all, could very well be this year’s ‘The English Riviera’. Its melodica-led beginnings soon evolve into an XTC-ish, falsetto-infused white funk romp; delectably inventive but forged of solid pop gold at its core.
Hamish MacBain, Assistant Editor
“Anonymous electronic auteur” could be played as a marketing hook, but the clutch of Evian Christ tracks that snuck onto YouTube in the dying days of 2011 modestly suggest the arrival of a bright new talent. Here’s the pick, a flurry of ghetto-tech raps, jittery footwork beats and gliding synth that glows with an illicit euphoria.
Louis Pattison, writer
Just as last year’s excellent ‘Kaputt’ LP was an inspired re-calibration of smooth ’80s sounds rather than shameless grave-robbing, this cover of one of that decade’s most important bands more than does the original justice – ironically sounding like Joy Division acolytes Interpol.
Rick Martin, News Editor
Currently cleaving NME.COM users’ opinions in half, this very un-Scissor Sisters, Boyz Noise-produced track – featuring one Azealia Banks masquerading as Krystal Pepsy – is either a sub-Black Eyed Peas blip or the most exciting rave-pop thing to be released all short year. We’re in the latter camp.
Tim Chester, Deputy Editor, NME.COM
Say what you like about Skrillex’s Transformer-heartbeat skronk, but you couldn’t see Pendulum doing this. Here, Ellie G’s wispy warbles are sliced’n’diced with serial killer precision for a stimulant-soaked, quasi-romantic banger that definitely won’t be appearing on any department store adverts soon.
Jamie Fullerton, Features Editor
True to spooky-voiced form, The Knife’s Karin has recorded a deeply unsettling solo track for a charity compilation to benefit victims of the Japanese tsunami. It features her obliquely going “ooh-ooh” for five minutes, like a melancholy ghost who’s just trodden on an upturned plug. Bleak. But what did you expect, a rowdy cover of ‘Whoomp! There It Is’?
Luke Lewis, Editor, NME.COM
Despite singing, “Money is the anthem of success”, LDR’s probably not commenting on how the most solvent Republican candidate will win the caucuses this spring. Coming on like a deliciously stoned Katy Perry, this’ll soundtrack a few summer months at least…
Laura Snapes, Assistant Reviews Editor
This article originally appeared in the January 14th issue of NME