Six months in, 2013’s been an exceptional year for new music. NME’s Radar editor Matt Wilkinson’s collected together 40 of our favourites, starting with… Parquet Courts – Stoned And Starving Parquet Courts know the essence of great rock music lies in the attitude you apply to your songs when writing them. This glorious two-chord howl has them at their peak.
Childhood – Solemn SkiesOf all the new British bands to emerge in the last 12 months, none have written a chorus quite as huge as Childhood’s Ben Romans Hopcraft and Leo Dobson here. Catchy as hell and 100 per cent confident to boot, ‘Solemn Skies’ is putting everyone else in the shade.
Merchandise – Anxiety’s Door The romantic melancholy that Merchandise frontman Carson Cox employed on ‘Children Of Desire’ is replaced here by a spirit verging on the beatific. We join him at night roaming the gritty streets of Tampa, Florida. But to Cox the air smells like perfume: “With no chains on my heart”, he sings, “it’s so easy to be free”.
Jagwar Ma – Man I Need As ravey as it is dreamily druggy, Gabriel Winterfield’s psych-tinged vocals twin perfectly with Jono Ma’s blissed-out LCD Soundsystem-gone-’90s beats on the standout from the duo’s album ‘Howlin’. All hail the Wizards of Oz.
Palma Violets – Johnny Bagga Donuts
Yeah, so everyone might still be going mad for ‘Best Of Friends’ and ‘…Cool Cats’. But really, this fan-favourite sums up everything that’s so exciting about the Palmas. As catchy as The Strokes at their classiest, and both lyrically funny and astute, it has rightfully become THE tune that gets everyone going at their gigs.
Pond – Xanman Xanman is everything rock’n’roll should be in 2013: loud, arrogant, sexy, swaggering, riff-heavy and totally fucking cool. It leaves you thinking that while Tame Impala – who Pond share members with – are busy conquering the world, THIS is where the real party’s at. Mesmerising stuff.
Twin Peaks – Stand In The SandIt’s a wonder Twin Peaks are even with us at all. The young Chicago fivepiece started getting noticed in highschool last year. Then uni came calling and the band called it quits. Until they realised they’d made a huge mistake. ‘Stand In The Sand’ sounds like all the best bits of Parquet Courts and Smith Westerns rolled into one weed-obsessed banger.
Temples – Colours To Life Modern music’s obsession with mining ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’-era Beatles continues with Temples. Frontman James Bagshaw might look exactly like Marc Bolan, but ‘Colours To Life’ is all multi-layered, mid-60s tinged psychedelic fabulousness.
Chance The Rapper – Juice
Chance’s 2012 debut tape #10Day had him selling out shows in Chicago, but it’s May’s Acid Rap release that pushed him over the edge in the UK. With its sincere shoutouts to his hometown, Kobe Bryant jokes and flow flipping (from out-of-it hazy to super sharp within a couple of lines), ‘Juice’ is a perfect example of why people want more.
Haim – Falling
Queens of snaring the perfect pop chorus, Danielle, Alana and Este’s Haim’s February single is every bit as catchy and polished as we’ve come to expect from them, and their strongest standalone offering yet. Roll on the debut album…
Milk Music – Illegal And Free
“Don’t fuck with me man/ I’m illegal and free,” drawls Alex Coxen on this tight, intense anthem. Taking the Olympia band’s twin guitar onslaught to the max, ‘Illegal And Free’ is the centrepoint on their album ‘Cruise Your Illusion’ album – sounding both doomed yet weirdly heroic all at once.
The Orwells – Other Voices
Something great is happening in Chicago’s garages right now, spearheaded by teenage punks The Orwells and their fuzzbox buddies Twin Peaks. ‘Other Voices’, produced by Dave Sitek, is perhaps the most exciting track to emerge from the scene so far. A raucous three-minute take on Stones-y R&B, it’s the canny Iggy-gone-crazy vocal that really makes it fly.
Savages – She Will
“She will, she will! SHE WILL!!” barks Jehnny Beth on this highlight from Savages debut album ‘Silence Yourself’. In typical Savages fashion it climaxes via thrilling riffs, motorik drumming and crumbling basslines, leaving nothing but eerie space and one final screech in its wake. What will ‘she’ do exactly? Shriek, by the sound of it.
Rat’s Rest – ‘Leaders Philosophy’ You’d be hard-pressed to find a filthier proposition than this no-fi demo courtesy of the brand new punk band Rat’s Rest. Hailing from Kansas City, the collective sound like they recorded in a vermin-infested sewer and yet not even the JAMC-levels of hiss and obscene murk can obscure the fact ‘Leaders Philosophy’ flaunts some of the boldest hooks of 2013.
Swim Deep – The Sea
‘The Sea’ continues Swim Deep’s knack of knocking out a killer chorus (see previous singles ‘King City’ and ‘Honey’), but with the kind of added studio clarity and nous you always hoped (and suspected) they were capable of. It bodes well for their forthcoming debut album – helmed by Florence & The Machine/2:54 production whizz Charlie Hugall.
Family Rain – Friction
Hands down one of the catchiest songs here, ‘Friction’ has the brothers Walter bettering last year’s triumphant breakthrough ‘Trust Me…I’m A Genius’. Melody kings for every second of it, it’s not difficult to see why they Bath newcomers are causing such a ruckus.
Wardell – Opossum Originally recorded under Sasha and Theo Spielberg’s former alias Brother/Sister, Opossum is as tight as indie-pop debuts come. Sasha’s dove-like coos entwine with jangling bells and a soothing wash of reverb-tinted guitar that grows in stature throughout the syrupy, summer, Shins-indebted tune. Oh and you might have heard of their dad. He’s a film director apparently.
Peace – Toxic
Highlight from the B-Town forefathers’ album ‘In Love’, like all of Peace’s best songs ‘Toxic’ is driven along by singer Harry Koisser’s yearning to forget a lost love. A true indie heartwrencher.
Royal Blood – Figure It Out
With the sheer number of Jack’n’Meg influenced duos currently doing the rounds (from Deap Vally to Drenge), you might think it’d be difficult to stand out from the crowd. Not so for Brighton’s Royal Blood, who’ve got a whole heap of industry bigwigs freaking out over their ace ‘Figure It Out’.
Telegram – Follow
Yes, they’re mates of Toy, The Horrors and Charlie Boyer, but don’t presume London newcomers Telegram are cut from exactly the same cloth. An obsession with Roxy Music shines through on everything they’ve done so far, not least this track. Yet it’s not pastiche – there’s more punk anger to their wares than Eno and Ferry ever really mustered.
Arthur Beatrice – Carter
Having been away for a year honing their debut album, London fourpiece Arthur Beatrice’s recent return has them sounding more beguiling and ethereal than ever. The band more than fill the void left while Wild Beasts are away.
Gabriel Bruce – Greedy Little Heart
The centrepoint of Bruce’s great and much-underrated album ‘Greedy Little Heart’ makes for a gloriously dramatic listen. Taking up his role as the disco Bruce Springsteen, the young Londoner goes from smooth croon to shrieking mania with impressive, electrifying ease.
Drenge – Bloodsports
Ever been on a moonshine-fuelled 3am rampage in a stolen car through a deserted city centre? One with Alex Turner and Queens Of The Stone Age tied up in the boot? Alright, us neither. But why bother, when listening to Sheffield brothers Drenge gives you the same experience yet with 100 per cent less prison?
The Child Of Lov – Fly
Given Cole Williams’ wafer-thin frame, it’s surprising to hear his voice here – he comes on like Barry White, rumbling over crater-forming beats and electro-accordion loops while taking us “down to the river Jordan” like a hellfire preacher. Totally exciting.
Fryars – ‘On Your Own’
His drooping falsetto might sound doleful but Fryars isn’t all about the sadness. Here he manages to turn the aching loneliness into something that almost passes as triumphant, even when he’s singing about making “a beeline straight to hell”. It’s a stoic kind-of anthem for the shy and solitary.
Half Moon Run – Full Circle Currently slaying UK indie radio, the Montreal band’s best song hits you like Radiohead circa 2000. Tight, tense and not at all tawdry, they use precision as their ace card – perfection, from the harmonies to the west coast inspired finger-picked guitars, is littered throughout ‘Full Circle’.
Wolf Alice – FluffyIn three minutes, Wolf Alice pack in as many crashing drums, squalling riffs and grungey basslines as possible. It all climaxes in an instrumental chorus that storms off and slams the door behind it. Fools will probably say it’s not as good as Kim Deal, Elastica or L7 but screw ’em. If only Pussy Riot made these sorts of tunes.
Papa – Put Me To Work We first came across Papa mainman Darren Weiss a couple of years ago, back when he was drumming for Girls. He seemed pretty exhausted – performing two sets a night and having to put up with Christopher Owens 24/7. Now, Weiss is stepping into the fray with Papa once more, with the busy Put Me To Work recalling Springsteen at his bolshiest.
Radkey – Cat & Mouse
The three teenage brothers from St. Joseph, Missouri, are about to rival Pond as purveyors of the best riffs in modern rock. The brilliant ‘Cat & Mouse’ features not one but at THREE amazing Thin Lizzy-via-Ramones segments, all spliced together in the kind of way that’d make Dave Grohl proud.
Ofei – London
Ofei’s first US show was supporting soul hero Shuggie Otis. His recent London one was in a wine bar (capacity: 20) filled with every A&R who’s ever chased Jai Paul around Rayners Lane. Perched with a keyboard resting delicately on his lap, the 20-something Brit pushed breakthrough track ‘London’ to the limit – proving he’s just as stunning live as he is on record.
Hookworms – Radio Tokyo
Easily the poppiest song Hookworms have released yet, ‘Radio Tokyo’ is a classy affair from start to finish. Decked out with drums and bass nicked right out of Berry Gordy’s back pocket, it’s a heroic step forward from the band’s (also great) psych-drenched early offerings.
Waxahatchee – Brother Bryan
One of the major breakthrough acts at SXSW festival in March, Brother Bryan is the perfect introduction to the Brooklyn-based Katie Crutchfield. It’s chock-full of her bruised and beautiful soul, recalling Evan Dando at his most wonderfully whimsical.
Loom – Acid King City It may have a title from the Bobby Gillespie/Jim Reid special edition of magnetic poetry, but ‘Acid King City’ comes straight from the oiliest bowels of grunge gut instinct, with all the roiling rancour of Mudhoney or early, nasty Hole. “I wasn’t looking at you… Why would you think that I would?” seethes Tarik Badwan, with delicious bile.
Los Porcos – Do You Wanna Live
Former members of Wu Lyf (not Ellery) ditch the symbols, facemasks and organ for… funk?! During this six-minute jam, there are “HURGHS”, falsetto wails and a delightfully silly guitar solo. It’s waaay more like ‘Before Today’-era Ariel Pink than anything on ‘Go Tell Fire To The Mountain’.
Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats – ‘Follow The Leader’
As you’d expect from a band who’ve named themselves after a psychedelic drug, love Black Sabbath and dig the occult, ‘Follow The Leader’ is pretty trippy. Kind of like weird-era Beatles played on rusty instruments. Kind of like the noise Ozzy Osbourne hears every night when he’s trying to forget all the dark things. Kind of brilliant.
Cheerleader – New Daze With the merest hint of Brandon Flowers at his poppiest about them, Connecticut-born duo Joe Haller and Chris Duran ply a fine trade in the kind of massive-chorus indie that lo-fi threatened to kill off for good a couple of years back. Still something of DIY project at present, ‘New Daze’ was reportedly recorded in the corner of Joe’s bedroom.
Glass Animals – Black Mambo
This camera shy four-piece may make Alt-J look like aspiring glamour models, but their latest single – released on Adele producer Paul Epworth’s new label Wolf Tone – packs in a hell of a lot, from raindrop synths to twitchy noise and rolling bass.
Circawaves – Young Chasers
Currently sending 98 per cent of London A&R’s into a tailspin, tailspin, Liverpool’s Circa Waves channel bubblegum pop through Kevin Sheilds’ guitar pedals. Landing somewhere in the middle, the demo of ‘Young Chasers’ rollicks along like a bouncier version of The Strokes ‘Take It Or Leave It’.
Deap Vally – ‘Baby I Call Hell’
Trust Lindsey and Julie to have the digits of Beelzebub. Here the devilish duo boast the type of blues-pop grooves Jack White used to knock out before breakfast, along with a chorus that’s just begging for a festival singalong.
Baby Strange – Pure Evil
A snarling fuck you to anyone who likes the terrible, cheapo end of dance music, Scottish newcomers Baby Strange are proper punk romanticists. Theirs is a world of flowers in dustbins, throwing stuff at people outside Wetherspoon’s and hating on anyone with a glowstick. Devilishly snide, but brilliantly so.