20 songs on repeat at NME this week, featuring The Orwells, Willis Earl Beal and Lorde
With a liberal sprinkling of Pixies dust (just check that Joey-inflected guitar line), ‘Dirty Sheets’ is the Chicago reprobates’ most retro moment yet. Singer Mario Cuomo has a touch of Black Francis’ shriek about him too, but really his style is more rooted in ‘Nuggets’ heroes The Standells. He is, with his narky lines about quitting LA for Brooklyn, bloodsuckingly brilliant.
Matt Wilkinson, New Music Editor
A double A-side with recent gem ‘Bubbles’, this finds the Birmingham treasures channelling their inner Supergrass with a romp that skittles between cheeky-chappy bounce, cherubic mid-section and back again. Much like their previous output, ‘Melting’ doesn’t seem to actually be about anything much (‘TV’ was an ode to keeping the telly on when you go to bed), but when you’ve mastered the knack of sounding this joyously carefree, who needs the bigger picture?
Lisa Wright, writer
Marissa Nadler from Massachusetts has been plying her trade for a few years now, slowly refining a spectral, finger-plucked folk that imagines a Laurel Canyon left to the wilderness, inhabited only by ghosts. This, the first fruit from her next LP ‘July’ (due for release in February), feels like her boldest moment yet: a chilly ballad in the doomed old folk style, levitating on a cold plume of synth courtesy of Zombi/Miracle man Steve Moore.
Louis Pattison, writer
As ‘mystery’ collaborations go, Dreems & Jagma must be the least enigmatic of recent times: it is, as the name makes pretty clear, a secret endeavour by Jagwar Ma. Even if the clues weren’t there in metre-high lettering, you’d have strong suspicions. The throbbing synth riffs and blissed-out vocals would have slotted in neatly on their debut album ‘Howlin’’. The difference is world music percussion and Rasta vocals – very ’90s Goa beach party.
Chris Cottingham, writer
Glasgow’s The Amazing Snakeheads slow it down a notch on a second single with an intro almost as long as the entirety of their first. Thankfully, their psychosis remains wonderfully undimmed: ‘Flatlining’ seems unsure whether it wants to snog, marry or stab you, with frontman Dale Barclay grunting and groaning over unsettling skronks of saxophone and pulverising blasts of white-hot guitars. That debut album cannot come quickly enough.
Barry Nicolson, writer
Joker sounds like he’s been making his forthcoming album while lounging by the sea in the centre of an exotic archipelago, piña colada in one hand, MacBook Pro in the other. The desolate and harsh electronica that made up his debut album ‘Visions’ remains but is now warmed with the glow of parping intros, soulful Auto-Tuned vocals and tropical chords. If only we didn’t have to wait lightyears for summer again.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor
David Lynch’s second solo album – July’s ‘The Big Dream’ – was a deranged blues record with touches of classic pop. Although this new track was cut during the same sessions, it’s markedly different – a horror story set to a brooding minimal techno production. Four and a half minutes of pure menace simmered in a broth of ‘what the fuck?’ and hopefully where Lynch and his musical collaborator Dean Hurley will head next.
Phil Hebblethwaite, writer
Anyone who copped an eyeful of the video for Eagulls’ last single ‘Nerve Endings’ – a gruesome clip with repeated close-ups of a rotting pig’s brain they’d sourced from their local butcher – may have been inclined to dismiss the Leeds bunch as mere gross-out merchants. ‘Tough Luck’, though, is proof that there’s gold glittering underneath the gristle: a punkish beast that roughs up the melodic jangle of The Smiths into a rolling and rampaging anthem.
Ben Hewitt, writer
Following the release of his album ‘Nobody Knows’, Willis Earl Beal has posted two new songs on YouTube. It’s not clear whether ‘Coriander Tree Life’ and ‘Babble On’ will be properly released and Willis isn’t shining any light on them, describing them as “Recorded and produced by Nobody at Nowhere during Never”. Still, ‘Babble On’ catches him in soulful, poetic mood as he sings a love letter to language itself with a voice like a babbling brook.
Kevin EG Perry, Assistant Editor, NME.COM
Though Blur remain Goldsmiths University’s greatest musical offering, Holy Milk are proving it can still produce bands worthy of your attention. On ‘Born And Die’ the quartet pose as Britain’s answer to Warpaint, adopting the LA group’s minimalist approach to atmospherics. Frontwoman Lucinda John-Duarte layers words like a balancing act, teetering on the brink of collapse but just about held together by her elegant poise.
Rhian Daly, Assistant Reviews Editor
Almost a full decade since the release of their first single, Maximo Park are celebrating their anniversary by going all new romantic on us. Sounding like they’ve just slunk onto the dancefloor at an early-’80s new wave disco blitz, ‘Brain Cells’ throbs with lacquered sexuality. Close your eyes and you can practically feel Steve Strange fondling the zips of your Vivienne Westwood pirate trousers.
Leonie Cooper, writer
Well, our Lily certainly knows how to do this comeback thing right. Striding back in after four years out of the game, she threw down a brilliantly funny video (and truth be told, it’s more about the video than the song) that poked at Miley and Robin Thicke with a deliciously deft satire on body fascism and double standards, and simultaneously started a fierce, weird debate about racism. Agenda: well and truly owned.
Emily Mackay, writer
The Bohicas, Essex lads on tour – the Monster NME Radar tour, in fact – and new recruits to the Domino roster, hare out of the blocks with their debut track ‘XXX’. It’s a busy, jagged, juddering wedge of new new wave that feeds off the panic-rock of Magazine by way of Bloc Party, and a triple kiss-off from a girl in a noir-ish tale that’s as edgy as the guitars firing off squawks like detuned violins.
Matthew Horton, writer
Ditching the squat-rave vibe of the parties they used to host in the abandoned bank they’d made an art collective hub, Breton head for the high seas, Ibiza-ing up the easy-listening lounge-funk-jazz of a luxury cruise around the Caribbean, right down to the steel drum beats and chorus cries of “You’re a tourist! There’s nothing wrong with that!” It’s all a metaphor for emotional dislocation and romantic failure, obviously, but hey, make ours a mojito.
Mark Beaumont, writer
It’s three years since Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ last record, ‘Mirror Traffic’, but it feels like he’s hardly been away; the influence of the Pavement man’s twisty turn of phrase has loomed large in Speedy Ortiz, Eleanor Friedberger and Empty Pools. But now, rejoice, for he returns with the brilliantly titled ‘Wig Out At Jagbags’, and its nostalgic lead single, ‘Lariat’: “We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead.” I’ve never been so jazzed by an internal rhyme.
Laura Snapes, Features Editor
In the last month, Jean Grae has released a three-part opus called ‘Gotham Cycle’. ‘76%’, from the final episode, is brilliantly weird, with bundles of pop-culture references from Die Hard to Daria. She’s “calm as a condom in a convent quarters”, but this doesn’t half bite. Known to many for her guest appearances (Cannibal Ox, Immortal Technique), ‘Gotham Cycle’ shows why she’s the most underrated artist in rap.
Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor, NME.COM
For a band named after a T Rex song, there’s very little glamour about this track from Glasgow’s Baby Strange. Instead, they’re studying the darker side of life via Jesus And Mary Chain-style scuzz and a sweet, sweet girl-group melody. Essentially, it sounds like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club covering The Shirelles. The band are at the forefront of Glasgow’s garage-rock revival, and it’s easy to see why with songs like this in their locker.
Andy Welch, writer
As performed by Swedish titans Ace Of Base, ‘All That She Wants’ was a perky piece of ’90s pop. As performed by Brighton’s The Wytches, it sounds like something from a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack – likely from a scene in which someone is seduced by a femme fatale who then blows their brains out. Preferable to listening to The Kooks’ cover version of the same song any day. And so is the track.
Dan Stubbs, News Editor
After releasing her debut album ‘Pure Heroine’, the slate-voiced teenage pop prodigy sets her sights on Tears For Fears’ ’80s hit, giving it a minimal, R&B-flecked electronic pop makeover. Featured on the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (alongside Patti Smith, The National and more), it’s a sinister, doom-laden affair complete with crashing orchestral flourishes and chilling drum rumbles. Grab your popcorn and hold onto your cinema seats.
Jenny Stevens, Deputy News Editor
Sacramento rap agitators Death Grips returned last week, dropping a surprise free-to-download album via their Facebook page after months of speculation that the controversial crew had split. Title track ‘Government Plates’ is light and airy by their usual standards of sonic terror, wrapping 16-bit keyboards around a jittery Rustie beat, but still manages to pack a punch: its climax feels like having your teeth pulled while The Prodigy throw fistfuls of dirt in your face.
Al Horner, writer