Wild Beasts – Wanderlust
Wild Beasts’ fourth album, ‘Present Tense’, sees the band searching for orgasmic satisfaction like Gollum seeks the ring, banishing the arid heartbreak of previous album ‘Smother’ for a voyage into virility. Over synths and baroque choirs, on ‘Wanderlust’ Hayden Thorpe serenades a lover who makes the world seem ripe with possibility. But not for Wild Beasts the banality of comfort: “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck / In your mother tongue, what’s the verb ‘to suck’?”
Laura Snapes, Features Editor
Skaters – Miss Teen Massachusetts
Finally, a long-anticipated meeting of those two towering epicentres of 21st Century popular culture – New York and Hull – as The Paddingtons’ Josh Hubbard creates the sound of a half-speed Strokes with adopted Brooklynites Michael Ian Cummings and Noah Rubin, aka Skaters. ‘Miss Teen Massachusetts’ is, frankly, brilliant: guitar fuzz hammers into sonic booms while Cummings casually snarls out a chorus with the sass of The Walkmen’s ‘The Rat’.
Mark Beaumont, writer
Black Lips – Boys In The Wood
It’s been three years since Black Lips last gave the world any of their snotty and ramshackle garage-punk thrills. And on this, the first track from seventh album ‘Underneath The Rainbow’, the Atlanta band take things to the next level. Slick and bluesy guitar licks stumble throughout the Black Keys-produced ‘Boys In The Wood’, over which Cole Alexander sings about stealing cars and boys gone wild. Their most polished work yet.
Rhian Daly, Assistant Reviews Editor
Shy Nature – Lie Back
A New Year treat for those in need of something to fill the Maccabees-shaped hole in their lives. North-London based Shy Nature’s new single begins in a chipper mess of Strokes-ey guitars, before swooping into a chorus that’s intimate and doe-eyed enough to soundtrack a pivotal scene in a goofy Michael Cera film.
Lisa Wright, writer
Rustie – Terra Star
Initially released as a pre-Christmas treat from the LuckyMe collective, ‘Terra Star’ reworks ‘City Star’ from Glaswegian producer Rustie’s ‘Glass Swords’ album. Where the original had an intro that evoked the flute-y meanderings of a Japanese role-playing game soundtrack, ‘Terra Star’ strips away the frills in favour of relentless electronic grunt. The result: a two-minute rave-up with planet-sized drops.
Dan Stubbs, News Editor
Angel Haze – A Tribe Called Red
Named after the electronic Canadian trio who produced it, ‘A Tribe Called Red’ is four minutes of Angel Haze at her fieriest. On it, her raps about “all the demons that be in my mind” and “not fucking with bitches who stunting for fame” are so rapid they slip through on first listen. There’s rage burning inside her, and it co-exists with her ambition: “I was once underground, now I’m stuck in the clouds.” Not quite, but soon.
Tom Howard, Reviews Editor
The Dead Weather – Open Up (That’s Enough)
Jack White had a bad 2013, as ex-wife Karen Elson took out a restraining order against him after he got himself embroiled in a feud with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. This first single from a planned new Dead Weather album suggests 2014 will be better for him, if not necessarily any more stable, as Alison Mosshart backs him up on a furious and unhinged glimpse inside a stormy mind.
Kevin EG Perry, writer
Broods – Never Gonna Change
‘Never Gonna Change’ is produced by Joel Little, the man behind Lorde’s ‘Pure Heroine’ album. But this single from brother and sister duo Georgia and Caleb Nott is far fuller than the sparse vessels created by Ella Yelich-O’Connor. The drums are bigger and the beats fatter as this sombre take on a doomed relationship builds itself out of a gloomy xx world into a Chvrches-style dancefloor chiller.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor
Twin Peaks – Flavor
Chicago already has Chance The Rapper and The Orwells threatening to run the show in 2014, but Twin Peaks are perhaps the city’s most promising new heroes. ‘Flavor’ is their finest track to date, and a 100mph romp through the greatest moments of indie’s past: the speed of the Ramones, Johnny Marr’s guitars, and singer Cadien’s Julian Casablancas drawl.
Matt Wilkinson, New Music Editor
Vampire Weekend – Step featuring Danny Brown
Last year’s ‘Step’ was a plinky-plonky nursery rhyme in which Vampire Weekend’s clean-cut frontman Ezra Koenig got slightly miffed at someone making advances towards his girlfriend. On this remix, verses from Danny Brown, Heems and Despot take the track in a nastier direction. The former, in particular, is a master of bug-eyed swagger as he drawls: “Since she got my heart, I got to have her spine.” What a sweetie.
Ben Hewitt, writer
Lorde – No Better
Over in Lorde’s hometown of Auckland in New Zealand, the weather is currently scorching. This slick and sultry pop jam is the perfect ode to hot and aimless days, when teenage limbs are reddened on beaches and school feels like a million miles away because “we’ve forgotten all the knowledge from the lessons that we went to”. Give it a few months and it’ll soundtrack the UK summer too.
Jenny Stevens, Deputy News Editor
Clams Casino – Cry For Me
Fame, generally, has a habit of smoothing an artist’s rough edges. With Clams Casino – a humble New Jerseyan now producing for A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd – you fear hood reputation might, instead, sprinkle unwanted grit in his silky-smooth beats. This new cut from his ‘Instrumentals Vol 3’ mixtape says otherwise. A foot stomps the floorboards as Clams whizzes up glowing synths, yearning piano chords and the sound of children at play into woozy euphoria.
Louis Pattison, writer
Speedy Ortiz – Everything’s Bigger
From February’s upcoming ‘Real Hair’ EP, ‘Everything’s Bigger’ features a laid-back melody, a devil-may-care approach to structure, and say-it-like-it-is lyrics worthy of the great Stephen Malkmus. Sadie Dupuis is full of reluctant optimism as she sings “you might escape back to a place / where horror stays away” on a loveable pop song that’s got a gnarly edge.
Hayley Avron, writer
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Hey Joe
Rather than attempting to match the explosiveness of the original, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck get mellow and creepy on a version of the rock standard ‘Hey Joe’. The French singer/actor’s voice is a whisper, but she finds a rolling groove over Beck’s production work on this theme song for the new Lars Von Trier film Nymphomaniac. In the film, Gainsbourg plays a woman called Joe.
Matthew Horton, writer
Kyla La Grange – Cut Your Teeth
No longer attempting to grab onto Florence Welch’s gothic coattails, Watford warbler Kyla La Grange is instead cladding herself in a far more becoming soul-step wardrobe. It’s a perfect fit. Crisp and uncluttered, ‘Cut Your Teeth’ is a delicate thing, all whispered vocals and hushed harmonics over subtle wobbles and taut beats.
Leonie Cooper, writer
Vic Mensa – She Loves The Mirror
‘Love The Free’, the latest mixtape compilation from New York’s DJ Kitty Cash, features cameos from fast-rising names Sampha and Kilo Kish. It’s 19-year-old Chance the Rapper collaborator Vic Mensa who steals the show, though, with this horn-splashed Neptunes throwback. It’s only 1:45 long, but that’s all it takes for Mensa to justify his one-to-watch tag. He delivers a fun and loose laugh at narcissists that crackles with energetic drums and sunny soul vibes.
Al Horner, writer
Cut Ribbons – Fight And Fall
Cut Ribbons are “metal kids at heart”, they say, and their tourbus soundtrack features Deftones and System Of A Down. You wouldn’t know it listening to ‘Fight And Fall’, on which the Welsh five-piece resemble a dreamier version of American alt-rockers The National. Vocalists Anna Griffiths and Aled Rees harmonise over languid guitar chords, and the track builds to a climax that crashes like a beautiful storm.
Chris Cottingham, writer
Gum – Growin’ Up
“I understand what it takes to be a man, but I don’t have the time,” Jay Watson sings on ‘Growin’ Up’, a drippy psychedelic number about not wanting to grow up, be weak or end up on the streets. You can forgive a guy who plays in Tame Impala and Pond as well as this solo project for being a bit pushed for time. But there’s no sign of any stresses or strains in this lazy and hazy music of his.
Hazel Sheffield, writer
Anna Calvi – Fire
Bruce Springsteen originally wrote this for Elvis Presley in 1977, and even sent him a demo to record. Sadly The King died before he ever heard it, and it was left to The Pointer Sisters to record the song. Now it’s Anna Calvi’s turn. There’s drama in the lyrics already, with all the talk of Romeo and Juliet’s demise, but Calvi cranks it up further with a simple guitar part and that emotion-packed vocal of hers.
Andy Welch, writer
Sisyphus – Calm It Down
Singer Sufjan Stevens, hip-hop producer Son Lux and rapper Serengeti, once known collectively as s/s/s, put out an unremarkable EP called ‘Beak & Claw’ in 2012. Asked to create music to accompany a forthcoming exhibition by artist Jim Hodges, they’ve regrouped as Sisyphus and are releasing a full album in March. Taster track ‘Calm It Down’ suggests real promise: simple beat, gushing chorus, direct lyrics.