20 Tracks You Have To Hear This Week (9/3/2014)
Here’s a man who always manages to intrigue, whether with The White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather or solo. ‘High Ball Stepper’’s the first slice from new record ‘Lazaretto’, and it’s a flippin’ instrumental. It initially frustrates, with White’s riffing never quite exploding thanks to repeated interruptions from a jittery piano line. But hey, the guy lives to confound. And come the 2.44 mark he slips into maximum Led Zeppelin-played-on-the-shittiest-shit-guitar mode. Nice and dirty, as it should be.
Tom Howard, Assistant Editor
Southern Comfort was my choice liquor as a teenager: sickly sweet and almost whiskey, it’s more sophisticated than Smirnoff Ice (just) but still provides the party when you’re young, dumb and essentially The Orwells. One day you grow up and realise it’s poison, but that’s yet to come for 20-year-old singer Mario Cuomo (“I can’t walk and I can’t dance, give me a smile and then take off your pants”). The Chicagoan wreckheads have youthful abandon in spades. Consume irresponsibly.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor
Arguably Britain’s most exciting new band, Wolf Alice return to grab 2014 by the throat. Ellie Rowsell sounds positively intergalactic as she sings “Scrap the blues if the blues don’t work/Flash your teeth though the inside hurts” over Joff Oddie’s furious, beefy riffs. The lead track from new EP ‘Creature Songs’, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ is the Londoners’ crowning glory so far, underpinned by the electric feeling that they’re still yet to peak.
Rhian Daly, Assistant Reviews Editor
Conor Oberst says his new album, ‘Upside Down Mountain’, out at the end of May, sees “a return to an earlier way” of writing that’s “more intimate” and “personal”. If this track is anything to go by, it’s a good move. Oberst does his flat, dead-eyed vocal thing over swelling organ riffs and blasts of brass that build to a triumphal climax. It’s big and theatrical without being over-wrought.
Chris Cottingham, writer
While working on his 2010 comeback album ‘I’m New Here’, the late Gil Scott-Heron recorded a series of stripped-back versions of his greatest tracks, which will be released as a full album on Record Store Day. The results – just Gil and a piano – remind us what an exceptional musician he was. A raw and tender reflection on a great talent that’s sorely missed.
Jenny Stevens, Deputy News Editor
Maxïmo Park’s gift for Record Store Day is a double-sided 7-inch – red vinyl with white specks! – featuring unreleased tracks ‘On The Sly’ and this, a hasty, tasty, typically taut sinew of Geordie post-punk. Paul Smith’s up to his hips in relationship angst again, reeling off all he did wrong (“I was crippled by a lack of my own adventure” goes one soul-searching conclusion) over bluesy keys and hectic buzzing riffs. Rock-based psychoanalysis.
Matthew Horton, writer
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The title track from the London-based four piece’s forthcoming debut album has Fiona Burgess’ light and airy vocals floating over a serene and blissful rhythm. It creates the impression that you’ve tried to phone heaven but been placed on hold. Your prayers are important to us, the person on the end of the line says, but not as important as you hearing this dreamy ode to private communications and awkward moments. It’s a bit Warpaint, with the hard edges smoothed off.
Kevin EG Perry, writer
Can’t say they didn’t warn us. After the release of 2011’s ‘Pala’, FF said they wanted to take things in a more “expansive”, “psychedelic” direction. So it is, with this second trippy instalment, from their AA side collaboration with Andrew Weatherall and Timothy J Fairplay (aka The Asphodells). It’s a nine-minute multi-layered, slow-bubbling, dizzying electronic fug-out, LCD Soundsystem style. Keep your Hawaiian shirts packed away for now. ‘Jump In The Pool’ this is not.
Greg Cochrane, Editor, NME.COM
“I don’t expect to see them again, oh yeah”, John Dwyer sings over the buzzing hook on which the latest taster (and title track) from Thee Oh Sees’ ‘Drop’ LP hangs. Worrying stuff, given their current hiatus. Typically, Dwyer is outdone by his prolific tendency to surprise. This two-minute punk jive is oddly treacly. Guitars impersonate kazoos. Then, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it change in the final chorus: “I expect to see them again”. Another contrary thrill from Dwyer? Oh yeah.
Ben Homewood, writer
Nottingham three-piece Kagoule are making a play for our hearts and minds and they’re treading a battle-path worn by the Pixies to get there. ‘Encave’ is greater than the sum of its parts; a behemoth of a riff gives way to a grungy vocal refrain as Cai and Lucy’s vocals deliver the doom-laden message “there’s no hope / it goes on and on and on and on.” A perfect blend of melody and brutality.
Hayley Avron, writer
If you want a musician to work with a drone made from a recording from outer space, J Spaceman (or Jason Pierce as he’s otherwise known) is your man. This track is being released as part of the ‘Space Project’ album and will be available on Record Store Day on April 19, and sounds every bit as out-of-this-world as you might imagine.
Andy Welch, writer
Honeyblood have made one of the year’s best albums and ‘Killer Bangs’ is typical of its sugar rush combo of hooks, riffs and doomed romance. “Time is against us, circumstance likes to dick around” sings Stina Tweeddale, with the world-weariness of someone who’s been floored by misery, but still has the energy to get back on their feet when life has dealt them a shit hand. This is the sound of a band with serious momentum.
David Renshaw, News Reporter
Popstrangers’ 2013 LP ‘Antipodes’ was one of the most underrated debuts of last year – a woozy, languid thing, but with a distorted, riff-heavy core, it kicked as hard as it caressed. With ‘Country Kills’, the first track from the Kiwi trio’s forthcoming album ‘Fortuna’, the band reveal their rougher side. Wonky, clipped chords bolster vocalist Joel Flyger’s disenchanted laments about his homeland, showing Popstrangers’ return will have added bite.
Lisa Wright, writer
Don’t let the toytown drum machine intro of Mikal Cronin’s latest offering fool you into thinking he’s running low on ideas. Similarly, don’t let the guitar solo – stolen hook, line and sinker from The Shadows’ ‘Apache’ – fool you either. The San Francisco scuzz king is clearly widening his palette, revelling in the notion of breaking free of those three chord garage-act limitations he’s been lumbered with. Just check the Stax-inspired sax on verse two for yet more proof of that.
Matt Wilkinson, New Music Editor
Having released two EPs since 2011’s impressive debut album ‘Burst Apart’, it’s like The Antlers have never been away. With cooing vocals glazed in haze and Bon Iver-esque symphonic flourishes flowering around a mournful music box melody, ‘Palace’, from upcoming fourth album ‘Familiars’, only underlines what we’ve long suspected about the cult New Yorkers: that when it comes to bruised, heart-wrenching indie balladry, few do it better than Peter Silberman’s crew. Hopefully on this record the world will wake up to that.
Al Horner, Assistant Editor, NME.COM
Never a band to undercook their musical ambition, Esben And The Witch have let loose a new track that is almost 10 minutes-long and named after a form of avant-garde dance theatre that sprung up in Japan in 1959. It’s full of dazzling sonic passages/atmospherics and typically lofty lyrics from singer Rachel Davies and taken from a split 12” with Thought Forms, released on Geoff Barrow’s reliable Invada label.
Phil Hebblethwaite, writer
This song, a cover of the David Bowie classic, is Pepsi’s theme for the upcoming Brazil World Cup. As such, it is accompanied by a video of a kid kicking a ball around a favela with some of the world’s biggest football stars (and Clint Dempsey). Monáe lends as much of her lounge-funk R&B as the sponsor will allow – that’s to say, not much – making it more Roy Hodgson than Rio Carnival.
JJ Dunning, writer
Before Arctic Monkeys (via John Copper Clarke) sung about being your coffee pot, Lemonheads man Evan Dando was imagining himself as his beloved’s fridge, haircut, rubber cheque, carpet, porch swing and booger (“Where would you keep it? Would you eat it?” is the stomach-churning lyric). One for a well-crafted lyric herself, Courtney Barnett’s crackly-voiced acoustic cover brings the perfect mix of humour and cutesiness. Listen, and let your heart melt.
Dan Stubbs, News Editor
Matt Cutler, aka Lone, has gone hip-house with ‘2 Is 8’. Woozy and psychotropic in the vein of his previous work, with a bright boom-bap beat, it samples playground chants and builds on synthesized textures, making it a little more De La Soul lounge jazz than the electronic head trip of last album ‘Galaxy Garden’. It’s a shift that suggests mighty things for follow-up ‘Reality Testing’, out in June on R&S Records.
Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor, NME.COM
At this year’s SXSW, Nashville’s best young band played to an empty room, proving that those with their lanyards and free Doritos don’t know they’re born. Anyway, the exuberant, fuzzy guitar group follow their superb debut EP with ‘Milkman’. Alyssa Bognanno’s sweetly curdled voice races around lyrics about being whatever she wants to be and spinning around in her underwear. This is Bully pushing past the cozy fuzz of All Dogs and their ilk and more into Marnie Stern territory.
Laura Snapes, Features Editor