Baby Strange – Distance Yourself
Baby Strange haven’t shared any new material since last year but ‘Distance Yourself’ shows they’ve not been slacking off in the meantime. Instead, the Glaswegian trio have been learning the art of the slow build, taking this new single from creepy, wiry guitar lines to all out fuzz meltdowns in two minutes 45. All the while, frontman Johnny Madden’s fury mounts from stern instructions to “get off the street” into rallies against The Man, trying “to take our fun”. Fierce and brilliant.
Rhian Daly, Assistant Reviews Editor
Tala – Serbia
‘Serbia’ is the second track from Tala’s debut EP ‘The Duchess’ and further proof that she’s an emerging talent. From London, but of Iranian descent, she presents a surefire summer tune full of middle-eastern incantations, tribal rhythms and tropical drum pads. There’s even a vocal that sounds like a distorted hamster. Despite all that’s going on, ‘Serbia’ is still cohesive and slick. Get it in your earholes now.
Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor, NME.COM
Chance The Rapper – The Writer
There was a time when the frustrating thing about Chance The Rapper was that there just wasn’t enough of his music to listen to. Now, barely a day goes by without a new or previously unreleased track popping up online. ‘The Writer’ is one of the latter, from 2012. It finds Chance in playful mood, waxing lyrical about hipster girls and their coke habits while comparing himself to Elton John over a laidback piano groove.
David Renshaw, News Reporter
Peace – Money
There’s no denying it: Peace are fun. Not ones for sitting about, lapping up their sell-out tours, they’ve already knocked out album two, and revealed the further tricks up their psych-pop sleeves: Harry Koisser’s Debbie Harry-style ‘rapping’ and songs about… Bitcoin? “Mooneeeeey, do you eat it when you’re hungrrrrrry?” goes the chorus over maraca-shaking rhythms. It’s more Jamiroquai than Happy Mondays and it’s not up there with ABBA, Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ or ‘Taxman’, but if you’re looking for 2014’s ‘Virtual Insanity’, look no further.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor
MNEK – Every Little Word
There are times in pop music where a track appears to come gift-wrapped from the future. MNEK’s latest sounds exactly like that. It helps that the vocals have been delivered via some kind of aggressive food processor and there’s a robot asking “do you fuck to this shit?” in the background like some kind of threatening phone call from [i]Saw III[/i]. Or maybe [i]Saw XXIII[/i], if MNEK really are from the future.
Greg Cochrane, Editor, NME.COM
Brody Dalle – Blood In Gutters
If you like your fury served slow, your rage clearly labelled ‘barely contained’ and your guitars turned up to 12, then you may wish to pay a little more attention to the return of Brody Dalle. Taken from the forthcoming debut solo album of the former Distillers and Spinnerette frontwoman, ‘Blood In Gutters’ is a bold and mid-paced ball of fire, underpinned by a thundering bass. “Find your weakness”, she growls. We just found ours.
Hayley Avron, writer
Max Jury – Crooked Time
Evoking the spirit of America’s Midwest is the Holy Grail for a certain type of grizzled troubadour. So many try that it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. For the most part, Des Moines, Iowa’s Max Jury lives up to the stereotype on ‘Crooked Time’, with gently strummed acoustic chords and lyrics about sunrises and “little birds singing blue”. But when the mournful trumpet and Satie-esque piano slide in, Jury proves that even the most familiar of places can still hold a surprise in store.
Andy Welch, writer
First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining
“A song’s never just sad/There’s hope/There’s a silver lining”, First Aid Kit assure us, and back it up in style. With the Swedish duo’s third album ‘Stay Gold’ just a couple of months away, ‘Silver Lining’ whets the appetite nicely, finding a reason to “keep on keeping on” in a lush sweep of trad-country, pushed along by wagon-rolling guitar and arcing strings. Here they come, straight outta Nashville (a suburb just south of Stockholm).
Matthew Horton, writer
Nicki Minaj – Chi-Raq (feat Lil Herb)
Nicki Minaj’s ‘The Pink Print’ is due this year and, in the meantime, as she says here, “I might give you a new track every week till this album drops.” ‘Chi-Raq’, which features Chicagoan MC Lil Herb and works as a kind of tribute to drill music in the city, is quite unlike the pop crossover tracks we’ve come to expect of Minaj; it’s a reminder that, when she wants to be, she’s as hard as nails.
Phil Hebblethwaite, writer
Klaxons – Atom To Atom
Nu-rave may be long gone, but Klaxons aren’t ready to let the party die just yet. Where comeback tracks ‘There Is No Other Time’ and ‘Children Of The Sun’ provided giddy dancefloor thrills and inimitably bizarre falsetto kicks, ‘Atom To Atom’ starts of sounding far more subtle. Don’t be fooled by all the dappled space talk though: by the drop at 2:38 you’ll feel like you’re pilled up on a Balearic island. Klassic.
Lisa Wright, writer
Willis Earl Beal – Stay
“Anything Beyoncé can do, I can do twice,” is presumably what Willis Earl Beal said to himself as he uploaded ‘Curious Cool’, his second surprise release after February’s ‘A Place That Doesn’t Exist’. On standout track ‘Stay’, Beal implores his lover to come back to him, sounding as morose as Prince the day he went to the felt hat and tiny tuxedo shop and found out they were all out of purple. He’s worth sticking around for.
Kevin EG Perry, writer
Gorgon City – Here For You (feat Laura Welsh)
The north London duo look set to dominate dancefloors in 2014, following their recent Klaxons collaboration (‘There Is No Other Time’) with the follow-up to their own Number Four hit ‘Ready For Your Love’. Like that single, ‘Here For You’ is slick house with wubs in the middle, and vocals this time from Staffordshire-born vocalist Laura Welsh. Watch your backs, Disclosure.
Dan Stubbs, News Editor
Bikini Kill – Girl Soldier
With the re-release of early LP ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, the original riot grrrls of the ‘90s remind us that the fire of feminist punk will not be extinguished. While modern bands like Perfect Pussy carry the ethos and explode with the same ferocious sounds, the pioneers just can’t be beat at heart. Militant aggression and battered, industrial post-punk rages on this indomitable, previously unheard, early live recording: “I guess you didn’t give a fuck, after all, only women were dying”.
James Balmont, writer
Future – I Won (feat Kanye West)
“I just wanna take you out and show you off”, chimes Georgia rapper Future over Drake-ishly maudlin minor chords. “I won me a trophy.” A weird, possessive metaphor for romance that may be, but ‘I Won’ still impresses and stirs – not least when Kanye West drops a guest verse. “I put an angel in your ultrasound”, he raps, before less elegantly declaring: “I wanna dip that ass in gold”. Charmers, the pair of them.
Al Horner, Assistant Editor, NME.COM
Fear Of Men – Descent
Fear Of Men’s Twitter feed is punctuated by RTs of poets who’ve gone head-to-head with The Big Ideas and come off worst. Though the literate Brighton trio’s lyrics try to rekindle the sighs of Plath and Larkin – the lovelorn ‘Descent’ ends with singer Jess Weiss lamenting “There is a sickness all around that keeps me from your door” – the music does a better job of that. ‘Descent’ tumbles along with tasteful melancholy.
JJ Dunning, writer
Tom Vek – Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)
May marks 10 years since Tom Vek released his debut single, ‘If I Had Changed My Mind’, a mangle of broken blues indebted to Beck and Talking Heads. A decade later, on the eve of releasing his third album, he’s become a similarly iconoclastic artist (if on a much smaller scale): the blunt-edged vocals and oblique existentialist lyrics of ‘Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)’ – nervy with laser-fire synths and jagged guitar – couldn’t belong to anyone else.
Laura Snapes, Features Editor
SZA – Babylon (feat Kendrick Lamar)
Sometimes when big rappers appear on lesser-known label mates’ tracks, it’s a transparent ploy to bump a profile. Not so SZA and Kendrick Lamar. They go way back (at least as far as 2013’s AMAs where they performed ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ and ‘Poetic Justice’ together), and the warped, choral pop of ‘Babylon’ slithers pleasingly under Lamar’s eerie-alien vocal. “Was it worth it, would you do it again?/Aren’t you tired, always making amends?” she asks, before he pops up to agitatedly defend his honour.
Tom Howard, Assistant Editor
Childhood – Falls Away
It’s always been easy to fall for Childhood – the London party boys’ choruses are as sharp as their cheekbones – but this Dan Carey-produced first single from their debut LP represents progress towards an intriguing maturity. Another innately pretty melody is beautifully smothered by a sleepy heaviness during the four billowing minutes of prolonged euphoria. “We fall so hard”, sings Ben Romans-Hopcraft in the chorus, and you will too.
Ben Homewood, writer
Tune-Yards – Wait For A Minute
So regular are Merrill Garbus’ emotional shrieks that, to hear a Tune-Yards song where her voice isn’t so dominating is initially disconcerting. However ‘Wait For A Minute’ cushions rather than submerges the singer, sleekly transporting her into more electronic realms with layers of synthesized sound building over the chorus. It’s not all new either; Nate Brenner’s sultry bass lines offer familiar companionship, while Merrill’s still capable of truly opening up those lungs when required.
Simon Jay Catling, writer
Loom – Yosoko
‘Yosoko’, Loom’s first release since last year’s ‘Lice’ EP, has all the hallmarks of the Leamington Spa quartet’s previous material. Chugging, grunge-y guitars? Frontman Tarik Badwan gruffly repeating a chorus line like he’s pounding a battering ram into your head? Lyrics filled with doom and gloom? All present and correct. But ‘Yosoko’ also sounds rejuvenated, Badwan’s deadpan verses tinted with a new, lingering forcefulness. A promising sign of things to come.