Florence, Frank Ocean, Nick Cave
[b]Florence + The Machine And Josh Homme – ‘Jackson’ (Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood cover)[/b]
Florence has already proved twice over that she can tame that torrent of a voice in the service of an affecting duet, first tackling ‘Suspicious Minds’ at the NME Awards 2009 with James Allan and then joining The Horrors for ‘Still Life’ at this year’s ceremony, without blasting either offstage. Further proof that full-throttle is far from Florence’s only setting comes with her ‘MTV Unplugged’ album, due out April 9. Recorded with a 10-piece gospel choir in New York just before Christmas, the 11-song acoustic set features this take on the Jerry Leiber/Billy Edd Wheeler song made famous by Nancy and Lee and, later, Johnny Cash and June Carter, backed up by Josh Homme.
Where the original’s sprightly skip is full of fiery humour, a lovers’ tiff turned “see if I care” bluff-off, Flo and Josh start in a more haunted manner, but it isn’t long before that bitchy back and forth carries them away on a fingerpickin’ country freight-train, their voices as well-matched as their hair.
[b]Frank Ocean – ‘Whip Appeal'[/b]
On ‘nostalgia, ULTRA’’s, ‘Songs For Women’ Frank Ocean’s love interest was only listening to R&B superstars Drake and Trey Songz in her car but, oh, what a difference a year makes. With ‘Whip Appeal’ Ocean proves he can make cruise-worthy tunes of his own, riffing over a super-confident drum pattern about romance in the front seats.
[b]Alunageorge – ‘Just A Touch'[/b]
This is a luscious, cheesecake slice of R&B that completely rips off Aaliyah. But when it’s done to such perfection, who are we to grumble? Instead we crumble at Aluna’s pitch-shifting vocal and gawp at George’s marvellous production. ‘Just A Touch’ is the pick of their fine EP, out May 14. Sweet!
[b]Real Estate – ‘Exactly Nothing'[/b]
Those Real Estate gents have decided to stream the B-side to recent single ‘Easy’, as an early spring bonus. Somewhere in the Super-8 shimmer Martin Courtney is perfecting his Mark Gardener of Ride schtick, while Matt Mondanile flicks the guitar switch to “jangle on wheels”. Best heard gazing at your shoes.
[b]Joanna Newsom – ‘Instrumental 1999′[/b]
That title tells no lies: this is a vocal-less track that Joanna recorded in 1999, when she and her trusty Dodge Caravan were apparently a hot fixture on the Tahoe wedding-music circuit, according to label Drag City. Rather the glassy, choked filigrees of this mournful six-minute number than bloody ‘Your Song’ again.
Click here to stream the track
[b]Niki & The Dove – ‘Tomorrow'[/b]
For good reason, N&TDs’ new single is also the opening song on their debut album: it’s everything they’re all about wrapped up in three and a half minutes, from the electronic textures of the verses, to the euphoric burst into a chorus about “breathing fire”. Or in short: brilliant, sophisticated pop.
[b]Fun ft Janelle Monae – ‘We Are Young'[/b]
It’s not clear what compelled Janelle Monáe to work with these New York-based Panic! At The Disco soundalikes. They’re hardly natural bedfellows, and her input is limited to a brief vocal. It’s a winning formula though – this stirring emo ballad went to Number One in the US. This year’s Owl City then, if that concept doesn’t chill your blood.
[b]Quakers ft Jonwayne – ‘Smoke'[/b]
Bouncy bass and vintage samples abound in this funky hip-hop nugget from the 35-piece collective, which centres around three key producers: Fuzzface (aka Portishead’s Geoff Barrow), his longtime collaborator 7-Stu-7, and Australian whizzkid Katalyst. Throw in LA rapper Jonwayne and you’ve got some promising and irrepressible stuff.
[b]Nick Cave & Deborah Harry – ‘The Breaking Hands (Gun Club cover)'[/b]
This Gun Club cover gets the full-on Cave whiskey-soaked piano treatment, transformed into a touching ballad with the increasingly gravelly throated Debbie Harry – and it’s sublime. Profits from the compilation that this is taken from help underprivileged kids in LA.
[b]Maximo Park – ‘The National Health'[/b]
The first, tantalisingly taut glimpse of the band’s upcoming fourth LP appears to be a timely and very angry rumination on the shabby state of our nation. Although given its breakneck speed, we’re only guessing that by the title and singer Paul Smith’s furious, references to “lost identity” and “immoral wealth”.
This article originally appeared in the March 31st issue of NME