Biffy Clyro, Johnny Marr, Bjork
Biffy Clyro – ‘Black Chandelier’
Here’s a new word for the Biffyverse: svelte. After all that fun with bagpipes in this year’s ‘Stingin’ Belle’, their impression of a grown-up rock band rather than the charming chancers they once were is now so compelling, they’ve actually written a proper single to get us excited about next year’s album ‘Opposites’. ‘Black Chandelier’ is one of their most understated songs ever, but off-kilter enough to still be Biffy. There’s something of the trio’s early-days college rock about it, a low-slung sequel to ‘27’ with some California shimmer wafting through. Those months holed up in Santa Monica have clearly left an impression. Lyrically, it seeps with quiet emotional anguish – animated by the imagery that is Simon Neil’s trademark (“you left my heart like an abandoned car”). The results are blissful and unsettling. It lulls you into a false sense of peace, until you realise a couple of minutes later that you can’t get the bloody thing out of your head. January’s double album will be a rollercoaster thrill ride. This is the gentle build up before the loop da loop. Biffy Clyro are back, bolder and braver than ever. Again.
Lana Del Rey – ‘Bel Air’
Lana’s carbonated rude bits must have stopped fizzing, because on ‘Bel Air’ (taken from ‘Born To Die – The Paradise Edition’) she’s channeling the eerie tranquility of a Tim Burton-esque waltz. “Gargoyles standing at the front of your gate,” she sighs, longingly – soft as gothic candyfloss, twice as bad for you.
Peace – ‘Wraith’
With its subtle, slinky house piano lines and a proper belter of a chorus, ‘Wraith’ is the sound of Brummie upstarts Peace proving they’ve always known best. When many critics were trying to lump them in with Foals and The Maccabees, they were describing their sound as “indie techno”. They were right.
Big Boi feat A$AP Rocky & Phantogram – ‘Lines’
At least someone from OutKast is making albums, and after 2010’s immense ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot…’ Big Boi’s return is an event. The spacey, slightly paranoid ‘Lines’ is good, but not great, with a dranked-up A$AP intro but an energy-sapping turn from NYC electro-poppers Phantogram. Decent taster. Main course now please.
Johnny Marr – ‘The Messenger’
This may be the first taster of solo Marr, but pretty instantly it starts to feel unmistakably him, from the sparkling-but-dirty new wave riff to a subtle, infectious groove. His singing voice is more passive than some who’ve been paired with his riffs in times past, but it works nicely.
Bjork – ‘Virus’ (Hudson Mohawke remix)
‘Bastards’, Bjork’s latest remix collection, offers far more than mere four-to-the-floor beatification. One of its many unexpected treasures is this gently sparkling, richly emotional retooling of ‘Biophilia’’s most heart-tugging song, in which love is reconfigured as an all-conquering bodily invader: “I knock on your skin and I am in…”.Nothing illegitimate about it.
Alt-J – ‘Buffalo’
On which Alt-J go all ambient and finger pick-y with their song for new Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence rom-com Silver Linings Playbook. It’s done with the aplomb of Bombay Bicycle Club at their most lip quiver-y. Date night band of the year, as well as breakthrough act of the year, then?
Villagers – ‘Nothing Arrived’
Top of the list of bands that ‘shoulda done a Mumford’, Villagers have widened their folk remit to take in chiming highway guitars and the general air of Noah & The Whale galloping on horseback along Venice Beach. Surely the most rousing song ever to have a chorus of ”I waited for something/And something died.”
Foals – ‘My Number’
Debuted on Later… With Jools Holland last week, this dangerously funky track promises great things from Foals’ forthcoming album. The shimmering guitars and yelping vocals are still there, but the focus is all on the rhythm section. There’s even a dude playing the triangle. Step away from the boogie-woogie piano, Holland – you’re not needed.