James Blake, Joey Bada$$, Findlay
James Blake – ‘Digital Lion’
He might briefly have been a laughing stock on the blogosphere for his attack on how dubstep has mutated in the US (he called it “a pissing competition” for a “frat-boy market”), but UK producer James Blake has still had an amazing 12 months. He’s had an audience with Kanye West, hung with his idol Joni Mitchell and got a girlfriend. The Londoner has also recorded what promises to be a strong follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut; last week at the ICA, the 24-year-old joked his second album ‘Overgrown’ (out in April) is “much better than the last one”. ‘Digital Lion’ (a title that’s a dig at those blogs?) shows Blake’s not afraid to mix the different styles of music he’s been experimenting with since his student days. A collaboration with Brian Eno, it’s inspired in parts by their joint favourite gospel record, ‘Peace Be Still’. And it starts slow – real slow – with Blake singing “digital lion” over and over. There’s a moment’s lull where all you hear is a crackle, before a beat throbs, effects patter in and out and the vocals are looped over a deep “hmmmm hmmmm hmmmm”. Towards the end it really gets going as drumbeats scatter and Blake sings the title again like he’s having the best time in a club. Yes, he still looks sad in his pictures, but James Blake isn’t just mewing any more. That’s a good thing.
AlunaGeorge – ‘Attracting Flies’
Pop’s slickest duo follow up their dancefloor banger ‘White Noise’ (recorded with that other duo Disclosure) with another lush and synthy stomper. It’s a dose of UK garage bass grooves amid Aluna’s delirious vocals that proves once again they’re worth every holler of excitement.
Best Coast – ‘Fear Of My Identity’
This is a preview of Best Coast’s Record Store Day release, but it only takes a moment of Bethany Cosentino’s woahhh-ohhhing garage-pop to take you back to summer 2010 and the
much-loved romantic debut ‘Crazy For You’. This is a tad more jaded, but still warm and sunny. Things were so simple back then.
Joey Bada$$ Feat. Chance The Rapper – ‘Wendy N Becky’
Kicking back on a bed of boom-bap and classy saxophone comes Joey Bada$$’s latest cut, an ode to the girls he has loved and left. It is still weird to hear the deep-voiced teenager hark back to an era last in vogue when he was wearing nappies, but this is confident and assured.
Tyler, The Creator – ‘Treehome’
Has the Odd Future rapper been hanging out with Jools Holland? ‘Treehome’ starts with Tyler on piano and a female vocalist called Coco doing hotel-lobby schmaltz. Thank goodness the foul-mouthed disrupter turns the tables after a couple of minutes and returns to a grumbling, head-nodding beat and clever, quick-fire rhymes.
Dirty Projectors – ‘There’s A Fire’
The B-side to a limited tour seven-inch, this finds the Projectors at their most gently playful. It’s a rootsy jangle with Dave Longstreth’s vocals Paul Simon-warm and wistful over skittery drums and casually flashy guitar licks. If only they were this easygoing more often.
Findlay – ‘Off And On’
A voice snarling with surly blues attitude, fat chuggy riffs and a recent Jake Bugg support slot… this Stockport girl’s got what it takes to succeed, and the way she barks towards this ricochet chorus like a one-woman Kills tells you she won’t waste her opportunities.
Father Sculptor – ‘Lowlands’
The lead track from Father Sculptor’s debut EP ‘Faith & Violence’ takes the form of a love letter to a city – possibly their former home of Glasgow or their current stomping ground of Manchester. Wherever it’s dedicated to, its sheer, yearning beauty is gloriously dramatic, swooningly hearty and very special.
Iggy Azalea – ‘Work’
Telling the story of the model/rapper’s fame-seeking move from Australia to Miami at the tender age of 15 (a lot of bloody hard ‘Work’ apparently), the confusingly named Iggy Azalea shows why she’s more Azealia Banks than Iggy Pop on this string-laden rap banger. Is 2013 the year of the female MC?
Fucked Up – ’21st Century Cling-Ons’
This lurches into life like a monster reincarnation of Sinatra at his most whisky-soaked before descending into some seriously heavy guitar work. The perfect accompaniment to shots, smoking and a fight in a dive bar, but ironically less likely to cause a fight than putting some disco on the jukebox.
Kevin EG Perry