The sounds rattling round the skulls of the NME staff this week
Alabama Shakes – ‘Hold On’
You know you’re going mainstream when Jamie Oliver starts tweeting good luck messages at you for your forthcoming tour. That Alabama Shakes have reached such a position after only three months in the limelight is pretty staggering, but the reason is simple: they’ve got a set of songs so self-assured and so goddamn catchy that they just cannot fail right now.
Yeah, they may break pretty much all the rules about what you should be doing in music in 2012 (make no bones, theirs is a style rooted deep in the soul of the past), but what they do do – perfectly encapsulated in the truck-stop swagger of ‘Hold On’, complete with its “Come on Brittany!” giddy-ups and Keef-meets-Gram cowboy guitar line – is currently unrivalled in the Big Guitar Music stakes.
From here, it’s easy to envisage how things should pan out for the band: 1) mega buzzy UK debut gigs; 2) show-stealing performances on …Jools Holland; 3) Jack White collaborations; 4) a total blitzing of UK mainstream radio; 5) Rolling Stones/U2/Macca support slots a-plenty, and so on, until BOOM! Three years down the line and they’re playing to 12,000 people at Ally Pally. The Followills and Black Keys had better watch out, that’s all we’re saying…
Frank Ocean – ‘Voodoo’
“Harder times… it seems like all we’ve got is each other”, Frank croons as he merges spirituality and sexuality in this deeply felt, ’80s-tinged soul ballad pared down for a recession-flayed generation. Evoking ‘Watch The Throne’’s ‘Made In America’, Prince and D’Angelo, it’s his most no-nonsense slow jam so far.
Wild Nothing – ‘Nowhere’
Every young man knows that one day, he must step away from the four-track, lest he be stuck in the bedroom forever. That day has come for Jack Tatum, whose first proper studio recording adds new gleam to his band’s languid jangle. Guitars lilt, melodica parps wistfully, and Andrea Estella from Twin Sister whispers sleepily from its dreamy embrace.
Brendan Benson – ‘Bad For Me’
Things you want from a Brendan Benson track: riffs, zinging power-pop hooks, harmonies worthy of Hall & Oates. What you don’t want: piano balladry, violins and a strained vocal last heard on Orson’s ‘No Tomorrow’. ‘Bad For Me’ is all about the latter – hopefully the rest of upcoming album ‘What Kind Of World’ will be perkier.
The Darkness – ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us’
You know exactly what this, the first new song of The Darkness’ reunion, sounds like and, in the absence of an ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’-sized tune, we can’t help but think the repeated chorus of “Nothing’s gonna stop us!” is a touch optimistic.
White Hinterland – ‘Teenage Dream (Katy Perry cover)’
If K Pez’s hootin’ and honkin’ has you reaching for the earplugs, then wrap your ears around White Hinterland’s gorgeous reworking of ‘Teenage Dream’ – a slice of moon-eyed soppiness re-imagined as a witchy, glitchy ode to the pangs of adolescent loin-stirrings.
Zulu Winter – ‘We Should Be Swimming’
With its pulsating electro sheen and distinctly Balearic undercurrent, this track confirms that these laidback Londoners are more than happy to operate in tour-mates Friendly Fires’ slipstream for now. But give them time – it shows enough promise that we should expect them to have emerged from FF’s shadow by the summer.
Polica – ‘Lay Your Cards Out’
Gayngs alumni Ryan Olson and Channy Leaneagh flip a pair of aces with this undulating slice of percussion-heavy hypnotism, for a track so magnetic it’s been blogged by Jay-Z, no less. Stick around for the album too – it’s a straight flush.
Sophia Knapp – ‘Close To Me’
I never thought I’d forgive Sophia Knapp for RUINING one of my favourite Bill Callahan songs on a live duet, but it’d be churlish to resist the charms of this new song. ‘Close To Me’ starts all deceptively pleasant folk wisp, before exploding into a wiggle inducing bit of disco-lite that Nicolette Larson would have been proud of. Knapp, let’s be pals.
Rolo Tomassi – ‘Old Mystics’
First fruits from the all-new Rolo line up, and as much of a face-melting firecracker as you might expect, with guitars and larynxes equally shredded to pieces. Get on the B-side ‘Mesmerizer’ as well, which we’re currently streaming exclusively on NME.COM. It’s a sort of space-rock ballad thing. Seriously!
This article originally appeared in the February 11th issue of NME