Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Home’
“Sweatshirt Will Not Be On The Tape. Not Trolling Either,” tweeted enfant terrible Tyler, The Creator last week (February 8) of Odd Future’s forthcoming album, ‘OF Tape Vol 2’, suggesting that his erstwhile best mate was still MIA. And then, a few hours later, Earl himself pops up on Twitter with the missive “home” – seemingly, he’s been freed from his reputed stint at an all-boys school in Samoa. So, back for good? And now he’s returned to LA, will he be popping up on ‘OF Tape Vol 2’?
We don’t know. But judging by ‘Home’, Earl’s standalone track that he posted online after amassing 50,000 Twitter followers in about an hour, he’s not doing too shabbily without his old alma mater. If you were worried he might have picked up a few airs and graces from his posh boarding school, then fear not, because his fire hasn’t been extinguished – instead, he tells us, he’s “switching up the moniker of artist and arsonist”, riding roughshod over an off-kilter beat with rhymes like: “Self-loathing narcissist/Spittin’ crowbars at the back windows of cars and shit”.
And, like a man who just knows that we’ve all been waiting to hear from him for an absolute aeon – and, more crucially, whose next moves we can’t wait to track – he’s got the most nonchalantly perfect sign-off. “Aannd I’m back”, he quips after just 90 seconds of sullen aggression. Welcome home.
Graham Coxon – ‘Truth’
It’s destined to be overshadowed by some reunion dinner or other happening at The O2 next month, but nonetheless ‘Truth’, following Coxon’s acoustic 2009 outing ‘The Spinning Top’ with stoner-rock guitars and hammer-on-sheet-metal drum pulse, suggests April’s ‘A&E’ album is destined to be a far darker affair.
Death Grips – ‘Blackjack’
The most visceral rap ensemble of 2011 return with not one but two albums this year, the first of which has already spawned this effed-up slab of reverse vocals, thumping doom synths and all-round uneasy production. They may not be getting any more comfortable, but they are getting better and better…
The Shins – ‘September’
Thanks to his dalliance with the mainstream, whenever a new James Mercer album rolls around nowadays we’re all supposed to kneel at his feet as if he’s the motherfucking messiah. He’s not – but as this proves, he’s still an ace songwriter, oozing Macca melodies and Beach Boys-y summer sheen. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, is it?
Willis Earl Beal – ‘Take Me Away’
Chicagoan Beal, the multi-talented, multi-genred first signee to XL’s new imprint Hot Charity, has declared his desire to be “the black Tom Waits”. Sure enough, this righteously malevolent clamour, all hammer-and-tongs bellowing and clanking, straddles a raw, timeless space between Waits’ ‘Real Gone’ and Lead Belly.
Bill Callahan – ‘So Long, Marianne (Leonard Cohen cover)’
On this cover, Billy C turns the lo-fi clang and muted timbre of the original into a warmly heroic celebration. Replete with pedal steel and a rare, bold optimism in Bill’s low tones, it’s a fitting tribute from one great artist to another.
Deerhunter – ‘Curve’
Expecting an even more accessible Deerhunter post-‘Halcyon Digest’? Think again – ‘Curve’ is 10 mad steps backwards. Appearing on a Blonde Redhead-curated compilation to benefit the victims of last year’s Japanese tsunami, this glacial instrumental proves Bradford Cox’s mindset is as unpredictable as ever.
Brandy and Monica – ‘It All Belongs To Me’
No-one had contemplated the potential genius of a 14-years-later sequel to B&M’s genius squabble-jam ‘The Boy Is Mine’ until it was suggested. Yet despite um, groovy references to ‘Facebook’ and such, this neither a) picks up the story of the original song or b) pits the ladies against each other. Note to Stone Roses: this is not the gold comeback standard.
Nicki Minaj – ‘Marilyn Monroe’
The tragic, babydoll Marilyn Monroe metaphor might feel hackneyed, but coming out of Nicki’s mouth it’s all sorts of shocking, and perhaps that’s the point. Swirling, self-aware and bolstered with early-noughties Dallas Austin production, Nicki might have taken on yet another persona, but here, she’s exposing herself.
Veronica Falls – ‘My Heart Beats’
Cold out there at the minute, innit? Props to VF, then, for recording this brand new song last week “on a freezing boat on the river Thames”. Intended to celebrate the start of their tour, it’s a tune that thaws through its chilly origins by being a tasty morsel of warm, breezy, unhateable fuzz-pop.
This article originally appeared in the February 18th issue of NME