Earlier this month, Mitski made her grand return with the characteristically devastating ‘Working For The Knife’. It’s a song about the disillusionment and suffocation many coming of age in today’s world experience: “It’s about going from being a kid with a dream, to a grown up with a job, and feeling that somewhere along the way you got left behind,” she said in a statement. “It’s being confronted with a world that doesn’t seem to recognise your humanity, and seeing no way out of it.” The stunning return was a must add to the NME Radio playlist this week.
Last week also saw the debuts of two young artists who might just be icons in the making, but for very different reasons: PinkPantheress, who parlayed TikTok fame into a debut mixtape that plays on nostalgia but faces the future; and Joy Crookes, whose smoky voice and thoughtful reflections on her own heritage and place in the world define her first full-length ‘Skin’, with choice cuts from these new releases also joining the NME Radio playlist.
Check out what’s new on NME 1 & 2 below.
On the A List
‘Working For The Knife’
Mitski’s comeback single, following her triumphant 2018 album ‘Be The Cowboy’, is a clear-eyed anthem for the world-weary. It begins with a painful pearl of revelation – “I cry at the start of every movie / I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too / But I’m working for the knife” – and only gets more depressingly realist from there. All slow synths, textural guitar and drum machine, ‘Working For The Knife’ foregrounds Mitski Miyawaki’s carefully calibrated voice and her lamentations about a colourless life under capitalism, soaring horns singing out in between. There’s no news about a new Mitski record yet, but ‘Working For The Knife’ is a stunning return that can only bode well for her sixth studio album. – Karen Gwee
‘Too Much To Taste’
French singer Crystal Murray’s new single ‘Too Much To Taste’ is dangerously addictive. Taken from her forthcoming second EP ‘Twisted Bases’, her soulful vocals and raw, sensual lyricism will transport you back to memorable teenage times of friendship and romance. – Qistina Bumidin
On the B List
‘25’ plunges straight into the deepest ends of teenage existentialism, where American singer Alix Page contemplates an alternate future with a past lover. The guitar-driven track shifts between sun-kissed strums and propelling grunge riffs, adding wistful nostalgia to her vivid, confessional verses. – QB
‘I must apologise’
‘To hell with it’, enigmatic rising star PinkPantheress declares on her debut mixtape. That blithe nonchalance informs all ten songs (and 18 quicksilver minutes) of the project, which for NME is one of 2021’s best debuts. So we had to add ‘I must apologise’ to NME Radio, what the Bath-born artist has described as a “fast-paced, upbeat track about someone telling lies all the time” that samples and thoroughly recontextualises Crystal Waters’ ’90s house classic ‘Gypsy Woman’. – KG
Joy Crookes lets the listener into all facets of her life on debut album ‘Skin’. A case in point of this approach is ‘Trouble’, a song about a family member that the South London singer loves but can’t help but keep clashing with. It showcases Crookes’ honeyed vocals and also her talent for a quippy, referential line: “Well let me take the lead and I’ll show / I’m Villanelle to your Sandra Oh”. – KG
On his new single ‘Beautiful Life’, Michael Kiwanuka offers a comforting reminder that there is always beauty and hope even in the most challenging times. He asks listeners to find strength in knowing good things will come eventually, singing: “You know the world is a jungle / But you don’t have to crumble / ’Cause it’s a beautiful good life”. – QB
On the C List
‘Coming Back’ (feat. SZA)
James Blake pairs up with SZA on ‘Coming Back’, taken from Blake’s acclaimed new album ‘Friends That Break Your Heart’. The track samples American rock group Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah’s 1972 hit ‘Lake Shore Drive’, but ditches the folksy rock for subtler, contemporary R&B production layered with shimmering piano riffs and immersive beats. Blake’s buttery voice plays off with SZA’s lush vocals beautifully, and they come together for a compelling depiction of two ex-lovers trying to navigate the aftermath of a failed relationship. – QB
The fluidity of life is inevitable, and you can weather those ups and downs by simply embracing the chaos – as Big Thief remind you in their new single, ‘Change’. Bolstered by soft drums and warm acoustic guitars, its bittersweet melodies reflect the thought-provoking lyricism: “Would you live forever, never die / While everything around passes by?” sings frontwoman Adrianne Lenker. – QB
‘Baby Don’t Cry’
New York trio Sunflower Bean are back with their new single, ‘Baby Don’t Cry’, their first new material of 2021. The psych-pop band take on digital disillusionment, explaining in a statement that “‘Baby Don’t Cry’ is about enjoying the real. The things right in front of us that give us meaning and how sometimes, even sad songs can give you that warm feeling of hope.” – QB
‘This Blue Mob’
Sham Family’s new post-punk single ‘The Blue Mob’ is a seething yet mournful protest song written in the wake of George Floyd’s murder last year. It’s taken from the Toronto DIY punks’ debut self-titled EP out in January, and speaking about the project frontman Kory Ross explains: “This project has always kind of been my baby that I was always working on because I always needed to be working on some sort of music when I wasn’t working in other bands, and it’s gone through so many stages of its life…It started as just a four-track cassette-recorder wall-of-noise shoegaze project. Then it was gonna be this industrial-noise side-project thing that I just could not wait to unleash upon the world.” – QB
Rising British artist Alex Jaynes’ single ‘Shapes’ is crystalline alt-pop that combines bluesy guitar and enigmatic synths, with Jaynes’s brooding vocals tell a compelling narrative of trying to break out of society’s moulds: “All these shapes I see / I’ll never be / All these shapes I see / They don’t look like me”. – QB
Liverpool post-grunge quartet The Mysterines are screaming for vengeance in their new blistering single ‘Hung Up’. On the second single released off their upcoming debut album, frontwoman Lia Metcalfe growls her way through a relationship that is painfully running its course. The accompanying thrashing guitar riffs and chugging drums culminate into a stomping anthem that you won’t be able to resist head-banging to. – QB