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Fresher Sounds - The best new music - 19/02/18


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As Lent begins, one thing you shouldn’t give up is rifling through recent releases.

Scraped, scrubbed and soaked: gridles, hotplates, Teflon and ceramics have all undergone the inevitable clean-up operation after the frantic flipathon that was Shrove Tuesday. Now we enter in that period just before Creme eggs start to nestle on shelves where we retreat into sombre reflection and trim the edges of our superfluous lifestyles. After the carnival of excess, it’s time to strip back and return to necessities, time to focus on ourselves, our friends, our communities and the environment. It’s in the spirit of streamlining essentials that we cut the flab and deliver you only the tunes most fundamental to your listening diet.

Without further delay, here are the singles that shouldn’t pass you by.

David Byrne – This Is That

The highly influential frontman of Talking Heads returns with a track from his new album American Utopia due for release on 9 March. This is a mature, closely recorded vocal performance featuring a measured and brooding Byrne. Instead of the frantic yelping of the preceding single, ‘Everybody’s Coming to My House’, this is a much more expressive, melancholy affair. Its rather cryptic lyrics might well become clear in the context of the work as a whole – as far as it is a piece about the very subject of “explanation”, it remains tantalisingly ambiguous.

La Luz - Cicada

Los Angeles-based surf rock group La Luz bring their signature psychedelic tinge to the genre in this homage to the buzzing insect the song is named after. The hazy atmosphere created by tremolo guitars evokes an image of dry, dusty expanses and sizzling heat. Harsh aridity is complemented by floaty harmonised vocals and warm, yet gritty guitar tones. Drawing inspiration from the 60s but avoiding being derivative, the band inject the idiom with life.

Beach House – Lemon Glow

Baltimore duo Beach House return after putting out a compilation of B-sides and Rarities last year with their first studio work since the hugely successful Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, both released in 2015. The warm, enveloping nature of the song is complemented fittingly by the engulfing music video, with its trippy, monochrome visuals that wrap the listener in dreamy waves. Subdued and almost languorous, it works well as a cure for the saturation of egoistic, attention-demanding pop music we seem to be drowning in at the moment.

As of yet untitled, their new album should arrive this spring.

AE Mak – Glow

Arty Irish band Ae Mak released an infectiously groovy three minutes of sensuous sub bass and skipping melody this week, equally drawing from native Celtic traditions and the most up to date electronic phraseology. It’s a sharp, compact single with pronounced lyrics, serving as an antidote to contemporary trends towards nondescript mumbling and crisp beats. It approaches a minimalism that has much in common with the folktronica of Sylvan Esso. The dreamy, yet snappy syncopated lines mean that it’s no surprise to learn that they’ve been supporting Warpaint on tour.

Alex Rushfirth – I Live It

Another folk-influenced track here from DIY producer Alex Rushfirth. This is a highly original piece featuring perky, baroque instrumental and snappy vocals that skip along the surface of an interesting musical landscape. Rushfirth creates an intricately put-together single with a complex rhythmic structure that is somehow still defiantly catchy. Surely it speaks of great things to come for this Leeds-based 22-year-old – definitely one to keep tabs on.

Courtney Barnett – Nameless, Faceless

Back to working solo after her album of duets with Kurt Vile, Barnett returns with a single confronting the anonymity of internet trolls and the position of women in society. Rather weighty topics indeed, but the Melbourne songwriter manages to stitch them together amicably with the usual wit and whimsical lyricism for which is widely acclaimed. The chorus of this track has much in common with punk outfit, IDLES’s song ‘Mother’ from their 2017 album Brutalism. We shouldn’t knock it for unoriginality however because the message remains starkly relevant: “Men are scared that women will laugh at them […] Women are scared men that will kill them”.

City Calm Down – Joan, I’m Disappearing

Also from Melbourne, City Calm Down showcase their mature, emotionally resonant brand of post-punk on their new track, ‘Joan, I’m Disappearing’. Not altogether fashionable in the tone they adopt, they are nonetheless an accomplished act to be recommended for fans of bands such as The Twilight Sad or Editors. Opening with a thick texture of lush, warm synths, baritone vocals give the song voice with the vulnerable yet steady timbre comparable with the likes of The National or Nick Cave. The instrumental builds and by the end we have a richly detailed soundscape reminiscent of Foals’ Total Life Forever era. This effect of vastness can only be produced by allowing musical ideas to brew and stretch out; something this band achieves admirably.

The Drums – Meet Me in Mexico

Jonny Pierce’s The Drums deliver a bouncy driving gem of a single in this quirky solution to social anxiety; instead of talking in the stifling atmosphere of a party, he suggests a sojourn in a more neutral location. In Pierce’s case, this means a quick hop over the southern border, highlighting the hopelessness of his predicament. This energetic and typically sparse track demonstrates The Drums’ ability to blend humour and rather abject melancholy to profound effect.

All proceeds from the purchase of this single are going directly to charities involved in the relief effort following last September's earthquake in which 370 people died, 6000 were injured and massive property damage was incurred. On Friday yet another tremor of 7.2 Richter scale magnitude was recorded in the south of the country.

Kero Kero Bonito – Only Acting

This new single from London-based trio, Kero Kero Bonito is nothing short of magnificent. Taking quite a creative leap away from the sugar-sweet pop of 2016’s Bonito Generation, they depart from idiosyncratic Casio pre-sets and venture into a sound with significantly much more bite. Specifically, tinny keyboards are swapped for aggressive guitars and towards the end there is even something resembling a solo. The saccharine vocals are retained, but here they are contrasted with abrupt interjections of screamo-esque yells. Sometimes there is a fine line between parody and art, and this track just tips into being a brilliant example of the former.


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