Good afternoon dear readers and welcome to another edition of Tracks. On this, a week where we’re packing our bags and sorting out all our liquids (for airport security obviously, you filthy lot), a whole bunch of our faves decided to give us new tracks, and in a lot of instances, they’re the best they’ve produced yet. What a life we’re living.
From alt-J and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell making more than a few of our dreams come true, to Black Honey return with an absolute monster of a new single and Dream Wife making their biggest statement yet on ‘Somebody’, it’s been a week for the ages. Trust us.
For our verdicts on all of this week’s biggest and most exciting tracks, all you need to do is scroll down. And if you’re itching to check out everything else out this week, step this way for DIY’s Listening Hub, and our Essential Playlist.
alt-J - 3WW
It’d be easy to assume alt-J’s continued success would make them tread a straighter line. In reality, their development’s seen them head down weirder, more abstract paths. ‘Intro’, the opening track to second album ‘This Is All Yours’, was a bustling, anxiety-fuelled trip down the streets of Japanese city Nara.
‘3WW’, which opens third record ‘Relaxer’, meanwhile, feels like it’s set a hundred years back around a campfire in rural Britain. The three voices deployed in the track paint completely different worlds, each blending into the others like smoke.
Gus Unger-Hamilton’s opening vocal is pure traditional British folk, which is hurtled forward into a silky, smooth future by Joe Newman’s more familiar tones and the introduction of slapping percussion. By the time Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell slides in, ‘3WW’ has become a creeping snake, slithering up England’s east coastline.
Through this three-legged monster, alt-J have managed to present an all-encompassing return, defying expectation at every turn. Bravo. (Will Richards)
Black Honey - Somebody Better
A confidence seeps out of Black Honey’s new single ‘Somebody Better’ from its very first bar. That sky-reaching guitar; those pulverising smacks of a floor tom - there’s no hanging about this time.
“I guess I want to be somebody better,” Izzy Phillips sings in the track’s chorus, but the insecurity and anxiety of the lyrics are shot through with a chemistry between Phillips and her bandmates that’s becoming unstoppable. With their biggest UK tour yet coming up, and a new lynchpin to build towering live sets around, there really is nothing capable of standing in the way of Black Honey. (Will Richards)
Goldfrapp - Ocean
With ‘Anymore,’ the lead single from their upcoming album ‘Silver Eye,’ Goldfrapp confirmed that they were heading back into the kind of electronic territory explored on previous records ‘Black Cherry’ and ‘Supernature’. Some of the reverberating, bassy sounds on ‘Anymore’ suggested that Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory might have been traversing into slightly darker territory, but it pales in comparison to the abyss evoked by latest track ‘Ocean’.
The pair must have been in a pretty gloomy mood when recording ‘Ocean,’ as they’ve never sounded so bleak and crushing. Despite being relatively minimal in its composition, the track is still an intimidating, claustrophobic slice of electronica. Even Alison herself sounds tougher and grittier than ever, her distinctive vocals harbouring an underlying menace. Whatever comes before it on ‘Silver Eye’, ‘Ocean’ will still undoubtedly be a powerful finale. (Eugenie Johnson)
King Nun - Hung Around
When Londoners King Nun served up debut AA ‘Tulip’/ ‘Speakerface’ last year, it was pretty clear the quartet were onto something pretty damn special: full of cocky guitar riffs and howling vocals, it marked them out as a band overflowing with personality and well as undeniable tunes.
Now they’re back with round two and, thankfully, it doesn’t dispel the theory. Hammering in on grizzled, uncompromising guitar and drum stabs, it opens somewhere between ‘Back In Black’ and something out of Jack White’s wet dreams. Then we get a big ol’ melodic chorus a la Dirty Hit label mates Superfood before the two combine in a glorious union for the kind of stupidly confident guitar solo that’s frankly ridiculous for a band not yet out of their teens. All that, plus singer Theo (like all the greats, he doesn’t offer up a surname) has the kind of frantic, wild-eyed vocal that suggests at any point he could rob a bank, punch you in the face or pull down his pants. (Lisa Wright)
Dream Wife - Somebody
“I am not my body, I am somebody,” Rakel Mjöll repeats in Dream Wife’s new single, and it sounds like the band’s biggest statement to date. A crushing damning of male entitlement and rape culture, it’s the most vicious and strong the trio have ever sounded, with a confidence that’s hurtling them forward on their path to being an extremely big band.
Recently supporting Sleigh Bells and with slots alongside The Kills in the near future, Dream Wife possess as much bite as the rock behemoths they’re playing alongside, while also channelling the uber-cool indie of ‘Is This It?’-era The Strokes. With every next step, Dream Wife are looking like the total package. (Will Richards)
Forest Swords - The Highest Flood
On debut album ‘Engravings’, Merseyside-based producer Matthew Barnes – or Forest Swords – made music that was highly evocative of the clash between man and nature that even his own name suggested. It sounded like the soundtrack to an ancient pagan ritual while still reminding you occasionally of its actual contemporary origins.
In the few years since, Barnes has worked on compositions for the ‘Assassin’s Creed’, collaborated with Massive Attack and soundtracked ‘In The Robot Skies’, the first film made entirely with drones. With his comeback single ‘The Highest Flood’ though, he’s back doing what he does best: crafting electronic music that all but completely blurs the lines between the synthetic and the organic.
This isn’t simply a rehash of what Matthew has done in the past though. Instead, he’s been “thinking a lot about the ways we need to forge new paths in language, communication and our connection with the natural world”. ‘The Highest Flood’ achieves this in dramatic fashion, its almost doom-laden bursts of brass and incredibly choppy slices of electronica combining to create an almost dystopian vision.
The choral elements epitomise the search for “new paths in language”, but their sometimes clipped nature is only indicative of what a struggle searching for a greater connection can be in today’s society. It’s simply stunning how Forest Swords can craft such a message about our modern times from something that feels so primordial, making his return feel all the more vital. (Eugenie Johnson)
Noga Erez - Toy
Tel Aviv singer and producer Noga Erez isn’t one to shy away from controversial topics. On explosive debut single ‘Dance While You Shoot’ she took aim at governments who are “drowning you in manipulative media, ignorance and bureaucracy,” while the recent ‘Pity’ was inspired by a particular sexual assault case that was documented by several people as it happened.
With ‘Toy’, the latest track from her upcoming debut album ‘Off The Radar’, she’s no less incendiary. What’s most striking is how much Noga can say with relatively few words. Written from the perspective of someone who has simply inherited their position rather than earned it, she sings “I wear a crown with my head down/ Long heavy gown/ Cause my bent spine,” focusing on how power can so easily corrupt a person. The final, repeated line “they say love will kill us all” is a chilling hyperbolised take on manipulative rhetoric designed to keep those at the top safe in their comfortable positions.
Set against a minimalist but still danceable beat, with ‘Toy’ Noga has continued her remarkable streak of fun yet highly politicised pop that feels totally vital in today’s society.
Gold Connections - Isabel
“’Isabel’ is not a song about a girl, but a blurred portrait of the circus we call love,” says Will Marsh, the guitarist and songwriter behind Virginia’s Gold Connections. Trying to express all of the different twists and turns of love in a song certainly can’t be easy and, indeed, it’s taken Will two years to get to this point, mostly because he kept “finding new bizarre angles.”
It’s these “bizarre angles” that makes the latest track from his upcoming self-titled debut EP such a thrill-ride though. Spanning across six minutes, the influence of producer Will Toledo (of Car Seat Headrest) can be heard in its scuzzy edges, but ‘Isabel’ manages to defy expectations every step of the way. Kicking off as a lilting indie-rock number with very light country tinges, it continually morphs, gradually building up into a full-throttle wall of interlocking riffs and clashing percussion and occasionally seeming almost improvisational.
By its hazy, raucous climax, it’s like Marsh and Toledo have been through the wringer, but that’s sometimes what love can be like. This is one dizzying rollercoaster you’ll be wanting to ride again and again. (Eugenie Johnson)