Hello dear readers, and a very happy Friday to you all! It’s been another short working week but that hasn’t stopped it being a bit of a bumper four days! As well as yet another new track from Haim, we got not one but blimmin’ two songs from the one and only LCD Soundsystem after seven long, long years away. And it’s safe to say that we’re not ruining anything by saying now that they’re ace, right? Also returning after half a decade are Grizzly Bear, who are back with a track that’s complex yet beautifully delicate, and we got another track from Paramore to boot!
Elsewhere, London singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya aired yet another captivating track (this time with jazzy brass!) Jamila Woods stepped into the limelight after working with Chance the Rapper and Noname, and Emily Magpie delivered a slice of demonic pop. Syrian-Armenian-American electronic musician, singer and artist also burst forth with a haunting and very personal new cut.
LCD Soundsystem – Call The Police/ American Dream
Bar a Christmas song released at the end of 2015, it’s been seven years since the last LCD Soundsystem material. There’s been a hell of a lot of talk since then - especially since James Murphy announced the band’s return at the start of last year - and the band’s pair of new songs put almost all the chatter to rest.
First up is ‘Call The Police’, a track that carries an infectious momentum like the very best LCD Soundsystem songs, and which James Murphy puts the world to rights on top of, sounding more impassioned with every next line.
There’s nods to the band’s former label (“And we don’t waste time with love / It’s just death from above”), and Murphy’s signature snark (“Well, there’s a full-blown rebellion but you’re easy to confuse / By triggered kids and fakers and some questionable views”), and ‘Call The Police’ possesses a familiarity that it’s impossible not to feel comforted and energised by.
If ‘Call The Police’ is the fist-pumping, glorious return, ‘American Dream’ is the solemn statement. Lyrically, the track serves as a sort-of ‘North American Scum’ part two, but musically it trades the former’s urgency and bombast for a slow, probing majesty.
“It’s a drug of the heart and you can’t stop the shaking / ‘Cause the body wants what it’s terrible at taking,” he sings, and the sense of succumbing to internal and external pressures is palpable. Being less than perfect - crummy, even - has always been a state that Murphy’s conveyed perfectly, and it’s done better than ever.
For only two tracks, LCD Soundsystem’s return is pretty damn comprehensive. They’re back, and aren’t doing things by halves. (Will Richards)
Grizzly Bear – Three Rings
After being little teases and dropping numerous mysterious visual hints that they were preparing for a comeback, Grizzly Bear have finally returned. The Brooklynites have been away for a full five years (yes, ‘Shields’ really did come out in 2012), during which time they’ve been DJing, remixing, recording with side projects, paying tribute to The Grateful Dead, and, um, been writing cookbooks filled with “unfussy but elegant” recipes.
On ‘Three Rings’ though, it sounds like they’ve never been away at all. It’s a beautiful, meticulously constructed track, one that reacquaints the listener with the band’s usual complexities and twists, complete with lilting yet ear-catching guitar melodies and skittering percussion. Ed Droste’s voice drifts across the track, asking “don’t you feel it all come together?” On the strength of this first taste, it’s impossible not to hear everything falling into place on their next album. (Eugenie Johnson)
Paramore – Told You So
When Paramore surged back into our lives in all their multi-coloured, unabashed glory just nine days ago, they opened the floodgates on a whole new them. Now, with the second offering from ‘After Laughter’ out in the open, they’re painting an even more vivid picture of the direction their fifth album is headed in.
Following the bubblegum highs of ‘Hard Times’ was never going to be an easy feat, but ‘Told You So’ is another unsurprisingly infectiously funky number, despite its somewhat darker feel. Tying together flickers of Talking Heads and Vampire Weekend with toe-tappingly brilliant percussion, their track’s another juxtaposition of musical highs and, at times, brutally open lyrics. Yet more proof that Paramore aren’t holding anything back, ‘Told You So’ feels like another perfect step. (Sarah Jamieson)
Haim – Want You Back
Haim’s initial return, with recent track ‘Right Now’, was understated in the extreme. A live video showing the sisters playing a reserved cut with flashes of brilliance, the track served to whet the appetite for the band’s new album a little more, rather than blow anyone away.
‘Want You Back’, the record’s first official single, drifts a little further into the-pop-smash-we-all-expected territory, but still leaves quite a bit behind. Beginning with that well-travelled three-chord melody, ‘Want You Back’ feels very Springsteen and like it has the potential to be VERY big.
That thunderous chorus never totally arrives though; it’s all hand-claps and foot stomps, but not quite what anyone expected. When the chorus does kick in, it’s trademark Haim, with Danielle managing, as ever, to cram far too many syllables into a single line yet make something brilliant and confusingly catchy.
As with the repeated refrain in ‘Right Now’, ‘Want You Back’ does prove itself to be an earworm though. While not seeing Haim fully kick into top gear and take up their throne as superstars, ‘Want You Back’ is another step towards what’s still set to be a huge comeback. (Will Richards)
Nilüfer Yanya – Golden Cage
When she released her ‘Small Crimes’ EP last year, it was obvious that London singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya was a rare talent, someone who could craft captivating stories from seemingly the most miniscule of events (even the title track alone proved that). With ‘The Florist,’ she stepped up once again, with upcoming EP ‘Plant Feed’ set to herald the full blossoming of an already fertile career. As if anyone needed more convincing that Nilüfer’s songwriting is simply spellbinding, she’s gifted us with yet another glittering gem in the form of ‘Golden Cage.’
With its upbeat, jazzy nature, the instrumentation of the track reflects the feeling of being blinkered to a bad or difficult situation, looking at things with rose-tinted glasses and turning a blind eye. But that swelling positivity tumbles away, leaving Nilüfer to try and break the spell while accompanied by harsher, starker guitar strums and slightly more melancholic brass melodies. “Are you in a daze?” she asks, the metaphor of the golden cage perfectly summing up the idea of that prison you never want to leave. What makes ‘Golden Cage’ even more engaging though is the fact that Yanya leaves the concept open, making it easy as pie for the listener to relate to the predicament. Once again, Nilüfer has proved herself to be a human, captivating songwriter, an unbridled talent that simply can’t be locked up. (Eugenie Johnson)
Jamila Woods – Holy
Jagjaguwar’s latest signing and Chicago multi-talent Jamila Woods first pricked ears when she enlisted the categorically ace Noname as a guest on ‘VERY BLK,’ and hopped on Chance the Rapper’s ‘Sunday Candy’ and ‘Blessings’. With production on ‘Holy’ coming from Chance associate Peter Cottontale, and with gospel and off-beat pop sparring for space, Woods isn’t messing about here, either.
Twisting snippets of the Bible’s Psalm 23:4 (“though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil,” reads the original verse; in Woods’ take, she’s fearless in love instead) name-dropping hymns and Kanye tracks alike, and opening with the Lord’s Prayer - “Give me this day my daily bread” she demands, subtly twisting the original’s sentiment, and making it more personal - these careful adjustments are crucial. Concerned with seizing hold of narratives, ‘Holy’ is about a simple idea; it’s impossible to be lonely when you have spirituality.
Simple though its premise may be, the detail’s in the execution of ‘Holy’; a richly woven, resoundingly optimistic song about self-care and acceptance. (El Hunt)
Emily Magpie – The Witching Hour
Bristol-based singer Emily Magpie’s debut EP, last year’s ‘Same Stuff’, was a dark, demonic trip through folk and pop. Its follow-up, new single ‘The Witching Hour’, is anything but the same stuff, though.
Conceived after reading a book about the witch trials, ‘The Witching Hour’ is described by Emily as “it’s a song about claiming your own power deep from within you,” and there’s an intense, vital energy to the track that engulfs everything around it.
Swooping, creepy swirls of electronics clatter into the singer’s high but menacing vocals, and though she sings “I am young but unafraid,” there’s a fear that courses through ‘The Witching Hour’, and it’s one that propels the track forward, running through the night. (Will Richards)
K Á R Y Y N – PURGATORY
Syrian-Armenian-American electronic musician, singer and artist K Á R Y Y N already has friends in high places. Living and making music from her Los Angeles home, she’s already written an opera under the guidance of performance artist Marina Abramovic, which was admired by Björk. She’s also collaborated with German DJ David August, and some top names in the global film industry.
For her own music though, she’s focused her perspective on Syria. First single ‘ALEPPO’ was deeply symbolic for her, not just due to the turmoil that the city has undergone but because she was baptised within the city. Now, on ‘PURGATORY,’ she steps back in time, sharing a childhood memory taking place in her family’s restaurant and hotel in the Forty Mountains, where the civil war began.
Instead of being aggressive or spiteful about the conflict though, on ‘PURGATORY’ K Á R Y Y N weaves a perhaps surprisingly beautiful track, one that lets her vocals and words soar uncaged and unrestrained. In time, the muted electronica eventually swells with melancholic, doom-laden strings and K Á R Y Y N is accompanied by otherworldly harmonies that echo the ghosts of the past. Less is more here, just adding to the emotional punch and making K Á R Y Y N’s requiem all the more haunting. (Eugenie Johnson)