Hello dear readers, and a very happy Friday to you all! We’re getting pretty hyped up for Eurovision right now, but earlier this week we were getting all worked up about the return of The National after they’d posted up a couple of cheeky teasers. Lo and behold, they delivered and then some with their comeback track ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’.
Elsewhere, Danny L Harle proved why he more than lives up to the name “Huge Danny” and Mount Kimbie teamed up with Mica Levi for another atmospheric, otherworldly cut from their upcoming album. Harry Styles continued his quest for world domination by getting all bluesy and rock’n’roll, but Hazel English moved in the opposite direction, getting her pop on. Speaking of pop, OUTLYA delivered a huge potentially chart-bothering banger, but on the more hushed end of the spectrum, singer-songwriter Bedouine returned with another gorgeous slice of folk.
The National – The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness
Over the years, The National have become a fiery, unpredictable live band. The duelling guitars of the Dessner brothers have often defined the band’s ever-larger shows, but this chaos and sense of abandon never quite made it onto the band’s records. Until now.
‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’, the first single from the band’s seventh album ‘Sleep Well Beast’, has a guitar solo. It’s the first full-on guitar solo in the band’s eighteen-year career. The letting loose and unlocking of the band’s live firepower - abandoning restraint in ways they previously never quite dared - makes ‘The System…’ a brilliant return.
“We’re in a different kind of thing now,” Matt Berninger sings, and for a band so traditionally used to staying inside their (albeit brilliant) box, ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’ is a revelation. (Will Richards)
Danny L Harle – 1UL
‘1UL’, from a new EP of the same name, was co-written with Phoebe Ryan and Nate Campany. Between them, the songwriters have credits for the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and The Chainsmokers. Without even pressing play on ‘1UL’, it’s clear that Harle’s ambitions are as big as they could possibly go, and this frankly enormous new cut won’t do them any harm.
Talking about the track in a press release, the producer says “I am interested in making sad music that people can dance to. It took me a while to choose the right collection of songs as they had to strike the right balance between sadness and joy.”
Sure, there’s a melancholic tinge to ‘1UL’ - the chorus repeats ”So touch my body, that’s what you want / but don’t touch my heart, as if I could ever be the one you love” - but the overarching emotion here is one of defiance, and there’s no grievance or memory of a shitty romantic situation that the track couldn’t help to furiously dance and sweat away. Huge Danny lives up to his name more than ever before. (Will Richards)
Mount Kimbie – Marilyn (ft. Mica Levi)
Mount Kimbie’s comeback track, the James Blake-featuring ‘We Go Home Together’, suggested that they’d be heading in a more insular direction compared to the dancefloor-ready beats that punctuated their album ‘Cold Spring Fault Less Youth’. James’ falsetto crooning drifted over vintage organs, light-as-a-feather synths and snaps of percussion, subtly but assuredly heralding their glorious return.
With latest track ‘Marliyn’, they further delve into that more light and spacious realm, bringing Mica Levi along for the ride. “Mica’s work has been a constant source of inspiration for us and I’m grateful she wanted to sing on this one because as a singer and a lyricist I think she brings so much”, says Kai in a press release of working alongside Mica. Indeed, the track proves that it’s a match made in heaven. With meaty basslines and a hi-hat that just doesn’t seem to cease, it’s a bit of a tricky shapeshifter, starting with languid tones while gradually layering on more synths over a glassy motif.
It’s not entirely difficult to draw a bit of a comparison to the atmospheric work Mica produced alongside Oliver Coates on their collaborative album ‘Remain Calm’ last year (minus the cello), and that’s no bad thing. But despite the similarity, Mount Kimbie craft a sound here that’s otherworldly and ethereal, but grounded by percussive flourishes that are distinctively, uniquely their own. It just makes you wonder what they’ve got up their sleeves next. (Eugenie Johnson)
Harry Styles – Kiwi
To anyone whose passing knowledge of Harry Styles boasts little more than ‘the curly-haired kid from the X Factor’ and an occasional drunken singalong to ‘Best Song Ever’, ‘Kiwi’ will be a jump into the deepest of deep ends. There’s a point during the track - the heaviest on our H’s newly-released self-titled debut - where the guitars are more akin to Queens of the Stone Age than anything Simon Cowell’s swiped his mucky mitts across.
Screaming, yelping and sniffing (ahem) his way through, from the barely-sensical chorus howls “I’m having your baby / it’s none of your business” to the Jack White-esque stripped-back bridge, ‘Kiwi’ is pure hip-swingin’ bluesy rock ‘n roll. And those who’ve paid more than a smidgen of attention to lil’ Hazza in the past few years will find no surprise at all in that. (Emma Swann)
Hazel English – That Thing
Hazel English. You probably know her as the Oakland-via-Australia singer-songwriter who makes bittersweet, lo-fi yet magical tunes. She’s continued to captivate with her craft, her new double EP ‘Just Give In/ Never Going Home’ set to be the perfect introduction to her talents for anyone who’s still not familiar with her work.
But before she releases the collection, she’s revealed that she’s had a bit of a curveball just ready and waiting to be thrown. ‘That Thing’ isn’t a cover of Lauryn Hill’s solo hit, but it might be just as intriguing. You see, Hazel’s latest track is a step into vintage pop territory, produced by Justin Raisen (who’s worked with Carli XCX, Angel Olsen and Lana Del Rey). Her usual charm and spellbinding songwriting is still intact, complete with the slightly fuzzy guitar tones, but it’s bathed in shimmering synths and features a pretty killer hook. While it may just be a bonus track on the double EP, but it’s a truly tantalising glimpse into the possible future direction of Hazel English. (Eugenie Johnson)
OUTLYA – Heaven
Newcomers OUTLYA have said that both Weezer and Taylor Swift have influenced their new single ‘Heaven’, and there’s an almost ridiculous list of styles employed across their fresh, bright new cut.
Like if Bastille decided to lob a huge, dirty guitar solo onto their stadium-filling synth-pop, ‘Heaven’ is absolutely huge, and a frighteningly composed, ambition-filled next step from a band so new. “If no god can save me, I’ll carry the weight alone,” vocalist Will Bloomfield belts out, before a chorus full of invigorating, battle cried backing vocals burst through, ensuring the trio won’t be outlyas for much longer.
It’s not quite the biggest banger ever released that’s called ‘Heaven’ (that title is, and always will be, reserved for DJ Sammy, sorry), but OUTLYA come pretty close, and will be flirting with the charts sooner rather than later. (Will Richards)
Bedouine – Solitary Daughter
With recent single ‘Dusty Eyes’, Azniv Korkejian, aka Bedouine, provided a gorgeous slice of folk to usher in upcoming self-titled debut album.
Softly spoken stories woven over plucked acoustic guitars, ‘Solitary Daughter’ is a track that threatens to waft off into the distance, but the singer’s ambiguous, fascinating tales are ones that it’s impossible not to follow into the distance.
A whole verse is dedicated to things Bedouine doesn’t need and/or want, and so rarely has a new voice emerged that’s so content with being alone and answerable only to themselves.
Speaking to NPR, Korkejian said: ”The song is kind of a reaction to traditional gender roles. It was sort of a rejection of conventional romance; it’s not something that I needed. Sure, it might be something I would like, but I don’t need to be whisked away on someone else’s terms,” and ‘Solitary Daughter’ paints a picture of an artist completely in control, and firmly at the wheel. With this second taster of the upcoming LP, it’s impossible not to want to jump in next to her. (Will Richards)