Hello and welcome to 2018, and a bumper edition of Tracks! Across the Christmas and New Year period, there’s been a whole truckload of huge tracks unleashed into the world. In the first Tracks round-up of the new year, we pass judgement on each and every one.
From Superorganism’s psychedelic, cash register-heavy ode to internet fame, ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’, to the link-up of dreams from Kendrick Lamar and SZA to newies from MGMT, The Vaccines and more, it’s been a whirlwind start to January.
Getting in before any of them, though, was Mike Skinner, who released his first material as The Streets in over six years just a few days before Christmas in the form of ‘Burn Bridges’ and ‘Sometimes I Hate My Friends More Than My Enemies’. Well then, dive in and start the year right!
Superorganism - Everybody Wants To Be Famous
Domino-signed hyper-modern pop collective Superorganism’s formula is already clear, less than a year into their career. Dream-like, sample-heavy production laid over simple but addictive vocals, debut single proper ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ was enough on its own to sell out a debut London show to 600 people.
The ingredients are largely the same on newie ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’, but a lack of deviation doesn’t mean a jot when the songs are this good at their core. An ode to internet fame - suitable, given the band all met online - the single sparkles with untamed life, like bouncing through a magical forest in a PS1 game. There’s also generous lashings of cash register sounds, which we’d never say no to. (Will Richards)
The Streets - Burn Bridges
You know what they say about buses? Well, it turns out the same thing applies to The Streets; you wait ages (well, seven years to be exact) for a slice of new material, and then two new songs only go and blimmin’ rock up at the same time! ‘Sometimes I Hate My Friends More Than My Enemies’ and ‘Burn Bridges’ marked a surprise return over the festive holidays, and the latter is a minimally chiming Mike Skinner special, channelling the crispier-than-crackling percussiveness of UK Garage, and careering down a path of escapist hedonism and emotional bridge burning.
“Immerse in the drink, disperse a whole cigarette, traverse the whole city, let the hearse do a skid,” Skinner deadpans with typical syllable-twisting agility, and it’s like he never left. (El Hunt)
Kendrick Lamar x SZA - All The Stars
Kendrick Lamar and SZA were probably the two biggest stars of 2017. Naturally, then, they begin this year by coming together on the massive ‘All The Stars’. The collaboration from the Top Dawg companions is the first taster of the Kendrick-curated soundtrack for the new Black Panther film, and shows both artists as being as versatile as they come.
It’s clear by now that Kendrick can excel over any single beat placed in front of him, and ‘All The Stars’ shows this more clearly than ever. SZA’s soaring chorus vocal is backed up by a smooth, laid back vocal that sounds a lot less angry than its lyrics would suggest.
Based around a silky, pitch-shifted vocal, ‘All The Stars’ is much more understated than it could’ve been, given the sum of its parts, but its restraint is its greatest strength, and makes it the first great song of 2018. (Will Richards)
The Vaccines - I Can’t Quit
It’s been three long years since The Vaccines released any new music – practically a lifetime for the London outfit who pumped out two no-nonsense LPs within their first two years of forming back at the start of the decade. Since 2015’s ‘English Graffiti’, the band have lost one original member (drummer Pete Robertson), gained two more (keyboardist Tim Lanham and new sticksman Ioann Intonti) and spent their longest time out of the spotlight since they first crash landed in a blur of short’n’sharp riffs and songs about inadvisable shagging.
It’s a relief, then, that the band’s first moves back don’t so much tentatively peek round the door as fling it open with gusto. Filled with the kind of simple yet massive hooks that turned early tracks ‘Wetsuit’ and ‘Blow It Up’ into such effortless arena fillers, Justin Young’s lyrical barbs are about everything and nothing – a series of throwaway rhyming nihilisms with a chorus made for bellowing at the top of your lungs. As always with the singer, it’s a lot smarter than it probably seems on the surface.
When The Vaccines announced their return at the tail end of 2017, they did it by whacking a 10,000-capacity comeback show straight on sale. Ballsy, yes. But by the sounds of it, the band are returning with the chutzpah to back it up. (Lisa Wright)
MGMT - Hand It Over
To be honest, nobody was holding out for MGMT to pen a woozy croon-fest that wouldn’t sound out of place at Pretty In Pink’s graduation prom, but then again, no real complaints when it comes to ‘Hand It Over’. A breezy, swaying number - a dreamy closing sequence shot through this duo’s typically oddball kaleidoscope - it’s a song that touches on the many hurdles of creativity and expectation. “If we lose our touch, it won’t mean much if everyone’s confused,” it lulls, backing vocals chipping in with the refrain that titles the song. That said, with this understated and refreshing switch in approach, it looks like MGMT have a few more doors left to open yet. (El Hunt)
BØRNS (feat. Lana Del Rey) - God Save Our Young Blood
Spaniel-haired troubadour BØRNS has been lingering around for some time now, his ‘70s vibes as evident in the glam rock he’s moderately decent at as in his bold sartorial choices. Lana Del Rey needs no introduction, of course, and on paper, we’d find this pairing up an interesting choice capable of some serious retro pop power.
Sadly, ‘God Save Our Young Blood’ is nothing of the sort, instead taking Lana’s laid-back delivery, vague lyrical themes hinting at intoxication and swapping any hint of BØRNS’ distinctive style for generic R&B-lite, complete with dance floor begging synth stabs through the not-exactly-memorable chorus. Sometimes things are greater than the sum of their parts. On the flip side, there’s this. (Emma Swann)
Titus Andronicus - Number One (In New York)
Titus Andronicus’ last album, ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’, was a near-exhausting 29-song rock opera. Its follow-up ‘A Productive Cough’ contains only 8 songs, but first single ‘Number One (In New York)’ doesn’t practice restraint - it clocks in at over eight minutes.
The band’s Patrick Stickles has always been a master of tearing his vocal chords against misery and depression. As he calls himself “president of the emptiness” on the new single, it’s clear little’s changed. It’s also a comeback which shows the singer’s spark to still be fully alive.
A rousing piano ballad that soars to an ending that sounds something like a drunken singalong to an anti-Christmas song, Titus Andronicus reappear as pissed off, trodden down but resilient as ever. (Will Richards)