What a week it’s been, readers. From massive returns from some of our very faves, to unexpected left turns from established artists, game-changing remixes and extremely exciting first offerings from newcomers, the last seven days have had everything.
Young Fathers followed up ‘LORD’ with something altogether more danceable, George Ezra made a bleak January sound like sitting by the pool on a stonking all-inclusive, Kelly Lee Owens turned St Vincent’s ‘New York’ into a propulsive banger, and The Decemberists embraced squelchy synths. As we said, what a week it’s been.
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.
Young Fathers - In My View
After lending their track ‘Only God Knows’ – featuring the Leith Congregational Choir – to the ‘T2: Trainspotting’ soundtrack and then re-emerging with the piano-led yet intense, industrial-inflected ‘LORD’ late last year, perhaps you could be forgiven for thinking that Young Fathers’ third LP might have been headed in a more gospel-tinged direction. But they’ve never been ones to stick to a single style for too long. With the announcement of ‘Cocoa Sugar’ then, they’ve also delivered a track that stands apart from their 2017 singles while still sounding undeniably like Young Fathers.
‘In My View’ navigates around a hook that asserts that nothing is ever really free. “In my view, nothing’s ever given away” Alloysious Massaquoi sings on the chorus. “To advance, you must pay”. It’s an intense, powerful statement, but one that’s turned into the type of sparse yet explosive belter that only they could really pull off. It straddles a line between downbeat and anthemic with precision, building on its bare bass-driven bones with pounding percussion and vocals that occasionally tumble over each other fluidly. Unlike ‘LORD’ then, you can dance to it, but it’ll undoubtedly provoke some deeper thought at the same time. (Eugenie Johnson)
George Ezra - Paradise
“We often find ourselves second guessing feelings that we have and trying to work out what it is that they might mean,” George Ezra says of his new single ‘Paradise’. ”But with love there is no uncertainty, it is what it is and I liken it to paradise.”
The idea of blissful certainty flows through the new single, the second offering from new record ‘Staying At Tamara’s’. Within ten seconds, the track erupts into glorious, carefree chanted backing vocals, and it’s a breezy, grin-inducing ode to untamed romance.
Everything down to the single’s sleeve - plasticine models of a podgy couple catching a few too many rays on an all-inclusive trip to Benidorm - makes even the most grey of Tuesdays in an English winter feel like a sun-kissed evening, with a pina colada in your hand and an immovable grin plastered across your face. (Will Richards)
Preoccupations - Espionage
‘Espionage’ is a suitable title for Preoccupations’ comeback: the track feels like it’s skulking around backstreets uninvited, scouring for information. According to songwriter Matt Flegel, the band’s new record ‘New Material’ is ”an ode to depression and self-sabotage”, and there’s an undeniably destructive element to its first track.
“Finishing ‘Espionage’ was when I realized, that I looked at the rest of the lyrics and saw the magnitude of what was wrong,” he continues in a press release. “Change is everything / But it’s nowhere to be found” he repeats incessantly through the track’s most intense passage, and there’s a catharsis from making it through a track as dense and full of darkness as this one, for both writer and listener. (Will Richards)
Gengahr - Before Sunrise
“Before Sunrise is a song that celebrates the relief and simplicity one can find lost in the night”, Gengahr frontman Felix Bushe says of their latest single. “A clarity and single mindedness that doesn’t exist in day to day life”. Between the dark, intense riffs of ‘Carrion’ and the looser grooves of ‘Mallory’, Gengahr have signalled that they’ve found a similar sort of clarity for the direction of their second album ‘Where Wildness Grows’, unafraid to experiment and build on the sound they forged on debut ‘A Dream Outside’.
On the third track taken from the album, ‘Before Sunrise’, they push themselves once again. Lighter in tone than ‘Carrion’, it’s a tune characterised by its laid-back hook that propels itself on a playful, breezy yet taut melody. Bushe’s vocals continue to spring back and forth between his familiar falsetto and a laid-back twang, with a grittier, earthier guitar riff giving it all an extra bit of bite. Atmospheric, cinematic and, yes, anthemic, Gengahr are continuing to prove they’re at the top of their game. And they couldn’t be any clearer about it. (Eugenie Johnson)
St Vincent - New York (Kelly Lee Owens remix)
A remix can often enhance a particular track’s underappreciated facet, or enhance an already euphoric dancefloor-mingler even further. It’s rare, though, that a new mix of a track can completely flip the shape and feeling of the song, making it a completely different beast.
St Vincent’s ‘New York’ is drowned in heartbreak; its lyrics eek with sorrow. Enter Kelly Lee Owens, then, to catapult it towards the club. Slinky, squelchy synths - almost the exact sonic equivalent of the single’s garish artwork - sit below chopped and changed lines from Annie Clark’s original verses, and the words slowly but surely begin to take on a new meaning.
While ‘New York’ originally emerged a heartbreak song to wallow with; now, via a helping hand from Kelly Lee Owens, it can be one to help dance and sweat the pain away. (Will Richards)
Nakhane - Clairvoyant
Growing up gay in a strict Christian household in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, it’s not difficult to see why the music of Nakhane feels like a torrent of pent up emotions, and a gorgeously arranged one at that.
‘Clairvoyant’, the first taster of upcoming record ‘You Will Not Die’, takes the regal majesty of Wild Beasts and drags it kicking and screaming to the dancefloor. With Nakhane finding himself influenced more by the sounds of gay techno clubs than more ‘authentic’ sounds, ‘Clairvoyant’ is proof that there’s more than enough space for sombre reflection and tenderness within a song that also makes you want to dance with every fibre of your being.
Reflecting both on his upbringing and his new, truer self now, the title of Nakhane’s upcoming album can serve less as a literal statement, and more as if to say, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. There’s strength flowing through every part of ‘Clairvoyant’, a brilliant, multi-faceted smash. (Will Richards)
The Decemberists - Severed
Across seven studio albums, The Decemberists have traversed almost every corner of the folk canon, led by Colin Meloy’s fascinating, vivid storytelling. Only on 2015’s ‘What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World’ did it start to sound tired.
“When you’ve been a band for 17 years, inevitably there are habits you fall into,” Meloy said upon the announcement of new album ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ and new track ’Severed’. “So our ambition this time was really just to get out of our comfort zone.”
And out of their comfort zone they’ve certainly gone: ‘Severed’ is still helmed by Meloy’s instantly recognisable vocal twang, but it’s set above an enticing, squelchy synth line and a bassline to rumble even the strongest of stomachs. Produced with John Congleton (St Vincent, Wild Beasts, Nelly Furtado), the record seems to indicate a leftward step in every sense, and it’s one that looks most welcome from first impression.
‘Severed’ folds out into a gigantic chorus, and while it ends up not being the most memorable song the Decemberists have ever penned, its ambition is what points the way forward. (Will Richards)