It’s that time again, readers! It’s officially Friday and the end of the week, which can mean only one thing - we’re here to bring you a round-up of the best and biggest tracks to be unleashed in the past week.
From the return of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, to more gut-wrenching riffs from Demob Happy, via the dulcet tones of James Blake on his newest offering, consider this your rundown of everything that should be on your stereo right now.
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.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - American Guilt
Across three albums (2011’s self-titled debut, 2013 follow-up ‘II’ and 2015’s polyamory-discussing ‘Multi-Love’) Unknown Mortal Orchestra – the brainchild of New Zealander Ruban Nielson – have experimented with varying degrees of psych and funk, starting lo-fi and building it up. But throughout this time there’s almost always been a certain ’underwater’ quality to it all – a hazy production barrier between UMO and reality.
It’s fitting that on ‘American Guilt’ (no points for guessing what this one’s about) Nielson chooses now to harness a more aggressive change of tack. There’s still his trademark bubbly, warped vocal on show, but it’s surrounded by unabashedly meaty licks and some of the most abrasive material he’s penned to date. A 70s-indebted wallop of Hendrix rifferama, it’s an uncompromising beginning to LP4. (Lisa Wright)
Hop Along - How Simple
On their upcoming new album ‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’, Philadelphia’s Hop Along are setting out to consider what it’s like to cast off perceptions, but not always with the assurance of what will replace those once long-held notions. Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Frances Quinlan began meditating on the nature of power, and the men who often wield it, saying: “I’m at a point in my life where I’m saying instead, ‘well, what can I do?’”
Its lead track and single, ‘How Simple’, encapsulates these feelings. A first listen might lead one to believe that the track centres around a breakup, particularly thanks to its repeated refrain of “we will both find out, just not together”. Yet it’s also deeply self-reflective. There’s a sense of wrangling with oneself, even of confronting mortality.
Quinlan’s compelling vocal performance only lends to the emotional force behind the track, morphing from an almost angelic coo to simmering angst in a split-second, leaning on buoyant punk-inflected riffs and, in the end, the gentle, sweeping tones of strings. ‘How Simple’ is anything but. (Eugenie Johnson)
James Blake - If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead
At a recent run of US shows, James Blake debuted three new tracks during his set, all tender, piano-based affairs. It hinted at a softer approach for his follow-up to ‘The Colour In Anything’. New single ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’ - dropped without warning on Blake’s Radio 1 Residency show last night (25th January) - tears up the script, as is now customary form for the producer.
Based around frantic, spliced up vocal samples, it recalls Blake’s earliest work - most notably early single ‘CMYK’, but the track’s video, a sleek night-time ride in a sports car, leaves Blake’s minimalist beginnings in the dust. The first taste of LP4 or not, ‘If The Car…’ is another signal that James Blake revels in the unexpected. (Will Richards)
Tom Misch - Water Baby (feat. Loyle Carner)
South Londoners Tom Misch and Loyle Carner have teamed up a handful of times in the past, including on last year’s ‘Damselfly’, which saw Tom adding some sparse yet breezy beats to Loyle’s earnest, vulnerable lyrics. After Loyle’s epic rise on the back of his stellar debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’, Tom is now gearing himself to release his own debut record, ‘Geography’, in April, previewing the LP with a little help from his friend.
Judging by the palette of new single ‘Water Baby’, ‘Geography’ seems like it’ll be an apt title for the album. On it, Tom traverses a breezy musical landscape that touches on soul, jazz and hip-hop; laid-back piano melodies glide in and out, with upbeat bursts of soulful brass, handclaps and snapping beats forming a backbone that’s attention-grabbing yet still also languid. Tom and Loyle provide their own verses over the top, with some of Loyle’s honesty giving the track an added edge (“cos money’s tight, maybe tighter than it was before/ I’m helping out on a mortgage I really can’t afford”). It’s a track that continues to prove that Tom and Loyle are a dream team. (Eugenie Johnson)
Demob Happy - Loosen It
Forever treading the line between gutter-dwelling rock’n’roll riffage and and eyelash-fluttering come hither harmonies, Demob Happy have been gradually unveiling the self-professed “sweet and sour” sounds of forthcoming second LP ‘Holy Doom’ over the last few weeks. Lead single ‘Be Your Man’ crashed in as the gargantuan hammer through the door, follow up ‘Fake Satan’ boogie-woogied you to the bedroom and now ’Loosen It’ arrives in a grizzled tangle of guitar stabs and falsetto vocals to beguile you into full submission.
Starting off like the saucy British cousin to QOTSA’s ‘Sick Sick Sick’, its propulsive jabs and grinds whip up into a chorus that comes on full 70s rock, underpinned by a warped, penetrative bassline designed to burrow down into your core. The kind of track that makes you want to throw all your clothes off in a fit of heady Woodstock-esque abandon, there’s surely no band doing it quite a fruitily as Demob right now. (Lisa Wright)
The Voidz - Leave It In My Dreams
When the band FKA Julian Casablancas and The Voidz first came into public
consciousness back in 2014, their main raison d’etre seemed to be to prove that their frontman was not about to make The Strokes pt II. A wilfully obtuse run through chaotic, video game hell-noises and all manner of mad sounds, debut LP ‘Tyranny’ was as uncompromising as its title.
Returning with their first new material since then, it’s with no little intrigue that we welcome The Voidz back into our bosom. Gauging by their previous no holds barred approach, they could, after all, have written literally anything. As it turns out however, ‘Leave It In My Dreams’ is the biggest surprise of them all: a hyper melodic, classic Casablancas gem. Able to sit easily alongside any of the better tracks from more synthetic 2011 Strokes LP ‘Angles’, it forsakes the abrasiveness of The Voidz’ previous work in favour of something altogether warmer.
Is it a marker of things to come (full LP ‘Virtue’ is due later this year)? Who knows. But for now, The Voidz are sounding surprisingly sweet. (Lisa Wright)