Happy Friday, dear readers! This week has been a total delight for new music, if we’re being honest. Leading the pack on this week’s edition of Tracks - our weekly round-up of the biggest and best new songs out there - is The Japanese House, who returns following last year’s ‘Saw You In A Dream’ EP with the revelation that is comeback single ‘Lilo’.
She’s joined by Robyn, who’s shared the title track from her new album ‘Honey’, Westerman, who unveils details of his upcoming ‘Ark’ EP with gorgeous new one ‘Albatross’, and Yaeji, who builds on the promise of last year’s ‘EP2’ with the wonderfully danceable ‘One More’.
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.
The Japanese House - Lilo
Across her four EPs to date - from 2015’s ‘Pools To Bathe’ through to last year’s ‘Saw You In A Dream’ - the music of The Japanese House has gone through a beautiful, considered progression. Amber Bain’s minimal, glacial beginnings have slowly, confidently been built upon, and ‘Saw You In A Dream’ saw huge choruses and chunkier song structures burst out of the ambience gloriously.
New song ‘Lilo’, which looks like the first preview of an upcoming debut album, marks the start of a new chapter in more ways than one. While the EPs have primed the Dirty Hit-signed singer for a debut album to treasure, it’s the subject matter of ‘Lilo’ itself that make the comeback feel like a revelation.
“I needed someone to depend upon / I was alone, I was emotional,” the track begins, before Amber recounts being introduced to a friend of a friend who turned out to be exactly the person she wanted and needed. “[‘Lilo’] is a reminder to me that I am good at falling in love and I can survive falling out of it,” she says of the song, and there’s an unavoidable sense of serenity to the track, fuelled both by the continually assured sound of her music, and her new start in life.
From the off, the singer’s vocals are pushed even further to the front, no longer shrouded in effects and allowed to fully hammer their point home. It doesn’t make ‘Lilo’ a ham-fisted splurge of emotion, though: her clever, intricate percussion provides the perfect backing, every element rising perfectly together to welcome what’s set to be a glorious new chapter for The Japanese House. (Will Richards)
Robyn - Honey
Robyn’s ‘Honey’ has been around for quite a while now. First appearing as part of an episode of tv show Girls in March, the track has been revamped and polished, and its full version is the second preview of the singer’s new album of the same name, out this month.
‘Missing U’ - the first preview of the new LP - saw Robyn at her most fiery and defiant, smashing through heartbreak as she does best, dissecting a past relationship with stark honesty, and crashing her way through her feelings, fists clenched.
‘Honey’, however, takes a different tact. There’s still an undeniable force to the track, but it sways rather than crashes; her vocals are hushed and assured rather than painted and frantic. The end result is maybe even more stunning.
“The waves come in and they’re golden, but down in the deep the honey is sweeter,” she sings in its chorus, beckoning a deeper kind of connection and taking power from patience and exploration. “And the sun sets on the water, but down in the deep the current is stronger,” she reaffirms, and in stepping away from the storm on ‘Honey’, Robyn finds new ways of coping, and they’re just as revelationary as ever. (Will Richards)
Westerman - Albatross
Across 2018, Will Westerman has quietly but confidently shown himself to be a truly special new voice. Following a series of early, rustic folk numbers, it was ‘Confirmation’, released back in February, that really showed the way forward, with production from frequent collaborator Bullion taking his calming songwriting to new, slinkier territories. It was an ambition followed up and furthered on the brilliant ‘Edison’ and ‘Easy Money’.
The singer has now announced details of new EP ‘Ark’ - out in November via Blue Flowers - and its first track ‘Albatross’ is a solidification of everything that’s marked him out as one to watch. “‘Albatross’ is set on a lake in my mind where I go to escape the worries of day to day existence,” Will says of the song. “It’s a more innocent and natural place.”
It’s a narrative that’s wonderfully reconstructed in the track - his gorgeous, honeyed vocal muses on lazy days and escapism above thudding synthetic percussion that’s slowly but surely joined by warm, inviting synths and a stunning yet seemingly effortless vocal turn. Effortlessness is something Westerman is a master of, and the conviction and ease with which he escapes into these songs of bliss make it all the easier to join him there. (Will Richards)
Yaeji - One More
With lyrics sung half in Korean and half in English, sometimes switching language mid-sentence, Yaeji delivers her lyrics in such a laid-back tone that it almost makes what she’s doing seem easy. Her first proper track since last year’s release of her second EP, the originally-titled ‘EP 2’, ‘One More’ starts unassumingly, with Yaeji’s deliberately auto-tuned vocals as the main focus, floating above a simple instrumental, before evolving into a track of scattered kicks and slowly building, mesmirising synths.
“So apologies are made for fun / So I can fall and hurt but you don’t need to change a thing / That’s how it is” she sings in the song’s English fragments, in a way that seems like they can only be interpreted as a series of questions. It doesn’t hit quite as hard as some of her more upbeat releases (see her breakout release ‘raingurl’, of course) but in its slower pace and gaze inwards, Yaeji has made a track primed both for the dancefloor and for emotional introspection. (Rachel Finn)
Yellow Days - How Can I Love You?
George van den Boek - aka Yellow Days - has returned with his first new track since signing to Columbia, following on from the release of ‘The Way Things Change’. What originally began as a bedroom-pop project for the nineteen-year-old gains a bigger lease of life on his new single, which is his first to make use of a collective of musicians instead of performing all the instruments on the track himself.
‘How Can I Love You?’ opens with a lounge-y jazz-infused piano, before an array of other instruments kick in (drums, piano, trumpet, bass…) to create a lilting, multi-layered soundscape that feels full but never excessive and with his soul and blues-tinged sound, Yellow Days succeed in drawing from the past in his music, but gives it a distinctly modern twist. (Rachel Finn)
King Nun – Family Portrait
The third in a five song single release series that’ll eventually add up to EP ‘We Have Love’, ‘Family Portrait’ finds King Nun celebrating the often dysfunctional, but rarely boring dynamic of the family unit. From name-checking Sweeny Todd to a video that finds singer Theo Polyzoides being steadily soaked in water, the portrait in question here might not always be a beautiful watercolour, but there’s a tongue-in-cheek positivity laced throughout: “Seems like we’re stuck together/ Through any weather”.
Musically, King Nun have been steadily honing a line in part-grunge/ part-Britpop tinged guitar bangers since emerging with idiosyncratic debut ‘Tulip’. Here, the London quartet prove that you can do soaring choruses without tending into obvious, derivative territory; ‘Family Portrait’ bounds along like a festival mosher in waiting, but with enough Artful Dodger charm to keep them ahead of the pack. (Lisa Wright)