Tracks: The xx, Steve Mason, Brolin, Chlöe Howl And More

DIY scribes and radio presenters pick their favourite tracks of the last seven days.

How many shopping days left before Christmas? How many mince pies can you stuff in your mouth at once? All these festive thoughts keep distracting you from cramming as much new music in your eardrums as possible? Fear ye not; the DIY writers and radio presenters are here to make sure that you miss nothing! So sit back, relax, and enjoy, as we present; this week’s Tracks.

The xx - Reconsider (Jamie xx Remix)
Last weekend saw Jamie xx hit The Boiler Room’s decks for Young Turk’s night, alongside SBTRKT in London. To open his 55 minute set, Jamie dropped his own remix of The xx’s elusive ‘Reconsider’ – a modest ‘Coexist’ album bonus track - and immediately the world’s collective ears pricked up. It’s a work of masterfully tight production, drawing out the maximum atmosphere from the sparse xx idiosyncrasies. It’s a piece of music which raises questions in this writer’s humble opinion, however. In ‘Coexist’ we have a steady but predictable ‘difficult’ second album. With the evidence on show here, I wonder if Jamie’s production talents are being employed to the maximum within The xx as a whole; an album full of efforts as slick as this would’ve been a contender for top spot on many end of year lists. (Ian Paterson)

Chlöe Howl - No Strings
Chlöe Howl - two dots and a personality as big as a pop battleship - is sure to set a few pulses raising. With Calvin-esque disco synths and a swagger on the rocks, ‘No Strings’ is the kind of ‘I’m a bit pissed but fuck you anyway’ anthem the charts have been crying out for since Lily Allen hung up her microphone. That Howl shows her face at a point where the triumphant return of our greatest character is on the horizon is beyond exciting. (Stephen Ackroyd)

Brolin - Another Year
Who knew romantics carried Roland samplers in their backpack? Rather than offering his loved one a rose and a kiss on the cheek, Brolin goes full blown serenade-style. He sits ‘the one’ down, settles them in for the night, and tells them reassuring things: “I’ll sing for you by candlelight”/ “I know in time you’ll be my forever”/ “Angel, it will be alright”. I just can’t get past those lyrics. They’re stark, beautifully delivered, true to the very core. Brolin isn’t just a bedroom-based beatmaker. He shares a kind of musical talent that only comes along every so often. ‘Another Year’ is up there with Youth Lagoon at his most daringly intimate; The xx as police sirens echo in the background of their recordings. It’s a dramatic insight into the mind of someone happy to put his emotions in the shop window. And it makes for a beautiful companion to the otherwise stagnating winter chill. (Jamie Milton)

Steve Mason - Fight Them Back
It’s not like we ever expected Steve Mason to return to the musical fold filled with of the joys of the festive season, but ‘Fight Them Back’, for the sake of doubt, is most definitely not a Christmas song. It’s an impassioned, politically charged reminder of life after the UK riots; social injustice meets strings, if you please. As ever, Mason mixes thumping drums, hushed vocals and utterly gorgeous violins, and despite the violence of the subject (‘a fist, a boot and a baseball bat’, repeat, repeat), he still manages to create a track that’ll have you dancing around the living room. Actual, bonafide, genius. (Simone Scott Warren)

Birdskulls - Rolling Tongue
Birdskulls are exciting. The three-piece from Brighton (via Exeter and Bournemouth) might only have as many songs as they do members currently but the strength of those few tracks suggest they have plenty more to give. Their distortion-laden and scuzzy take on garage rock has drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr and Cloud Nothings so far - and forthcoming new single ‘Rolling Tongue’ doesn’t veer far from that sound. Crashing drums and chunky guitar riffs meet in a sufficiently noisy but suitably melodic fashion, topped off with forced vocals that leave you wanting more.  Loud, aggressive and utterly filthy aren’t attributes I tend to desire in a mate, but Birdskulls can kiss me on the lips any day of the week. Catch them at Brighton’s Green Door Store tonight (14th December) or at The Cavern in Exeter tomorrow (15th December). (Jake May)

Cy Dune - Where The Wild Things
Ahoy! Is that scuzz I hear? Riffage? Distortion?! This week, it comes in the form of Cy Dune ‘Where The Wild Things’. The artist is Seth Olinsky of Akron/Family and Family Tree Records will be putting out his debut EP ‘No Recognize’ next February. If you do purchase this album you can also get yourself a custom piece of art made in the Arizona desert – worth a delve to begin with. Freak folk, distortion and noise-damage are words that have been thrown to Seth’s band and he’s certainly throw this into his solo work. Check it out on Alive And Amplified, Thursdays, 10pm, on DIY Radio. (Elise Cobain - Alive And Amplified)

Phosporescent - Song For Zula
If you like your music honest, heartfelt and downright beautiful, look no further than this from Brooklyn-based musician Matthew Houck. Continuing to work under his criminally under-appreciated Phosphorescent moniker, ‘Song For Zula’ is taken from the artist’s forthcoming new album ‘Muchacho’ - and it’s some of his best work to date. Ditching his usually acoustic folk sound for a delicate, bouncing electronic beat and some Son Lux-esque strings, Houck’s fragile vocals sit centre stage on what is a wonderfully-crafted and truly touching song. Easily the best 6 minutes of my day. (Jake May)