It’s Friday! And as per, some of the biggest acts have returned with comeback tracks, while new acts have made promising starts with buzzy debuts. There are more #NewMusicFriday playlists to shake a stick at. Everyone under the sun is releasing new music left, right and centre. We’ve boiled things down to the bare essentials.
Sticking to tradition, we’ve compiled the most head-turning and impressive tracks of the past seven days. It starts with Bastille’s Shakespearian-flavoured new single, and via a pit-stop with DIY faves Sleigh Bells, we’ll take a look at SBTRKT-affiliated crooner Sampha, and loads more. Have a listen below.
Top photo: Bastille
Bastille - Send Them Off!
Perfectly timed to coincide with the beginning of footie season, Bastille’s latest single is called ‘Send Them Off!’. Though its euphoric brassy parps could easily soundtrack Lionel Messi scoring a perfectly spun belter on Match of the Day, Dan Smith actually searched in an entirely different place for lyrical inspiration; a dusty old library of leather-bound plays.
The Bastille frontman actually ends up giving a nod in the direction of Shakespeare’s Othello in ‘Send Them Off!’ - name-checking character Desdemona in the chorus and asking her “won’t you liberate me?”. A song about extreme, and often unfounded, jealousy, Dan sings of being “haunted by your ancient history” and longing to be exorcised over and over again. ‘Send Them Off’ deals in the intensely illogical strain of jealousy that we all experience from time to time, on par with that time Othello absolutely lost his shit for no reason about a dropped hanky.
The third cut from their upcoming second album ‘Wild World,’ Bastille’s latest sees them raising their game in the melodically-sharp, arena-ready stakes even further. (El Hunt)
Sleigh Bells - It’s Just Us Now
Just a mere millisecond in to ‘It’s Just Us Now’, and it’s clear this is some guitar work courtesy of one Derek Miller. Sleigh Bells’ sound - identifiable by: irresistibly crunchy, lets-blow-out-the-speakers riffs, booming beats and the sublime powerhouse vocals of partner-in-crime Alexis Krauss - is unmistakeable.
Theirs is a killer juxtaposition; rough ’n ready glitch-fuelled rock on one side, melodies raised on ‘90s Rn’B on the other. Hip-hop indebted electronic beats backing the lot, Alexis’ ability to coat fierce lyricism with with more sugar than a sweet shop taking centre stage. After ‘Rule Number One’ and ‘Hyper Dark,’ it’s clear the pair are playing with expectations. Similarly, ‘It’s Just Us Now’ stop-starts with an addendum. It’s as disorienting as we could hope for from these two. (Emma Swann)
Hooton Tennis Club - Katy-Anne Bellis
On last year’s debut album ‘Highest Point in Cliff Town’, Liverpool storytellers Hooton Tennis Club got personal with their subjects. Strangers’ names shifted into focus. There was ‘Kathleen’, ‘Jasper’, ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Camilla’, characters with strange habits who helped back up the four-piece’s bizarre imagination.
With ‘Katy-Anne Bellis’, Hooton Tennis Club have moved to full name terms. There’s a comfort at play, both in their subject matter and the way they’ve become a tighter-knit band, more at ease with their sluggish but breezy style. “We’re only down the road if you need us,” they promise, and in the space of a year, they’ve become a suitably reliable supply of simple, no-frills guitar pop. (Jamie Milton)
Sampha - Blood On Me
Sampha is on the run and someone’s following his footsteps. That much is obvious from the opening seconds of ‘Blood On Me’, a self-produced track purpose-built to bring tension to the boil. You can hear him panting, and the Londoner begins his tale by depicting “grey hoodies” who “cover their heads.” There’s a pursuit, and as the track builds from tap-tap percussion to a jolting chorus (“They smell the blood on me!” he bellows), it becomes increasingly hard to tell what exactly Sampha’s running away from.
One thing is clear, though. Through ‘Blood On Me’ and this year’s ‘Timmy’s Prayer’, Sampha has an incredible knack for painting a scene. Whether that’s the furious chase of this track or the sun-stained sense of less on his previous track, he’s a storyteller. There’s no use fooling around with ambiguity - everything about his music goes straight for the gut, which goes a long way to explaining why he’s music’s most in-demand collaborator. With debut album ‘Process’, he looks sure to make a solo statement worth the years of anticipation. (Jamie Milton)
SOHN - Signal
SOHN’s debut album ‘Tremors’ was an icy collection of soul-tinged, downbeat cuts. New track ‘Signal’, his first in two years, doesn’t stray far from this path. As with ‘Tremors’, SOHN’s vocals are absolutely at the fore, and he remains firmly a singer over a producer, despite the tags he is given.
‘Signal’ rises and falls with grace like the very best moments of ‘Tremors’, but progression can still be seen - the track feels more fully-formed, with warmer textures coming through, when moments of ‘Tremors’ felt cold and hollow.
Far from a reinvention, ‘Signal’ sees SOHN refining the ideas that made ‘Tremors’ such a brilliant and promising debut, with new ideas and sounds still managing to peek above the parapet. It’s not a surprise, but everything you could want from a return. (Will Richards)
Brandon Can’t Dance - 17
The newly Frank Ocean-approved Alex G has a lot to say about fellow Philadelphia cult hero Brandon Can’t Dance. “When I was younger I would see his band play all the fucking time,” he told Noisey, calling him “the only applicable example of someone that I really admired.” Like Alex G, Brandon Ayres has a deep catalogue of already-released material. Similar to starting a TV show that’s several seasons in, to grasp the full picture of why he’s adored in his home city, it’s a long mission - beginning with several Bandcamp releases.
But for the unacquainted, ’17’ works just as well as a starting point. His vocals are coated in distortion, but not to the point where words are drowned out. Everything is perfectly clear, tales of being “young, free, spacing out”, doubts and insecurities swimming around a perfect pool of gorgeous noise. There’s more magic to be found in how these bugged-out verses switch from fidgety refrains, and then right back to fuller, richer instrumentation. Rough around the edges, ’17’ sounds easy on the surface, but peer a little closer and there’s an undoubted star holding the ropes, controlling every second like a master of puppets. As introductions go, ’17’ is nicely indicative of why he’s so beloved in his Philadelphia DIY scene. (Jamie Milton)
Tkay Maidza - Carry On (ft. Killer Mike)
Australian pop sensation Tkay Maidza makes apathy sound positively explosive. “I really don’t care, and I’m still kinda young,” she chants, on a nursery rhyme chorus that’s both nonchalant and fired-up. She has good reason for being carefree. At 17, her debut track ‘Brontosaurus’ was a beat-driven call to arms. She’s been in the spotlight ever since, but that hasn’t prevented her from taking time, fully realising a dagger-edged slant on pop that’s definitively hers.
With Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike providing guest verses, Tkay could be in danger of being shoved out the spotlight. That’s never going to happen on ‘Carry On’, though. Such is the bombast and no-prisoners arrogance, few things sound fresher, and this is untouchable on first glance. ‘Carry On’ shares the same confident strut of Tkay’s first steps, but it’s a far bigger beast.
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