Good afternoon dear readers, and a very spooky Friday afternoon! If your priorities are in order, you’re probably busy right now assembling Halloween costumes. Whether you’re dressing up as a surprise album release (boo!) or the depths of murky unknown hell that lie beneath James Bay’s permanently attached hat, all last minute preparations require a soundtrack.
Think of this feature as being a bit like Trick or Treat; except you won’t find anything in the way of nasty egg-splats here. Oh no. From Charli XCX, Dream Wife and Run the Jewels, to more new’uns from The Japanese House and Splashh, it’s treats all the way.
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.
Run the Jewels - Talk to Me
In just under three minutes, Run the Jewels combine religious texts, Donald Trump disses and war cries like there’s no tomorrow. El-P calls himself the “son of Rick Rubin”, Killer Mike takes aim at “AllLivesMatter-ass white folk”, and the RTJ wheels keep on turning. It’s not like these two have been silent since 2014’s ‘RTJ2’ - quite the opposite. But to have them back and firing from all sides is just the antidote 2016 required.
Run the Jewels aren’t here to singlehandedly right wrongs; but their cutting, 100mph delivery doesn’t shy away from trying. ‘Talk To Me’ goes for the jugular. Scratch-filled and just as berserk as what came before, it’s led by jolts of metallic guitar and tip-toe bass, which form the perfect backdrop for the pair’s venomous, no-bullshit diatribes. “I told y’all suckers, I told y’all suckers,” shouts Killer Mike. “I told y’all on RTJ1, then I told ya again on RTJ2, and you still ain’t believe me. So here we go, RTJ3.” As far as closing statements go, few come loaded with so much intent. (Jamie Milton)
The Shins - Dead Alive
The Shins’ trademark isn’t going away anytime soon. Major key chords, floaty progressions, James Mercer trying to squeeze a hundred sentences into one verse - it’s all there in ‘Dead Alive’, the first track from the group’s fifth album.
If there’s a notable difference, it’s in how The Shins have given their signatures a weird slant. Mercer repeats the line “figments of imagination” like he’s spinning out of reality, trapped inside a vacuum of strange. It’s this that separates ‘Dead Alive’ from highlights on Any Other Shins Album. You’d hope that by the time a full-length rolls round, they explore these oddities more. It’s due time they went deeper into the unknown. (Jamie Milton)
Charli XCX - After the Afterparty
In the lead-up to sharing the first taste of music from her new record, Charli XCX’s been citing some fairly specific influences; namely Paris Hilton’s ‘Stars Are Blind’. ‘After the Afterparty’ - complete with auto-tune rap verses, boppy nursery rhyme melodies, and non-reaching rhymes that tumble straight out - clearly takes inspiration from a certain noughties crop of pop music, and it purposefully holds back from the kind of full-pelt banger-mode we know Charli’s capable of. Carefree, slightly restrained, and reaching for a different setting to the overblown. pedal-to-the-floor revs of ‘Vroom Vroom,’ it’s an intriguing - if not entirely conclusive - hint of things to come. Mind you, we always expected Charli XCX to keep us guessing until the final second anyway. (El Hunt)
Dream Wife - FUU
It takes just 23 seconds for Dream Wife’s Rakel Mjöll to get to the (literal) point of ‘FUU’. “I’m gonna fuck you up, I’m gonna cut you up, gonna fuck you up,” she announces once the dual guitars of her bandmates have stopped clattering away. Oh. Right then. That’s as direct a statement as they come, to be honest.
Dream Wife are no strangers to immediacy. No fucks given, no shit taken, they’re a trio who relish straight-to-the-bone sentiment. ’FUU’ only goes on to prove that point a thousand times over, as those saw-blade guitars give way to a near-glitching thrash of noise. Few bands could make such a prison-baiting threat sound like a mantra to scream from the rooftops, but then there’s not many bands quite like Dream Wife. (Tom Connick)
Black Honey - Ghost
Right on time for All Saints’ Eve (as in, actual Halloween - not a special holiday dedicated to hit pop band All Saints) Black Honey have unleashed a spookily titled b-side, ‘Ghost’. Sharp-edged riffs clawing holes in a white sheet, Izzy B Phillips repeatedly snarls “I can see right through you” over lush, textural melodies. There’s still plenty of Black Honey’s customary cinematic influence here, too, as desperate wails and twanging cowboy showdowns peep through the instrumental. Hell-bent on shaking off a haunting spectre from relationships past, Black Honey, by now, are the sort of band that can afford to consign top-notch songs like this to b-sides. God knows what else they’re holding back. (El Hunt)
JAWS - Just a Boy
No longer confined to beachside retreats, Connor Schofield and co have done a hell of a lot of growing up in the last couple of years. Shifting dreamy textures for a warts ‘n’ all embracing of capital-letters Real Life, the JAWS of 2016 aren’t escapists anymore - they’re facing up to their growing pains.
‘Just A Boy’ shows best that there’s warmth to be found in even the coldest environments. Snapshots of those grungier tendencies break through their hazy, shoegazier new dressing, each one hitting like a fuzzed-up freight train. It’s Connor’s lyricism that packs the firmest punch, though. ”I’m just a boy, but I’ll be a better man,” he promises, owning up to his failings like never before. Embracing their anxieties and moulding them into their most expansive, emotion-packed and all-encompassing sound to date, ‘Simplicity’ proves there’s more beauty to be found in life if you stop legging it to the shore when times get tough. (Tom Connick)
Hazel English - Make it Better
“I want to be seen, yet I want to be invisible,” begins Hazel English on her latest sun-kissed offering. It instantly sets the tone for the tale of mental conflict that’s told. But there’s no chance of this being a desperation-ridden affair; there’s a certain light at the end of every dark tunnel her songs go through, and it shimmers here.
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, English isn’t actually a California native – she was born and grew up in Australia – but you wouldn’t know it. The delicately bouncing guitars and suitably soothing synths that drive ‘Make It Better’ produce just the kind of semi-hypnotic bliss that seems so synonymous with that part of the world.
Even if her sound is of the beach-pop persuasion, English has carved out her own easily identifiable niche. The lyrics come from a personal place and they’re all the more affecting for it. As ever, there’s a clarity to what’s being sung here; her elocution is akin to that of any pop star, and the connection is naturally enhanced because of it. ‘Make It Better’, like so much of her output so far, may be relaxed – a touch subdued, even – but it’s far too catchy and immediate to just be stuck on in the background. It’s another welcome helping of bittersweet magic from Hazel English, and another hint at her potential to truly go big. (Tom Hancock)
The Japanese House - Swim Against the Tide
Amber Bain’s new ‘Swim Against The Tide’ EP marks the culmination of a year of reinvention for The Japanese House. Creeping out of the woodwork last year, plagued with stage- and camera-fright, 2016’s seen Amber come into her own, embracing arena stages and finding faith in her own voice. The record’s title-track takes that new mindset and runs with it.
Everything’s packed with confidence. Opening with an almost structureless exploration of steel pans and crackling percussion, no stone’s left half-turned. Amber and her production whizz partner George (of some band called The 1975, no less) take everything to its furthest climes. Testing the boundaries of every bell and whistle, it’s an expansive reimagining of those otherworldly first steps.
“It’s so hard to swim against the tide,” she admits, but in embracing those less comfortable waters, The Japanese House’s horizons have started to look endless. (Tom Connick)
TRAAMS - A House on Fire
TRAAMS have been surging towards something great for some time. Last year’s ‘Modern Dancing’full-length was a step up, taking the energy of that debut and tying it down with that knot-tight rhythm section. ‘Slipping’ and ‘Penguin’, those two newbies unleashed earlier this month, proved they had the chops to take things further still. ‘A House On Fire’, though, is the most captivating and crazed the Chichester trio have ever sounded.
That bass-drums pairing sounding like they’re ready to blow from the off, they tug things forward, teasing and taunting frontman Stu Hopkins as he yelps and screeches against their restraint. “I set a house on fire,” he declares with typical nonchalance, one-upping his bandmates’ madness at every given opportunity. It’s hard not to picture them locked up in the studio, taking pot-shots at each other both musical and physical, such is the tension in every wail of feedback. By the time it all breaks loose, they’re running amok, lighters aloft and searching for their next fiery victim.
Eight minutes fly by in a millisecond. Hypnotic and deranged, it’s fitting that ‘A House On Fire’ was primed at packed-out, beer-soaked venues - it’s the best encapsulation to date of TRAAMS’ uncontainable live show. (Tom Connick)
Splashh - Waiting a Lifetime
The return of Australia via London thrashers Splashh is a two-sided shock to the system. One half showcases frazzled, fuzz-drenched guitars, while the other is a strung out, sedated haze. The latter is new territory for a group who’d previously prefer to coat their songs in layer-upon-layer of reverb. ‘Rings’ showcases depth, build, new tricks tested three years after 2013 debut ‘Comfort’.
A first taste of second album ‘Waiting a Lifetime’, it’s the sound of a band patching together fresh ideas and letting invention set the agenda. “You should change if you could,” they bark over deranged guitar parts. And in turn, Splashh have changed for the better. (Jamie Milton)
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