Good afternoon dear readers, and welcome to another installments of Tracks. Today might be, by all counts, a fairly shitty one - over the Atlantic, political goings-on spell out nothing but doom and gloom. But, despite the impending dystopia, music is fighting back
Two heavyweights - Gorillaz and Arcade Fire - have chosen this week to emerge from the ether, with two very different, but equally bleak anti-Trump songs. Elsewhere, there’s a hope-championing new pop banger from MUNA, and much more besides.
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
Gorillaz - Hallelujah Money
Let’s get straight to the point here; Gorillaz’s long-awaited comeback is about as cheery as Eeyore on a raging comedown. Joined by the likes of Arcade Fire and Le Tigre over the last few months, Damon Albarn’s cartoon rabble certainly aren’t the first band to channel music into pointed protest as of late; and one suspects over the next four years, they won’t be the last, either.
’Hallelujah Money’ might rob half of its name from all things holy and heavenly, but mostly, it’s a hellish, dystopian vision of greed let loose. Featuring the baritone vocals of Benjamin Clementine, the melodies wobble about precariously, following uncomfortable patterns, and taking on a distinct whiff of menace. As choral vocals fly urgently out of site, proceedings give way to a sinister story-time. “Don’t worry, my friend,” soothes Clementine, with his irony-levels soaring off the scale. “If this be the end, then so shall it be.”
A wonky, distorted, and throughly uncomfortable slab of gospel mangled through a mill of steel teeth, ‘Hallelujah Money’ is hardly easy to digest. Then again, it sets the tone for 2017. (El Hunt)
Arcade Fire - I Give You Power (ft. Mavis Staples)
In the light of a tiny-handed tangerine being inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, Arcade Fire have shared a pointed, robotic track called 'I Give You Power'. Sounding like a sherbeted-up Nine Inch Nails with a generous lungful of helium, it features Mavis Staples as a menacing counter to Win Butler's pulse-setting chant. And, btw, that's the soul legend and civil rights activist Mavis Staples there growling away. Not Vince Staples' nan - just to avoid any confusion. (El Hunt)
MUNA - Crying on the Bathroom Floor
LA pop-crafters MUNA have something of a solid track record by now when it comes to putting out straight-to-the-point bangers. Their latest ‘Crying on the Bathroom Floor’ carries on firmly in the same tradition. And, as is their want, MUNA haven’t just crafted a solid gold melody here, oh no. Picking you up from the bathroom tiles, drying your eyes, and proclaiming the importance of putting yourself first, this is an anthem for healing, and coming back stronger.
As the sage, and forever wise Samantha Jones of Sex and the City once said, ”I love you, Richard, but I love me more.” It’s a mantra that MUNA clearly abide by, and all. Smashing through a wall of pain and heartbreak ‘Crying on the Bathroom Floor’ battles, conquers, and demands better. (El Hunt)
Dutch Uncles - Oh Yeah
Dutch Uncles’ latest cut apparently came about because chief composer Robin Richards wanted to “write the fastest Dutch Uncles song to date.” It’s not that the Mancunians haven’t had quick-paced moments before – they’ve got more than a few up-tempo tunes lingering in their back catalogue – but nothing feels quite as immediate or frenetic as ‘Oh Yeah’.
From the buoyant vintage synths that herald its arrival, to Duncan Wallis’ energised vocal performance and driving drum beats, everything feels invigorated. The fact that they manage to pull it off while still sounding like the Dutch Uncles we know and love – injecting a few strange key changes and a smattering of piano and strings into the mix – just makes the blend all the more endearing. Could it be one of their best to date? ‘Oh Yeah’. (Eugenie Johnson)
Yasutaka Nakata (ft. Charli XCX and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) - Crazy Crazy
According to Charli XCX, her new album will be filled with “a champagne shower of badass pop”. As a first taste she teamed up with SOPHIE and Lil Yachty for ‘After the Afterparty’, and with her latest single, Charli’s broadened her horizons further, turning to J-Pop megastar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and electro producer Yasutaka Nakata for inspiration.
The result is a track that’s truly ‘Crazy Crazy’, distilling all three of the musicians’ talents into a buoyant package that hits like a truck. Charli and Kyary are a natural team, bouncing lyrics off each other effortlessly, while Yasutaka blends in the PC Music vibes, glitch beats and sounds that could have come straight from Sonic The Hedgehog into an irresistibly effervescent concoction. It’s unclear whether ‘Crazy Crazy’ will feature to Charli’s upcoming album, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still a melting pot of globalised pop perfection. (Eugenie Johnson)
Pillow Person - On Your Way
“Facial recognition software is here to stay,” says Sarah Jones. “It appears that once you are targeted, neither sunglasses nor facial hair can protect you.” This idea underpins her latest track as Pillow Person, ‘On Your Way,’ where she repeatedly sings “you’re not invisible” until the mantra morphs from seeming strangely innocent into something much more sinister.
On the surface, the music is the complete opposite, a lightweight blend of bubblegum pop and house, with stabbing beats, nagging electronic melodies and chopped, skewed and pitch-shifted vocals. Listen a bit harder though, and it’s a tune that gradually ramps itself over time by adding new sounds and lyrics to catch you off guard and add just that little bit more intrigue. Some of the ideas might not be a million miles away from her work with Hot Chip and NZCA Lines, but with ‘On Your Way’ Jones has still taken a bold step towards making thought-provoking club bangers. (Eugenie Johnson)
Records & Merch
More like this
The Arcade Fire frontman gave a rare interview to BBC 6Music.
‘Song Machine’ might have been born from a playful spirit, but it’s also an album that finds Gorillaz holding a mirror to the modern world’s divisions, and offering up a far more utopian alternative.
Damon Albarn also rallies against the UK government’s management of the pandemic in this month’s cover feature.
Performed live on Election Night with Stephen Colbert.