Good afternoon dear readers and welcome to another edition of Tracks. This week Britain officially started divorce proceedings with the European Union, but luckily there’s been a wealth of new tracks to help brighten up that situation a little. After last week’s ‘The Heart Part Four,’ we got another new track from one Kendrick Lamar and a second rallying cry from Joey Bada$$, featuring Schoolboy Q.
Elsewhere, we got new tracks from Aldous Harding, and the return of London synth-pop duo Oh Wonder. New Yorkers Maybird also gave us a new number inspired by a very unlikely source (we’ll give you a hint: it’s to do with construction).
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.
Kendrick Lamar - HUMBLE.
After sharing ‘The Heart Part 4’ last week, a remarkably composed return, Kendrick Lamar has gone one further with its follow-up, ‘HUMBLE.’. The track’s carried by an insatiably catchy melody, over which Kendrick airs each of his many grievances with predictable ease and grace. Bemoaning the airbrushing of celebrities in magazines and demanding the respect he regularly receives anyway, it’s a rallying cry from a rapper who’s coming round to realising what most of us have known for years - that he’s one of the greatest. (Will Richards)
Oh Wonder - Ultralife
There was a time when Londoners Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West were releasing a track a month, a side project birthed as a method of putting pen to paper, getting their musical and lyrical ideas down. They probably didn’t think that their project, Oh Wonder, would explode. Their self-titled debut album, packed with twelve gems released across the course of a year, became something of a phenomenon.
The question is: how do you top that success? By coming back bigger and more confident than ever. With comeback single ‘Ultralife,’ Oh Wonder have kept the essence of what makes their head-turning alt-pop so enticing while turning the volume up. The pairs’ voices still lilt and swoon across the top of the intricate melodies, the waves of organic percussion, arpeggiated synths and major key pianos feel bolder and brighter than ever before. They’re definitely living the ultralife now, and it shows in this, the fullest, most confident incarnation of Oh Wonder to date. (Eugenie Johnson)
Joey Bada$$ - Rocakabye Baby (ft. Schoolboy Q)
On his upcoming album ‘All-Amerikkkan Bada$$,’ Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ is set to speak more openly than ever before about the current state of the world, from social problems to the, shall we say, turbulent political climate in the States. He introduced this more politicised version of Bada$$ with the intense video for ‘Land Of The Free,’ and is no less inflammatory on latest cut ‘Rockabye Baby.’
Set across a lush but somewhat unsettling chopped and skewed piano melody courtesy of Chuck Strangers and 1-900, Joey and fellow rapper Schoolboy Q are scathing about the a current social system that seems deliberately set up just to see young black men in particular to fail (“they gave us guns, but won’t hire us”). They both sound like they’re spitting venom, constantly trading razor-sharp verses with each other. It doesn’t take long for Joey to launch into a holler of “fuck Donald Trump” either. This isn’t a comforting nursey rhyme that’ll send you to sleep – it’s another urgent wake up call to the masses. (Eugenie Johnson)
Aldous Harding – Imagining My Man
On ‘Horizon,’ her first track on new label 4AD, New Zealand native Hannah Harding, known under the moniker Aldous Harding, gave a striking, challenging vision of what to expect from her upcoming album ‘Party.’ Backed only by a stark, pounding piano line, it was deep, dramatic, and punctuated by a chorus where Harding chanted “here is your princess, here is the horizon” like an existential dilemma.
Her latest single ‘Imagining My Man’ is no less contemplative, but shows off a gentler, more wistful side to Harding’s music. Featuring vocal contributions from Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas, it’s once again a track built around a minimalist piano, this time with touches of dusty percussion, which simply leaves as much room as possible for Harding’s lilting yet extraordinarily malleable vocals to shine through. There’s even a playful touch on the chorus, with a group exuberantly chanting “hey” in response to Aldous’ meditative lines. Defying genre and happy to experiment with tone, Harding has produced another quiet gem. (Eugenie Johnson)
Maybird - Keep In Line
Listening to the psych-pop overtones and languid vocals of ‘Keep In Line,’ the latest Patrick Carney-produced single from New Yorkers Maybird, you’d probably be surprised to learn where some of the initial inspiration for the tune came from. Zoned out one day in on his Brooklyn roof, Maybird founder Josh Netsky began to notice the repetitive beeping noise of a construction vehicle, and something clicked.
Taking on board the sound, Josh started to build the track around these bursts of noise, which can be heard bubbling underneath the squalls of guitars and fuzzy, lo-fi percussion. What results is a track that often toes the line between pure psych-pop euphoria and a sense of frustration and restlessness, something that also feeds into the lyrics. As Josh himself notes: “The lyrics ended up being about a feeling of restlessness when someone you’re used to having around is out being productive and you’re not, but wish you were… that’s what was going on with me at the time. There’s some pretty clear relationship lingo in here, but a lot of this song is also about the desire to travel and make music.”
Like Josh was, if you’re stuck in a bit of a rut, this contemporary-yet-timeless number might just help you to keep moving on. (Eugenie Johnson)
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Records & Merch
Oh Wonder - 22 Make' CD (Signed) + '22 Break / Make' Clear Double Vinyl (Signed) + '22 Make' Cassette