It seems barely a week or two ago that the only new music making its way onto streaming services were hastily-recorded cover versions, but July’s already seen the floodgates open. The return of Courtney Barnett; another low-key bop from Billie Eilish’s forthcoming album; Omar Apollo aiming for the stars - and that’s just some of it. For our pick of the best of the last week’s new music, read on. To keep your devices up to date with the biggest and best, subscribe to Essential New Tracks on Spotify here.
Billie Eilish - NDA
Imagine being so famous, you have to send the object of your desires packing with a legal non-disclosure agreement every time you want a bit of action. Not the most relatable of situations to most of her merrily right-swiping audience, sure, but on the latest glimpse into second album ‘Happier Than Ever’ (that title sounding more and more questionable with every release…), Billie Eilish makes it sound like a secret window into her strange, mixed-up world. Pulsing on the particular breed of sparse, bass-heavy beats that she and brother Finneas have basically trademarked, ‘NDA’ answers the question of how the pair might push something so recognisable forward, adding Auto-Tune on its frustrated chorus, and delving into territory that’s not worlds away from the claustrophobic throb of Alice Glass. As ever, Billie is still forging new paths. (Lisa Wright)
Dave ft. Stormzy - Clash
Dave announcing his second album with a Stormzy feature is already a flex, but ‘Clash’ is brimming with them: not least its video centred around the Aston Martin factory (“Dave’s got the new Aston Martin plug, could you get me one? / He said, ‘No need to be rentin’ one’”). And for every outright brag (“My AP cost thirty-one, milimeters: forty-one”, “Crocodile bag, I bought her one”) there’s a witty pop culture reference (“Off the set, they storm like Piers”, “I’m Pep, I ball with flair”, “Got away with murder, this that Viola Davis one”). (Louisa Dixon)
Omar Apollo - Go Away
The first new music from Omar Apollo since last year’s ‘Apolonio’, ‘Go Away’ is a slinky number that takes songwriting cues from soft rock, mashes them with a disco twist thanks to teaming up with Chromeo on production, and lands somewhere in the realm of understated bop machine Phoenix, or a funkier Rex Orange County. It’s a grower, sure, but a welcome return. (Bella Martin)
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes - Sticky
Frank Carter has truly returned. The title track from his upcoming fourth album with the Rattlesnakes is a characteristically abrasive offering, brimming with grooving bass and spiky guitar, while harnessing all the catchiness of a pop hit. Frank encapsulates the emotional comedown “after midnight in the city” with candid, witty bluntness that never feels heavy-handed, sugarcoating nothing: “I go where monsters dwell / Dancing like a madman through a personal hell.” Paired with jiving punk, it’s a song made for acknowledging your pain and dancing through it anyway. Angst has never sounded so fun. (Emma Wilkes)
Amyl and the Sniffers - Guided By Angels
Like with anything, discussing bands is a matter of context, and so while Amyl and the Sniffers’ comeback track is - for them - a slightly more refined affair, that’s not to say that singer Amy Taylor sounds anything less than a feral wildcat trying to punch her way out of a cage. Still, there is something a little more polished to the guitars that stab throughout ‘Guided By Angels’, the rowdy recorded-in-a-cupboard feel of the Sniffers’ early material given an injection of, well most likely cash. It suits them though, allowing Amy’s wild-eyed declarations of “I’ve got plenty of energy” (no shit, Sherlock) to sound even more passionate within a stronger framework. (Lisa Wright)
Poppy - Her
Poppy’s third album, 2020’s ‘I Disagree’ was a thrilling ride through deliciously dark pop, with thrillingly heavy, metallic riffs on one side, and saccharine-sweet pop vocals the other; a more extreme Sleigh Bells, if you will. And while ‘Eat’, the track she performed as part of this year’s GRAMMYs followed similar lines, new cut ‘Her’ switches things up slightly - yet remains just as compelling. Teaming up with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen - most notably for this number having been behind the desk for Wolf Alice’s ‘Visions of a Life’ - its deliciously grungy guitars and a killer chorus make for an earwormy gem. “I’m getting to know her, and all of her anger,” she sings, with increasing malaise as the song continues, with perhaps the most human vocal we’ve heard from Poppy yet. Put it on repeat. (Emma Swann)
The Parrots - You Work All Day And Then You Die
Let’s face it; work generally sucks. The collective apathy felt towards having to find a job you can endure is suffocating in its ubiquity. As Spanish indie duo The Parrots detail on new single, ‘You Work All Day And Then You Die’, the resulting despondency is often not just as a result of the work itself though, but of the relentless cycle it enforces. The duo’s thick synths, guitars and drums reflect a heavy, distracted mind, though it’s in the chorus that they make their point most clearly (“It’s hard to find some peace of mind”). As The Parrots see it, if all the current system encourages is boredom and malaise, then it’s time to start seriously asking ourselves, is it really worth it? (Ben Lynch)
Demob Happy - Sympathy Boy
Best known for purveying the sort of gnarly riffs that have earned them a fan in Jack White, ‘Sympathy Boy’ - the first track from Demob Happy’s forthcoming third LP - finds the band boarding their synth spaceship and riding it into intergalactic new territories. The snarling guitars are still there, worry not, but they’re the meaty backbone at the core of something a little lighter and fizzier than the Brighton trio are used to; add in some well-placed falsetto harmonies and the result is like a hard seltzer - seemingly innocent until you find yourself on the floor. (Lisa Wright)
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