Oh yes, readers, you thought the year would start slowly somehow, with nary a whimper of new music on the horizon until at least the middle of the month. Obviously not, and outside of the somewhat surprise release of The Weeknd’s new album [cue Daniel Craig SNL clip] there’s been a sprinkling of acts eager from the year’s get-go. We’ve got the first official track from Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s new outfit The Smile (completed by Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner), another from current cover stars Yard Act’s forthcoming debut, another newbie from Let’s Eat Grandma’s incoming third and much more.
The Smile - You Will Never Work In Television Again
Full of gritty, CCTV-like cameras and an air of bristling unease, The Smile’s debut performance during Glastonbury’s 2021 Live at Worthy Farm stream immediately made sense of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s need to create a separate umbrella under which to showcase their new wares. Buoyed by the scattershot drum work of Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner, that set found the pair leaning into more sneering, gnarly territory than Radiohead have touched in decades; now, debut single ‘You Will Never Work In Television’ judders into view full of spat lyrics, straight-to-the point, three chord guitars and relentless, propulsive drums. There are no twiddly electronic bits, no cloaked vocals - ‘You Will Never Work In Television Again’ is direct and doesn’t fuck about. There’s a lot to smile about. (Lisa Wright)
Yard Act - Rich
In the lead up to the release of their hugely anticipated debut album, our Class of 2022 cover stars Yard Act have more than proven their flair for creating on-the-nose offerings that tread that thin line between social commentary and satire. On their latest track - the succinct but still sassily titled ‘Rich’ - they amp things up even further, the staccato stylings of frontman James Smith regaling the listener with tales of his newfound - and yet still somehow dreaded - fortune. Witty and pointed, while still giving in the odd wink and a nudge for good measure, ‘Rich’ is just another example of why this Leeds bunch are so bloody enticing right now. (Sarah Jamieson)
Let’s Eat Grandma - Happy New Year
Ten points to Let’s Eat Grandma for their excellent timing; was there any track better to kick off 2022 than the duo’s aptly-titled ‘Happy New Year’? With its sparkly synths and reflective lyrical message, we think not. A track traversing the growth and changes of Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth’s own friendship - set against a backdrop of the most nostalgic time of year - this is an unexpected but cathartic banger, intent on celebrating what arguably matters most in life: friends. (Sarah Jamieson)
alt-J - Hard Drive Gold
“How ironically you interpret its message is entirely up to you…” That alt-J had to point out that ‘Hard Drive Gold’, the third single from forthcoming fourth album ‘The Dream’, was “slightly tongue-in-cheek” is sad, really. This is a band who fully embraced their rice cake virality, who delivered lyrics about tonguing Quavers remnants (ahem) with a straight face - who got ‘Left Hand Free’ daytime mainstream radio play. A funky strut of a number soundtracks a tale of a teenage boy discovering crypto and diving into neoliberalism with a refrain of “Don’t be afraid to make, to make money, boy”. A ‘20s take on Blur’s side-eye towards Thatcherite suburbia of sorts, if you will. (Bella Martin)
SASAMI - Say It
The way ‘Say It’, the latest cut from SASAMI’s forthcoming full-length, ‘Squeeze’, kicks in is precisely what’s needed in the wilds of early January: a throbbing industrial punch set to a dancefloor-indebted beat, it’s an intro that takes no prisoners and can’t fail to grab attention. Having described the song as “a rage anthem track,” the first 45 seconds are pure gold, and reflect that completely. If it didn’t ease up a little too much as the song progresses - the point feels somewhat lost when the menace is tempered by sweetness - it’d be absolutely perfect. (Louisa Dixon)
Father John Misty - Funny Girl
Full of swelling string arrangements and effortless lounge pianos, the return of Father John Misty answers the previously un-asked question of what the innately magical Disney swoons of the ‘50s would sound like through the eyes of a modern witty wordsmith. The first track to be taken from forthcoming LP ‘Chloë and the Next 20th Century’, ‘Funny Girl’ (even its name is a nod to musicals past) is essentially Josh Tillman pulling a Judy Garland: a brief brass flourish here, a twinkling orchestral moment there, with the singer’s warm croon even indulging in an uncharacteristically uncynical turn as he dotes on a “five foot Cleopatra” who’s caught his eye. The closest offering to 2015 breakthrough ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ since that record, FJM’s latest looks set to be maximalist in all the best ways. (Lisa Wright)
Eels - Amateur Hour
Eels’ impending fourteenth full-length, ‘Extreme Witchcraft’ saw E team up with producer John Parish for the first time since 2001’s ‘Souljacker’. And while on the face of it, ‘Amateur Hour’ doesn’t have a great deal in common with that record other than featuring the same vocal, there’s a lightness to E’s touch on it, it comes across less overly-considered than much of his recent work. Sonically jaunty, yet lyrically typically playful-yet-bittersweet (“Somebody finally hit my tree / But your branches have no wood”), for anyone attuned to their lengthy discography, it’s sonic comfort food. (Emma Swann)
Foxes - Absolute
In the lead-up to her first album since 2016, Foxes continues to set a pop standard on ‘Absolute’. Blending nostalgic disco and house energy with breezy vocal lines straight from the here and now, it’s made for dancing, and as light as air. The pulsing synths bop along in technicolour, and Foxes carries their laidback energy all the way through – there’s not one thing about this song that could feel anything but light-hearted and carefree, a much-needed tonic to a reality we’d probably rather escape at the moment. (Ims Taylor)
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