Listen Tracks: Caroline Polachek, Jake Shears, Balming Tiger and more

The biggest and best of this week’s new music.

OK so the only website you’ve been refreshing this week is that of a giant ticketing corporation as you’re desperate to hide your wince as Queen Bey deigns to use the word “soccer” or an awkward, pause-filled “foot… ball” as she appears at many of the nation’s stadia in the summer (and Cardiff… who knows what she’ll make of rugby). We jest. It’ll be one heck of a show, naturally.

All that hasn’t stopped a queue of new tracks making their way online, though: there’s another newbie from Caroline Polachek’s forthcoming ‘Desire, I Want to Turn Into You’,a new album on the way from Scissor Sister Jake Shears, another from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and much more besides. To update your eyes and ears with what’s new, see Essential New Tracks below. For our pick of the week’s pops, read on.

“Look at you / All mythicalogical and Wikipediated,” observes Caroline Polachek on ‘Blood And Butter’, a deliciously abstract depiction of attraction that fans have come to expect. ‘Blood And Butter’ boasts Caroline’s innovative pop at its most untethered, and aside creating entirely new ways to say desirable – that actually make perfect sense – ‘Blood And Butter’ is doubly a cornucopia of sound. Buttery, early-’00s synths spill into lush guitar as she falls upwards into desire, while later, ethereal bagpipes quicken the ascension. As ever, Caroline is enthrallingly boundless: each new release from upcoming album ‘Desire, I Want to Turn Into You’ adds more abundant and unbridled abstractions to pop music than the last. (Otis Robinson)

Not, in fact, a comment on the contents of DIY’s collective inbox, ‘Too Much Music’ - the comeback single from Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears - instead proclaims the opposite sentiment: that you can never get enough of those sweet, sweet bops. And whilst we’d argue that actually, seven King Gizzard albums per year would be more than sufficient, when you’re touting this kind of easily infectious disco wares then we’ll take as much as Jake is giving. (Lisa Wright)

Positivity in song form is a tricky one. Go too far one way and you’ll end up sounding like the sonic equivalent of a not-so-gentle man of a certain age gruffly muttering “cheer up love;” swerve the other and it’s Robbie Williams’ much-maligned ‘I Love My Life’, a track where the singer’s sarcastic tone was all but lost to a three-minute bragging session. Worse still, make like Pharrell and usurp Baby Shark to become every preschooler’s repeat listen. South Korean collective Balming Tiger, however, have nailed it on ‘Trust Yourself’. Maybe it’s the grungy guitar sounds that occasionally peek through. Perhaps it’s the underlying assumption that from the outset we do not, in fact, trust ourselves. It could even be that the bouncy bassline, in its more-than-a-passing-resemblance to that of Mura Masa and slowthai’s ‘Deal Wiv It’, makes the track immaculately paced for summer festival, pints-in-the-air singalongs. Because 2023 is already gonna have to work hard to beat this immediate earworm of a chorus. (Emma Swann)

No, this isn’t a wonky, sun-bleached cover of THAT ‘Layla’. The first track unveiled from Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘V’, a double album (remember 2019!), is instead a low-key track - still a little offbeat, and definitely the result of a lot of sunshine - a sort of easing into what’s to come - considering that, of course, Ruban Nielson’s usual sonic palette is hardly what one might call ‘abrasive’. Maybe a little too dreamy and hazy for those currently in the dark, uncompromising northern hemisphere, but come summer - or at least when it’s light post-5pm - it’ll be waiting. (Bella Martin)

The latest track from Olivia Dean is a subtle gear change for the London songwriter. ‘UFO’ dances around the feeling of unfulfilled wanderlust, a particularly personal breed of escapism that Olivia compares to flying a UFO with no destination. Pinned by her dulcet harmonies and a mesmerising vocoder effect, the short track has been labelled by her as a ‘shy’ love song, presenting a far more introspective perspective of love than her usual soulful ballads. Each carefully placed note feels purposeful and punctual, a delicate masterpiece. (Alisdair Grice)

Bursting with grandeur, with ‘Echolalia’, Yves Tumor has finally reached an ultimate high: “Looked up to God / She looked so good”. They’re a master of playing with aesthetic, sound and art; the accompanying video is an offbeat pastiche of Gulliver’s Travels, with mini Yves Tumors tying down a giant Yves Tumor and driving a nail through their heart. ‘Echolalia’ is a one-person show, one narrated by hitched breathing and echoing lyrics, soundtracked by a murky rock rhythm. The result is rapturous; Yves is God-like even themselves. (Mia Smith)

While last year’s ‘SPARK’ was an admirable if inconsistent pivot towards something with a modern sheen, toying with synths and programmed drum patterns, ‘For A While’ has its origins dating back towards Whitney’s earlier work and is a welcome return to a more complementary style for the duo. Julian Ehrlich’s delicate falsetto and rose-tinted lyrics are enhancted by wistful horns, warm keys and breezy guitar flourishes which keep the track on the right side of saccharine soft-rock. (Ryan Bell)

For anyone who’s listened to James Acaster’s hilariously self-lacerating stand-up or read of his previous musical outlets - bands called things like The Wow! Scenario and the Capri-Sun Quartet - Temps will come as something of a wow scenario in its own right. More akin to Jack Steadman’s eclectic Mr Jukes project, ‘bleedthemtoxins’ congregates a gaggle of different voices (Shamir, Chicago jazz musician NNAMDÏ and Spanish folk artist Joana Gomila among them) to piece together a track that moves seamlessly between all the above, with flashes of hip-hop and an almost Sufjan Stevens’-like knack for layering thrown in. If Temps is his wide-reaching orchestra, James is conducting it with a genuinely innovative ear. (Lisa Wright)

‘Dust’ is the result of several, recurring nightmares and a modish death-cult aesthetic. The first to be released from an upcoming EP, Opus Kink’s latest opens with a cheerful cowbell before descending into chaos, with the repetition of ‘the dust’ destined to be an earworm, before keys and trumpet spring to life to provide a killer final blast. (Katie Macbeth)

The first glimpse into HMLTD’s latest musical universe, ‘Wyrmlands’ introduces the world in which the group’s second album, ‘The Worm’, is destined to take place. As its lyrics depict the tales of subversion and subterfuge, the track is bought to life by Henry Spychalski’s lancing vocals which entwine with tense instrumentation to build into a catchy piece. As its partnering music video explores the liminal space between the fantasy world in which the album takes place and the reality that births its delusion, ‘Wyrmlands’ represents HMLTD’s attempt to present capitalism and alienation as a mythological beast. (Katie Macbeth)

Returning with what appears to be an overhaul of their once scrappy, post-punk sound, ‘Cowboy Nudes’ - the first new music from Geese since their 2021 debut album - is soulful and groovy, with Cameron Winter’s vocals occasionally interrupted by gospel sounds and chants of ‘New York City!’. Written about life getting better once the world ends, the single’s message is echoed by a somewhat unique video. (Katie Macbeth)

Chappaqua Wrestling are fed up. “Wasting my time on my mobile phone,” harps songwriting duo Jake Mac and Charlie Woods in the opening minute of ‘Wide Asleep’, a poised ode to being ‘in the moment’. The track slowly swells into a thudding indie rock number, with sparks flying from the unexpected drum breaks, soaring chorus pedal fuzz and the nasal Julian Casablancas-like drawl imbuing the track with both modern social critique and predictable-yet-effective songwriting, their upcoming record ‘Plus Ultra’ is sure to be a viciously delightful affair. (Alisdair Grice)

Tags: Caroline Polachek, Listen, Features, Tracks

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