Tracks: Courtney Barnett, Speedy Ortiz & More
DIY writers pick out their favourite new songs from the past seven days.
Happy Friday to one and all, dear readers, and what a splendid one it is too. Today might be the first day that the world has has been Zane-Lowe-showless (sob!) but luckily the tunes just keep on coming of their own accord. Drenge and Speedy have followed up their previous statements of intent with brand-new fuzz-covered sucker punches, and there’s plenty more to boot. All picked out by the fair hands of the DIY writers, scroll down to read more. For everything else released this week, the DIY Listening Hub is your best pal, along with our Essential Playlist. You’re oh so very welcome.
Drenge - Never Awake
Last week prompted a strange sight - nice “DERBYSHIIIIRE” boys Drenge soundtracking a ‘Clockwork Orange’-style riot, a blood frenzy that took no prisoners. Brutish force is definitely in the Loveless brothers’ rule-book, but their ‘We Can Do What We Want’ video took ugly gang mentality to an extreme. Travel to any of the duo’s shows and the scene’s a little more forgiving, but then again, it’s difficult to think of a UK band who pummel the senses quite like these two. Case in point: ‘Never Awake’. A murky, sludge-grinding highlight from second LP ‘Undertow’, it’s both the most momentum-building track Drenge have put their name to, and also the muckiest, most determinedly rough cut in their locker. A bit like trudging through mud in a dirt race, it’s a blink-and-you-missed-it thrasher built out of second-hand, knackered parts. As raw as they come, it’s Drenge doing brute force the right way. (Jamie Milton)
Courtney Barnett - Depreston
C-Barn (that’s our nickname for Courtney Barnett, for the uninitiated) is a songwriter fully capable of the blisteringly catty and cynical. Mostly though, her music’s fun, beautifully produced and filled with razor-sharp, deadpan delivery. ‘Depreston’ is an altogether folksier affair than ‘Pedestrian At Best’, with ‘Terror Twilight’ era Pavement guitar leads and a sprawling, walking chord progression. There’s a breezy, cool feel to the track. “If you’ve got a spare half a million, you could knock it down and start rebuilding” lends itself as a house-building metaphor, but it’s a clear nod to Barnett’s move out into Melbourne’s suburbs, a seemingly much maligned, regrettable migration.
‘Depreston’, on a lyrical level, drips with remorse, a sort of bleary-eyed disappointment. There are definitely, as mentioned, emanating vibes, of which Stephen Malkmus would surely approve. And yet, Barnett’s consistently excellent vocals perfectly surmise the enormous shrug of countless house viewings, the sense of boredom belying the enormous stress of relocation. Courtney does ‘I just don’t give a fuck’ perfectly, and manages to describe grey streets and uninspiring architecture with music that forces images of grass, corn- fields and open spaces. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition worthy of a fantastic song. (Euan L. Davidson)
Marina and The Diamonds - Forget
A new month means a new ‘Froot’ from Marina and the Diamonds, and March’s ‘Forget’ is one super-crisp apple bite of pop empowerment. “Sometimes I think I’m not as strong,” admits Marina, sounding the starting gun of ‘Forget’, “but there’s a force that carries me on.” Setting the scene for her agile slice of ‘Froot’ to take the limelight, sassy barre chords and clipped beats build the song up until the glittering spell of the dancefloor takes full hold, spinning Marina’s arching vocals across the room.
The overarching sentiment of ‘Forget’ is one of moving forward and leaving regret behind to brood alone in the dust. As the track comes to a close, drenched in victory, it’s a triumph. Marina might have managed to escape her history, but a track this instantly irresistible is also unforgettable. (Ali Shutler)
Speedy Ortiz - The Graduates
Stoned receptionists and sneaking out of French class for undercover smokes - that’s the order of the day on ‘The Graduates’, the latest song to come ahead of ‘Foil Deer’. Charged with rosey-eyed nostalgia, and filled with strange little snapshot stories - a barely touched cigarette stamped on the floor under a charming globule of spit, a pair of tipsy law school drop-outs quarreling at a bar - Speedy Ortiz capture an odd sort of Romanticism.
On first listen it’s Sadie Dupuis’ meandering narrative that grabs most of the attention, powered forth by noodling guitars, and - once the chorus well and truly kicks in - some fearsome riffery. Like an elaborate High School production, though, there are endless cogs working away in the background; glammy synths with a distinct whiff of Gary Numan, subtle quirks of production at every turn. The result of having more time and flexibility to hone every melody in the studio, ‘The Graduates’ shows a playful, nuanced side to Speedy Ortiz. Give them all mortarboards and scrolls, because ‘Foil Deer’ marks their graduation to the big leagues. (El Hunt)
Joanna Gruesome - Honestly Do Yr Worst
Following the announcement of ‘Peanut Butter’ - the second record from Joanna Gruesome - everyone already conscious of the band has been tapped firmly on the shoulder and made fully aware of its purpose. The follow-up to ‘Weird Sister’ is set to be filled with more hooks than a coat rack, yet it sustains the tangible energy that they’ve developed from their live shows onto record. First preview ‘Honestly Do Yr Worst’ suitably signifies their intention in “combining hyper melodic pop music with sonic violence”.
The band take a more considered approach than they did on ‘Last Year’, yet they competently preserve their deliciously erratic quiet to loud dynamism. Thick slabs of fuzzy distortion revel under Alana McArdle and Owen Williams’ familiarly sweet harmonies, both balanced perfectly to ensure one doesn’t topple the other. Before you can blink it’s all replaced by razor-sharp hooks and McArdle’s venomous vocal delivery as an impassioned refrain kicks in. Joanna Gruesome prove again they’re capable of crafting supremely catchy pop under waves of distorted noise and rapidly adapting tones. (Ross Jones)
The Magic Gang - No Fun
With more hooks than a fully-saturated cloakroom in a sweaty basement bar, the latest new song to come from The Magic Gang starts off ramshackle enough. A messy, scuzzy bass line slops outwards, throwing squealing feedback and rackety snares in its wake like a potent soup straight from Hogwarts. With a sly swish and flick, though, ‘No Fun’ suddenly drifts into spectacular clear focus, and lifts off with all the welly you could ever ask for.
The Brighton band’s new ‘un is produced by Andy Savours, who worked with My Bloody Valentine on their 2013 album ‘mbv’. He does bring a certain shoegaze je ne sais quoi to proceedings - as you’d perhaps expect - and they have never sounded bigger, or more attacking, than they do here. “I won’t waste my time with you,” snarls Jack Kaye growing ever more fearsome. With their latest, The Magic Gang are laying down the cards, and ‘No Fun’ is a veritable rabbit in a hat. (El Hunt)
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