News Tracks: James Blake, Haim, Kurt Vile And More

Valentines Day might be over, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop showing love for things. Our writers and radio presenters sure don’t think so, and to prove it they’ve gone and compiled their favourite new tracks that they’re enamoured with this week. Love is all around, after all. So without any further ado, we present, this week’s Tracks.

James Blake - Retrograde

Much of the chatter around ‘Retrograde’ has focused on earmarking it as Blake’s most straightforward piece to date. However, for an artist as peerless as the prodigious 24-year-old it should be noted that this says an awful lot more about his unique aesthetic than the track’s relative conformity. As it builds from an austere, quasi-monastic vocal to walls of raw, aching synths, it’s easy to take its textural unorthodoxy for granted, moving gradually forward with a frigid, lurching handclap, and a looped, twisting falsetto that soars and tumbles as Blake’s lead vocal plunges to the impossibly low depths of his extraordinary range. It’s really quite incredible that a force as uncompromising as Blake has managed to successfully occupy the mainstream, but the kernel of soul and R n B around which Blake’s sound is built means that ‘Retrograde’ manages to remain both accessible and intriguing. Introducing the track’s premiere last week, Zane Lowe’s gauche, mouth-foaming enthusiasm may just have summed up its ineffable achievement: “What a wonderful, sort of essential-sounding, beautiful piece of music you’ve made.’ (David Zammitt - @davezambo)

Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Day

Kurt Vile stills possesses the ability to put you in dreamy and mesmerising stupor, all without wearing a wizards cape. Carrying on from the incredible heights he reached with ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ Kurt has unleashed the ambitious nine minute ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’, which instantly transports you away from the worries of life to a carefree state where times moves slowly. The drawling vocals and hazy twangs of the singer songwriter’s guitar are still at the heart of music, but there is an underlying simplicity, which gives space for your mind to wonder amongst the glorious music. Undoubtedly this is the most beautiful and epic moment yet in Kurt Vile’s career and bodes well for the release of ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’, but it is perhaps the way this track really does brilliantly capture the sensation of waking on a pretty day that makes it so special. (Samuel Cornforth)

Haim - Falling

We may have not yet recovered from the uplifting rush of Haim’s previous single ‘Don’t Save Me’, but the unmercifully cool LA sisters have unveiled another song, equally refreshing and intricate; ‘Falling’. And it’ll be released in April as an EP along with two remixes. The magic of this track’s grip is its versatility, built with cheesy pop elements disguised between guitar solos, voice plays, disco bass lines and bouncy tropical drums. Close your eyes and image Beyonce singing it, with backing dancers and a sparkly set design and it works, But once you come back to reality and see that the songwriters, composers and performers of this radio hit are actually three long haired girls with distressed shorts, leather jackets and a remarkable honesty and drive, the world becomes an even better place. (Carolina Faruolo)

Alex Bleeker And The Freaks - Don’t Look Down

Before this week, if you searched the Internet for ‘Alex Bleeker Don’t Look Down’, you’d actually find a cover version released in 2011 by Bleeker’s touring buddies Flower Orgy. That’s how long he’s had this song in the can, and up until yesterday, it’s only existed as a part of his live show. The good news is that sometime last year, Bleeker managed to sneak enough time away from his main gig as Real Estate’s bass player, to camp out in Woodsist’s home studio, Rear House, and record this folk pop gold nugget, complete with a swirling organ lead and a tambourine to help keep the time. (Matt Putrino)

Lapalux - BETHR

25-year-old producer Stuart Howard, aka Lapalux, has came a long way in a very short time. From his earliest bedroom jams to signing with Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label in LA, he’s honed his craft perfectly ahead of the release of much anticipated debut album ‘Nostalchic’ in March.

Always prolific, latest track - the melancholic warped soul of ‘BETHR’ - is a dream. Built around an instantly recognisable sample, that of Quindon Tarver’s cover of ‘Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)’ most famously used in the film version of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Lapalux wrings every minute bit of emotion out of it by aligning the vocal with enveloping aqueous beats that ripple like a pebble skidding across an ocean. Despite not appearing on the album it’s a perfect example of Howard’s talents, the whole thing drifts off into an utterly gorgeous reverie that compels you to listen again and again. (Martyn Young)

Fake Major – Little Researcher

It’s a tough task, in the current climate of sporadic snow and freezing temperatures; but think ahead to the summer festival season, an intimate stage on any given weekend and then hit play on this number. Suddenly, the sun is shining and you’re in the middle of a field admiring their haunting vocal harmonies and intricate, subtle guitar work. This is the lead track from the Glaswegian duo, who are the latest signing to Scottish label - Comets and Cartwheels. ‘Little Researcher’ gives us a sneak preview of what to expect from them in the future. Their debut EP is out in the spring this year and this track feels like the precursor to a really strong first release. (Joe Dickinson - @DickinsonSound)

Fake Major - Little Researcher from Comets And Cartwheels on Vimeo.

Gambles - Far From Your Arms

Given the earnestness of his previous releases, Matthew Siskin is a man with a lot to get off his chest. And quite compellingly so, too. Having only created his Gambles alias last August, he’s already nearly completed an album and now he’s previewed a brand new track, written within just 20 minutes on the road. Performed against the aptly harsh backdrop of a wintry highway, ‘Far From Your Arms’ continues in the same candid vein he’s already wooed us with on tracks ‘Trust’ and ‘Safe Side’. With the voice – and the hair – of a young Bob Dylan, Siskin’s cracked vocals and purposeful strums of guitar bleed an unnerving honesty that’s difficult to ignore. Now, if he’d just announce some UK dates… (Hannah Phillips)

The British Kicks – Lies

For a first introduction to a band, the shorter and sharper it is; the sweeter. The British Kicks kick down the door and leave the introductions to the pogo-ing guitar strut of the opening lines of ‘Lies’. Yes, this band are from Birmingham but no, they don’t share the same laid back attitude of their contemporaries. These guys are here to crank up the volume and quicken the pace of not only the tunes, but the atmosphere at their shows. Before you catch them live though, download ‘Lies’ for free and crank it up. (Jack Parker)

Lies (Demo) by The British Kicks

Rival Schools - Indisposable Heroes

Rival Schools had some down time after losing their guitarist Ian Love and seeking his replacement. There was a lot of rehearsing and ‘getting into the swing of things’ to be doing. Which meant that a stream of tracks were leaked on to the net, which some dub the ‘lost album’. A collection of songs that will be released under the title ‘Found’ this spring. Re-mastered and sounding like a true Rival Schools riff and post-hardcore track, this is the first taste for us that might have missed things the first time round. (Elise Cobain - Alive And Amplified)

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