Round-up Tracks: Jamie XX, Drenge & More

DIY writers pick out the biggest and best songs from the last seven days.

Hello dear readers, and welcome to another addition of Tracks. This week is a bit of a special occasion, because of a rare occurrence that has happened but a few times before in the history of this illustrious feature. Jamie XX has released, not one, but two new tracks from his forthcoming debut album ‘In Colour,’ and both of them are so bloody excellent that they made the cut without a moment’s hesitation.

Elsewhere, the DIY scribes have picked out Drenge’s “best track to date,” the return of Brandon Flowers, and much more. For everything else released recently, check out the DIY Listening Hub, or get listening to our Essential Playlist.

Jamie XX - Gosh

‘Gosh’ - the closing track from Jamie xx’s debut album - is built around one solid, simple melody, but that’s only half of the story. Instead of drip-feeding the focal point, dressing it up in fancy shades, or even hinting at its emergence, the producer gives most of the space to jagged electronics, lifted straight from South London’s stained pavements.

Half of ‘Gosh’ feels like an extension from last year’s ‘All Under One Roof Raving’, an ode to hardcore, and the UK’s ability to birth new movements at a constant rate. What differentiates the two songs, however, is the former’s piercing melody, the kind of hook you might otherwise find in The xx’s early work. Nothing fancy, the way it’s built from the ground up transforms it into something remarkable. Pinpointing exactly why Jamie xx stands out in a crowd isn’t always obvious, but there are few producers who mix such directly opposing forces with this kind of ease. (Jamie Milton)

Drenge - Favourite Son

There are moments on Drenge’s ‘Undertow’ album when the Loveless brothers break new ground, pave the way for something different. But this is a record that excels when the Loveless brothers revert to their gruesome default mode. ‘Favourite Son’ is the ultimate example, a brother rivalry pitting raw riffs against each others in a battle to the death. Spiralling out of control from the get-go, this is a bloodthirsty call to arms, a cage fight in song form, where the only way out is to get swept along.

There remains a sense that a good chunk of future Drenge converts haven’t quite come round yet. Maybe they’re yet to see the pair on stage, maybe they’ve been written off as just another fuzz-inclined bunch. Drenge are anything but standard-fare, though. And if ‘Favourite Son’ doesn’t prove it, nothing will. Brutal, breakneck, shamelessly fun - this is the group’s best track to date. (JM)

Blur - Lonesome Street

It might not have the most auspicious title, but ‘Lonesome Street’ is as reaffirming as it comes. Driven by Graham Coxon’s distinctive guitar work, the track harks back to Blur’s early Britpop days. More like escapism than ‘The Great Escape’, the song’s resoundingly infectious riffs carry through with a blazing energy. Damon Albarn’s characteristic vocals are sharp and vibrant, leading enticingly into a swirling, swooning bliss. “If you have nobody left to rely on, I’ll hold you in my arms” Albarn sings charmingly, Coxon’s crooning backing vocals complimenting the already-sweet sentiment. A dive into an almost muted trickling melody is enough to dizzy, but only for a moment. With a call of “get yourself up” the song ricochets back into gear.

The chorus showcases Blur at their most contagious. With more than enough “woo”-ing to make the track an instant sing-a-long, the final rousing rendition incorporates happy-go-lucky whistling into the already heartening melody; a hook that can’t be shaken, embedded in optimism that can’t be mistaken. The third track to be unveiled from forthcoming album ‘The Magic Whip’ prior to its release, ‘Lonesome Street’ is like an old friend taking your hand and soothing all apprehension. Blur are exactly where they always have been, and that’s at the top of their game. (Jessica Goodman)

Action Bronson x Earl Sweatshirt - Warlord Leather

With the release of Action Bronson’s ‘Mr Wonderful’ and Earl Sweatshirt’s ‘I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside’, this week’s been a pretty good one for rap fans. But things just got a whole lot better - the pair teamed up to drop ‘Warlord Leather’ in commemoration of the two releases. On the surface it’s a bit of a weird coupling, with Earl’s often dark, introspective lyrics seemingly at odds with Bronson’s Clown Prince of Rap schtick, but on ‘Warlord Leather’ they manage to tie their disparate styles together without skipping a beat.

‘Warlord Leather’ is underpinned by a shifting, shuffling beat courtesy of producer The Alchemist, which provides the kind of low-key backdrop that allows Earl’s ability as a wordsmith to really come to the fore. Bronson - usually associated with the more bombastic production provided by Party Supplies on their ‘Blue Chips’ mixtapes - also shines on ‘Warlord Leather’, showcasing his, albeit very different, abilities as a lyricist. It’s not really the kind of track that a new rap dynasty’s likely to be born from, but ‘Warlord Leather’ is a refreshing and interesting addition to both Earl and Action’s catalogues. (Stuart Knapman)


Moving off from his original debut foundations on an increasingly experimental tangent, Aaron Jerome continually treads new ground. He’s turned Ezra Koenig into a bona-fide spoken-word legend on ‘NEW DORP. NEW YORK’ and he’s kicked off the musical careers of Raury and Denai Moore, too, by being the first to earmark their talents on his second album ‘Wonder Where We Land’.

Even by SBTRKT’s standards, though ‘FLAREtWO’ takes the word ‘bonkers’, paints it bright purple, ties its shoe-laces together, and redefines the whole concept. Veering between frenzied percussive outbursts and syncopated, electrified woodblocks, right back to elongated, swampy squelches, Jerome has tied dance convention onto a helium balloon, and said good riddance. A one-off release, but no doubt a hint of future directions to come, there’s no taking away from SBTRKT. (El Hunt)

Jamie XX - Loud Places (ft. Romy Madley-Croft)

The wait for a Jamie xx full-length has been excruciating. Surprise unveilings on friends’ radio residencies have only amped up the expectation, the sparsity of last year’s ‘Girl’ proving little more than a drop of water on a sandy, parched tongue. While that came tag-teamed with the scratchy fidgeting of ode-to-clubs anthem ‘All Under One Roof Raving’, it’s been an uncomfortable few months silence since. Thankfully, as ‘In Colour’ creeps ever closer, it looks set to quench every dry lip in the house; ‘Loud Places’ is a nourishing example of Jamie xx’s finesse.

Deconstructed and reconstructed around a gospel choir sample, it’s that sense of collective elation that threads throughout. His xx band mate Romy may provide the tender vocal at the track’s beginning - and in doing so tilt the vibe back towards the ‘day job’ - but Jamie soon shifts things upwards, handclap snares and skipping basslines dragging ‘Loud Places’ towards the dancefloor. It’s that choir which defines the track though - an ever-swelling euphoria, ‘Loud Places’ is built for such soul-defining moments of musical unity, marking ‘In Colour’ out as a potentially summer defining record, and Jamie xx a potentially genre-defining musician. (Tom Connick)

Hudson Mohawke - Very First Breath (ft. Irfane)

Since releasing his debut album six years ago, Hudson Mohawke’s made the biggest name for himself with… well, everything but his solo material. Producing for the likes of Drake and Kanye West has been at the top of his agenda in recent years, along with TNGHT; the trappy pandora’s box of dance stormers that he opened with fellow producer Lunice.

Hudson Mohawke’s varied excursions into the epicentre of cutting-edge pop have served him well, though, and his solo return ‘Very First Breath’ is a straight-up electronic banger; all teethy synths and no filling. Enlisting French singer Irfane - who’s best known for lending his vocals to Breakbot’s stand-out single ‘Baby I’m Yours’ - acts as the ideal counterpoint to HudMo’s thudding bass drums and saw-tooth synthesizers. “Bring us back, to our very first breath,” sings Irfane over a rolling percussive drive, and however brilliant Hudson Mohawke’s work with TNGHT was, his solo material finds new sincerity in the massive hooks. (EH)

Hop Along - Powerful Man

With their second album ‘Painted Shut’ set for release in just over a month, Philadelphia pop-punk gems Hop Along are ramping up the excitement with the release of the single ‘Powerful Man’. Based on this evidence, ‘Painted Shut’ is set to be a stormer. What’s instantly distinctive about Hop Along is the undeniably unique voice of singer Frances Quinlan, whose ability to switch from breathy and melodic, to rasping and strained, in the blink of an eye gives ‘Powerful Man’ the sort of depth and texture that few vocalists can match.

While Quinlan’s voice can come across as a little jarring at first, give it a chance and it wont be long until you fall in love. ‘Powerful Man’ is also full of hooks, from the choppy, bright guitar riff in the verse, to Quinlan’s refrain of “I just thought, he looked like a powerful man,” which has that rare ability to lodge itself in your head for days and refuses to let go.With a tour about to start in the US with The War On Drugs before their own headline tour in support of ‘Painted Shut’, get ready to hear a lot more of that voice and a lot more from Hop Along. (SK)

Brandon Flowers - Can’t Deny My Love

Is he human? Dancer? Or some pop prodigy sent from space? Brandon Flowers’ shape-shifting identity has been edging towards a single like ‘Can’t Deny My Love’, but that doesn’t make it any less of a revelation. Produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (a surefire guarantee for pop #banger success), the bonkers lead from new solo album ‘The Desire Effect’ contains pan-pipes, jolting synths and just enough shameless guitar parts to give it a Killers factor.

Flowers’ customary, grandiose emotional statements still remain, but when they’re being delivered in some kind of maddening, ultra-gusto pop prism. Part’ Blade Runner’ soundtrack, part ‘Reflektor’, part ‘Get Lucky’-style funk twist, there’s absolutely nothing ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ lacks. (JM)