Good afternoon dear readers, and welcome to another installments of Tracks. The days may be growing shorter and darker, and the air might have a nippy bite to it, and in certain parts of the UK, there might be something called *THUNDER-SNOW* [dramatic gasp] on the way, but fear not. There’s still plenty of music out and about, ready to join you in your headphones as you crash through the barren outdoors, and face the bitter chill.
Two firm DIY faves - Diet Cig and Blaenavon- announced their debut albums this week, and backed their respective revelations up with scarily brilliant first tasters of things to come. Elsewhere, the likes of Laura Marling and The Big Moon have been steadily, and surely, upping their games.
For our verdicts on all of this week’s biggest and most exciting tracks, all you need to do is scroll down. And if you’re itching to check out everything else out this week, step this way for DIY’s Listening Hub, and our Essential Playlist.
Laura Marling - Wild Fire
With her recent single ‘Soothing’, Laura Marling moved into sparser instrumental territory to create a bold, attention-grabbing first taste of what to expect from ‘Semper Femina’. On new single ‘Wild Fire’, she’s moved swiftly back into alt-folk territory, but the results are no less arresting.
Perhaps that’s because Laura has never seemed so confident in her songwriting, tackling identity and femininity through the lens of her relationship with an unspecified muse. On the surface it’s a tale of love and friendship, but scratch that surface a little and a deft examination of the gaze and perception is revealed.
When her friend says that she wants to write a book, the part that interests Laura most “is about her time spent with me” because “wouldn’t you die to know how you’re seen”. Elsewhere, she claims that her muse loves her most when “I don’t know when I’m being seen” even though she doesn’t really know what that means. By turns vulnerable and confident, ‘Wild Fire’ might be one of Laura’s most thought-provoking and beautifully written tracks to date. (Eugenie Johnson)
The Big Moon - Hold This
“Save this holy mess,” announces Jules Jackson in the opening moments on ‘Hold This’ - throwing away the keys to the control booth, and fleeing an unspecified scene of total chaos never to be seen again. Luckily, she’s had second thoughts a verse later, and The Big Moon’s latest becomes an odd, squalling, musical entanglement instead, which wrestles with messy situations, and finds the answers by holding them together.
Echoing the themes of ‘Formidable’ (this new ‘un forms the b-side) ‘Hold This’ is a song that deals in darker and more complex lyrical themes - if Adele was in the building, she’d be gagging to make a ‘Skyfall-esque vocal cameo when Jules starts going on about rubble, and all that sort of thing.
Darkness, and mildly menacing instrumental interludes aside, though ‘Hold This’ remains a total banger of a song, too. (El Hunt)
Loyle Carner - Damselfly (ft. Tom Misch)
In the past, Loyle Carner has teamed up with buddy Tom Misch to produce ‘Crazy Dream’ and ‘Nightgowns’, lilting summer jams that featured some of his most up-tempo beats to date. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that Loyle has invited Tom to appear on his upcoming debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone,’ and all.
‘Damselfly’ isn’t a million miles away from their previous collaborations, featuring sharp but sparse beats, and just a little sprinkling of brass and jazzy guitar melodies. It’s breezy, but Tom’s melodies just serve to enhance the impact of Loyle’s earnest lyrics. He continues to forgo usual rap clichés in order to present a more vulnerable side, even explaining in the first line that “it’s been a minute since I’ve been with some women/ Not ‘cause they been lacking, just I’ve been lacking the feeling.” Once again, Loyle and Tom have proved they’re a match made in heaven. (Eugenie Johnson)
Diet Cig - Tummy Ache
Over the course of their modestly sized (but by no means meek) output thus far, Diet Cig have proven themselves as adept airers of bullshit; calling out wrongdoers and trash talkers with venomous precision. In ‘Dinner Date’ it’s a disappointing romantic prospect who gets roasted just like the turkey he’s eating on a yawn-inducing date. Elsewhere, Alex Luciano takes aim at everything from music scene posers, to Ivy League bores and unfurnished apartments.
With this in mind, ‘Tummy Ache’ is a little different. The chords propel forward, but they’re grungier, and more down in the dumps this time. Alex’s latest subject of disdain is a little less clear-cut, too, and her anger is vaguer, more anxious. “I’m trying to find my voice, surrounded by all boys,” she sings, before giving way to Noah Bowman’s rumbling drums, and thrashing squeals of guitar feedback. “My stomach hurts,” she admits elsewhere, atop tenacious chants that egg her on, ”it’s hard to be a punk rocker in a skirt”. Ultimately, though, ‘Tummy Ache’ battles through the boundaries, finds a voice, and prevails while shouting from the rooftops.
According to the high-jumping Alex herself, ‘Tummy Ache’ grapples with being a femme presence in the notoriously masculine world of rock, and beyond that, it pursues a kind of “radical softness” that can hit harder than any studded leather jacket, or snarled chorus can. And, considering the political shit-show whirling outside our windows right now, couldn’t we all do with a bit of radical softness? (El Hunt)
Blaenavon - Orthodox Man
Though ‘Orthodox Man’ might come packaged with a title that nods to tradition, convention, and keeping things ordinary, the latest from Blaenavon sees the increasingly versatile band exploring yet more new territory. Sharpened no end, with angular, cutting lines, and diamond-saw melodies (not to mention a few woo-ee-woo chants, for good measure) this might just be the Hampshire lads’ most immediate moment to date.
It’s ripe foundations for Blaenavon’s impending debut - a first effort set to pack bite, evolution, and bold statements into the mix. Orthodox, man? This is anything but. (El Hunt)