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, but there’s still plenty of music out and about, ready to join you in your headphones as you crash through crisp golden leaves, and frolic around parks lined with barren trees. Y’know. Classic autumnal stuff.
Two firm DIY faves - The Big Moon and Loyle Carner - 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 Crows, TĀLĀ and Menace Beach 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.
The Big Moon - Formidable
Jules Jackson has an eye for storytelling. Through the fun-soaked fever of The Big Moon’s first steps, she’s been penning songs that could expand into novels, tales capable of galloping on into the distance.
New song ‘Formidable’ is somehow contained into three minutes. But in its short stint, Jackson and co. bring a puppet string-like approach. From accusatory verses (“Did she make you swallow all your pride?”) she guides the song towards an organ-backed choruses and giant, barrelling refrains. ‘Formidable’’s story is one of refuge, finding solace in someone else’s arms. “I’m on your side,” barks Jackson, “Let me heal your battle scars.” Already, you can picture this bundled-up epic growing branches and becoming a feature-length film.
Loyle Carner - The Isle of Arran
From day one, Loyle Carner has put family values front and centre. The South London rapper made this clear enough on early track ‘BFG’, and his laments on loss (“Everybody says I’m fuckin’ sad/ Of course I’m fuckin’ sad, I miss my fuckin’ dad”) are full of emotion without being overbearing.
New single ‘The Isle of Arran’ is his darkest, most enthralling moment yet. It stares death in the face, eyes level with the abyss, and comes out fighting. Named after the island his late grandad - the main father figure in his life - took residence in, it finds Loyle describing loss in all its grizzly detail. Over an old-school sample, he allows you to peer into an otherwise private grief. He recounts how he scattered ashes and rapped at a funeral service, and he provides an insight into the most painful of experiences. This is as heavy-going as Loyle’s music gets, but the more he inspects a wound, the more he seems to step up a gear. (Jamie Milton)
Crows - Ghost Tape #10
On their March debut EP, ‘Unwelcome Light’, Crows comprehensively proved themselves to be masters of darkness. ‘Ghost Tape #10’, the second preview of imminent new EP ‘Cold Comfort’, suggests shards of light remain very much unwelcome in the London four-piece’s world.
They draw inspiration from all over, but the more unpleasant the source, the more gripping the finished product. ‘Ghost Tape #10’’s title refers to a recording - going by the same name - that was used as a form of psychological warfare by the US military during the Vietnam War, which played on the Vietnamese’s belief that the souls of their unburied dead would wander aimlessly. It’s cheery stuff, this.
“I’m a dead man’s soul breathing heavily / I’m a dead man’s soul, please don’t forget me,” begins James Cox in typically ominous fashion, a subtle but crucial tremble in his voice. In what has become the customary Crows way, ‘Ghost Tape #10’ builds gradually from relatively restrained beginnings to an almighty release of a chorus, increasing in intensity every step of the way.
The unease Crows’ indulgence in the dark and disturbing serves to create is – in some messed up kind of way – exactly what makes them so enticing. This right here is further riveting proof of just that. (Tom Hancock)
TĀLĀ - Talk 2 Me
Sharing her moniker with both rhythmic percussion sequences, and a popular bakeware brand, it’s perhaps fitting that in her latest track, TĀLĀ cooks up a piping hot storm of colliding snares, glitching vocal lines, and freshly iced choruses. According to the eclectic musician and producer, she’s been re-examining what she wants to achieve next ahead of releasing a new EP ‘Zāl,’ and if first taster ‘Talk 2 Me’ is any indication of what TĀLĀ has in mind, expect something more immediate; reigning in her ear for pick n’ mix influences, and channelling it all into a finely-tuned pop banger machine.
‘Talk 2 Me’ shows TĀLĀ letting loose, in many ways. Aside studio chuckles, ringing telephones, and mangled expletives pepper her verses, the actual hook itself landing in a fast-swerving sea of half-android vocal manipulation. At the end of it all, this serves as the clearest indication yet that this London musician is aiming skyward.
Rex Orange Country - Uno
Hyped by Tyler, the Creator and scouted by Badbadnotgood for a collaboration, life’s looking rosy for Rex Orange County. But Alex O’Connor’s latest track finds him at a low ebb. “How will I admit that I am falling apart?” the 18-year-old asks, over playful keys. “I should just say ‘Fuck it’ and be happy instead, right?”
On early bedroom recordings - patched together on debut release ‘bcos u will never b free’ - Rex put his feelings in the shop window. ‘UNO’ finds him upping the stakes. “Nothing brings me joy and nothing makes me smile,” he lists off to an imaginary counsellor, running parallel to bashful horn sections and those smile-first-think-later keys. Sarcastic, wit-fledged and full of charming rough edges, Rex has nothing to hide. (Harry Yorke)
Menace Blood - Give Blood
“Why’dya always sing about death,” demand Liza Violet and Ryan Needham repeatedly over hyper-compacted, claustrophobic fuzzes of guitar, signalling the unstoppable return of Menace Beach in the process. Taking its cues from hard-hitting, sand-flecked punk, and opting for rude sonic brawn over mere formalities, ‘Give Blood’ shows this Leeds rabble coating morbidness with a fuzzy, irresistable sheen. In other words, they’re back, and at their best. (El Hunt)