Round-up Tracks: Wolf Alice, Gengahr, & More

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

Good day to you all, dear readers, and a warm welcome to another edition of Tracks. The DIY writers have been their busy selves and rifled through all this week’s musical treats, picking out the biggest and best releases for your attention. Wolf Alice have re-vamped beloved fan favourite ‘Bros’, Brand New have made their long awaited return, and that’s just for starters. Read on, and for everything else released this week, head to the DIY Listening Hub. You can also listen to our Essential Playlist.

Wolf Alice - Bros

When Wolf Alice first put out ‘Bros’ in early 2013, they went from a bunch of hopefuls to a Seriously Exciting Band. The hype was already firmly in place, but this sent Ellie Rowsell and co. into the stratosphere. Few groups pen hooks like the one ‘Bros’ centres around in a decade, let alone within months of forming.

It’s a song that’s clung on for the whole journey, right up to the release of debut album ‘My Love Is Cool’. Less a rehash, more a reaffirmation of the magic this song possesses, ‘Bros’ is all grown up. Additions include a couple of new lyrics (“Are your lights on, are your lights still on?”) and an actual definitive chorus. But it’s still the same song that put Wolf Alice on the map, and given their current situation - on the brink of actual, world-conquering stardom - it’s an ace in their sleeve that’s being played again at the perfect time. (Jamie Milton)

Brand New - Mene

When Brand New released their first new material in six years, it was like throwing a lit match into a petrol-drenched pyre. Granted, rumours had been swirling round for the past twelve months that, finally, something new might emerge from their camp. It almost made the fact that the rumours became truth that little harder to comprehend.

The reaction to their newest offering was immediate; word of it spread like wildfire, and regardless of its slightly premature appearance online, there was no taking ‘Mene’ back once it had seen the light of day. First debuted live as ‘Don’t Feel Anything’, the Long Island band’s first material since 2009’s ‘Daisy’ is a shot of adrenaline, opening with thundering drums and moving seamlessly into Jesse Lacey’s taunting, layered vocals. ‘Mene’ is a disillusioned anthem that rings with scuzzy feedback. Jarring and powerful, it proves that Brand New are in no danger of losing their fire.

From the doom-laced meaning behind its title, to the foreboding screamed sentiments of the chorus, what the track means about the band’s future is anyone’s guess. Standalone, or the first taste of a record, no one’s quite sure. Either way, though, this should keep us content for at least a while longer. (Sarah Jamieson)

Gengahr - Heroine

Gengahr like to hang their music on a knife edge. Songs go from soft-centred honeys to murderous beasts in brilliant flashes. Felix Bushe’s vocals - glued to a creeping falsetto - run counter to vicious guitar parts from John Victor, who often sounds like he’s being electrocuted after plugging in too many pedals at once.

‘Heroine’ is a gutsy example of the band’s split personality. “I’ve changed for better now there’s metal in my head,” sings Bushe, like a loved up robot seeking solace. He runs into trouble. What follows is a ramping up of ferocity, culminating in Victor’s most ‘The Bends’-channelling solo yet. Nobody does sinister quite like Gengahr. Their songs don’t have happy endings, and what might begin as a romantic serenade soon dives into a pit of bloodlusting piranhas. Few bands pull off this kind of Jekyll & Hyde routine with such success. (Jamie Milton)

Empress Of - Water Water

Lorely Rodiguez aka. Empress Of has been being tipped for big things for years, but until now she’s been keeping her cards close to her chest, leaving us waiting with baited breath for something, anything, new. This is that long-awaited something. The first new material since 2013’s ‘Systems’ EP, ‘Water Water’ doesn’t disappoint. Brimming with energy it feels fit to burst; each trembling synth line tumbling over the next in a chaotic crashing together of pop and electronica.

While ‘Water Water’ is wilder and more heavily layered than previous Empress Of outings, it doesn’t feel over-produced. Everything is crisp and clear. Powerful, driving synth lines that wouldn’t be out of place on a Caribou record dominate, while tinny, disordered percussion runs amock underneath, switching pace and direction effortlessly throughout. Rodriguez’s quivering vocals tie everything neatly together, reigning calm and cool over a sea of complex electronic chaos. With comparisons drawn to everyone from Grimes to Bjork, and a tantalisingly sparse release schedule, new material from Empress Of had a hell of a lot to live up to. ‘Water Water’ - her most daring and complicated track yet - delivers with ease. (Henry Boon)

Crystal Castles - Frail

When Alice Glass announced her departure from Crystal Castles, many assumed that was the final nail in the coffin for the project. Her deranged vocals and out-of-control stage antics formed much of the front-facing impact, after all. Yesterday, though, Ethan Kath posted a rather close-to-the-bone rant on his Facebook, along with new Crystal Castles material. “I think it can be empowering for her to be in charge of her own project,” he wrote, referring to Glass in the since-edited post. “It should be rewarding for her considering she didn’t appear on Crystal Castles’ best known songs.” Ooft.

As for ‘Frail’ itself, it sounds…well, much like a Crystal Castles song. The female vocals - though not Glass’ - still echo unsteadily around the cavernous, bleeping chaos. It’s still the kind of music that inspires tent pole climbing at festivals, beer-hurling, and all out debauchery. It’s still totally crackers and barely held together. The partnership between Alice Glass and Ethan Kath might be similarly ‘Frail’ right now, but it looks like he’s ploughing on regardless. (El Hunt)

Tall Ships - Will To Life

Tall Ships have always been masters of euphoria. Debut full-length ‘Everything Touching’ took the Brighton-via-Falmouth trio from sketchy math-rock through to enormous, stadium-filling swells of emotion, each track worthy of lighters-aloft, arms-outstretched mania. With ‘Will To Life’, the first recorded glimpse of their upcoming second record, the now-four-strong group have ramped things up one hell of a notch.

In many respects, it’s business as usual. It’s still a swirling, giddy ebb-and-flow of guitars and skittish drumming, with frontman Ric Phelan spilling his vertebral column tingling odes to his soulmate in typically scientifically verbose form (try shoehorning that “incandescent core” line into your next Tinder proposal, if you dare). But ‘Will To Life’ shows a more muscular side to Tall Ships, too. Away from the balladry and Valentine’s card worthy sentiments, the group have been skulking in the shadows, chiseling away at their sonics and crafting a denser, fuller version of themselves. ‘Will To Life’ is a gut punch of a single, and the first hint that Tall Ships’ upcoming second full length might just smash them straight through that scenester-built glass ceiling, and towards those larger stages their sound begs to sit upon. (Tom Connick)

Vic Mensa - U Mad (ft. Kanye West)

A Kanye West co-sign is by no means a rarity. Kanye’s belief in collaboration as the future of music means that, as a part of his ever expanding community of talented up-and-coming artists, his backing of Vic Mensa is just a drop in the Armenian lake. This isn’t to discredit those blessed by Yeezus’ touch, either, because each is carefully hand-picked. They’re all brimming with talent and promise, and Vic Mansa is no exception. Following his appearance on Kanye’s ‘Wolves’ Mensa has returned the favour, taking the lead with Kanye as a guest in ‘U Mad’.

With ‘U Mad’ Mensa has a point to prove; ‘I don’t need y’all neither’. So much more than just a co-sign, Mensa doesn’t hold back; diving confidently straight onto the trumpet-laden, glitchy beat with the venom and ferocity of an artist not content to side-line. Everything about ‘U Mad’ is as big as it can be; from the crisp, trappy production overlaid by clanging church bells and muscular, dirty synths to the sneering bravado of the hook - ‘oh u mad huh?’ Mensa is at the top of his game and he wants you to know it. West himself, though still impressive, is a little more subdued; content to lay back delivering a pace of one syllable to Mensa’s every two, doing just enough to assert his dominance without overshadowing - a bit like when your dad lets you put a few goals past him in the garden. Though Kanye may for be the main draw for many, this track very much belongs to Vic Mensa and he isn’t about to let you forget it. (Henry Boon)

Honeyblood - The Black Cloud

Honeyblood’s Stina Tweeddale has probably spent more time in the States this year than back home in Glasgow. She’s been busy playing co-headline dates with 2:54, a slew of shows at SXSW, and support slots to Belle & Sebastian, so it’d probably be wide of the mark to expect there to have been any mitigation of a sound that’s already heavily indebted to American influences. Instead, the interesting point of focus on ‘The Black Cloud’ is the impact of new drummer Cat Myers, who replaced Shona MacVicar behind the kit last September. She has already had an obvious effect on stage, with the shows becoming faster, noisier and more energetic.

Accordingly, the percussive work on this Record Store Day release feels tighter and sharper than anything on last year’s self-titled full-length, but the more obvious progression is in terms of the looser structure. The level of aggression in both Tweeddale’s guitar work and vocals fluctuates, culminating in a late breakdown towards a slower, rougher riff. The refrain of “all we want to see is blue skies” shouldn’t work over the top, but it does, and ‘The Black Cloud’ bodes well for album number two. (Joe Goggins)

Tags: Brand New, Wolf Alice, Listen, Features

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