All We Are – Keep Me Alive
I thought this song came out months ago. And indeed, it was uploaded to YouTube on December 3rd. This has had so much rotation on 6 Music that by now I am actually a little bored of the otherwise perfectly pleasant falsetto tones and folky guitars within. It’s only around the 2:30 mark when the female vocals come in with a Patti Smith like gusto that the song leaves any sort of mark.
Bob Dylan – Full Moon & Empty Arms
Dylan has done some weird things in recent memory, not least the ramshackle live performances. It tends to make you think, “Uh-oh, a new Bob Dylan record in 2015.” Luckily, ‘Full Moon & Empty Arms’ is actually a swooning heartbreak track, all slide guitars and melancholic country tone. The central refrain is also a nice piece of imagery which echoes the reason why he’s such a well respected artist in the first place.
Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
Behind all the punk rawk Barnett actually has a pretty good sense of humour: “Give me all your money I’ll turn it into origami” she claims midway through the chorus. ‘Pedestrian At Best’ is a self-deprecating track masquerading as a date night track and paces through its tightly wound structure like someone trying to get through a point so they can make their excuses and quickly leave – on the basis of this I hope she sticks around for a bit.
Auriént – Another World
Bouncy bouncy techno. Fingers in the air, boys.
Equals – Black on Gold
If there’s one thing that the surprise D’Angelo record at the end of last year highlighted, it was just how retrograde a lot of ’90s-infused neo soul is at the moment. ‘Black on Gold’ is well executed, Ade Omotayo’s vocals being the focal point, but it lacks that crucial heart that soul music needs to make an impact.
Mild High Club – Windowpane
Someone’s getting stoned on the cover so I instantly don’t care about it. Yet more middle of the road psychedelia which inspires me to run a thousand miles as if someone’s just invited me to a “commune” for a “gap yar”.
Mary J. Blige – Therapy
Considering this is from an album featuring Disclosure “what’s subtlety?” Naughty Smith, ‘Therapy’ is a restrained homage to the cleaner end of the gospel soul spectrum. File next to Laura Mvula for an argument-free afternoon with your parents.
Nothing Places – Tidal Love
As part of their continued effort to take over the music industry, this is another track recorded at a Red Bull studio. That’s one impressive marketing budget. Luckily, there also seems to be a bit of quality control somewhere along the line as well. ‘Tidal Love’ is a jittery, percussive number straight from the heart of Spain, which’ll please fans of the jaunty prettiness of Wild Beasts or the crackling subtlety of Efterklang.
Peculate – This Sick Beat™
As much as everyone likes Taylor Swift, this extravagant doom ‘protest track’ by Peculate is a pretty ace repost to the news that Swift is attempting to trademark the phrase “This Sick Beat” (I’m presuming to put on T-Shirts or something). It’s always sad when someone who seems pretty nice on the face of it does something very shit. Like when Scarlett Johansson sacked off representing Oxfam so she could sell soda machines because she really needed money (maybe), or when a ‘man of the people’ like Alex Turner decides to indulge in tax loopholes.
So good on Peculate for making this song, making it so weird, and doing something actually quite positive with music when few others seem to make the effort.
Shlohmo – Buried
It’s the end of the world: every Moog on Denmark Street is disintegrating as London collapses, and marching drum lines escape into apocalyptic grime nights. Or it’s the new Shlohmo record. Who knows.
Solvey – Solvey
This self-titled track comes into view with some ominous strings and a walking drum beat, creating a The National-like atmosphere. While the vocal phrasing is engaging and the verses are perfectly formed interludes, the chorus lacks real va-va-voom. The tempo takes a back step while Solvey asks “Where are you going? / Can I come too?” I can’t work out if this anti-climax is on purpose and deceptively effective, or if she’s missed a trick not going bombastic.
Young Fathers – Rain or Shine
The first track from the unexpectedly announced but very welcome second record by Young Fathers sees them keep the off-kilter approach to formulating a track (is that even a chorus? can I actually dance to this?), but delving even further into trip-hop aesthetics. It sounds like an old hip-hop beat being rendered through a particularly pessimistic doomsday choir.