Is your playlist in need of some refreshment? We have some suggestions.
Grand National - Courting
Pleasingly shouty and satisfyingly sardonic, this new EP from the young Liverpool band (they’re all still teenagers) is a joy for anyone who remembers Brit Pop the first time around. This is tight, witty writing that takes itself seriously without being pretentious.
Slidin’ - Ed O’Brien/Paul McCartney
The latest tidbit shared from the forthcoming McCartney III Imagined (out next week, it features artists like St Vincent, Damon Albarn and Josh Homme messing about with the former Beatle’s latest solo album) is a definite ramping up by the Radiohead guitarist. Whisper it —I sort of prefer it.
Elyne Road - Toumani Diabate and the London Symphony Orchestra
This gently soaring combination of ancient jeli (griot) melody and Western orchestral arrangement is part of a Barbican-commissioned project to be released on April 23 (Kôrôlén, a Mandinka word meaning ancestral), featuring Diabaté’s group of Malian musicians with the LSO, arrangements by Nico Muhly and Ian Gardiner and Clark Rundell waving the baton.
The Things I Can’t Take With Me - Yaya Bey
Brooklyn-based Yaya Bey’s smoky, jazz-inflected style is showcased on this EP, inspired by a painful breakup. Spare but layered (and short), songs like the first singles fxck it then and September 13th (the day Bey, inset, realised said breakup was inevitable) are personal, conversational and totally compelling.
Ryley Walker — Course in Fable
While the songs on Ryley Walker's fifth solo album in seven years might undergo sudden gear changes and veer off course, these songs always return to recognisable structures and are generally as beautiful as they are strange. It may not always be obvious where he’s going, but he vists some highly appealing places along the way.
Sons of Kemet — Hustle feat. Kojey Radical
The ever-brilliant Shabaka Hutchings is back with Sons of Kemet, who are set to release their first full-length since the searing Your Queen Is A Reptile in 2018. Black to the Future, out May 14, promises some tantalising features, from Chicago jazz force Angel Bat Dawid to grime legend D Double E, as well as Kojey Radical, who shines on this bubbling first single.
Waxahatchee — Saint Cloud +3
Katie Crutchfield AKA Waxahatchee delivered one of 2020’s finest albums with Saint Cloud, and this is the newly released “deluxe” version. It features all of the same tracks before, plus three lovely new covers of tracks by Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams and Dolly Parton. Our favourite is the warmly rootsy take on Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia.
The Joy Formidable — Into the Blue
Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable have returned with this huge, swaying track, their first piece of new music for three years. The lyrics are about “making it to the other side,” says frontwoman Ritzy Bryan. “Whilst not conceived as a metaphor for the times we all live in now, it certainly turned out that way.”
Jon Hopkins — Spatial Mix
UK producer Jon Hopkins is the latest artist to get Spatial Mix treatment — where artists give over their tracks to the BBC’s sound engineers, who transform them into binaural audio, giving the music the feeling of being 3D. It adds a whole new layer of immersion to Hopkins’ already transportative Singularity album, and is best experienced through headphones.
My Bloody Valentine
Shoegazers of the world, unite! My Bloody Valentine are on streaming services again, after the legendary band signed to Domino and the label decided to put their entire discography back online. Join us in spending the next few days luxuriating in those lovely, lovely guitar tones.
Ben Howard — Collections from the Whiteout
Some of Ben Howard's subsequent music has had a problem with murkiness, lacking the ability to hold attention as it smears ambient passages all over. On this fourth album, his stepping to one side really works. He has accepted the involvement of producer Aaron Dessner’s impeccable address book, found a balance that could please everyone.
For Those I Love — For Those I Love
The dance music that David Balfe creates on this extraordinary debut album is lively and often beautiful, scattered with high vocal samples, but the real focus is Balfe’s starkly personal spoken word delivery. There are echoes of The Streets, The Blaze and Jamie xx, but this is something all its own.
Black Midi — John L
Black Midi, the young south London band whose whacked-out experimentalism got them a Mercury Prize nomination in 2019, will return with a new record, Cavalcade, on May 28. Playing it safe for the difficult second album? No chance. This first single finds the group at their raucous, erratic best, with chaotic rhythms, a menacing riff and esoteric vocals all colliding.
Beabadoobee — Last Day on Earth
Viva la Nineties! Beabadoobee won over legions of fans by fusing various styles of guitar music from the decade into a youthfully fresh debut album last year, and the love affair continues on this new track. It’s a bit britpoppy, a bit shoegazey, and entirely catchy. A new EP, Our Extended Play, is due to arrive sometime this spring.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra — Promises
What happens when you get one of the UK’s most respected electronic producers, a legend of spiritual jazz, and a world-class symphony orchestra, and have them make an album together? That’s the tantalising question behind this 46-minute, one song release, and the results are extraordinary. Meditative, transporting, challenging and enlightening — take time to absorb this one.
John Grant — Boy From Michigan
John Grant has been one of the most interesting songwriters of the past decade or so, and it looks as if he’ll keep the intrigue going on his upcoming album. Boy From Michigan will land on June 25, and this titular track is a trippy, jazzy reflection on passing over from childhood into adulthood. Fans of astral-sounding electronics should check out the extended seven-minute version.
BBC 6 Music Festival
This year’s edition of the excellent 6 Music Festival has gone digital, which means there’s plenty to check out this weekend. There will be newly recorded sets from the likes of Michael Kiwanuka, Bicep, Laura Marling, Nubya Garcia and Black Country, New Road, with the archive footage covering Anna Calvi, Loyle Carner, Little Simz, Foals and more. Head here to get involved.
SK Shlomo's BST Rave
Celebrating the return of longer days with the clocks going forward, this stay-at-home rave will feature sets from organiser SK Shlomo, Rob Da Bank, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and more. It's all in support of suicide prevention charity CALM. Things kick off at 8.30pm and carry on until 2am. Zoom tickets are free but donations are most definitely encouraged. Visit https://bstrave.com/ for more info.
Lana Del Rey — Chemtrails Over the Country Club
Lana Del Reyseems less connected than ever to the whizzy preoccupations of the livestreaming, TikTok-ing pop world on her latest album. That's not a bad thing. Like its creator, the record is off in a world of its own, free of commercial obligations and revelling in that autonomy. It’s a lovely place to visit.
ENNY — Same OId
ENNY is on the rise. The south London singer-rapper made major waves with her single Peng Black Girls and the subsequent remix with Jorja Smith, and now she’s back with this latest single. It pretty much sums up everything about her that’s making everyone so excited — over an old-school beat, she delivers lyrics covering Brexit, gentrification, love and frustration with shape-shifting vocals.
Laura Mvula — Church Girl
How has Laura Mvula built this time machine and who do we talk to about getting a ride in it? Church Girl is synth-tastic Eighties throwback with more than a whiff of Prince, but it’s still sounding incredibly fresh, with one of our favourite choruses of the year so far. A new record — “the album I’ve always wanted to make,” Mvula says — called Pink Noise arrives on July 2.
L’objectif — Drive In Mind
L’objectif — a Leeds-based four-piece, no member older than 17 — have delivered their debut single. It wears its influences on its sleeve; frontman Saul Kane’s vocals bring to mind the half-drunk-sounding growls of Iceage’s Elias Rønnenfelt, and there’s a lot of the post-punk energy here that’s defining a new cohort of UK bands. But it’s an undeniably solid track — expect to hear lots more about them.
Jae5 — Dimension feat. Skepta and Rema
Jae5, the production wizard best known for his alchemical work with J Hus, has come through with his first ever solo single. The laid-back beat is classic Jae5 — “heavily influenced by Afrobeats and the UK urban scene,” as he describes it — with a typically solid verse from Skepta and a silky hook delivered by Nigerian artist Rema.
Valerie June — The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers
It looks like we’re in new territory with the latest album from Deep South singer-songwriter Valerie June. She gave her latest co-producer, Jack Splash, a list of words to indicate the feel she was going for this time: “Spirituality was one, iridescence was one, illuminance was one. Ethereal was one. And magical, fairylike, dreamy, colourful.” So while her acoustic guitar and distinctive twangy voice are still very much present, they sit amid a trippy, more freeform sound that leaves plenty of room for surprises.
Tony Allen — Cosmosis feat. Ben Okri and Skepta
On April 30 last year, the world one lost one of its finest ever drummers with the passing of Tony Allen. A year on from that date, the Afrobeat legend’s final ever studio album will be put out into the world. This superb first single — co-written with Damon Albarn, and featuring bars from Skepta and poetry by Ben Okri — proves Allen was still a master of his craft.
Jorja Smith — Addicted
Jorja Smith returns with her first solo single of the year, a mournful, powerfully restrained track about the pain of the addiction. There’s no word on a new album yet, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that one arrives soon. Be sure to seek out the video, too, which is very much a product of lockdown, shot entirely on a MacBook.
Everything Everything — Supernormal
Everything Everything are on a real hot streak. Their 2020 album Re-Animator was among their best work, and now the Manchester quartet are back with more music in a similar vein. It’s a manic mix of hulking guitars, yelping vocals and hurtling drums, and is accompanied by one of the weirdest videos you’re likely to see for a while — check it out if you wanted to be thoroughly unnerved.
Loraine James — Simple Stuff
North London artist Loraine James released one of 2019’s most interesting electronic albums with For You And I, and on June 4, she’ll deliver a new full-length called Reflection. This first single is a very promising start: it’s twitchy, stripped down and bassy, finding a deep groove amongst all the fractures of the beat.
Drake — Scary Hours 2
Is it a new Drake album? Not quite — but it’s imminent. In 2018, Drake dropped the Scary Hours EP as a precursor to his full-length record Scorpion, and now he’s delivered Scary Hours 2. It’s a three-track release, featuring Lil Baby and Rick Ross, and seems to indicate that Certified Lover Boy (initially set for January) could be just around the corner. Hold tight.
AJ Tracey — Anxious
It’s usually the birthday boy that gets the presents, but as AJ Tracey celebrates turning 27, he’s gifting us with this brand new track. It’s another top-notch track from the Ladbroke Grove artist, with an hard, icy beat and an exacting flow (proving once again that he can manipulate his flow to just about any rhythm).
St Vincent — Pay Your Way In Pain
Excellent news: one of America’s most brilliantly idiosyncratic artists is returning with a new album. St Vincent will deliver Daddy’s Home on May 14, and has given us the first taste with this new single. It’s a wonked-out, synth-heavy funk track, with coarse, manipulated vocals and slightly surreal lyrics on how modern life is a struggle. It’s good to have her back.
Mychelle — The Way
A mesmerising debut single from Hackney-based artist Mychelle. She was spotted by Idris Elba back in 2019, who in turn asked her to contribute to his Yardie Mixtape project, and it’s easy to see what piqued his interest — this new song showcases an enchanting, searching voice, which floats above an artfully plucked acoustic guitar. Certainly one to watch.
Justin Bieber — Hold On
Those bloody Eighties, eh? They just refuse to go away. The latest megastar to hop on the retro-styled bandwagon is Justin Bieber with his new single Hold On. It’s positively drenched in aesthetics, but that chorus hook is undeniably catchy. It’ll feature on Bieber’s upcoming sixth studio album, Justice, out on March 19.
Yaw Tog, Stormzy, Kwesi Arthur — Sore (Remix)
Last September, 17-year-old Yaw Tog — a leading artist in the asaaka scene of drill artists from the Ghanaian city of Kumasi — set the internet alight with his debut single Sore. It turned heads around the world, including those of Stormzy and Kwesi Arthur. The three artists all link up on this fiery remix of the track. Expect to hear plenty more from this part of West Africa in the coming months.
No Rome with Charli XCX and The 1975 — Spinning
This track is the work of what’s been described by Charli XCX as a newly formed “supergroup” featuring her, Matty Healy’s The 1975 and London-based Filipino artist No Rome. Whether there’s more to come remains to be seen, but judging by this delightfully breezy slice of pop, we certainly hope so. Add it to your “music to dance to post-lockdown” list.
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - Carnage
This is the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis's first collection of songs as a duo outside of film work. Like the last Bad Seeds album, Ghosteen, it’s characterised by Cave’s portentous not-quite-singing being mixed with shimmering, abstract electronics, but there’s a bit more energy here and a few touches that puncture the gravitas. All in all, it's an incredible spontaneous gift.
Julien Baker - Little Oblivions
As a solo artist, across her previous two albums Baker has been all about the lyrics, with minimal backing accompanying her tortured, startlingly open confessionals. On Little Oblivions, forensic self-examination is still a major element, but the music is a whole new, expansive experience.
Jade Bird — Open Up the Heavens
Described by Bird as her “favourite” track on her upcoming album, this new single was recorded in Nashville and a fair bit of that city’s musical heritage seeps in — it’s alive with rattling country-rock riffs and the quivering rasp of her voice. There’s no title or release date for that forthcoming record, but this track has us waiting impatiently.
Wolf Alice — The Last Man on the Earth
Ditching the alt-rock revivalism that won them a Mercury Prize for their 2017 album Visions of a Life, Wolf Alice return with this twinkling piano track. Vocalist Ellie Roswell’s gently sung vocals float above the misty instrumentals, which eventually build up into something that, at one point, resembles the Beatles at their most ballad-ish. The new album, Blue Weekend, arrives on June 11.
Kero Kero Bonito — The Princess and the Clock
Loosely aligned with the hyper-pop cohort — the likes of 100 Gecs, A.G. Cook and Charli XCX — London trio Kero Kero Bonito will release a new EP, Civilisation II, on April 21. This is the lead single, a hyperactive sprint of bombastic synths, offset by Sarah Bonito’s serene vocals. Get ready for the chorus melody to remain stuck in your head all weekend.
Pino Palladino and Blake Mills — Ekuté
Welsh bass master Pino Palladino — session musician for everyone from The Who to D’Angelo — links up with American artist Blake Mills for this intriguing track. It comes across as something like deconstructed Afrobeat, with disembodied limbs of trumpets, guitars, drums and electronics appearing and then disappearing. The full project, Notes with Attachments, is set for March 26.
Ghetts — Conflict of Interest
Other grime artists are more recognisable to casual fans, but few have earned consistent acclaim for as long as Ghetts. On his first album for Warner, may be surprised by the subdued maturity on display here. The old anger returns on political tracks such as IC3 featuring Skepta, but largely, this is slow-moving, sophisticated fare befitting of an elder statesman.
Ariana Grande — Positions (Deluxe)
Five new Ariana tracks for a Friday? Oh, go on then. The ever-productive Grande has dropped a “deluxe” version of her chart-topping album Positions, with five songs added to the tracklist. One of them is the already released remix of 34+35 with Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, while the others are two-minute bursts of the type of smooth, silky R&B we’ve come to know her for.
Moses Boyd — 2 Far Gone feat. Katy B
It’s the south London link-up that not many people saw coming, but boy, does it work. Catford’s jazz supremo Moses Boyd has remixed his track 2 Far Gone with vocals from Peckham’s Katy B. Her smoothly casual contribution is a stellar addition to the track, which bubbles along with dark garage shuffles and rippling tuba.
Mahalia — Jealous feat. Rico Nasty
Mahalia returns with her first piece of new music as the lead artist since last year with this track. The slow R&B groove of the beat is flecked with flamenco-tinged guitars, and US artist Rico Nasty drops in for a verse towards the end. The video, which features Mahalia tinkering with an unsuspecting man’s smart heating system, is worth a watch, too.
Dawn Richard — Bussifame
On April 30, Dawn Richard will release a new album called Second Line: An Electro Revival. According to the New Orleans artist, whose work blends experimental pop, dance and R&B, the record will kick off “a movement to bring pioneering Black women in electronic music to the forefront”. Bussifame is the first step — a bouncy, retro dancefloor delight.
Taylor Swift — Love Story (Taylor’s Version)
The latest development in the who-owns-the-rights-to-Taylor-Swift’s-music saga is here. The master recordings for Swift’s first six albums are currently owned by a private equity firm against her will, so the US artist is re-recording and re-releasing the whole lot. First up, it’s a note-for-note remake of her 2008 country-pop megahit Love Story, re-gifted to the world just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Slowthai — TYRON
On this second album, its title already implying that it’s going to show listeners the real him, the aim is to display definitively how multi-faceted Slowthai is. It arrives in two halves, the A-side featuring seven rowdier songs with titles all in capitals, the flipside filled with lower case, relatively quiet material and some moments of genuine beauty.
Headie One — EDNA (Deluxe)
Not content with the 20 tracks he crammed into his chart-topping album Edna back in October, drill kingpin Headie One is back with a so-called deluxe edition. With eight brand new tracks, it almost feels like a fresh release, carrying on lyrically and sonically where the initial release left off. Burna Boy and RV are among the excellent features.
Dry Cleaning — Strong Feelings
South London post-punk outfit Dry Cleaning will drop their debut album in April, and in the meantime have given us this new single. A grimy bassline and twanging guitars accompany Florence Shaw’s deadpan spoken-word delivery and some ambiguously romantic lyrics (case in point: “I’ve been thinking about eating that hot dog for hours”).
Claud — Super Monster
The first signing to Saddest Factory, the new Dead Oceans imprint helmed by indie-folk favourite Phoebe Bridgers, is 21-year-old Claud. Super Monster is their 13-track debut album, and a fine showcase of their pop-writing charm, packed full of deceptively simple hooks and oh-so-relatable lyrics. Expect a big 2021 for this young artist.
Priya Ragu — Chicken Lemon Rice
2021 feels like a year in desperate need of a banger or two, and Chicken Lemon Rice fits the bill nicely. It comes courtesy of Swiss-Tamil artist Priya Ragu, and it’s a mash-up of various sounds and styles christened by the artist as “ragu wavy”; this joyous track takes in strands of music from Africa, South India and beyond.
Foo Fighters — Medicine at Midnight
Medicine at Midnight, is Foo Fighters' landmark tenth album and was due to be released in 2020 for the 25th anniversary of the band – but there’s nowhere to party. That must frustrate a man who lives for the stage. However, you wouldn’t know it from the nine song line-up here. The headline he’s been offering in interviews is that this is their “dance record”, which isn’t immediately obvious amid the tornado of guitars, but it is consistently brilliant fun.
Black Country, New Road — For the first time
This seven-piece band have built a reputation as unhinged must-sees in a south London scene centred around Brixton’s Windmill venue. This new collection, titled For the First Time, captures a lot of that raw early promise. There are only six songs, but several are epics that stride off in multiple directions at once. Sudden gear changes are frequent, and Lewis Evans’s saxophone frequently catches the listener unawares with a screeching arrival.
Digga D & AJ Tracey — Bringing It Back
Two of Ladbroke Grove’s finest, Digga D and AJ Tracey, come together on this track. Aside from featuring one of the best bars of 2021 yet — “I locked up the food for kids like Boris/ And then I let it go like Rashford,” courtesy of AJ — the song is a real throwback, with a video that recreates the visuals for some of their most famous freestyles from years gone by.
SG Lewis — One More feat. Nile Rodgers
Producer and songwriter SG Lewis’s upcoming album, due out later this month, is largely inspired by the spirit and sound of disco. So who better to get on a track than the disco master himself, Nile Rodgers? The irrepressible 68-year-old lends some trademark guitar funk to this lively new single.
Iceage — The Holding Hand
Copenhagen band Iceage have matured further from their early punk sounds with each record they’ve released. They recently signed to indie label Mexican Summer and dropped this track, which suggests a new album could be on the way — and it’s something to look forward to, judging by the slow, aching excellence of the song.
SOPHIE — Unisil
The music world is mourning the loss of SOPHIE, who passed away in a tragic accident last week. She was a true pioneer in both the underground electronic scene and within the trans community. This brain-scrambling track, produced some years ago but released for the first time just days before she passed, proves just how ahead of her time she was.
Arlo Parks — Collapsed in Sunbeams
A poet as well as a musician, Arlo Parks' debut album begins with a spoken word piece fixated on tiny particulars, and finds her feeding a cat and slicing artichoke hearts. Elsewhere, she’s a careful observer, often one step removed from the story. As a whole, these are songs that offer comfort rather than expressing pain – which could be what we all need the most.
Fredo — Money Talks feat. Dave
When Dave and Fredo linked up for Funky Friday in 2018, it shot straight to number one. Now the duo are back at it with this new single, taken from Fredo’s new album Money Can’t Buy Happiness (also released today). It’s got one of the most interesting UK rap videos we’ve seen in a long time, too, so definitely check that out.
FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again.. — Don’t Judge Me
FKA twigs collaborates with drill kingpin Headie One and producer Fred again.. for this startling new track, which charts the struggles of love and discrimination. The beautiful accompanying video is essential viewing too, with Kara Walker’s Turbine Hall fountain at its heart and featuring cameos from the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, Munroe Bergdorf and Clara Amfo.
Billy Nomates — Heels
An artist to watch for 2021, Bristol-based Billy Nomates will drop a new EP called Emergency Telephone on March. This single, which has an electronic post-punk tinge, is the first taste of what’s to come — it’s a defiant rebuttal of those whose words fail to get to the heart of the matter: “Everything that's been coming out your mouth has been way too delicate/ Ethereal and floating, spirited and effortless.”
Various artists — Indaba Is
The latest release from Gilles Peterson’s globetrotting Brownswood Recording is this extraordinary selection of music from South Africa. Curated by Thandi Ntuli and Siyabonga Mthembu, and recorded in Johannesburg over five days last year, it draws lines from the country’s rich jazz heritage and ends up everywhere from futuristic roots music to doom metal. It’s electrifying.
Ben Howard — What A Day
Working alongside The National’s Aaron Dessner — the producer who helped Taylor Swift to complete her indie-folk transformation last year — Ben Howard will return with his fourth album Collections From The Whiteout on March 26. This sunny first single is brushed ever so faintly with a waft of psychedelia, and arrives alongside a pleasantly absurd video about animal hunters who get a surreal taste of karma.
Squid — Narrator feat. Martha Skye Murphy
Brighton five-piece Squid announced this week that they will drop their highly anticipated debut album Bright Green Field on May 7, and this is the lead single. Sprawling out across eight-and-a-half minutes of wonky, brilliantly disconcerting post-punk, it looks like they won’t be resting on any laurels for the full-length release.
Billie Eilish, Rosalía - Lo Vas A Olvidar
Google Translate at the ready: Billie Eilish has released a new song and she's proving her multilingual credentials. A collaboration with future-flamenco star Rosalía, the lyrics flip between Spanish and English (the title means 'You Will Forget'). It's a powerfully restrained track, both artists showing off the subtleties of their voices over misty instrumentation.
Bicep - Isles
The Belfast-raised, London-based electronic duo Bicep have 10 new songs are complex enough to keep headphone listeners interested but far from passive. “The live version will be much, much harder,” Matt McBriar has promised. One day we’ll hear these songs as they should truly be experienced, but this will do very nicely for now.
Soulwax — A Hero’s Death (Fontaines D.C. remix)
Is there anything this Belgian duo can’t remix? Soulwax have rejigged tracks by Bowie, Dizzee Rascal, Robyn, the Rolling Stones and many others in the past, and now they’ve taken on Fontaines D.C. It takes some skill to transform the Dubliners’ gloomy post-punk into a disco stomper, but they’ve pulled it off.
Years & Years - It’s A Sin
If, like us, you’ve had Pet Shop Boys stuck in your head every time you've read about Russel T. Davies' new TV programme It's A Sin, then this cover might provide an alternative way to scratch the itch other than playing the original on repeat. Performed by the show's lead actor, Olly Alexander of Years & Years, it's a stripped back piano rendition that gets straight to the melancholy heart of the song.
Griff — Black Hole
Named on the shortlist for the BBC’s Sound of 2021 and with the big-bucks major label backing of Warner, this year is looking like it could be a pretty sizeable one for the Hertfordshire teenager. This heart-aching bop is her opening salvo, a piece of tightly written pop with an ever so catchy chorus. Keep your ears peeled.
Weezer — OK Human
The veteran LA rockers will release a new album, Van Weezer, in May, but before then we’ve been given this newly announced record. It’s quite the contrast to that upcoming power-pop release, and instead focuses on tracks built around pianos with lots of lush orchestration, with the strings recorded at Abbey Road.
James Yorkston and the Second Hand Orchestra - The Wide, Wide River
Fife folk musician James Yorkston’s last album, The Route to the Harmonium, took him five years to make, little by little, playing every note. For this one, he recorded four songs in the first day. That’s thanks to a loose approach with new collaborators: the multiple Swedes who comprise The Second Hand Orchestra. Even when the subject matter is bleak, as on There is No Upside, everyone sounds like they’re enjoying themselves immensely.
Ariana Grande - 33+45 Remix feat. Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion
The original album version of this track certainly wasn’t a picture of innocence (as anyone who’s added up the numbers in the title can tell) but now she’s upped the ante with two suitably amorous verses from Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. You couldn’t get a much bigger trio on a track together right now - expect this one to do some hefty numbers.
Lana Del Rey — Chemtrails Over the Country Club
It’s become almost customary for a Lana Del Rey announcement to be accompanied by some controversy (this time it’s been about racial representation on her album cover and comments about the Capitol riots that were supposedly taken out of context) but dig through it all and you’ll find this excellent new track. Minimal pianos, darkly romantic lyrics, restrained vocals — it’s classic Lana.
Shame - Drunk Tank Pink
Across 2017 and 2018, south London quintet Shame were one of the hardest-touring bands in Britain, bringing their scuffed post-punk sound to hundreds of venues and festivals. Drunk Tank Pink bristles with the pent-up aggression of men who aren’t allowed to be loud and shirtless in public any more. The production is incendiary, but there's relative sedateness on Human, for a Minute and epic closer Station Wagon, where the band show a new sonic maturity and rise above the rawness.
Tom Jones — Talking Reality Television Blues
Who saw this coming? Tom Jones is back, and he’s given us a stormy, six-and-a-half-minute blues track with lyrics about how the rise of TV eventually gave us a Trump presidency, all delivered in an ominous, spoken-word baritone. It’s unexpected, but really very good. It’s his take on a Todd Snider song, and will feature on Surrounded By Time, a new covers album due on April 23.
Sleaford Mods - Spare Ribs
Recorded last July, Spare Ribs is very much of its time. Frontman Jason Williamson lays the crosshairs on everyone from the failing Tory Government to “f***ing class tourists” in the music industry. Williamson delivers plenty of Malcolm Tucker-level swearing but it shouldn’t mask the more tender side of his writing, such as his portrait of a small-town childhood on album closer Fishcakes. It’s all squarely matched by Andrew Fearn’s productions, uninterested in varnishing their gritty post-punk surfaces, and in a lot of cases sounding stronger than ever.
Bicep — Sundial
Belfast dance duo Bicep were one of the most popular live acts in the scene before lockdown hit, and their new album Isles, out next Friday, was inspired by those packed-out gigs. In these locked-down times, then, their music is about as close as you’ll get to the dancefloor. Misty vocals and a skittish drumbeat characterise this new single — definitely one for the smoke machines when we’re all back in the club.
Mogwai — Ritchie Sacramento
The Scottish post-rock veterans indulge their poppier, more shoegazey side on this single, the latest taste of their 10th studio album, As The Love Continues (February 19). It’s more tightly structured than a lot of their work, and carries a heartfelt message — penned after the death of Silver Jews’ Dave Berman in 2019, it’s frontman Stuart Braithwaite’s tribute to all the friends who have passed away over the years.
Foo Fighters — No Son of Mine
At the tail end of last year, Foo Fighters released Shame Shame, the first single off their upcoming album. It was a groovy oddball of a track, but this latest installment sees Dave Grohl and the gang stepping back into more familiar territory — it’s a riff-tastic punk rock rager, proving the band haven’t forgotten how to get heavy.
Slowthai — MAZZA feat. A$AP Rocky
Slowthai’s forthcoming album, TYRON, will be split into two halves: the first seven tracks will be lively and hard-hitting, while the following seven will be more subdued and introspective. This simmering new single will make up part of the first cohort, and features a guest verse from US favourite A$AP Rocky.
Kylie & Dua Lipa — Real Groove (Studio 2054 remix)
Two of 2020’s disco saviours, Kylie Minogue and Dua Lipa, come together on this track. It’s a remix of Real Groove, a cut from Minogue’s latest album, with the pair duetting on a floor-filling chorus and an extended instrumental break that’s sure to keep you boogying through the January blues.
Barry Gibb & Friends — Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1
Two decades since the last Bee Gees album, and following the deaths of twin brothers Maurice and Robin Gibb in 2003 and 2012 respectively, oldest brother Barry is finally ensuring that his group’s legacy has the respect it has always deserved. This album sees 12 songs given a classy country-soul makeover, with contributions from the likes of Dolly Parton, Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow.
Nubiyan Twist — If I Know feat. K.O.G
Talking of the January blues, if the Kylie-Dua combo doesn't blow away the cobwebs, this effervescent track surely will. The latest collaboration between Afro-jazz outfit Nubiyan Twist and Ghanaian artist K.O.G., it sparks with Afrobeat and highlife rhythms, resulting in six minutes of gold.
The KLF — Solid State Logik 1
After The KLF vanished from the music world in the early Nineties — a departure that included a notorious BRIT Awards performance, burning a million pounds in cash and deleting their entire back catalogue — the electronic duo have made an unexpected return. They’re in the process of uploading their music onto streaming services, starting with this eight-track collection of their best-known material.
Aaron Frazer — Introducing...
In the soul revival group Durand Jones and the Indications, Jones got top billing but the occasional lead vocals of drummer Aaron Frazer were every bit as captivating. One notable enthusiast was musician-producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who phoned to invite the musician to his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville for an intense week of co-writing and recording, resulting in this delicious debut solo album. Frazer doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, but the music is proof that there’s plenty of value in an old sound done supremely well.
Paul McCartney — McCartney III
Forty years after releasing McCartney II, Paul McCartney has delivered the final installment in the trilogy. The songs here are finely crafted, that effortless way with melody front and centre, and aside from the odd deviation, he never pushes too hard at the traditional stylings of classic pop songwriting. Even with such a rich, full sound, the overall feel is relaxed and freewheeling. Macca's having fun knocking around the house, free from any pressure for these songs to unite an arena, and at his most appealing.
Drive-By Truckers — The New OK
The New OK, released in physical formats today after its appearance on streaming services in October, is the 13th album from Drive-By Truckers — a document of an unlucky year that is as lyrically bleak as their soulful Americana sound is appealing. A kind of optimism arrives late on with a rowdy Ramones cover — an odd fit on a powerful album that has anger as its central emotion.
Hayley Williams — Petals For Armor: Self-Serenades EP
During the quiet days of lockdown, Paramore’s Hayley Williams passed the time by recording a series of acoustic cover versions and posted the so-called “self-serenades” onto Instagram. Now, she’s releasing an EP inspired by exactly that. It’ll feature stripped-down versions of two tracks off her solo debut album from earlier this year, as well as a brand new cut, Find Me Here.
Little Dragon and Moses Sumney — The Other Lover
Moses Sumney released one of the best albums of 2020 with græ, and this latest installment of his work proves he’s still full of creative juice. It’s a collaboration with Swedish outfit Little Dragon, and the two come together perfectly: Sumney’s voice neatly intertwines with Yukimi Nagano’s, and the whole thing builds with grace.
Madlib — Road of the Lonely Ones
It’s a pretty good combo: legendary US hip-hop producer Madlib provides the music and electronic music guru Four Tet chops, edits and arranges it all into an album. The finished product, Sound Ancestors, will arrive in January and this track is the first taste of what’s to come, a moody groove of a track with some typically astute soul sampling from Madlib.
Taylor Swift — Willow remixes
Swiftian devotees have hardly been deprived of new music in 2020 — we’ve had two new albums, Folklore and Evermore (more on that below), both of which were pretty fantastic. But if you’re still craving more, then check out the various remixes of the track Willow that Swift has been putting out. There are three so far, ranging from the kind of synthy pop Swift was known for a few years ago, to something a bit more trip hop-ish.
A Man Who Dreamed
You’ve got until Monday December 28 to see/hear the Chineke! Orchestra give the U.K. premiere of Adolphus Stork’s lovely 1979 work, Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed: In memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr, conducted by Karena Bovell from the Memphis Symphony. Recorded last month at the Royal Festival Hall, now on the Chineke! YouTube channel.
Taylor Swift — Evermore
Surprise! Again! Taylor Swift’s lockdown adventures continued with the news that she has a recorded second secretly written album. Evermore is the “sister record” to July’s Folklore, recorded with the same team swiftly afterwards, Aaron Dessner of the National and Bon Iver included. While so many of us have been waiting for the world to restart, this restless talent has created so much, and so much of it brilliant.
James Blake — Covers EP
Fans requesting covers and then performing them on Instagram was “one of the things keeping me going mentally throughout lockdown,” James Blake said. They sustained many of us too — his rendition of Frank Ocean’s Godspeed was superb, and it’s one of the tracks on this EP comprising Blake’s own takes on other people’s songs.
Nilüfer Yanya — Feeling Lucky
This west London artist swept up plenty of critical adoration for her debut album Miss Universe back in March 2019, and this new EP is her much-anticipated follow-up. The release, led by fizzing single Crash, is going to be relatable for a lot of listeners in 2020, exploring as it does themes of feeling at the mercy of powers beyond our control.
Live at Windmill Brixton — In Between The Lockdowns
In the gap between Lockdown 1 and Lockdown 2, the much-loved grassroots venue Windmill Brixton hosted 77 gigs. Some of the best performances have been immortalised on this 13-track live album, featuring the likes of Black Midi, Squid, Shame and Sorry. It’s all excellent, and available to buy on Bandcamp, with proceeds split equally between the venue and local charity Brixton Soup Kitchen.
My Albion, BBC Radio 4
This fascinating four-part radio series sees NTS host, DJ and audio producer Zakia Sewell embark on a quest for her own “Albion”. How exactly that’s defined is an ongoing question, but in the process of answering it she explores her own identity as a mixed-race woman, and interrogates themes of land ownership, culture, belonging and more. It’s all punctuated by folk music artefacts and a cast of enlightening interviewees. Catch up on BBC Sounds.