Where to begin this week? After a slightly slow start to the year, we’re finally being treated to oodles of new music from every which direction. Long-time indie legends The Wombats return with their fourth studio album, which by all accounts is set to be a banger. Psychedelic synth rockers MGMT also have a fourth album out; time will tell whether Little Dark Age will help them escape the little dark age they’ve been in since the startling success of 2007’s Oracular Spectacular. Meanwhile, James Bay returns with his first new music since 2015’s terrific Chaos and the Calm. It’s all rather exciting – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg – so let’s stop rambling and just dig into it, shall we?
The Wombats – Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
I don’t think my teenage years would’ve been complete without The Wombats. Experts at capturing teenage angst through Matthew Murphy‘s pushy vocals and classic indie guitars, the Liverpudlian trio bring a weird kind of surety to the 16-year-old mind. Having grown up listening to ‘Moving To New York’ and ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ and with the entirety of Glitterbug played on repeat during my first year of university, imagine my excitement when it was announced we would be graced with another album from my indie favourites. Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life marks a definite continuation of the band’s sound, but I’m yet to decide whether this is a good thing or not. The Wombats have certainly played it safe with their fourth studio album, yet is that not what I secretly wanted? ‘Lemon To A Knife Fight’ was the perfect comeback single, but following on from that, the other tracks failed to pack the same punch. I’d say if you’re coming to this album expecting the same punchiness of ‘Greek Tragedy’ you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you come with it to an open mind you’ll definitely find a few gems in there.
MGMT – Little Dark Age
When you think of MGMT, you think of summertime electro-indie hits ‘Kids’, ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Time To Pretend’. Those tracks propelled the Connecticut duo to superstardom almost overnight; you couldn’t play the radio for over an hour without hearing at least one of them in the late ’00s. Since then, the band has struggled to reach such heights: 2010’s Congratulations and 2013’s self-titled MGMT took them further into the synthy-psychedelic soundscape they had explored in 2007’s Oracular Spectacular, but received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and lacked any killer singles.
So when ‘Little Dark Age’, their first single in five years, dropped in October last year – and it was good – suddenly heads were turning again. Could a return to the limelight finally be on the cards for MGMT? Well – maybe. Little Dark Age is decidedly more bizarre and gothic than those super-hits of ‘Kids’, ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Time To Pretend’, but don’t let that put you off. Although it is a very strange album, it is also a very engaging and entertaining one that subverts your expectations with every track. The psychedelic synth rockers may have taken a while to truly find their footing again following the surprising success of their debut album, but Little Dark Age finally sees them back in their stride. The future doesn’t look so dark any more for these most mercurial of performers.
Calvin Harris ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR – ‘Nuh Ready Nuh Ready’
Back with his first new tune since the release of Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, Calvin Harris has returned with ‘Nuh Ready Nuh Ready’, a tropical sounding track which features Canadian rapper, PARTYNEXTDOOR. Carrying on the trend of big collaborations, Harris’ latest track doesn’t maintain the same level of production found on the string of number 1 singles he released last year, yet it’s likely to fit snugly in any DJ set. There’s not much more to say on this record and let that be an indicator of its relevancy…
James Bay – ‘Wild Love’
James Bay has returned and is sporting a fresh new haircut to celebrate. Chopping off his luscious locks in favour of an on-the-shoulder number, the singer/songwriter is making a comeback with his first single since 2015’s Chaos And The Calm, ‘Wild Love’. The first to come from his unnamed sophomore album, ‘Wild Love’ sees Bay return with his trademark folky sound, but this time with the addition of some synthesizers and electronics. Speaking in a statement Bay talked about the meaning behind the track: “‘Wild Love’ is about the experience of falling for someone…Whether it’s the person you can’t keep your eyes off across the room, or in my experience, the person you don’t stop thinking about wherever you are in the world”. A track with a lovely sentiment, some pretty stellar vocals and something new, I think Bay has fared pretty well with ‘Wild Love’.
Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, & SZA – Black Panther: The Album
Rarely am I ever so excited for a film soundtrack as I am for for the TDE-curated and Kendrick Lamar-produced Black Panther: The Album. Although the pressure to align the themes explored in each track with the themes explored in the film have constrained the lyricism and performances of the featured artists somewhat, each of the three singles released prior to this album have been fantastic. ‘All The Stars’ was an intensely powerful R&B ballad that really showcased everything we love about SZA. ‘King’s Dead’ featured some of the biggest names in rap and miraculously gave each of them plenty of room to breathe above some brutally raw production. ‘Pray for Me’ is commendable purely for that punching bassline and The Weeknd‘s terrific vocals. With stars like Jorja Smith, Vince Staples and Khalid featuring on the rest of the album, this certainly seems like one worth playing on repeat as we anticipate the release of the film it accompanies on Tuesday.
Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
Franz Ferdinand are such mainstays in the indie rock scene that it’s practically a given that their fifth studio album Always Ascending will be a success. Their trademark anthemic rock sound is perfect the perfect soundtrack to chilling in the summer sun, grabbing a kebab on the night bus home, and everything else in between. This may be their first album since losing long-time guitarist Nick McCarthy to Julian Corrie and Dino Bardot but, if the three singles released in anticipation are anything to go by, that fortunately hasn’t meant the band have taken their foot off the pedal one bit. They may not be quite at the forefront of British rock any more, but with Always Ascending Franz Ferdinand prove that they can still make sleek, catchy and thoroughly enjoyable tunes.
The Magic Gang – ‘Getting Along’
The gang have knocked it out the park again with their latest single. ‘Getting Along’ perfectly demonstrates exactly why they made it onto our list for 2018: punchy, dynamic, and oh-so-catchy, this one has us very excited indeed for their debut self-titled album, due for release on March 16. Keep an eye on these guys. They’re truly something special.
Selected Other Releases
MIST – Diamond in the Dirt
Various Artists – Fifty Shades Freed
Beauty Sleep – ‘The Feeling Back’
ELIZA – ‘Livid’
Grace Carter – ‘Silhouette’
Jay Sean – ‘Emergency’
Marshmello & Anne-Marie – ‘Friends’
Marsicians – ‘Wake Up Freya’
Ne-Yo – ‘Good Man’
Nilufer Yanya – ‘Thanks 4 Nothing’
Noah Cyrus ft. MØ – ‘We Are…’
Peace – ‘Power’
Rae Sremmurd – ‘T’d Up’
Rothwell – ‘Velvet Heart’
Sam Fender – ‘Friday Fighting’
Snny – ‘Let’s Not Pretend’
Ten Tonnes – ‘Lay It On Me’
The Aces – ‘Volcanic Love’
This Week In Records: Playlist Edition
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