Can I just say, this autumn’s music line-up looks utterly, irrevocably fantastic. Next week we have the fourth album in just over a year from the prodigious BROCKHAMPTON, followed swiftly by alt-J‘s bizarre remixing of last year’s Relaxer to feature artists such as Pusha T and Danny Brown, then further down the line we have promised new music from The 1975, Muse and even Childish Gambino to look forward to. September’s already started strong with the outstanding Joy As An Act Of Resistance from IDLES (see more on that one below), but this is the week that it all really gets going. Freshers issue cover stars Pale Waves have finally released their debut album, inexorable electronic/dance group Jungle have dropped an insatiably funky sophomore record, Lana Del Rey returns with her first single from her upcoming sixth studio album, and much, much more.
Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises
A handful of exceptional singles, alongside rave reviews of their support slots alongside The 1975 at the tail-end of last year, earned pop-rock quarted Pale Waves – who may look like peak My Chemical Romance but who sound closer to Fickle Friends – a place on our List of 2018, as well as fifth place in BBC’s Sound of 2018 shortlist. With that acclamation came heavy anticipation for new music this year, anticipation that was superbly met in March when the group gave us a taste of their debut EP, All The Things I Never Said. Of course, what we really craved was a debut album. Finally, it’s here, “and you certainly will not be disappointed,” according to our reviewer Jo Lisney.
My Mind Makes Noises takes what made Pale Waves’ electric EP so incredible and stretches it out to a full-length, 51-minute LP of staggering ’80s synthpop sublimity. “There is a song for every mood,” says our reviewer, from pre-night-out bangers such as ‘Red’, ‘Drive’ and ‘Television Romance’, to “melancholy but still beautiful” acoustic ballads like ‘Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like to Die)’. Throughout, lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie (who we were lucky enough to chat to recently) displays consistently powerful vocals to compliment the terrific instrumentation afforded by Ciara Doran’s drums, Charlie Wood’s enticing bass and Hugo Silvani’s encapsulating guitar riffs. Make no mistake: My Mind Makes Noises is the pop-rock record to define your autumn.
Jungle – For Ever
Jungle have a knack of fusing late ’70s funk and soul with contemporary dance and electronic beats whilst injecting that little bit of groove to produce the kind of kaleidoscopic jams that are fully reflective of the cultural melting-pot that is their home city of London. With For Ever, the group’s follow-up to their 2014 self-title debut, they have crammed an LP full of such ludicrously funkadelic tunes that desperately invite you to move along to the music – and with hit tracks like ‘Heavy, California’ and ‘Happy Man’, who can resist? Swapping sirens for dulcet bass guitar and dub echoes for operatic choirs, For Ever‘s vividly alive soundscape feels safer than that of their debut, yet no less seductive; a self-assured rebuke to the notion of a “difficult second album” if ever there was one.
IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
Okay, we’re a bit late on this one, but by god, it HAS to be mentioned. Very recently, I had the pleasure of seeing IDLES live and living their best life at End Of The Road Festival. After a fabulous set from the talented Ezra Furman, festival-goers rushed to the gloomy, smoky big top tent for what promised to be an intense performance from one of the most promising UK acts around. Their popularity was overwhelming– queues stretched out of each entrance to the tent, the crowd peering into the dark from a distance as the band took to the stage for opening track ‘Colossus’. Their set was electric, songs new and old proving hits with legions of fans clambering over each other to chant about Mary Berry’s love of reggae.
Their setlist was mostly made up of new songs – a risky move for such a new band – but one that paid off as the crowd caught onto this next generation of IDLES – their album seeking solutions to the problems of Brutalism, an ode to positivity and unity in the face of oppression. Joy As An Act of Resistance is a triumph in every sense – a fabulously aggressive and deeply funny punk album with acceptance and love as its core ethos. ‘Danny Nedelko’ tackles immigration, ‘Samaritans’ takes on toxic masculinity and ‘Rotweiler’ spars with the ugly side of the British press. On personal favourite ‘Never Fight a Man With A Perm’, vocalist Joe Talbot takes on ‘that guy’– with such wonderful lyrics as ‘you’re not a man you’re a gland / you’re one big neck with sausage hands / you are a Topshop tyrant / even your haircut’s violent’ set to a churning, meaty guitar section.
IDLES are the definition of a ‘band to watch’ – their blend of biting British cynicism meshing perfectly with their punk aesthetic and creating one of the best albums of the year so far. Joy As An Act of Resistance charted at number four in the UK on its week of release – proving that this kind of positivity is exactly what’s needed in these trying times – a colossal hit for the band and one of the GREATest albums of the year, without a doubt.
Khalid – ‘Better’
Ah, Khalid. Since smashing onto the scene with last year’s beautifully tender American Teen, the Texas crooner has kept us hooked with a steady stream of singles ranging from his compassionate feature on Logic‘s ‘1-800-273-8255’ to the current chart-topping banger ‘Eastside’. “Nothing feels better than this,” he sings in ‘Better’, his latest track in a long line of singles, but unfortunately, I’m inclined to disagree. While far from bad, ‘Better’ showcases nothing new from the artist, which wouldn’t be so bad if it were album filler, but which results in a disappointingly generic single. Nonetheless, expect it to play well on Radio 1, Capital FM and across freshers playlists in the days and weeks to come.
Ray BLK – ‘Empress’
BBC Sound of 2017 winner Ray BLK returned with a bang (no pun intended) in early August with the truly exceptional ‘Run Run’ warning against the dangers of gun crime. Just over five weeks later, she’s back with ‘Empress’, an enticing new single that could not be more different than her previous effort. While ‘Run Run’ was raucus, in-your-face and electrifying, ‘Empress’ scales things back, playing on the acoustic end with Ray singing almost a capella. That only serves to emphasize her lyrics – beautifully carried by her accomplished vocals – singing of female empowerment and knowing your worth: “I don’t want to settle for less / ‘Cause I’m an empress / Got to big up my chest / Even if it hurts / When a woman knows her worth.” More sublime stuff from one of the queens of modern R&B.
The 1975 – ‘Sincerity is Scary’
Art pop quartet The 1975’s self-titled debut was a little samey, let’s be honest. Although it featured one or two certified bangers, the rest of the record fades a little bit into obscurity with hindsight. Their 2016 follow-up (which featured a name so ridiculously long I’m not even going to mention it) pushed the boat out a bit as the band started experimenting with their sound, featuring a puzzlingly philisophical mid-section that landed the record on many best-of-year lists come December (including third-place on ours). Given the direction the group have been going, it’s therefore no surprise that the latest single off their upcoming third album is also by far their most experimental, featuring smooth sax and trumpet juxtaposed against clunky percussion and piano. It’s an interesting sound that takes some getting used to, but one that promises a delightfully curious album come the end of November.
Dizzee Rascal – Don’t Gas Me EP
Yep, Dizzee Rascal is back. Don’t Gas Me is, in the grime pioneer’s own words, “five banging tracks that are completely different but, apart from one, all produced by” himself. Listening to the 18-minute record, it’s hard to disagree. From the joyful liberation of the title track, Don’t Gas Me meanders into a sophisticated hotel lobby after-party in ‘Quality’, and from there into the Skepta-produced (and -featuring) hard-hitter ‘Money Right’ and beyond. It’s a brilliant return to form from one of grime’s longest-serving MCs.
Mothers – Render Another Ugly Method
Mothers’ 2016 debut When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired manages to effortlessly swing between achingly delicate indie folk and crunching alt rock tension in a heartbeat – each track feeling like a bubbling cauldron of emotion that spills at the edges and bursts at the seams. With their new album Render Another Ugly Method, Mothers change their approach incrementally, with detuned guitars and swampy song structures providing an overwhelming sense of gloom and dread at every turn.
It’s difficult to place praise onto an album like this as it doesn’t exactly create a friendly environment for its audience – instead choosing to dwell in more uncomfortable listening and grounded upset than its ultimately hopeful progenitor. The shift in focus ripples through the lineup of the band as well – with Kristine Leschper’s fragile vocals less of the ‘shining star’ of the album, taking a backseat to more peculiar instrumentation and what the band has described as a ‘collage approach’ to making music.
Particular highlights on the album include ‘PINK’, a mire of a song that droops and wilts as it surges towards a chorus that never happens – finally ending in a crescendo of blasted-out fuzz and frenetic drumming. ‘FAT CHANCE’ is a song that the band has played in various forms over the years, and finally makes its debut on Render Another Ugly Method as a reworked, irregular and unnerving ballad that closes the album off perfectly. In between are a series of songs that pass like stormclouds over their listener – each one rolling into the next to paint a portrait of discomfort and depression. Cheery stuff.
Lana Del Rey – ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’
This one surprised me. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest Lana Del Rey fan – I feel much of her music is overproduced to the point of obscuring the quality of her vocals or the instrumentation – but with ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’, there’s little to dislike, and so much to love. Gone is the overproduction, with Lana teaming up with Jack Antonoff (of fun. and Bleachers fame) to deliver by far her most stripped-back track for as long as I can remember. Instead, we are invited to dwell on the delicate, slowly swelling instrumentation, led by soft acoustic guitar that grows into an intensely affecting string orchestra. Lana’s vocals grow appropriately with the music, eventually manifesting into a beautiful crescendo of two lovers tragically out of touch with each other. ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ was not something I would have initially gone for given the wealth of fantastic music out this week, but it may well turn out to be my favourite release of the last seven days, and it has me remarkably excited for Lana Del Rey’s upcoming 2019 album Venice Bitch.
Selected Other Releases
6lack – East Atlanta Love Letter
Aphex Twin – Collapse EP
Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty
David Guetta – 7
Eric Clapton – Transmission Impossible
Good Charlotte – Generation RX
Sleaford Mods – Sleaford Mods EP
Black Eyed Peas – ‘Big Love’
Bloxx – ‘Monday’
Django Django – ‘Swimming At Night’
Dolly Parton & Sia – ‘Here I Am’
James Hype ft. Craig David – ‘No Drama’
LANY – ‘Thick and Thin’
Lemaitre – ‘Big’
Maria Carey – ‘GTFO’
Odesza – ‘Loyal’
Rushes – ‘Liqour’
The Ting Tings – ‘BlackLight’
This Week In Records: Playlist Edition
The Spotify playlist is back! Follow our shiny Spotify playlist for The Edge‘s picks of what new music deserves to be on your radar each and every week.