It’s Monday. Lectures have started for yet another year, you’re probably still nursing a post-freshers headache and, if you’re anything like me, you’re looking for a pick-me-up to get you ready and raring to go for everything this autumn has to offer. Fortunately, the music gods-that-be have been listening: the last few days have been a bumper week in terms of new musical releases. From the alternative to the mainstream, the bizarre to the wonderful, there’s something new for everyone to get their teeth sunk into this week in records.
Kodaline – Politics Of Living
If you’re not a keen follower of Irish pop-rock group Kodaline, you probably best know them for their exceptionally heartfelt 2012 song ‘All I Want’, or perhaps ‘Raging’ – their 2016 collaboration with Kygo. If you’re more a fan of the latter, then new album Politics of Living will have you entranced: taking more of an electronic route following the success of their 2016 collaboration, Kodaline have found a balance between organic and synthetic instrumentation, augmenting their swelling choruses with the build-ups, peaks and drops of dance music. That’s not to say there’s no time for more mellow melodies: standout track ‘Angel’ tones things down in touching manner as the group pay tribute to a teenager who tragically passed away following their 2016 gig at Dublin’s Marlay Park. But by-and-large, throughout the invigorating synths and rippling guitar riffs that cascade over tracks like ‘Follow Your Fire’ and ‘Worth It’, there’s much for fans of ‘Raging’ to adore – but also much for those who prefer the gentle, organic growth of ‘All I Want’ to be turned off by. It’s an interesting change of pace from the group, and one that will leave fans with much to chew on.
Cher – Dancing Queen
As an ABBA superfan, this one feels a little blasphemous. Even if it seems a match made in heaven – legendary pop icon Cher taking on some of legendary pop superstars ABBA’s greatest hits – I find it hard to imagine anyone else singing those timeless tracks, from the titular ‘Dancing Queen’ to ‘Waterloo’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and beyond. Not so for our reviewer Ben Dolbear, who dubbed the album “ABBA-solutely Fabulous” in his five-star review: “Cher takes us through every emotion and depth of feeling, and if I am not hearing this album on the disco floor for years to come, I will be sorely disappointed.”
I must admit it’s more than somewhat bizarre to hear Cher’s contralto vocals on top of the mostly-untouched instrumentation when I’m so used to the original tracks, but to her credit, Cher manages to pull it off with aplomb. Although the instrumentation is largely the same as for the tracks she has adapted, added layers of mixing and mastering make them sound definitively Cher’s, and definitively more funky. It’s something that our reviewer picked up in his review, praising how Cher’s take on ‘The Winner Takes It All’ “sets an original tone perfectly through her characteristic leaning on the vocoder which catapults those unmatched powerhouse pipes into the cosmos, giving the listener a fresh perspective of resilience and autonomy to this traditionally desperate and defeatist heartbreak song.” Dancing Queen may be one of the more surprising releases this week, but one that is well worth checking out for any self-respecting Cher or ABBA fan.
Muse – ‘Pressure’
Say what you like about Muse, but they just keep on going. They may have failed to reach the critical heights of their ’00s heyday since the turn of the decade, but I must admit – they are a bit of a guilty pleasure. So it proves with ‘Pressure’, their latest single ahead of eighth album Simulation Theory, out November 9th. This one’s far jammier, far more catchy, and far rockier than anything else we’ve been teased to ahead of the album so far, and, to be honest, I kinda dig it. In fact, I dig it probably more than any of the other Simulation singles. It just hits that spot, ya know?
The Japanese House – ‘Lilo’
Could there ever be a more apt title for a song than that of the serene new single from The Japanese House? The opening 35 seconds are almost like a soundtrack to a lazy day in the pool, and the tempo hardly ratchets up once Amber Brain’s deliberately mellow vocals step in. Yet, without you really noticing it, the track slowly unfurls in front of you – in much the same way as the real-life relationship the song was inspired by fell apart as Brain was writing it. By the end, you’ve felt the timeline of a fleeting romance throughout four minutes: love, joy and carefree tranquility, but also heartbreak and despair.
alt-J – REDUXER
Last year, hit indie trio alt-J took a swift departure towards the experimental in RELAXER, a bewitching collection of indecipherable tracks that had many reviewers scratching their heads. In REDUXER, they get more experimental still, remixing their 2017 record alongside an array of hip-hop artists such as Pusha-T, Danny Brown and Little Simz to create a kaleidoscopic album of mixed results. On the one hand, adding instrumentation and verses imbues some tracks with surprising meaning and depth – see the Pusha-T & Twin Shadow remix of ‘In Cold Blood’, or the Danny Brown remix of ‘Deadcrush’ for example. But sometimes the new tracks collapse under the weight of the combined reinterpretation by alt-J and the artists they feature, leaving half of the album with much to be desired. In our three-star review, we explain that the inconsistent tracklist of remixes “leaves REDUXER feeling even more confused and lost as its predecessor, with its scintillating highs matched equally by its nauseating lows.”
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! Remixes
Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake! is one of the best albums to come out this year – a vibrant and politically charged album of back-to-back bangers whose catchy choruses have not left my ears (or turntable) since its release in early May. But wait, there’s more! Not content with creating their danciest album yet, Andrew Savage and his band of merry men have decided to gift upon the world a brief EP of remixes, each of its three tracks taking scissors and glue to every off-kilter riff and fervent yelp the band has up their sleeves.
Whilst nothing revolutionary, this EP does do a good job of re-interpreting Parquet Courts’ work on Wide Awake!, and if anything serves as a reminder of just how bloody brilliant the album was in the first place. The highlight here is certainly ‘Normalisation (Collective Witnessing Mix)’, a complete reimagining of the original track that’s almost unrecognisable save for Andrew Savage’s iconic monotone vocals. Listening to this version sounds like wading through a Parquet Courts fever-dream, created by a DJ who accidentally let the album fall into his box of club bangers. Exciting stuff.
All Them Witches – ATW
A band who are perhaps off the beaten path when it comes to rock, Nashville’s All Them Witches have grown steadily since releasing their first album in 2012. Now on album number six, the self-titled ATW finds them reinventing themselves somewhat, scaling back the huge basslines and imposing psychedelic soundscapes that have so characterised their music up until this point. Instead, we are faced with riffs so ridiculously catchy (see the last two minutes of bizarrely-titled ‘Fishbelly 86 Onions’) and drum beats so precisely powerful that it’s almost impossible not to turn the speakers up to 11 and let the music wash over you. The pinnacle of it all is the superb ‘Diamond’, a colossus of a track that feels fresh yet familiar all at once, slowly growing and growing to the mother of all crescendos that haunts me to this day. Goosebumps.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘Hanoi 6’
Ruben Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra teased us with the idea of a second album this year, and whilst not a conventional release, IC-01 Hanoi seems to be an intriguing prospect, backed already by an excellent single. Hanoi 6 is the single in question, a long, loping instrumental that features all sorts of instrumentation (digeridoo anyone?) building to a frantic, dizzying free-jazz conclusion that would make Frank Zappa proud.
The album it’s from, IC-01 Hanoi is slated to be an entirely instrumental affair, perhaps similar to the SB series that the band has put out every year since their inception. IC-01 is born from the sessions leading up to their latest effort Sex and Food, which itself was born out of the SB-05 EP. Confused yet? I sure am. What all this relaying of creative ideas should lead to is an album that continues to warp and alter the motifs of Sex and Food in new and exciting ways – giving us a cross-section of UMO’s creative process this year. The album will reportedly feature heavy Vietnamese music influences, as well as Nielson’s father, Chis, contributing Saxophone, keyboards and… flugelhorn? The range of influence is already on full display throughout Hanoi 6, and I can only hope that we’ll see similar creative energy across the album.
Logic – YSIV
The fourth – and last, if he’s to be believed – of Logic‘s mixtapes under the Young Sinatra alter-ego, YSIV allows the Maryland MC to continue indulging his love of boom-bap, bringing his own slick production and lyricism to the kind of beats that so characterised the late-’80s/early-’90s rap landscape. He’s absolutely electric on ‘Everybody Dies’ and ‘The Return’, delightfully dexterous on ‘ICONIC’ and brings the party to ‘One Day’. But the stand-out is absolutely the eight-minute epic ‘Wu Tang Forever’, more of a Wu-Tang Clan song than a Logic song if we’re honest – but one that will truly enchant hip-hop purists, seeing all surviving members of the Clan reunite and simply demonstrate why they’re so legendary over brutal instrumentation with deft lyricsim and shrewd delivery. As with any Logic record, there’s plenty of contemplating over race, self-image and dreams, but the pervading feeling is one of fun – from the funky beats and rapid flow over ‘100 Miles and Running’ to his sheer vocal performance and features of fan recordings in ‘Thank You’: Logic may say this is his last time out as Young Sinatra, but it’s hard to see him dropping the moniker anytime soon.
Selected Other Releases
Beartooth – Disease
The Joy Formidable – AAARTH
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V
Sigala – Brighter Days
Barbra Streisand – ‘Don’t Lie To Me’
The Chemical Brothers – ‘Free Yourself’
DJ Snake ft. Selena Gomez, Cardi B & Ozuna – ‘Taki Taki’
Duke Dumont – ‘Runway’
Jess Glynne – ‘123’
Kojo Funds ft. Giggs – ‘PNG’
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – ‘Shallow’
LAUV & Julia Michaels – ‘There’s No Way’
Little Simz – ‘Boss’
Major Lazer ft. Mr Eazi, RAYE & Jake Gosling – ‘Tied Up’
Olly Murs ft. Snoop Dogg – ‘Moves’
The Prodigy – ‘Light Up The Sky’
Rak-Su – ‘I Want You To Freak’
Robyn – ‘Honey’
St Vincent – ‘Slow Slow Disco’
This Week In Records: Playlist Edition
Want to listen to all of this musical goodness? Follow our shiny Spotify playlist for The Edge‘s picks of what new music deserves to be on your radar each and every week.