It’s a testament to Maggie Rogers’ songwriting that I considered three of the four songs from her debut EP for this. ‘On + Off’ is the one I keep coming back to though. At her debut gig in London earlier this year, the crowd sang the chorus to this track prompting a flabbergasted Rogers to lose her momentum and train of thought. It was a cute moment but it was rooted in recognition of the song being a cracker that resonated more than she expected.
Stormzy – ‘Cold’
Grime 2017 belongs to Stormzy. ‘Cold’ is a standout on Gang Signs & Prayers and it’s the stabbing sinogrime beat and Stormzy’s energy that keeps this on repeat. It has grime’s first wave sound exemplified by Roll Deep in its DNA.
Aldous Harding – ‘Horizon’
The most intense song of 2017 so far? The New Zealand artist’s debut was heralded by this sustained note torch song and its live performances only heightened its inherent drama.
Overcoats – ‘Leave The Light On’
It’s an absolute pleasure to hear the progress of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell’s music as Overcoats. Two years ago, the New Yorkers spent the summer in Ireland and made a dent on the scene with their minimal harmonic-lead songs. Now with an Autre Ne Veut-produced album due on Arts & Crafts out, the duo have bolstered that folk harmony synergy with some technicolour magic. ‘Leave A Light On’ is indicative of the urgency they have brought to their craft.
SZA -‘Drew Barrymore’
A surprise, long overdue release from SZA, who spent years shining through guest features and once-off releases, and comes up trumps with CTRL, an album of conflicted lust, intimacy, self-worth and self-esteem issues. ‘Drew Barrymore’ is an easy in to the album as a whole, with SZA confronted with her ex-partner’s new girl and sees her insecurities and flaws back at her – ‘I’m sorry I’m not more attractive / I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike / I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night.” The chorus is both empowering and insecure at the same time.
Dermot Kennedy – ‘Glory’
One of those songs which stops you in your tracks. Irishman Kennedy’s ‘Glory’ grows from a dark folk tone, from a hush to a howl as the track grows in stature and sound, subtly bringing in electronic-tinged touches and vocal effects as the song builds to the chorus and crescendo with production alchemy. A headturner.
The xx – ‘Dangerous’
A highlight from the xx’s third album, that also works well while DJing. ‘Dangerous’ is I See You‘s opening track and embraces the textured sampled approach that Jamie xx utilised on solo album In Colour. ‘Dangerous’ arrives with sampled horns, percussive beats and an immediacy that ushers the xx mk III.
Vince Staples – ‘Yeah Right’
‘Yeah Right’, from Staples second album Big Fish Theory encapsulates how different this album is and how much of a sonic weapon Staples has deployed throughout. Producer Sophie’s clattering fizzling metallic production is like a vehicular juggernaut with some distorted bass tones, Kilo Kish provides otherworldy vocals and Kendrick Lamar kills the whole thing in a verse.
Run The Jewels – ‘Call Ticketron’
The sickest beat on RTJ3. ‘Call Ticketron’ is a 21st century take on ‘It Takes Two,’ a thrill ride with El-P and Killer Mike.
Daphni – ‘Tin’
‘Tin’ is a euphoric reminder from Daphni’s upcoming Fabriclive mix of how good Dan Snaith aka Caribou is at creating warm and resonating dance music.
The New Zealand Aldous Harding has developed a reputation for intense performances and that was clearly in evidence last night during her wide-eyed performance of ‘Horizon’ on Later with Jools Holland. The song is a highlight from her recommended album Party.
You’re very likely already at least five listens deep to this album seeing as it came out a couple of weeks ago but I couldn’t let my recommended album post pass without a nod to the Canadian king of slacker indie-pop, whose albums rarely deviate but which offer immense comfort in its meandering and superbly-written arrangements . DeMarco is a better songwriter than his reputation suggests and This Old Dog is proof.
Favourite tracks: ‘For The First Time’, ‘My Old Man’, ‘Baby You’re Out’
This New Zealand artist’s John Parish-produced album for 4AD is a particular weighty listen. There shades of vintage alt-folk, orchestral ballads and intense singer-songwriter confessionals. ‘Party’ lulls you in with a lustful touch and dependence, Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas contributes on subtle torch song ‘Imagining My Man’ while the close-mic finger-pick of ‘I’m So Sorry’ and the outward sustained notes of ‘Horizon’ are highlights. This is an intimate journey from an artist who feels on the cup of something bigger.
Favourite tracks: ‘Party’, ‘Imagining My Man’, ‘Horizon’.
Perennial New York dance-punk party band !!! (chk chk chk) can be relied on to bring the looped sample disco punk-funk rhythms and their seventh album recorded at their studio in Brooklyn doesn’t deviate too much from their established pattern, except in the vocal department where a rotating cast of female singers bring the heat including Lea Lea, Meah Pace, Nicole Fayu, Cameron Mesirow (Glasser) and Molly Schnick. Throw shade and shake the shudder away.
Favourite tracks: ‘Dancing Is The Best Revenge’, ‘The one 2’, ‘NRGQ’.
English producer Matthew Barnes releases his first Forest Sword album of textured electronic instrumentals (with sampled vocals) in 4 years. There’s a sound world vibe to the release, as if it was constructed to soundtrack to an imaginary place, removed from linear time. Remember that old PC game – Myst? Compassion feels like it could work as an alternative soundtrack to that world. That makes sense, Barnes recently composed music for the Assassin’s Creed game an is planning multidisciplinary projects in dance, performance, film and music to augment this album.
One of the appeals of Girlpool’s early work was its amateur minimalism, it’s nascent development. Leo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s didn’t have a drummer and it worked for them. For album two on Anti records, a drummer has been added and their more extreme vocals seem to be have been dampened. On first listen, Girlpool may sound more like every other indie-rock band now but there’s a charm to what they do. Powerplant reminds me of the music of the Breeders. Only time and more listens with it will tell if it’s a keeper.
From Valerie Teicher’s Friday album release Crawl Space is a minimally-lit bass and vocal track that swings with R&B and electronic verve AND sounds like Prince.
As Teicher says “Justify is a kind of protest song against the way in which we are categorized or judged by others based off of very superficial or one dimensional standards. It came from a place of rebellion against the insecurities and pressures that come into play when you put yourself in a position to be defined by another. For me the song is a challenge against that musically and emotionally.”
Aldous Harding feat. Perfume Genius – ‘Imagining My Man’
Like the previously featured ‘Horizon’ from the New Zealand singer-songwriter, ‘Imagining My Man’ from her 4AD debut John Parish-produced Party (Mat 17th) is a subtle and intense torch song and features Perfume Genius’s Mike Hadreas (even subtler). Angel Olsen and Julia Holter would be close references to the sound made here. Aldous Harding is increasingly sounding like a trailblazing artist.
Search Party Animal – ‘Evergreen’
The band formerly known as Bagels, have made a significant move up with their new single under new name Search Party Animal. It’s still very early days but this is a step in a direction that marks them apart.
Wastee – ‘Candy’
Diolmhain Ingram Roche has been making a name for himself as Wastefellow but Wastee is a more club-orientated sound that draws from drum and bass, post-dub and synth electronica. ‘Candy’ is the project’s first single, a wavey squiggly song of deep bass proportions and digital styles. An EP is coming on the LyxLiv label.
All We Are – ‘Burn It All Out’
All We Are’s debut album for Domino brought an Irishman, a Norwegian and a Brazilian together to make slinky harmony-filled guitar pop music. ‘Burn It All Out’ is a departure from that sound, a more intense and layered suggestion that album #2 is going to be quite different despite the sweetness inherent on the song. it features production by Kwes.
Soulwax – ‘Is It Always Binary’
I’m a sucker for dry disco drums and not many people do that better (other than close cohorts DFA) than Soulwax. From DeeWee is their new album all recorded in one-take in their Belgian studio and ‘Is It All Binary’ features the work of two drummers including Iggor Cavalera and features the Soulwax the headspinning synth trademark like their brilliant release Nite Versions.
Cinema feat. Chris Leech – ‘Floating’
Kildare producer Peter Fleming aka Cinema released an under the radar electronic album A Night Train To Budapest last year that was bright, Balearic and luminescent.
‘Floating’ is his first new song since all that activity and it’s a natural departure from the LP. Featuring vocals from Le Boom’s Christy Leech and production by Ruairi Bantum, ‘Floating’ has a focused electronic sound that sounds more contemporary but hasn’t lost that spacious disco chug that makes the music under the Cinema moniker swing.
‘Odyssey’ is the new single, from his forthcoming debut album Wild Alee, out on April 21st. It’s a beautiful and brittle modern electronic ballad, produced by Talos and Ross Dowling.
Jafaris – ‘Love Dies’
Percy Chamburuka aka Jafaris is a rapper and singer with ambition, and is part of the burgeoning new generation of hip-hop artists in Ireland. Formerly known as Profound, Jafaris is one of the most promising of the lot. He also played a bit part in the feel-good movie of 2016 – Sing Street.
He’s dropped his new single ‘Love Dies’ last week, vocal-lead cut of hazy R&B. It’s mightily impressive.
They debuted the chill and billowy song ‘High’ accompanied by an exotic video by Ossian Melin.
Half Waif – ‘Frost Burn’
Nadi Rose Plunkett has a new EP form/a out this week on Cascine and it’s cool collection of synth-pop that reminds me of St. Vincent in vocal tone set to an electronic backing. The EP is influenced by her background – the daughter of an Indian refugee and an American father of Irish/Swiss descent. “somewhere in me is this innate story of searching for a home,” she says. “As a result, I have many – a collection of places that I latch onto, that inspire me, that fuse themselves to me. I’m sentimental, nostalgic – yet constantly seeking what’s next, excavating the sound of my past and coloring it to make the sound of my future. I’m a child of divorce, fiercely loved but forced into independence at a young age; I rocket into relationships with the desire to find roots, commonality, to create stillness in the midst of public noise. In this way, my songs are like the notes of a large scavenger hunt, clues pinned to trees I have known, or tucked under rocks on my path, urging the listener to keep looking a little deeper, because maybe they will find something special in the end.”
Aldous Harding – ‘Horizon’
One of those new songs that stops you in your tracks, the New Zealand singer and musician Aldous Harding’s ‘Horizon’ makes an impact with very little – a confident vocal and piano chords. It’s her first song on new label 4AD and like her press shot above, it’s dramatic and memorable.
Lydia Ainsworth – ‘Afterglow’
Heady gospel electronica from the Toronto musician. It’s built on a languid sloth-like groove but reaches big heights in vocal layers, subtle synth notes and percussive hits. Nice video too. It’s from her forthcoming album ‘Darling Of The Afterglow’ out March 31st.
Erica Cody – ‘Addicted’
Erica Cody is a Dublin singer/songwriter and producer who has been writing songs since she was seven-years-old.
Now 20 and studying at BIMM Dublin, Cody is emerging as one of the new generation of soulful R&B singers coming up in the Irish scene, as seen at Hard Working Class Heroes last year.
‘Addicted’ is Cody’s debut single proper, a R&B pop song which has the same DNA as some of last week’s ’90s R&B playlist (SWV, Boys II Men ) but ‘Addicted’ is a modern electronic-production assisted take on that sound.