My favourite songs of the past month – all in one place.
Lizzo is a Minneapolis-based Detroit artist who has been hovering around my periphal vision ever since she debuted with the 2013 song ‘Batches & Cookies’, a beat rap anthem that outdid the attitude of an Azealia Banks record by imbuing the production with a sense of fun rather than cool. Since then, Lizzo has been on a slow ascendance, releasing a couple of albums, an EP on a major Atlantic and touring with Haim most recently. That sense of adventure has remained in her work, and it comes to the fore on her new single ‘Boys’, a track that does what few dare and even fewer succeed with, channel Prince.
Wide Awake (Danny Krivit remix)
Danger Mouse is at the controls for Parquet Court’s newest album Wide Awake! and has given the band a sharpness that wasn’t obvious on previous releases. The title song is a surprising twist for the band into punk-funk and has since been remixed for the dancefloor by vintage NYC DJ Danny Krivit.
Roisin Murphy further cements her position as one of the country’s leading musical talents with ‘Plaything’. The track is an 80s inspired synth-pop tune. Something about the slightly manic refrain offers so much replayability. The track comes from Plaything/Like double single released by the artist earlier last month. Despite what the artist saw as an underwhelming reception, the track is absolutely superb and well worth your listening attention.
Take The Wheel
Daithí’s evolution as an artist over the past 5 years has been prolific to say the least. Every release from the producer has felt like the next stage in a journey, beginning with the likes of tracks like ‘Case Closed’ in 2013. Since then, audiences have been lucky enough to bear witness to one of the most creative voices in contemporary dance music expand and develop.
With the release of this brand new double A-side single, ‘Take The Wheel’ & ‘In My Darkest Moments’, it feels as if Daithí has hit a milestone moment in his career. Both tracks showcase the artist’s skill as both a composer and producer. The brooding ‘Take The Wheel’, which features Paul Noonan of Bell X1, uses swirling synthscapes to map the lyrical content of the track. It’s dance music, but instead of pandering to established formulas, the beat is subservient to the words.
Mr. Twin Sister
Time now for some ultra slick synth pop courtesy of Mr.Twin Sister. ‘Echo Arms’ channels all the best elements of 80s synth pop and classic late 70s funk ala George Benson. Complete with a fantastic wah wah guitar solo and some fantastic gliding synth lines, ‘Echo Arms’ is an absolute summer anthem.
Phantastic Ferniture’s debut album has gone down an absolute treat among indie fans across the world, with good reason too. Julia Jacklin’s lyricism and vocal performances throughout the release seem intrinsically tapped into the live wire. At times cutting and at others reassuring, the lyrical content and subject matter throughout Phantastic Ferniture are always evocative. ‘Bad Timing’ is among the best on the album, a woozy indie rock number, check it out.
Electronic pop outfit AE Mak have released their second single of the year, not including Phare’s remix of ‘I Walk’. ‘Love Flush’ is absolutely superb. The entire track has an infectious sense of self-belief, seemingly detailing the choice to pursue your own ambitions over a romantic interest. The opening refrain of “I’m all I need” establishes the theme of self-determination which dominates the song straight away.
Songwriter Aoife McCann has here teamed up with producer Daniel McIntyre (of Lullahush) to provide a pulsating instrumental, one which bolsters the powerful message behind the lyrics. It’s catchy, clever and an altogether fantastic art-pop song.
La Di Da
The Internet’s fourth full studio release Hive Mind is their best work to date. It’s totally refreshing to hear the group finally live up to the potential their previous releases had shown flashes of. Lead singer Syd’s vocal performances feel confident and comfortable and their instrumentals feel focused and fleshed out. ‘La Di Da’ is the kind of laid-back funk number the group have historically excelled at. Late night brain food.
Austrian Oliver Thomas Johnson’s second DC album was a Nialler9 favourite. It’s been four years but the sound of that album is unique enough to be revisited with its warped analogue synths, Wurlitzer piano and exuberant runs bright of melodies. Johnson brings most of that back plus a sense of dizzy sonic adventure that brings some freshness to the table. See also, ‘J Buyers’.
Reykjavíkurdætur, the all-female rap collective from Iceland who slay every stage they step up on, including recently at Body&Soul Festival, have released a new song ‘Ekkert Drama’ which means ‘No Drama’. It was a song that stood out live at B&S as it had an electro-rap swing to it and a memorable hook. It features fellow Icelander Svala. What are they singing about? We don’t know for sure but it’s a too much fun to care.
You Never Call
‘You Never Call’ is a slow burner. Opening with subdued piano chords and a softly sung vocal harmony. The track then evolves and expands. With a stunning chorus that pits the group’s singing against the boom of the drums. Much like on ‘Twin Peaks’, the single which preceded this one, the group seems to have incorporated elements of electronic production across the board. The sprinkling of programmed drum sounds throughout gives the song a richness of texture. The result is a superb single which offers plenty of hope as to what the album will sound like. Most will be awaiting the release of Shape Of Silence with baited breath.
Devonté Hynes has long been one of the most unique voices in modern music. His work under the moniker of Blood Orange has shifted and altered tone and genre wildly throughout the years. His latest single ‘Charcoal Baby’ plays like a homage to the sex-fuelled funk championed by artists like Prince with a personal and political message. Jangly guitars shimmer atop the ultra-tight bassline. Hynes’ vocal delivery is impassioned and powerful.
Give A Little
Maggie Roger’s ‘Give A Little’ is cleverly assembled pop tune. The artist has clearly been working on her songwriting and production skills in the run-up to her new studio release. There’s definitely an 80s vibe in there and the chorus wouldn’t sound out of place on a Haim record. A bright prospect in modern pop music.
Big Red Machine
The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon first collaborated together on a 2008 charity album Dark Was the Night before they had met in person. Since then, the pair have worked on the project at their various collaboration-heavy festivals under the banner PEOPLE (my interview with Dessner about the next People event in Berlin) at places like Eaux Claires in Wisconsin and Sounds From A Safe Harbour. An album was subsequently recorded and from it, and a trailing EP, is this lush and rolling heartwarmer.
Niall Byrne is the founder of the most-influential Irish music site Nialler9, where he has been writing about music since 2005 . He is the cohost of the Nialler9 Podcast and has written for the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Cara Magazine, Sunday Times, Totally Dublin, Red Bull and more. Niall is a DJ, founder of Lumo Club, event curator and producer of gigs, parties & events.