March has been jam packed with exciting new singles. Here is a round-up of the ones that caught my earholes. Featuring new jams from Aldous Harding, Amenra, Arcade Fire, Black Keys, Rammstein and more.
SINGLE OF THE MONTH
ALDOUS HARDING – Fever
[Chamber Pop, Singer/Songwriter – New Zealand – 4AD]
I have to admit I was a little lukewarm on the latest Aldous Harding full length, Warm Chris, though I’ve enjoyed previous works from the New Zealand born chamber pop artist. But I’ll be damned if this single Fever hasn’t burrowed itself into my earholes and set up camp! I’ve found myself humming this song all month and just had to keep revisiting. Fever is bold, bright, dazzling, quirky and joyous. I love the way the bouncy piano plays off the cool bassline, whilst Harding’s voice is loud and brash, practically yelling the word “FEVER!” I also really like the use of horns in the verses. There’s a real classic sound going on here and in my head it makes me think, what if Nico had sang on Velvet Underground’s ‘Sunday Morning’?
AMENRA – Roads
[Folk – Belgium – Self-Released]
Fans who really dig deep into Amenra’s discography will know that they have released many excellent acoustic folk numbers over the years, with screamer Colin H. Van Eeckhout (CHVE) also baring a wonderful singing voice. Known as one of the most intense metal bands to ever exist, Amenra’s acoustic performances also have their own kind of intensity, coming from a similar place of pain and inner torment. Roads is an excellent stripped down cover of one of Portishead’s most celebrated songs, played nude with just voice, some restrained acoustic guitar playing and what sounds like a Cajon drum. Like with their heavy epics, Amenra use textural space and moments of quiet incredibly well here. I also feel like the noirish worlds of Portishead and Amenra are being channeled from a similar void too, so it feels really fitting to hear them take on this song.
ARCADE FIRE – The Lightning I, II
[Alternative Rock – Canada – Sony Columbia]
Well, it’s certainly been a while since we’ve heard from Arcade Fire, and the landscape of rock music has changed drastically in that time. It kind of shows because I thought Arcade Fire were one of the most exciting bands of the ’00s, but listening to them today they feel a little out of time, out of place. Maybe it’s because my tastes have changed so much? But they’re back with a new album in tow, produced by legend Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Air, Beck). ‘The Lightning’ consists of two songs stuck together which compliment each other so well that it’s basically just one song. The first part is a very Springsteen-ish War On Drugs-ish heartland rock sound with earthy twanging guitars, lovely chamber embellishments and soap opera piano. Win Butler’s vocals are certainly going for that Boss style sense of epic melodrama, but for me the lyrics here come off very hokey; “We can make it baby, please don’t quit on me, I’ll never quit on you”. Ooosh, it’s all a bit cringe and cat-sat-on-the-mat. Lines like “We’ve been beat down and broken, but now we can testify” and “It’s not up to you, some you win, some you lose, you don’t get too choose” are just as stomach churning and really obvious metaphors that sound like they’ve come out of a pamphlet.
Fortunately the second half of the song makes a really good switch up, upping the tempo and intensity drastically, as if the song just got hit with the titular lightning bolt. Here their blood is pumping and they lose their inhibitions. Now we are in classic Arcade Fire territory. The pianos have gone from cheesy to driving; Win Butler’s vocals and lyrics sound much more heartfelt with two brilliant refrains, “A Day, a week, a month, a year” and “Waiting on the lightning”. The band add in those signature choral-influenced backing vocals that never fail to give their songs a lift. It almost makes up for a rough start in the first half, and the way the two contrasting parts of this song fit together is pretty clever and well conceived. I’d say give this one a try and be patient for a good pay off. But based on this, who knows if the forthcoming album will be just as lopsided?
THE BLACK KEYS – Wild Child
[Blues Rock – USA – Easy Eye Sound]
Ever since The Black Keys broke out into the mainstream with their mega hit 2011 album El Camino, they’ve kind of lost me ever since. However, last year’s Delta Kream record felt like a step back into the right direction, being a back to basics album that sounded a bit like the scuzzy blues rock sound they started with. This new single Wild Child teases towards a brand new album Dropout Boogie and it feels like it could easily be a leftover from El Camino. Wild Child sounds like a song that just wrote itself on the spot, as it is super simple with a riff and main melody I feel like I’ve heard a hundred times over. This is a song that’s big, accessible, cleanly mixed and could easily be as strong a radio hit and festival anthem as ‘Lonely Boy’ was ten years ago, only I feel like it just lacks the same spark and enthusiasm… The music video that plays like an Adult Swim sketch is more remarkable than the actual song is. I’m concerned…
BRIGHT EYES (FT. PHOEBE BRIDGERS) – St. Ides Heaven
[Lo-fi, Alternative Rock – USA – Dead Oceans]
Covering an Elliott Smith song is always such a daunting task with him being one of the most recognisable, influential and unique songwriters to ever live; the kind of person who is untouchable even after death. But for Bright Eyes I feel like Conor Oberst has earned his stripes, championing Smith as an important influence during his lifetime. I remember hearing an excellent cover version of ‘The Biggest Lie’ already. Phoebe Bridgers has also been very vocal about how important Elliott Smith is – her Punisher album being inspired by living on the same block as Smith once did, and hearing stories from those who knew him. With Bright Eyes and Phoebe Bridgers both being leading lights of the indie folk scene, the Better Oblivion Community Center bandmates could have easily have made a lovely acoustic rendition of St. Ides Heaven in the spirit of the original, so I really appreciate this surprising scuzzy lo-fi noise rock take. Hitting play, I thought I’d accidently started listening to a La Dispute song! This version of the song is raw and raggedy as fuck, sounding like it was recorded live. Even Bridgers’ vocals sound really unhinged with no make-up. The whole experience feels like an alternate universe where we’ve stumbled across a rare live recording of Elliott Smith’s rock band Heatmiser performing this song. Kudos to Bright Eyes and Phoeebs; this is really awesome.
††† – Initiation
[Synth-Pop, Dream Pop – USA – Warner Music]
††† (Crosses) are back! A side project of Deftones’ vocalist Chino Moreno exploring more of a synth-pop and electronic style. I remember really, really enjoying their debut record that was astonishingly nearly ten years ago now… That makes me feel old! Admittedly, as much as I enjoy their sound, Crosses aren’t a band I’ve really thought about in a long time since they’ve been inactive and Deftones have released two studio albums in between. However, hearing this new single has really resparked my interest. Initiation is a brilliant track that certainly crosses (ahem) over well into the world of Deftones, carrying a similar mysterious vibe and detailed production. Featuring eerie textured synths, pounding drum machine kicks and of course Chino Moreno’s iconic voice, it’s not worlds away from some of the deep cuts on Deftones albums such as Saturday Night Wrist or Diamond Eyes. Initiation even boasts some light palm-muted guitars chugging away, albeit not in an explosive metal style. Initiation bounces back and forth between subdued and sensual verses into a really uplifting and cinematic chorus and excels in both departments. The results sound like a blend of Deftones and NIN, with a pinch of ’90s Depeche Mode. I’m feeling hyped for ††† all over again as this is a truly excellent return.
FLOATING POINTS – Vocoder
[Electronica, Garage – UK – Ninja Tune]
Floating Points (real name Samuel Shepherd) continues to prove himself a chameleon of various electronic and ambient styles, with each major project he’s made being different to the one that proceeded it. Last year he contributed piano to Promises, an excellent collaborative event with jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra. This follow up single is a complete left turn sounding like a fusion of tech-house with shards of classic ’00s garage thrown in the mix. This seven minute beast is a fun workout that carefully combines a pumping beat-driven pulse with nuanced atmospheric synth work and dynamic production, reminiscent of the works of Four Tet and Nicolas Jaar’s Against All Odds project. Vocoder would make an excellent warehouse banger as it has some euphoric peaks and excellent EQing.
KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD – The Dripping Tap
[Heavy Psych – Australia – Self-Released]
The ever prolific Australian psych rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are already gearing up for their third album of 2022 and it’s barely springtime! And what a way to tease towards a new album than with an 18 minute long psychedelic jam. That’s exactly what we get here, other than the opening minute which sounds like a parody of The Last Shadow Puppets, but once those drums roar into life it’s a soaring rollercoaster of riffs. It’s so impressive that this band are able to make so much goddamn music and not sound stale yet. Sometimes they veer off and experiment with other genres, but here The Dripping Tap showcases the style we know best, and it just sounds like the band hit record in their jam room and captured some raw heat. In particular this sounds reminiscent of classic Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East, with some nice twiddly harmonised guitars and lengthy instrumental riffing and soloing. The Dripping Tap is a glorious guitar workout that feels about half its length.
RAMMSTEIN – Zeit
[Alternative Metal – Germany – Universal]
German industrial metal legends Rammstein usually kick off a new album cycle with a blood-pumping rifftastic muscular rocker but for forthcoming record Zeit they’ve teased us with an epic ballad instead. Rammstein certainly have some great ballads behind them already – with ‘Mutter‘ being one of their finest songs – so it comes as no disappointment to hear them in a full ballad mode here. Not that this is especially restrained or stripped back, as there are grandiose piano leads, choral vocals and eventually the more familiar chunky guitars kick in. Till Lindemann’s voice still sounds as great and iconic as ever, and he gives himself a real workout here. Zeit is anthemic, dramatic and very well produced, so we could be onto yet another exciting album from the German legends.
WORMROT – Behind Closed Doors
[Grindcore – Singapore – Earache]
Singapore’s finest are back and they tore my head off instantly with Behind Closed Doors, the first taste of forthcoming album Hiss. An absolute whirlwind of frenzy and fury, Wormrot traverse many different tempo changes and excellent passages in a mere 1:27 runtime. Behind Closed Doors is bookended by some really rad and surprisingly catchy thrash sections, whilst the grinding blastbeats, shredding riffs and animalistic vocals in the middle are just crazy intense and exhilarating. This is how it’s done!