Listening Post #8

by James Hitchings-Hales

In a rather surprising turn of events, it seems that finishing my degree did not quite match the picture of fireworks and fist-pumping that I had visualised in my head. I came to realise this depressing fact a couple of weekends ago, as I lay in bed watching the entire One Direction set from BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. In the crowd, there was a middle aged, grey-haired Glaswegian man singing along to every word of Story Of My Life, and for a brief moment, I envied him. He was clearly having the time of his life, and didn’t care who knew it. Meanwhile, there I was, lying in my bed wondering if my post-Ti-Pi-Fri insides could overcome the challenge of a bacon sandwich. The Glaswegian Directioner was mocking me. And he knew it.

To cheer myself up, as so many do, I turned to the internet. But adorable dog videos were firmly off the table (except for this one: “I seriously need some new music in my life,” I thought to myself. “Something that can get me away from this morbid interest in the wry grin of Harry Styles.” These next couple of songs are the result. Happy hangovers, soon-to-be-graduates (and the rest of you that are sad to be leaving already).

1. Big Boi - Mrs Vandebilt Told Me

If faced with the prospect of creating a list of all-time-awesome British music things you like, what names would spring to mind? David Bowie? Keith Richards? Elton John, Pete Townshend, Gary Barlow? Surely, somewhere, you would have to include Paul McCartney. And thanks to Big Boi, you can enjoy his Royal Wingsness on an entirely fresh platform.

I endure a love/hate relationship with hip hop. I adored Yeezus, but literally fell asleep when I saw Kanye live. Kendrick Lemar is immensely talented, but I often find him hard to relate to. I regard Outkast as immensely overrated, especially on the evidence of their underwhelming festival headline appearances so far this summer. However, Big Boi, one half of Outkast, has released a pearler here. Mixing in his 2010 hit, Mama Told Me (featuring a vibed-up feature from Kelly Rowland and co-written by Little Dragon), he throws in an infectious acoustic guitar sample and vocal from Paul McCartney’s 1973 album with Wings Band On The Run, a record I’ve just nabbed off my Grandad to add to my 12” collection. The result is delicious. Did I mention that it’s a free download?

2. DZ Deathrays - Reflective Skull

Have you ever wondered what the Australian version of Royal Blood might sound like? Of course you have. Enter DZ Deathrays: the thrash-pop duo from Brisbane made up of the surprisingly ordinarily named Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley. The guitar swerves between crashing heavy rock and futuristic flange, whilst remaining melodically addictive.

Oddly for their genre, the intro to the song seems to steal the percussion part straight from Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up Look Sharp. That’s the iconically grime Dizzee, not the pop icon he morphed into just in time for the Olympics. But hey, give me DZ vs Dizzee any day; that was what was catchy about the track to begin with. Their new album, Black Rat, came out at the start of May and the duo have spent a fair proportion of the month since doing gigs around the UK. DZ Deathrays bring immense energy to a rock scene that’s undergone massive revitalisation recently. And they’re not the only Aussies on today’s list!

3. The Griswolds - Beware The Dog

Told you. A sun-drenched cross between Vampire Weekend and Circa Waves, the four-piece from Sydney shot to public attention after they posted their first hit Mississippi online, which led to support slots for the likes of Django Django. After releasing their debut EP Heart of a Lion back in 2012, they’re back with a brand new record. Their debut album is being recorded with a similar crowdfunding scheme that found such success with Amanda Palmer, letting the fans get closer to their work whilst getting the creative process moving along nicely. If you want to get involved in the action, then get pledging! In return, you get exclusive access to their drunken recording antics. It’s more fun than it sounds!

If you want proof of that, look no further than Beware The Dog. It’s been making the rounds on the Internet, and gaining a lot of blogging love through Hype Machine. According to frontman, Chris Whitehall, the record is about losing somebody they loved through drug abuse. But I can’t help being reminded of an ex-girlfriend as they sing that “she used to suck the fun out of me.” Pity me.

4. Baby Queens - Red Light

Moving home after University is going to really suck. Where will my mates predrink now? What will happen to my sense of freedom? When do I have to start paying council tax? What is council tax? It’s barely preferable to the inevitability of selling your soul to the corporate teet, like accepting a life jail sentence over an execution. But there’s one band that are bringing back some positive vibes about that ghastly drive home up the M5.

Hailing from my hometown Cardiff, this all-female five-piece is made up of two sisters, two cousins, and one adopted sister. Let’s hope there’s never any creative disputes, because that could be explosive. So have we got another nomination for The Osbournes? Or a new Jackson Five? As Red Lights seems to show, the family connection seems to bring something rather special. It’s soulful hip hop that can really take you over. Harmonies, rap, and a sharply infectious guitar hook with a marching percussion beat. When I first heard it, I thought it was too simplistic, too easy to get into. But in the week since, it’s been the most played track on my Chilled playlist. Signed to Strangetown Records, the label of Cian Ciaran of Super Furry Animals, they are looking to release their debut album next year. Get on it, girls!

5. Parquet Courts - Instant Disassembly

Parquet Courts have created something of real beauty here. The latest single from their recently released third studio album, Sunbathing Animal, clocks in at a Zeppelin-esque seven minutes without you even realising. It’s one of those strange tracks that feels just right. I’ve rewritten this paragraph several times over, trying and failing to touch upon what makes this record so gorgeous. Primarily, it’s because it’s so surprising. Parquet Courts have an immense cult following in the DIY scene, making their name with honest punk rock and a lack of intention to commodify. It’s garnered an explosion of online attention since their reissue of Light Up Gold through What’s Your Rupture last year. Not that attention is at all what they’re looking for.

It’s all about the art, and that’s exceptionally refreshing. In an interview with the Guide last year, Austin Brown, singer and guitarist of Parquet Courts, had one thing to say about the UK: “We like the regimen of the English breakfast.” This band from Brooklyn deserve all the love in the world for the original sound they continue to create, but don’t expect them to love you back.