Listening Post #5

by James Hitchings-Hales

Last week was an incredibly exciting week for new music, a blend of fervent innocence and deft experience that I can’t recall having happened before. We saw beyond outstanding debut albums from Dan Croll and Spring Offensive, as well as incredible, universe-shattering returns from Elbow and Metronomy. Guy Garvey and friends in particular deserve every superlative the dictionary has ever assembled for their UK No. 1 album, The Take Off And Landing Of Everything. It blew me off my feet from the very first listen, and I’m yet to touch the ground. We even had a disappointingly mediocre effort from Danish synth-pop singer/songwriter MØ, but we’ll nudge that one under the carpet before anybody notices.

I absolutely promised myself I wouldn’t talk about the weather this week. But you may have noticed that it’s been pretty lush outside recently. So this week I wanted to pick out five brand new tracks that you can enjoy with your flip flops on. Unless, of course, you’ve been wearing flip flops since September, in which case you’re a massive douchebag. Behave yourself. As per usual, there are records that painfully missed the cut. If you’ve got a spare sec, check out the new stuff from The Skints (The Cost Of Living Is Killing Me), JAWS (Think Too Much, Feel Too Little), and the epic Prides (The Seeds You Sow). I could go on all day, but I imagine you’ve got work to pretend to be getting along with. So let us begin.

1. The Kooks - Down

There’s a rumour baby… The Kooks are back. Dammit, we’ve missed you! But you must immediately throw your comfort blanket in the fire and burn it, because Down is a very different direction to what we’re used to from these guys. If you can get past the absolutely unintelligible vocal in the first five seconds (I think he’s asking Cher to take him to a town centre of some sort), then we have a surprisingly heroic homecoming. Back in the day of being a very uncool 13 year old, I was saved in a baptism of indie rock by their puberty-inducing album Inside In/Inside Out. Alongside The Fratellis and Oasis, these guys were my childhood.

But then their next album kind of sucked. As did the one after that. But I will still listen back to Inside In/Inside Out, and remember how anthems of teen optimism like Jackie Big Tits and Matchbox made me dance at the back of the bus on school trips. For me, Down is a really exciting play. Yes, it’s different. Yep, it’s kind of weird. But it works. They’ve hit refresh, and suddenly everything has started working again. Let’s hope this means they’re back to their best, so I can relive my faltering youth once more.

2. Frank Ocean + Mick Jones + Paul Simonon + Diplo - Hero

Wait, what?

Frank Ocean and Diplo are making music with The Clash? THE CLASH. Like with actual instruments and words and stuff?

No way. There is no way anything on the planet could be this cool. First the internet discovers from nowhere, Sherlock-style, a collaboration track between Jay-Z and Daft Punk. Then Kendrick Lemar starts rapping over Tame Impala’s It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards. Then THIS drops. AND THERE ARE CALIFORNIAN SCHOOLKIDS SINGING IN THE CHORUS. Somebody run and tell Kanye West that this is serious, and that Mick Jagger is available after touring Asia and Australia.

And it’s a free download. Honestly, I’m not kidding around here. Somebody hold me up straight.

3. Rhodes - Your Soul

I don’t want to talk about it.

If I truly took these words to heart, it would be bloody difficult to write anything decent about this track. But Rhodes doesn’t have to talk, and right now I don’t really want him to. Because his singing voice is just so damn pleasant.

Lie back and turn your headphones up. An ambient electric guitar drifts effortlessly over a slow piano part, reminiscent of the sorrowful To Be Frank, and a subtle violin that waves shyly from the background. Then the roof of the stadium opens wide with dramatic, echoing percussion. Rhodes has complete control over this track. It’s kind of beautiful.

His debut EP, Raise Your Love, was released at the end of last year. It’s title track is equally stunning. The next release, the Morning EP, is due out on May 11th. An absolute certainty on any chilled playlist, and a dark horse for the summer too.

4. Mr Little Jeans - Good Mistake

It’s been a couple of years since Norwegian singer/songwriter Monica Birkenes released new material. But finally, there is good news on the horizon. Good Mistake is part of an EP of her best tracks to date. But it’s also a generous peek into her debut album, Pocketknife (often namechecked in this track), which is due to grace our souls on March 25th. If you enjoyed St. Vincent’s self-titled debut album released a couple of weeks back, then you’ll dig this.

The bassline is beyond addictive, and head-boppingly ferocious. Kind of like a more infectious Digital Witness. It’s what you’ll keep going back for, and hopefully the album delivers a similar vibe. It hits the spot in exactly the right way, and in its own understated manner, creates a dance anthem that’s more educated than elevated. You’ll get it by the time you press play for the eleventh time.

5. Elbow - Honey Sun

Usually, I only choose singles for this column. But this track, taken from that album that I’m currently entirely and correctly obsessed with, changes the rules. I’m powerless to compulsively return to the ‘play’ button on a daily basis, and there seems to be very little hope of escape. The lyricism drips poetry that you can relate to, weaving a story, nay, a feeling, that the song was written especially for you. I mean seriously, check this shit out:

I live and die by the hot and cold in strangers eyes/ Where danger lies behind the tape across my door/ I know a place were angels lace the lemonade/ And I cannot stay where all the broken plans were made.

Then they go onto to use words like “promenade” and “profligate”. I mean, who does that? The University student in me wants to provide in-text citations here to give it the credit it deserves. The melodic electric guitar in the chorus is like an embrace, whilst the harmonic backing vocals make a sound that is darkly perfect. They even apostrophise love as if it were divine in a break from the norm akin to New York Morning. And Garvey cups your ear with his hands to almost whisper the verses to you, so that nobody else can hear. I cannot fanboy about this track enough.

Mr Garvey, you will never experience broken devotion from me. You had me at ‘hello’.