Listening Post #2

by James Hitchings-Hales

Exams are over! Quickly, throw your hats up in the air and search out those dusty vodka bottles! It’s time to rediscover your inner Keith Moon, that glorious devil whispering on your shoulder, and go absolutely mental.

But no. The weather has been atrocious, and has put a dampener on many a big blowout. But all is not lost! Whether you’re hiding in your headphones or singing in the rain, now is the perfect time to educate yourself on some of the best new music sneaking around without anybody realising.

Shut your curtains and ignore the pattering against your window panes. Here’s the five records I’ve been listening to most this week.

1. Ghostpoet ft. Doucoura - Season Change

Damon Albarn is BACK. How we’ve missed him. The Blur frontman and Gorillaz pioneer has announced that his first ever solo album, Everyday Robots, is due to be released at the end of April. The lead single has just dropped, and it’s full of haunting licks and overarching violins. But he’s been busy elsewhere too.

Albarn has been working on a project called Africa Express, a collaboration of Western and African artists, that has now resulted in an album called Africa Express Presents: Maison Des Jeunes. Chipping in are members of Metronomy, Django Django, Two Inch Punch, and more. And this track embodies the entire process, showing off a marriage of African percussion and British bass featuring the engrossing vocal of Ghostpoet and produced by Albarn himself. Give it a blast.

2. Nick Mulvey - Cucurucu

The acoustic guitar has never been hotter. It’s comeback was arguably reinvigorated a couple of years back when Ed Sheeran decided to take over the world, and has since been carried further forward by the immense success enjoyed by The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons. It’s got so cool that even Gary Barlow thought he’d try his hand at it. This is great news for emerging artists, and is being taken full advantage of by a new breed of singer songwriters, embodied in Dan Croll, George Ezra, and Luke Sital-Singh. And Nick Mulvey is leading the pack.

The track opens with a lovely excerpt from D. H. Lawrence’s poem Piano, until you hear the familiar strumming sound that has become a Mulvey trademark. The song walks, and never runs. It whispers, and never shouts. But that’s okay, because Zane Lowe is making up the ground by never shutting up about it. Lowe is justified, but there is one criticism. Especially in its latter stages, there are some rather glaring melodic similarities to Nitrous. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, since Nitrous is a brilliant record. But since I get marked down for plagiarism myself in my degree, then Mulvey should too. Make your own mind up.

3. JAWS - Gold

Alright, alright, this song is not technically brand new. This record may be six months old now, but the vibe still feels fresh. JAWS came to the Cavern with Kink Nights recently, and absolutely killed it. Their debut album is still in the works as we speak, and is due for release at some delightful point this year that will go straight into my calendar the moment that it’s announced. If you like Swim Deep and Peace, then these like-minded Brummies may very well be your thing. Try Friend Like You and Toucan Surf if you fancy some more nuggets from these surf rockers. Expect big things in 2014!

4. MØ - Don’t Wanna Dance

You’re immediately lured in to this one with subtly produced brass that hints at the party yet to come. Obviously MØ took notes when she collaborated with Avicii on Dear Boy. Add a kickass hook in the chorus and suddenly we’ve got ourselves a song. After the release of her Bikini Daze EP last year, her debut album, No Mythologies To Follow, has been pushed back to the 10th March. In her own words, Don’t Wanna Dance is about “Being young, free, and independent. Being drunk and happy with your homies.” Despite the unfortunate use of the word “homies”, we can all totally relate.

Beware: if you like this as much as I do, you may find yourself shamelessly dancing around your bedroom singing “I don’t want to dance with nobody” at the top of your voice. And you may be caught by your housemate. And you will blush.

5. Elbow - New York Morning

Let’s put these guys into perspective. Laura Marling was born in the same year that this band was formed. Guy Garvey himself pointed this out when this track got its exclusive first play on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show a couple of days ago, but age and experience only adds to their palette. Sure, every geezer and his Nan has written a song about New York. But if there was ever a band to take on the Manhattan skyline and get away with it, it’s got to be Elbow. New York Morning is the second single to be released from their new album, The Take Off And Landing Of Everything, after the beautifully understated Fly Boy Blue/ Lunette released a couple of weeks back.

I’ll admit, I’m a massive fanboy. I saw them for the first time at my irgin music festival (Reading 2011, if you’re interested), and The Seldom Seen Kid remains one of my favourite albums of all time. Taking Guy Garvey out for a pint will stay at the top of my Bucket List until it’s achieved. So lie back, enjoy the the ambience, and forgive the Yoko Ono references. It’s worth it.