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(Credit: Alex Gruber)

Essential Listening: This week's best new music

The past week has seen us get one step closer to normality, even though the weather suggests that it’s still February rather than the reality of being days away from June. Almost halfway through the year and it feels like it’s been about two weeks long. Keeping up with time in the middle of a pandemic is an impossible task, but 2021 has served up a constant outpouring of sonic treats that deserve your attention.

After a year without live music, normal life as we used to know it is now in spitting distance. If you’re needing something to stick on the summer playlist while having a well-earned rest this weekend, then we’ve got you covered. There’s no shame in wanting to spin some old classics, but these fresh tracks are perfect additions that will sound blistering through a Bluetooth speaker at a barbecue (but maybe not this weekend).

There has been a stream of blissful new sounds throughout 2021 that has offered a fine way to stay sane and get those dopamine receptors active. As the months have gone on, there’s been more and more titillating releases, with these past seven days being no different.

Even though playing live for an audience is an impossible dream for musicians right now, that hasn’t stopped artists from continuing to offer up fresh and exciting music straight out of the bedroom studio. Some of the new releases to have come out in 2021 have made it an exciting year for music. Through these turbulent times, music has been a constant release for many of us and kept us going. That feeling of discovering a new artist, one you connect with straight away, is hard to replicate.

Whether it is a song by an artist that you’ve never heard of before — or an old favourite that somehow you have allowed to fall off your radar — we’ve got you covered here.

Let’s get to it.

This week’s best new music:

Matt Maltese – ‘Mystery’

Matt Maltese has returned with his woozy new single, ‘Mystery’. The track is haunting yet, beautiful as the 23-year-old Londoner pulls out another melancholic gem. ‘Mystery’ is his first release since last year’s Madhouse EP, and a lot has changed for the artist over that time, with his popularity serging emphatically thanks to a three-year-old song going viral on TikTok.

His third album is yet to be formally announced, but it is expected to arrive some point later this year, and the bittersweet ‘Mystery’ is a glowing teaser of what Maltese has in store. The singer-songwriter’s ability to convey raw emotion through his voice is his prized asset, and on ‘Mystery’, Maltese does this idyllically.

Lucy Dacus – ‘VBS’

Indie rock extraordinaire Lucy Dacus has released the latest preview of her upcoming third studio effort Home Video, the not-quite nostalgic remembrance of the past ‘VBS’.

Home Video is set to interrogate Dacus’ past of growing up in Virginia, specifically the trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with coming of age. ‘VBS’ is so potent and specific in its imagery and references that it’s all too easy to take the proceedings at face value, but from my experience with her music, that would be a mistake.

Music without nuance or the ability to be left up to interpretation gets stale and boring relatively quickly, but Dacus uses hyper-specific thoughts and memories to trigger the kind of emotions and feelings that we all deal with. The specificities are what make her unique to herself, but they don’t limit her scope either.

FUR – ‘The Fine Line Of A Quiet Life’

Brighton band FUR have returned with a new zinger, ‘The Fine Line Of A Quiet Life’. The track is the first single by the band since they penned a deal with Norwegian bedroom-pop sensation Boy Pablo’s 777 Music, who has taken them under his wing. FUR made an impression when they opened up for him on his first European tour, and now they are working alongside each other all these years later.

There aren’t too many acts around borrowing from the old-school and giving it a facelift in the same way as FUR exquisitely do on ‘The Fine Line Of A Quiet Life’. There’s a familiarity to it, but the Brighton band get the delicate balance inch-perfect between harking back to the past and acting innovatively.

Modest Mouse – ‘Leave a Light On’

Modest Mouse have shared their anthemic new single, ‘Leave A Light On’. The band made their long-awaited return earlier this month with ‘We Are Between’, which was a trademark Modest Mouse effort and delivered everything we’ve come to expect over the last couple of decades from the Portland outfit. ‘Leave A Light On’ doesn’t disappoint either and is another shattering dosage of garage rock served up from Modest Mouse.

Isaac Brock’s ability to write a surging anthem, with a chorus that punches you in the gut as he pours ample amounts of gusto, is omnipresent on ‘Leave A Light On’. The new track sees the band drag you into the story and get behind Brock as he promises, “We’re leaving, we’re leaving, we’re leaving, We’ll be home soon, I’ll leave the light on for you.”

Vistas – ‘Dayglow’

Scotland’s liveliest group of alt-rockers Vistas have released their latest single, ‘Dayglow’, from their upcoming second studio album What Were You Hoping To Find?

Earworms, catchy melodies, bright hooks, and goofy fun should not be looked at with an untrustworthy eye, but rather these elements should be embraced by more bands. Take Vistas as your trusty guide on how to stay cool and indie while bursting at the seams with wonderful pop arrangements.

Dylan Cartlidge – ‘Hang My Head’

Dylan Cartlidge has shared his euphoric new single, ‘Hang My Head’. The single has that feel-good factor, and Cartlidge’s positivity is infectious across the track. His voice is stirring, and the singer has a seismic ability to cause waves of emotion. Although the song has come from a place of pain, Cartlidge successfully transforms this into something beautiful on ‘Hang My Head’.

Speaking on the new track, Cartlidge said: “‘Hang My Head’ is a track about when you take a wrong turn or make a bad choice and feel like you’ve let yourself and others down. It’s then also about learning from your mistakes, growing from within and trying to get yourself back out the front door knowing that you are doing yourself, your work and your family justice.”

It’s an enticing effort from a genuine talent who shows off the full versatility of his skill set on ‘Hang My Head’ as Cartlidge also throws in a scintillating rap midway through the song. Take a few minutes out of your day to listen to ‘Hang My Head’, and you’ll feel better for it after.

Luke Royalty – ‘Stay Gold’

Luke Royalty is here to get you in the mood for summer with his blissful new single, ‘Stay Gold’. He only released his debut single, ‘I Could Get Used To This’, last October, which he followed up earlier this year with the breezy, ‘I Do’. Royalty hails from Darlington and only ended up dabbling in music for the first time when he entered his late teens. Since then, he’s not looked back, with ‘Stay Gold’ showing that he’s an artist that you can’t sleep on for any longer.

The track sounds something like if Tom Misch had a child with Easy Life and came out of the womb with a Darlington accent. The future is shining bright for Royalty. So far, he’s struck gold with three out of three and here’s hoping that a debut EP isn’t too far down the pipeline.

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