(Credit: Alex Gruber)

Essential Listening: This week's best new music

A new month beckons, and if the first week of May is anything to go by, then we’ve got another exciting musical month on the trajectory. Nights are only getting lighter, and the patio heaters at beer gardens bring in a new sense of normality. For the first time in a long while, everything is beginning to look up once more. The mouth-watering thought of watching your favourite artist in the summer with an ice-cold beverage in hand at a festival no longer seems out of reach and feels in reaching distance following Blossoms’ show in Liverpool last week.

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.

There has been a stream of blissful new sounds throughout the year 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.

This week’s best new music:

Alfie Templeman and April – ‘One More Day’

British bedroom pop aficionado Alfie Templeman has previewed his latest release, Forever Isn’t Long Enough, by sharing the album’s closing track ‘One More Day’, which features Irish upstart April.

The lo-fi, supremely wavvy track is hypnagogic pop at its most blissed out. Bubbling above the sparse waves of synths are the harmonies of both vocalists and their breathy deliveries, just barely rising to the fore only to float back below the hazy arrangement as it ebbs and flows in and out of focus.

Both artists play in the same indie-pop sandbox, and it’s cool to hear complementary voices coexist so easily on a track. It’s almost like the two are musical soulmates, speaking the same mellow language through synth pads and effects-laden drum loops. 

Warpaint – ‘Lilys’

Warpaint have returned with their first original song in five years with their spooky new single, ‘Lilys’. The dream-pop four-piece have been quiet since they shared their third studio album, Head’s Up, in 2016. This year, marking a comeback of sorts, they shared a spellbinding cover of Gang Of Four’s ‘Paralysed’ for a compilation record in tribute to the late Andy Gill. Finally, after a nail-biting wait, Warpaint are back with fresh music, and it’s a cosmic comeback.

‘Lilys’ isn’t the headbanging, indie-pop anthem that we’ve come to expect from Warpaint over the last decade. Instead, it’s a dark, eerie, atmospheric number that feels fitting for the previous twelve months we’ve all lived through, and although it would be uplifting to hear another spritely bop from the group, ‘Lilys’ feels like the right song at the right time.

The opiating, synth-heavy effort is a shimmering return from Warpaint, who continue to show why they are among the most essential alternative acts around.

Black Midi – ‘Slow (Loud)’

Existing somewhere in the strange in-betweens of jazz, indie rock, and post-punk, musical savants and occasional bringers of chaos Black MIDI have shared their latest sonic trek, the dynamic and skittish ‘Slow (Loud)’.

With guitars that sound like bebop horns and drum runs so fast that Buddy Rich would tell them to slow down, ‘Slow (Loud)’ is set to be the centrepiece for the band’s upcoming second studio album Cavalcade.

If nothing else, Black MIDI have carved out a unique niche for themselves in the wider landscape of popular music. The closest artistic comparison I could make is to The Mars Volta, and since that band is currently defunct, Black MIDI are leading the charge for jazzy progressive noise rock.

Wavves – ‘Help Is On The Way’

Most of Wavves’ material invokes that beach-adjacent feeling that their name implies, but it’s usually on the periphery, foregrounded by sprawling tales of obscenity and destruction. ‘Help is on the Way’ is no different. By the time he reaches the second verse, Nathan Williams’ voice has jumped an octave and found a new sense of urgency: “It’s a heavy burden/Hiding hate away/It’s like a river wants to drown drown drown me.”

Still, the song never slips too far down into despair, and the chorus brings a lighter shade of optimism to the proceedings. It’s helped by a major earworm of a hook, which has been Williams’ not-so-secret weapon throughout his career. No matter how distorted the guitars get or how shambolic the arrangements are, at his heart, Williams has the foundation of a great pop songsmith.

The Black Keys – ‘Going Down South’

The Black Keys have offered up a much-needed scoop of smoky Americana with their new single, ‘Going Down South’. The new track was originally written by blues icon, R.L. Burnside, who recorded his version back in 1969. The Black Keys are taking a left-turn with their upcoming project and releasing a covers record titled Delta Kream, which sees them pay homage to heroes of theirs like Burnside, who walked so the duo could run.

On ‘Going Down South’, The Black Keys have returned to being the blues obsessed kids who formed a band in the first place. After all, the opening track on their debut album was also a cover of R.L. Burnside. While this record is unlikely to have a single topping the alternative charts, Delta Kream marks the duo elegantly returning to their roots.

Bull – ‘In A Jar’

York indie-rockers Bull have shared their latest single ‘In A Jar’. The track is featured on the band’s debut LP Discover Effortless Living, released earlier this year.

“It’s about a person’s human contribution to the future,” the awesome named Bull singerTom Beersays. “It suggests that a person’s ego can actually drive them forward to make new things and benefit other people. The jar is a metaphor for a song or any pursuit/endeavour.”

Ultimately, if you find yourself bored of doing what you love, or you find yourself in a malaise, the only solution is to keep moving forward. The boys in Bull keep the message upbeat with rock steady groove that ebbs and flows to mirror the indecision of the lyrics. The self-reference to the “second verse groove” is a wonderfully meta touch as well. All in all, it makes for a smartly written and wryly clever tune, a choice cut from the band’s first album.

Jake Bugg – ‘Lost’

Jake Bugg has showcased another string to his bow with his dance-orientated new single, ‘Lost’. The 27-year-old is expanding his horizons on his latest effort, taken from his forthcoming album, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning and showing his progression from when he emerged almost a decade ago armed with just an acoustic guitar.

The track starts in a distorted thumping fashion before unravelling into something dastardly yet, inviting. Bugg’s vocals translate well in the new sonic environment and make for a sweet tonic contrasts congenially with the menacing beat.

If you didn’t know better, you would have no idea that Jake Bugg was behind the track, and as he moves on to his fifth album, the more unpredictable he can continue to be, the better. 

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