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Essential Listening: This week's best new music

@TylerGolsen

Welcome back to Essential Listening, an article in which we compile all the best new music of the week into the definitive tome of modern music; The Far Out Playlist.

The general tenor of music news is a bit overshadowed this week by a certain geopolitical crisis, but often the world of entertainment can act as a distraction or even an escape for these kinds of events.

New albums from the likes of Johnny Marr, Avril Lavigne, and Dashboard Confessional dropped at the end of the week, while the new music slate also saw the return of 1980s legends like Soft Cell and Tears for Fears. Over on the jazz front, Robert Glasper put out his third edition of the wonderful now-trilogy of Black Radio albums that fuse R&B, hip hop, and soul into Glasper’s potent stew of genres.

In terms of singles, Toro Y Moi got groovy with the new track ‘The Loop’, while Girlpool cut deep with the new single ‘Dragging My Life into a Dream’. Coheed and Cambria made a welcomed prog-rock return with ‘The Liars Club’ while Dharma Club also put a fresh step forward with ‘Emails From Suzanne’.

But only eight songs can make this list, so here are the best new songs from the week, compiled into The Far Out Playlist.

The best new songs of the week, February 19th – February 25th:

Porridge Radio – ‘Back to the Radio’

Brighton rock heroes, Porridge Radio, have announced more details of their third album Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky. To precede the album’s release they’ve shared the stellar new track ‘Back To The Radio’. Slowly building up with the continual strumming of a guitar, with feedback panning in and out, you’d be mistaken for thinking this a 1990s alt-rock song, with an intro that could be by anyone from Dinosaur Jr. to Veruca Salt. 

However, as soon as Porridge Radio frontperson Dana Margolin comes in, with her unmistakable vocals, you’re drawn into their complex and introspective world. A gorgeous piece, accompanied by a real earworm of a synth line, ‘Back To The Radio’ is the romance of British autumn embodied.

Daniel Rossen – ‘Unpeopled Spaces’

It is a universal truth rarely publicly acknowledged for the sake of embarrassment that we all direct moody yet utterly drab movies of the mind when we walk down the street with headphones in. Some tunes are better than others at summoning such movies and Daniel Rossen is certainly a songsmith who keeps the scriptwriter guessing.

Usually, the plot evokes an idealised version of yourself simply walking down said street and very little else, but with ‘Unpeopled Spaces’ Rossen whisks you off to Spain with some reverb-laden flamenco guitar before dissonant notes shroud mystery into the mix and off-beat percussion pulls in unseen elements from nowhere. Contrary to how that might sound, the whole thing remains alluringly melodious throughout. 

Gang of Youths – ‘Spirit Boy’

As Australian-born alt-rock group Gang of Youths prepares for their album drop, slated for February 25th, they’ve been busy releasing singles to get the crowd excited. Now based in London and taken to self-producing in Hackney, the band has always exhibited a uniquely clean and full sound, supported by orchestral accents across their discography alongside David Le’aupepe’s bouncing baritone vocals.

While the new album incorporates the self-described efforts towards Britpop, post-punk, contemporary classical, and American minimalism, ‘Spirit Boy’ creeps into the margins with a gentle lo-fi beat, their signature orchestral soundscape, and a spoken verse in Te Reo Māori from musician and Taonga Pūoro facilitator Shane McLean.

Mdou Moctar – ‘Nakanegh Dich’

Mdou Moctar has announced the digital deluxe version of last year’s critically acclaimed Afrique Victime. To accompany the news, Moctar has also released the new single ‘Nakanegh Dich’.

A rumbling piece of psychedelia, this is Tuareg guitar music at its finest. Combining an earworm of a chorus with a funky groove, it’s no coincidence that Mdou Moctar is so revered. His fuzzy, effects-laden soloing throughout the song is also incredible, and he ramps it towards the end of the song. 

Florence and the Machine – ‘King’

Florence and the Machine have officially returned with their first new song in nearly two years, the anthemic and operatic ‘King’. Granted, calling a Florence and the Machine song “anthemic and operatic” is like calling the sky blue, but ‘King’ is quite a slow burn compared to most of the group’s sweeping back catalogue.

With a propulsive bassline and low-key vocals from Florence Welch at the start, the beginning of the track honestly sounds more like a Haim song than anything else. But this is still Florence, so it’s only a matter of time before the fuse gets lit and the belting starts. Florence and the Machine are a versatile act, but they certainly have a signature sound that gets played with on referenced on ‘King’.

Deb Never – ‘Crutches’

Deb Never has returned with a palpatory new single ‘Crutches’. The track arrived shortly after the musician and producer confirmed tours with both Slowthai and Omar Apollo this spring. Blending elements of post-punk, synth-laden pop, and nu-soul, ‘Crutches’ sees Deb never pick her way tentatively through hook-heavy verses littered with cautious fragments of advice: “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” these strangers say, “You’re running too fast/ Before you learn how to walk/ And now you’re on crutches.”

But Deb Never isn’t listening, and before long she’s landed on a euphoric chorus that seems to swell up out of nowhere. “I’m tearing down the walls,” she sings defiantly. “I’m storming in like thunder/ ‘Cause I’m tired of waiting for/ Better days”.

Blossoms – ‘Ode to NYC’

British indie rockers Blossoms have shared the latest taste of their upcoming studio album Ribbon Around the Bomb with the jaunty ‘Ode to NYC’. Lighthearted and about as breezy as rock music can get, ‘Ode to NYC’ finds lead singer Tom Ogden and the band behind him gushing over the Big Apple with choppy snare drums, acoustic guitars, and some of their signature chiming electric lines. 

Blossoms manage to conjure up that goofy, psychedelic feeling of being in love with a person or a place and crank it up to ten on ‘Ode to NYC’. “Cheery” is selling it short too, as the song is downright ebullient in its head-over-heels joy. But no matter how radiant they get, Blossoms never grate or overstay their welcome.

The Snuts – ‘Zuckerpunch’

Scottish indie group The Snuts have released brand new track ‘Zuckerpunch’, an effort that takes aim at social media and Mark Zuckerberg in particular. ‘Zuckerpunch’ examines the detrimental effects of social media on society and its psychological impacts on the most obsessive users.

The track comes as the second release of new material since their debut LP, W.L., which peaked at pole position in the UK’s Official Albums Chart in April 2021, marking the first time in 14 years that a Scottish group scored a UK number one album. The new track was produced by Detonate and Coffee and follows the release of ‘Burn The Empire’ in November last year.