Welcome back to Essential Listening, where we compile all the best new music of the week into the definitive tome of modern music; The Far Out Playlist.
It has been a bit of a slow week, if I’m being honest. Most of the big stories in new music didn’t actually involve any new music. That was Kanye West announcing Donda 2 and providing a release date that no one expects him to stick to, Encanto-mania sweeping across the UK and the US, and Alice Glass’ highly anticipated debut PREY//IV being pushed back by a few weeks.
In fact, we barely covered eight new songs in reviews this week, which is the customary number of tracks to fit into this column. Among them, our very own writer Sam Kemp gave a nasty 3.6/10 to Franz Ferdinand’s latest single ‘Curious’.
There was also a new Grimes song which, yeah, I’m going to have to pass on. Sam also reviewed that one, and gave an insightful observation that I wholeheartedly agree with: “It’s expertly produced, but the music fades into the background in light of the neuron-exploding accompanying video. Indeed, music doesn’t really seem to be what Grimes is about anymore – rather she seems to be concerned with creating more and more her mind-bending visuals.” I second that emotion.
But there were plenty of great new songs to enjoy this week. Here are the eight best ones, collected on The Far Out Playlist.
The best new songs of the week, January 22nd-28th:
Blossoms – ‘Ribbon Around the Bomb’
English indie rockers Blossoms have dropped the details for their highly anticipated fourth album, Ribbon Around the Bomb. The new album will be out on April 29th, and now they’ve shared the first preview with the album’s title track.
‘Ribbon Around the Bomb’ is everything you could want from Blossoms: slinky rhythms, poppy melodies, and some hard-hitting lyrics to boot. It certainly isn’t the best Blossoms song ever, but the band don’t appear to be stressing about it. Instead, they’re just cranking out easy pop-rock tunes and moving forward. Good for them.
Ty Segall – ‘Story of the Century’
Californian multi-instrumentalist and producer Ty Segall has announced his latest album release which served as the soundtrack for Whirlybird. The award-winning documentary production premiered two years ago at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The announcement of the album has been complemented with the release of the single from the album ‘Story of the Century’.
‘Story of the Century’, available for streaming below, is a propulsive track with heavy percussion that seems to give the documentary rhythm and is a fine example to show what’s in store for the remainder of the soundtrack, with a glimpse of the talent Segall hones to seamlessly cover a range of emotions.
Japanese Breakfast – ‘No One Sees Me Like You Do’
Japanese Breakfast return with their cover of Yoko Ono’s ‘Nobody Sees Me Like You Do’ as a part of the Ocean Child: Songs Of Yoko Ono compilation. A gentle piano ballad, Japanese Breakfast leader Michelle Zauner brings a real lightness to an otherwise heart-rending song.
The original version of ‘Nobody Sees Me Like You Do’ was featured on Ono’s 1981 album Seasons of Glass, released just a few months after John Lennon’s murder. Ono’s version is poppy but has a real sadness in it, like a dark cloud hanging over the ode to her late husband. The track is a beautiful cover and plays as another notch in Zauner’s increasingly notch-heavy belt.
Ginla ft. Adrianne Lenker – ‘Carousel’
Oh, the pains of growing older and the drift of (not) getting on with things. This terrain has been fertile musical ground for aeons, but in an unusual way, it usually proves to produce crops that skirt around the subject — rock ‘n’ roll anthems about refusing conformity or nostalgic poppy reminiscence. Ginla and Adrianne Lenker, however, have bottled up the thoughts and the feelings in sonic form and it proves comforting and bracing in equal measure.
With sweet acoustic plucking floating through the song like a lazy river and the ethereal tones of an overture adding just a hint of bittersweet discordance, the song has enough atmosphere to sustain life in space, even if it is as thin and delicate as a Fabergé egg. Painted over this score is a near-whispered dual vocal that ties the whole thing together.
Ducks Ltd. – ‘Sheets of Grey’
Canadian alt-rockers Ducks Ltd. have returned with a brand new single, the jangly and fast-paced rocker ‘Sheets of Grey’. Even though ‘Sheets of Grey’ is a “new song”, it’s not really all that new. The song was written years prior, probably when the group were still known as Ducks Unlimited, and it’s been a part of their live repertoire for some time now.
‘Sheets of Grey’ is right within the formula that the band has perfected: light, sunny, and melody-heavy. But ‘Sheets of Grey’ has some darker corners to explore just below its jangle-pop exterior: the song is actually about the overwhelming elements that can come with mental illness. Even with that weight, ‘Sheets of Grey’ keeps simplicity and catchiness as Ducks Ltd.’s primary modus operandi.
The Smile – ‘The Smoke’
Coming hot off the heels of their first release, ‘You Will Never Work in Television Again’, The Smile, containing two Radiohead members and one Son of Kemet, has decided to slow things down for their second song, ‘The Smoke’.
Incorporating more of the jazz-adjacent sound that drummer Tom Skinner usually explores in his day job, ‘The Smoke’ is a return to the more ambient and heady sounds that we’ve come to know and love from the two. But even still, ‘The Smoke’ isn’t nearly as experimental as the material from either Radiohead or Sons of Kemet, signalling that The Smile may well and truly just be a bit of fun to give all involved a little bit of mindless release.
Warpaint – ‘Champion’
Warpaint have made their long-awaited return with the brand-new track ‘Champion’ and it sees them drift into new territory with their sensibilities intact. The brew is less potent and original, but it goes down smoothly, nevertheless.
Dreamier than most of their work, the song has less of a live feel and focuses more on introducing studio techniques into their unmistakable sound. The moody undertow remains, but there is more wispy cloud cover and overture than we have come to expect. That is not to say that old fans will be disappointed though, after three stunning albums evolution was inevitable and Radiant Like This could prove another masterfully atmospheric rock record.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘Looking Backward’
French psych-pop artist Melody Prochet has returned with a brand new single under her moniker Melody’s Echo Camber with the bass-heavy and extremely heady ‘Looking Backward’. The single is the first taste of Melody’s Echo Chamber’s upcoming third studio album, Emotional Eternal. It’s Prochet’s first new release since 2018’s Bon Voyage, and is intended to be a more stripped back response to the dense arrangements of her previous work.
Featuring a truly psychedelic arrangement with synthesisers noise, guitar strums that sound like harps, and endless layers of vocals, ‘Looking Backward’ is about as trippy of a listening experience as a song can get, recalling Prochet’s early work with Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker.