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Music

Essential Listening: This week's best new music

@TylerGolsen

After a relatively slow first week of 2022, now we’re really kicking into high gear for new music. The New Years hangover is subsiding, and we’re all getting a little bit better about writing “2022” rather than “2021”. Everyone is getting back into their normal routines, and for musicians, that means it’s the perfect time to fire back up and start the first major wave of 2022 releases.

For albums, it’s hard to get any better than Orlando Weeks’ downright radiant new album Hop Up. Filled with sunny summertime jams that will warm up even the most bitter of winters, the former Maccabees singer lands the first great album of 2022. Downtempo DJ Bonobo put up a hell of a fight on Fragments, though, as the insistent swirl of his sound collages are a fantastic world to get lost in. Meanwhile, the less said about The Wombats’ new album, the better.

On the singles front, plenty of action continues to unfold. Jethro Tull picked themselves up out of the mothballs for ‘The Zealot Gene’, while Rush’s Alex Lifeson announced a new project, Envy of None, and dropped the bizarre/wonderful/bizarrely wonderful techno-rock track ‘Liar’. In the legacy-adjacent realm, Jack White and Dan Bejar’s Destroyer had their own pretty good singles released with ‘Love is Selfish’ and ‘Tintoretto, It’s for You’, but neither really live up to either’s lofty expectations.

But that’s also because this week represents some stiff competition in the new music market. Apologies to Spoon, Lo Moon, Barrie, Rolo Tomassi, Placebo, Sprints, and Beirut – there’s only room for eight songs on The Far Out Playlist, and these are the eight songs that really blew us away this week.

The best new songs of the week, January 8th-14th:

Fontaines D.C. – ‘Jackie Down The Line’

Who would have thought that Irish post-punk’s Fontaines D.C. would return with poppy melodies, jangly guitars, and a willingness to brighten up a bit after the powerful dourness of A Hero’s Death?

It’s a genius about face, with the group losing none of its sardonic wit or gloomy disposition on ‘Jackie Down The Line’. The anticipation for Skinty Fia was already white hot, but the first preview of the album makes it almost impossible to wait until April.

Spiritualized – ‘Crazy’

Country music looks pretty good on British shoegaze gods Spiritualized. Jason Pierce is a musician’s musician, so when he goes country, he’s smart enough to go right to the top of the mountain. That’s how we landed with the Pasty Cline-aping Bakersfield sound of ‘Crazy’.

A slow-burning ballad is about as forthright and heartfelt as Pierce has ever allowed himself to be on record, ‘Crazy’ comes complete with pedal steel guitar, high strung acoustic guitars and even a choir of voices that lift the song’s chorus into the stratosphere.

Mitzki – ‘Love Me More’

We are now less than a month away from Laurel Hell, the highly anticipated sixth studio album from America’s art rock queen Mitski. The album’s final single shows the singer going four-for-four with previews of the new LP.

Complete with the synths and drum machines that filled out the album’s previous singles, ‘Love Me More’ also comes complete with a monster chorus that is about as straightforward and poppy as Mitski has been since, well, ever. All four of Mitski’s singles over the past few months have been captivating and eminently replayable, and Laurel Hell‘s February release can’t come soon enough.

Johnny Marr – ‘Night and Day’

Returning with the latest preview of his ongoing project Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4, legendary axeman Johnny Marr has gifted us with the awesomely catchy new single, ‘Night and Day’.

Featuring a perfect balance between the jangle of Marr’s past and the more direct drive of his most recent music, ‘Night and Day’ also keys into one of Marr’s natural gifts: hooks. Whether it’s the gnarly bass line, the chorus melody, the call and response vocals between him and Primal Scream’s Simone Marie, or of course the layers of guitar tracks, ‘Night and Day’ just shines.

Cate Le Bon – ‘Remembering Me’

Right on the cusp of the release of her new album Pompeii in early February, Welsh indie pop singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon has dropped her latest single, the infectiously nimble dance track ‘Remembering Me’.

Le Bon has worked a lot in the gentle folk and indie rock sides of music, bringing in electronic instruments usually only to augment her songs. Rarely have synthesizers and drum machines taken centre stage as they do on ‘Remembering Me’, but Le Bon seems completely at ease in the new setting.

Arab Strap – ‘Aphelion’

Coming fresh off their triumphant comeback LP As Days Get Dark, Scottish alt rockers Arab Strap keep up the momentum on the slow-burning new single, ‘Aphelion’.

Vintage Arab Strap, ‘Aphelion’ is an introspective and ominous track that builds up to a crescendo in what is just another stellar example of the band’s unmatched ability to spin brief but comprehensive sonic journeys. 

Aldous Harding – ‘Lawn’

Following the success of her astonishing 2019 album, Designer, New Zealand’s Aldous Harding quickly established herself as one of the most talented songwriters working today, supporting that rise to global notoriety with a selection of artfully composed music videos. Now, we have yet another one with ‘Lawn’.

With its minimal sonic palate – featuring little more than drums, piano, and bass – ‘Lawn’ sees Harding put her artful melodies and cryptic lyrics front and centre. The sheer dexterity of her vocals has always been more than enough to beguile listeners, the range of tones she is able to draw upon giving her performances a hypnotic edge.

Metronomy – ‘Things Will Be Fine’

English indie-electronica outfit Metronomy have given us another preview of their upcoming seventh studio album Small World with the release of a brand new song, ‘Things Will Be Fine’.

If you want an evergreen topic to cover during a global pandemic, then discussing optimism in the face of uncertainty and difficult situations is a pretty solid road to travel down. It’s not exactly “cool” to have a song completely devoid of cynicism or irony, but lines like “the sooner you tell someone the better you will feel, so please put your trust in me” are so genuine and authentic that it’s easy to feel like something good might be around the corner.