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.
After what was a bit of a slow music cycle last week, this week has roared back with quite a bit of energy. We got some fantastic new albums across the board, from the course-changing career highlight of Mitski’s Laurel Hell to the wonderfully bizarre and playful noise of Animal Collective’s Time Skiffs and the sombre but empowering end-of-an-era triumph of Black Country, New Road’s Ants From Up There. All three could have easily been our Album of the Week, but it was Mitski who wound up taking the highly-contested top spot.
On the singles front, it’s been more of a mixed bag. Bloc Party put out the perfectly fine ‘The Girls Are Fighting’, while Dashboard Confessional and Divorce mostly struck out with their new releases ‘Burning Heart’ and ‘Services’, respectively. Nova Twins went agro with their latest fire-breather of a single, ‘K.M.B.’, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers returned with the slightly underwhelming ‘Black Summer’.
But there are also plenty of great new singles to be had across the musical spectrum: Circuit Des Yeux channels the best of orchestral art-pop on her recent track ‘The Manatee’. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever also dropped a stellar new track, ‘The Way It Shatters’, while announcing their third studio album Endless Rooms. The Linda Lindas glow up while retaining their charmingly pop-punk edge on ‘Growing Up’, and Puppy turned sinister on their new track ‘Pure Evil’.
But only eight songs can fit onto this list, and here are the best new songs from the week, compiled onto The Far Out Playlist.
The best new songs of the week, January 29th- February 4th:
Arlo Parks – ‘Softly’
Certified badass and unofficial winner of 2021, Arlo Parks, has returned with her first new song of 2022, the mellow and groovy ‘Softly’. With an easy earworm in its chorus and some awesomely stately piano lines, the song is, to my ears, about as close to pop as Parks has allowed herself to be in all of her work.
Whereas she showed off her expert blend of R&B, indie rock, and even jazz on her debut Collapsed in Sunbeams, ‘Softly’ seems to indicate that Parks is evolving faster than just about anyone else in the music world. If you haven’t already, now’s a good time as any to jump on the Arlo Parks bandwagon.
Lucy Dacus – ‘Kissing Lessons’
American indie rocker Lucy Dacus has returned with her first new single since her excellent third album Home Video dropped last year. A quick and scuzzy jolt of rock and roll is unfurled in the new single ‘Kissing Lessons’.
It’s an under two-minute track that recounts the innocence of children dealing with growing up. No one really knows how to deal with relationships or romantic feelings when you’re in second grade, with Dacus and her friend Rachel practising kissing each other to try and win over their respective crushes. ‘Kissing Lessons’ isn’t Dacus’ best or most impactful single, but it has all of her signature elements in one compact package.
TOUTS – ‘Shane MacGowan’s New Teeth’
Until recently Shane MacGowan’s Chernoblyed gnashers could quite easily be likened to resembling a terraced alley on bin day. Now, however, his pearly whites are a charming threat to retinas the world over and seem as pleasantly out of place as a reasonably priced ploughman and pickle in heart of Peking. This oddity and a thousand others are rattled through in the rampant new ditty from TOUTS with the brilliantly titled track ‘Shane MacGowan’s New Teeth’.
The teenage punks from Derry surprisingly want to address this issue as a matter of urgency, along with Kanye West’s presidential run and a slew of other barely intelligible issues owing to the rough and tumble production of the piece. Not that the lack of a crisp lyrical recital is a particular issue, you can get the gist from the fevered and frolicking tone alone as surreal modernity is not quite put under the microscope and more so hit with a wrecking ball before the band dance upon the rubble.
Personal Trainer – ‘Key of Ego’
The freaky-deaky Dutch collective Personal Trainer return with a brand new single, ‘Key of Ego’. Featuring a keyboard setting that I swear only comes on the cheapest Casio models and backing vocals that could easily be traced back to Faith No More’s ‘We Care A Lot’, the also features droll lead vocals, skittering drums, heavy bass lines, quasi-DJ scratches, and lyrics that celebrate the excitement of bubble gum.
It’s an incredibly memorable track, which is honestly the most you can ask for now that we’re in a no-attention-span culture. Personal Trainer no longer sound as though they’re just ripping off Pavement – they’re actually finding their own wacky and diabolical sound, which I have to respect, even if I don’t always get on board with the final product. I’ll be listening up for more Personal Trainer in the future, just to see if they have the balls to keep being this ridiculous/awesome/ridiculously awesome.
Wunderhorse – ’17’
Former Dead Pretties frontman Jacob Slater released his new single entitled ‘17’ under his solo alias Wunderhorse. After the recent releases of ‘Teal and ‘Poppy’ this new single shows Slater reaching a new high with a powerful song with considered and poetic lyrics overlying beautifully placed electric guitar instrumentals reminiscent of Crazy Horse era Neil Young.
‘17’ teases of great things to come from Jacob Slater and I for one am certainly excited to hear the new material that will grace our ears on his next album whenever it may come. His music is a breath of fresh air in an age where it seems that true creativity in songwriting is becoming scarcer in popular music.
Panic Shack – ‘Mannequin Man’
Wales’ newest band of indie punks, Panic Shack, have announced their debut EP Baby Shack and have shared the latest taste of the upcoming release with a new single, ‘Mannequin Man’. Joining the potent barrage of punk-adjacent rock music made by women, Panic Shack stake their claim as an exciting new outfit you really need to know.
You’ve all seen those street performers who just stand as statues for hours at a time, right? Well imagine a whole song devoted to that, but with lo-fi guitars, candy-coated melodies, a snotty disposition and goofy middle finger to anybody who might take anything, especially the band themselves, too seriously.
Rosalía – ‘Saoko’
Catalan pop sensation Rosalía has just dropped her brand new single ‘Soako’. Plucked from her much-anticipated forthcoming album Motomami, the razor-sharp new offering arrives alongside a mind-bending music video directed by Valentin Petit.
While it is innately danceable, ‘Soako’ also throws out the occasional fragment of trad-jazz. It’s a work of mesmeric dexterity – a union of fragmented samples underpinned by a pounding reggaeton beat, Rosalía’s latest single is one half chart-topping hit and one half digitally-manipulated collage.
Liam Gallagher – ‘Everything’s Electric’
Sorry everybody: this one is just for me. While it’s true that Liam Gallagher’s most recent single isn’t anything groundbreaking or even particularly different from the former Oasis leader, ‘Everything Electric’ is also everything you could ever want from the mercurial Mancunian.
Pairing up with the powerful punch of Dave Grohl on drums, ‘Everything’s Electric’ checks off all the boxes of Gallagher’s signature sound: loud guitars, anthemic choruses, nasally whine, and melodies to spare. Despite being old hat, ‘Everything’s Electric’ proves that Gallagher can still go supersonic when he wants to.