Welcome back to Essential Listening, where we compile all the best new singles of the week into the definitive tome of modern music; The Far Out Playlist.
It’s been quite a week: the cold shivers of Christmas have officially been shaken off to reveal a hot stove of pop, rock, electronica, and everything in between. Gayle took over the number one singles spot in the UK with her giddily profane ‘ABCDEFU’, dethroning Adele in her home country while the ‘Easy On Me’ singer continued her reign at the top of the American charts.
On the front of the new albums, Yard Act landed our Album of the Week with their witty, sardonic, and surprisingly catchy debut LP The Overload. The “don’t call us a post-punk band” rockers had some comfy competition with Miles Kane dropping the solid Change the Show, Palace changing gears on Shoals, and Pedro the Lion making a surprise return with the unannounced Havasu coming out as well.
Back on the singles front, it’s an “all hands on deck” kind of week. Griff and Sigrid made a one-two pop punch with ‘Head On Fire’, Jenny Hval made her return with ‘Year of Love’, and English Teacher announced their debut EP with the brand new single ‘A55’. Plenty of great acts, including Holly Humberstone, Will Joseph Cook, Human Interest, and Beach House, dropped new material as well, but there’s only room for eight on the playlist, so some tough decisions had to be made.
Here are the eight best songs of the week, collected on The Far Out Playlist.
The best new songs of the week, January 15th-21st:
White Lies – ‘Am I Really Going to Die’
London rockers White Lies get alternately spacey and funky on their first single of 2022 ‘Am I Really Going to Die’. A fascinating track that sounds like Bowie doing ‘Station to Station’ and ‘Golden Years’ at the same time, vocalist Harry McVeigh is somehow able to channel both the detached headiness of the former and the irresistible funkiness of the latter.
Behind him, the band hold back for the first minute as the stage is set before they blast off into a funk-rock anthem. I’m here for it all: the wild narrative concept, the towering synths, the dance floor rhythms, the awesome bass sound. It’s all making their upcoming LP As I Try Not to Fall Apart sound pretty damn good.
Priestgate – ‘Eyes Closed For The Winter’
Yorkshire rockers Priestgate have returned to announce their debut EP, Eyes Closed For The Winter. The band has given us our latest preview of the new release by sharing the EP’s title track with a delicate balance of electronic and acoustic instrumentation.
The band show that they aren’t terribly concerned with throwing out the most angular riffs, dour subject matter, or offbeat melodies. Priestgate actually cares about hooks, which automatically elevates them above most of their peers in the now-beaten-to-death genre of post-punk.
Animal Collective – ‘Strung With Eveyrthing’
Baltimore’s favourite band of experimental pop players, Animal Collective, have shared the latest preview of their forthcoming LP Time Skiffs with the sprawling seven-minute ‘Strung with Everything’.
With a spacey intro that spills into an easy pop track, ‘Strung with Everything’ subtly builds and builds as it continues to add in more intense piano hits and drum crashes. By the time the song ratchets up the tempo, Panda Bar begins letting out unhinged yelps that threaten to turn the song into a bad trip. Thankfully, everything hangs together for a wonderfully engrossing final product.
PUP – ‘Robot Writes A Love Song’
Toronto-based freak-punkers PUP are back, and they’ve bought a shiny new single with them, ‘Robot Writes A Love Song’. The anthemic new track comes ahead of the release of THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND.
Perhaps the most strangely touching song so far this year, ‘Robot Writes A Love Song’ serves up all manner of unusual textures and atmospheres. Its eccentricity is only heightened by Stefan Babcock’s masterful lyrics – in just three minutes, he takes us on a journey into the binary-addled mind of a computer who soon becomes overwhelmed by very real and very uncomfortable human emotions.
Caroline – ‘Good Morning (Red)’
English eight-piece folk collective Caroline have dropped their latest single, ‘Good Morning (Red)’, as the most recent preview of their upcoming self-titled debut LP. The pastoral track is everything that Caroline do phenomenally well: a light acoustic jaunt that has an underlying sense of strange forbidding nature among the otherwise calm exterior.
Here, that sense of disconcerting discomfort comes courtesy of the wild shouts heard in the background throughout the track. Caroline are now in a two-band competition for London’s best experimental country-tinged musical collective with Black Country, New Road, but today Caroline takes a brief step into the lead with ‘Good Morning (Red)’.
Big Thief – ‘Simulation Swarm’
American indie rockers Big Thief have shared the latest taste of their upcoming double LP Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You with the new single ‘Simulation Swarm’.
Featuring ear-catching fretless bass runs from Max Oleartchik and gentle vocals from Adrianne Lenker, ‘Simulation Swarm’ proves that Big Thief are masters at the notion of doing more with less. Other than a guitar solo that shows off some nifty harmonics, the track is completely devoid of flash and pomp. It’s just a really good song, with no unnecessary bells and whistles to distract the listener.
Khruangbin and Leon Bridges – ‘Chocolate Hills’
Khruangbin and Leon Bridges have hooked up for the first time since their earworming collection of summer ditties on the celebrated 2020 Texas Sun EP for a new track titled ‘Chocolate Hills’ and it is about as sultry as a Parisian lingerie shop in the ‘hottest new Netflix series’.
While the song certainly doesn’t have the same immediate breezy hook that the previous single ‘Texas Sun’ caught an army of summer idlers with, Laura Lee Ochoa’s moody bassline and the delay pedalled guitar offers up that unmistakably sexy appeal that many SoundCloud artists have extolled to younger generations for a while now. As masters of sonic arrangement and sleek production, Khruangbin ensures that it offers it up at the highest quality.
Alex Cameron – ‘Best Life’
Australia’s premier soul-pop singer Alex Cameron has announced the release of his upcoming new LP, Oxy Music, and had gifted us with the album’s second single, ‘Best Life’.
An upbeat track that plays into the cheeky Roxy Music reference of the new album’s title, ‘Best Life’ finds Cameron as his typically slinky self as he unfurls a track with jaunty synth lines and hypnotic vocals. Nothing fancy here: ‘Best Life’ rocks, Alex Cameron rocks, and Oxy Music is likely to rock too.