Welcome back to Essential Listening, a place where we compile all the best new music of the week into the definitive tome of modern music: The Far Out Playlist.
We’ve got a real barn burner for our Album of the Week: Bartees Strange’s Farm to Table. Pairing the genre-blending tendencies of Strange’s first album with some real insights into who he is as an artist, Farm to Table is everything that you could want from a second LP. Plus, it just has some damn good songs on it, which also tends to help.
There were some awesome singles out in the world this week as well, including the trippy and mind-expanding work of Black Midi’s ‘Eat Men Eat’ and the pop-rock splendour of Beabadoobee’s ’10:36′. Foals gifted us with a solid new track in ‘Crest of the Wave’, and FKA Twigs returned to the spotlight the song ‘Killer’.
Still, only eight songs can find their way onto this list. Here are the best new songs from the week, compiled into The Far Out Playlist.
This week’s best new music: June 11th – June 18th
Gaz Coombes – ‘Sonny The Strong’
Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes has returned with an elegant solo single based on the story of the “forgotten” British world championship boxer Randy Turpin.
‘Sonny The Strong’ is a candid and plaintive indie sensation that displays Coombes’ songwriting acumen as he explores the interesting semi-fictionalised story of the British boxer defying the odds in post-war Britain. Coombes’ impressive Thom Yorke-style vocal display suits the triumphant and deeply moving tone of the song while the subtly layered concoctions of stripped-back piano and guitar help structure the narrative and draw in the listener.
The Beths – ‘Silence is Golden’
Ahead of the release of their new album, Expert in a Dying Field, New Zealand alt-rockers The Beths have shared a brand new single. ‘Silence Is Golden’, our first preview of the new studio offering, is out now.
Like so many songs written throughout 2020/2021, ‘Silence is Golden’ bears the mark of that fragmented, isolated period. The track bristles with pop-punk energy, an off-beat drum track imbuing it with mesmeric rhythmic complexity. As Elizabeth Stokes sings of wanting to “Go to the wild/Soak up the quiet,” one is reminded of the strange tranquillity that the initial lockdown engendered. Indeed, in ‘Silence Is Golden’, Stokes seems to damn the city and the inevitable return of its hustle and bustle.
Julia Jacklin – ‘I Was Neon’
Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin has returned with the latest preview of her upcoming third album Pre Pleasure with the glittery indie rock track ‘I Was Neon’.
Straddling the line between fuzzy guitar lines and candy-coated melodies, ‘I Was Neon’ is the perfect middle ground in Jacklin’s sound. But that’s not to say she’s compromising or going halfway on anything – she’s actually doubling down and fully embracing the best parts of her style that aren’t stripped-back folk music, a genre that she already proved she’s mastered.
Dry Cleaning – ‘Don’t Press Me’
British post-punk foursome Dry Cleaning have returned to announce their second studio album, Stumpwork, with the first single ‘Don’t Press Me’. Short and succinct, ‘Don’t Press Me’ is two minutes of swirling guitar, rumbling bass, surprisingly light production, and perhaps the first real melodies ever sung by Shaw on record. Shaw has always been more of a narrator than a singer, and there’s plenty of that on ‘Don’t Press Me’, but there’s also some real harmony work going on as well.
In that same spirit of adding new layers to the band’s sound, Tom Dowse’s guitar work is less distorted and jagged than most of the band’s previous work. Dry Cleaning were never really an indie rock band, but ‘Don’t Press Me’ is certainly the closest to the genre that they’ve ever come. Still, middle-of-the-road Dry Cleaning remains most other people’s left field, so there’s no need to worry about the band going soft.
Preoccupations – ‘Ricochet’
Preoccupations have revealed their upcoming fourth studio album, Arrangements, which is set to arrive on September 9th. In accompaniment to the exciting news, the four-piece have released the album’s lead preview single, ‘Ricochet’.
‘Ricochet’ is nothing like David Bowie’s 1983 song of the same title. However, the post-punk feel to the song does seem to place it around this era of music. Along with the suitably black and white and slightly unnerving visualiser, the track comes reminiscent of a Robert Smith or Peter Murphy composition from the early ‘80s. The sombre lyrics conclude with the refrain: “Everything tastes like the bitter end,” perhaps a premonition of the Covid-19 struggles, which were still to come when the song was written.
Bret McKenzie – ‘Dave’s Place’
Bret McKenzie has continued his astounding run of solo tunes with his second single ‘Dave’s Place’… and it’ll have fans crooning ‘Oooh, you’re a legend Dave’ in a toe-tapping heartbeat. Bopping and buoyant, it’s a change of tack from the first track ‘A Little Tune’ and it forecasts great things far beyond any Flight of the Conchords fan’s imaginings for the forthcoming album, Songs Without Jokes.
Like a lot of the very best art, McKenzie’s approach to the album seems to be akin to a musical Coen brothers’ film, in that it is genre-less and follows the whims of the weirdness of reality. Even the title, Song Without Jokes, is offered up with a wry smile because for all they may evade punchlines, they are far from drab anthems sticking stoically in the lane of solemnity in search of ‘oh wow’ reverence.
Katy J Pearson – ‘Float’
Katy J Pearson peels back your curtains like an unruly Mary Poppins-esque tenant once more with another blast of hip-shifting sunshine with her latest single ‘Float’. As ever with the Bristolian songwriter, there is also a sting to that floating butterfly as she gears up for the release of her second album in style.
The moody atmospheric ambience of a midnight creeper intro makes way for the strum of a country-inflected guitar before the welter of sound heads towards perfectly composed indie-pop. And by the mid-point, you are convinced once more that nobody is crafting melodies with the same seamless ease of sliding into slippers the way that Pearson is at the moment.
Marlon Williams – ‘Thinking of Nina’
Marlon Williams, the crooning Elvis of Christchurch, is back with a new Alex Cameron-inflected shimmering synth jam to tap your toes to this summer. The slinky single follows the beautiful doo-wop daisy chain of ‘My Boy’ as part of the forthcoming follow-up to 2018’s impressive Make Way For Love. From the outings so far, there is certainly plenty to look forward to.
‘Thinking of Nina’ is a summer jam that swoons in an out of carefree revelry, waxing and waning between an emotive slow jam and a fist-clenching sleek smoking area neon-soaked fanfare. It flits between the two without losing momentum either way. And although it might sound a bit like a few artists who have beaten him to the punch, Williams’ singular voice keeps it signed off as an original.