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.
Over on the album front, Angel Olsen called her own shot embracing the unpredictability of life on the engrossing and enthralling Big Time, which landed as our Album of the Week. Right by her side was Andrew Bird, who managed to make pastoral psychedelic folk with surprising depth on his recently released LP Inside Problems.
There were plenty of solid singles floating around the world of music this week as well, but 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.
The best new songs of the week, May 28th – June 3rd
Hovvdy – ‘Ruby’
With a style that harks back to the sort of sweetly sanguine indie music that first blossomed when Hovvdy arrived on the scene with their debut Taster back in 2016, there is a summery air of nostalgia when it comes to ‘Ruby’, the first single from their new EP Billboard for my Feelings.
With a classic American indie repetitive rhythm structure and talk of clothes, holding hands, and cold fingers, the song offers up a dose of saccharine reminiscence, almost too sweet for this side of the pond. However, the bassline keeps it from feeling too saccharine, tempering the rolling sounds.
Divorce Finance – ‘Django’
It’s not very often that a new band emerges that generates a buzz of genuine excitement. However, a new group has just materialised that not only boasts bags of potential but has a lot to say: a rare currency amongst the contemporary crop of bands. Calling themselves Divorce Finance, aesthetically, this batch of characters looks more like a company you’d normally expect to see fighting for one of the many Republican factions against the forces of Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
The debut single by Divorce Finance is entitled ‘Django’, and it’s a masterclass in social commentary. Frontman Mr Discipline tears apart our modern affinity for hero worship and the fact that, as a collective, we love to place figures on pedestals, even though they’re not worthy of it. Not content with just one damning criticism, the new song also goes for the jugular of the most recent iteration of post-punk with deadly accuracy, and the explicit mention of Mark E. Smith rip-offs is just the icing on the cake.
Will Butler – ‘A Stranger’s House’
Just as Arcade Fire were announcing their sixth studio album WE in early 2022, however, Will Butler announced that he had left the group at the end of 2021. While he was leaving his most famous project, Butler insisted that he was still creating music, and now we’re getting the first taste of that music with the new singles ‘A Stranger’s House’ and ‘Nearer to Thee’.
‘A Stranger’s House’ is the eerier of the two tracks, featuring little more than Butler’s voice, some vamped piano chords, what sounds like spoons clacking together for percussion, and the sound of a baby’s voice occasionally cropping up. The track is a solid slow burner, but eventually, it opens up into a fuller arrangement with electronic touches. ‘A Stranger’s House’ strikes a nice middle ground between stark lo-fi and slick electronica, and Butler’s voice rings strong and true at the track’s centre.
Shivum Sharma – ‘Words’
South London singer-songwriter and producer Shivum Sharma has released a candid new single, ‘Words’.
The new single comes as the second preview taken from Sharma’s upcoming EP, In Transit. ‘Words’ is an introspective soul search that takes us through the soundscapes of Sharma’s mind that trickle with peaceful piano melodies and gentle vocal delivery. The harmonising instrumentals meet Sharma’s voice perfectly and evoke a dreamy yet plaintive feeling.
Working Men’s Club – ‘Ploys’
“Being sad makes me happy,” Working Men’s Club sing over a synth sound that makes you feel like you’re a ping-pong ball in the midst of a particularly technical rally between Paul the Octopus and some comic book assailant with whose multi-armed and dangerous.
This gnarled juxtaposition of manic musical energy and the withdrawn delivery of despondent introspection certainly makes for a melon twisting three minutes on ‘Ploys’. All things are in contrast in a swirl as the synth rhythm gets the night going but the strange drum distortion and lyrical context simply pines to be in the smoking area, and occasionally at home on the couch.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Spitting Off the Edge of the World’
It’s been almost a decade but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are finally back to breathe fresh life into indie music once more. With their Perfume Genius team-up ‘Spitting Off The Edge of the World’ it’s like they never went away, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Karen O is once more sustaining notes that wrap around your finger and then break it in three places, the band remain proficient in using near-silence to build a tidal wave of atmosphere, and their mule-kicking choruses have returned to give your head a spin like a sudden cranial waltzer. The power of electric indie is as statically refreshing as ever.
Phoenix – ‘Alpha Zulu’
French electronic rockers Phoenix have returned with their first new music in nearly two years with the dancefloor-ready single ‘Alpha Zulu’.
Featuring a looser and more spontaneous style than the normally tightly-controlled Phoenix of the past, ‘Alpha Zulu’ still has the indie pop brightness and hooky sensibilities that make the band so well-loved. Credit where credit is due as well: ‘Alpha Zulu’ is in and out in under three minutes. Not that it couldn’t have been extended a bit, but Phoenix definitely leave you wanting more.
The Heavy Heavy – ‘Miles and Miles’
If you’re looking for yet another track to add to the playlist of your summer, search no further—The Heavy Heavy’s debut single has you covered. It’s the first single off their upcoming debut EP Life And Life Only, and it promises plenty in the way of vintage charm and upbeat fun.
The Heavy Heavy were a Brighton-based act, but have been snapped up by ATO Records in the US—the same who brought us King Gizzard, Alabama Shakes, Amyl & The Sniffers, and plenty more. And even though their sound doesn’t exactly match the derivative of the aforementioned bands, they seem to fit exceptionally well into the tapestry of the label.