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.
Hey, what a week for new music! Obviously, these kinds of things tend to ebb and flow, but I’m not even sure if we had an Album of the Week last week. This week, however, it was stiff competition. Eventually, The Weather Station landed at the top with the haunting and beautiful How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars, but that spot could also easily have gone to MICHELLE and their groovy soul-pop opus After Dinner We Talk Dreams.
Even KAWALA dropped a wholly pleasant new LP, Better With You. On the singles front, we got a ton of new material to sift through. Break out your California road maps, because the Red Hot Chili Peppers are officially back with their second reunion single, ‘Poster Child’. It sounds precisely like a tonne of other Chili Peppers songs. Isn’t that awesome!
There were plenty of great new songs from the likes of Puppy, Pixies, Jack White, Barrie, and Sharon Van Etten as well. In fact, I can’t remember the last week where all of our reviews for the new slate of singles was this routinely positive. Maybe we’re just growing soft. Or maybe it was just a great week for new music.
In any case, only eight songs can crack this list. Here are the best new songs from the week, compiled into The Far Out Playlist.
The best new songs of the week, February 26th – March 4th:
Wet Leg – ‘Angelica’
The anticipation for Wet Leg’s self-titled debut album is white-hot. It all kicked off with ‘Chaise Longue’, the sneaky Song of the Summer for 2021. They got even better on their follow up sing, ‘Wet Dream’, and kept the bar high with both ‘Too Late Now’ and ‘Oh No’. As the days get closer and closer to hearing what a full-length Wet Leg album sounds like, the group have gifted us with another track, the fuzzy and wonderfully downtrodden ‘Angelica’.
‘Angelica’ is definitely one of those uptempo rockers that lures you in before you realise that it’s not actually a party song. When paired with ‘Oh No’ and ‘Too Late Now’, Wet Leg are carving out quite a bit of discourse on our endless cross-culture. That might be heavy-handed if the group weren’t pairing it with chiming guitars, scuzzy riffs, and hardened indie-rock energy. The results are fresh and modern, showing that indie rock still has something to say in 2022.
Alex Cameron – ‘K Hole’
Australian singer-songwriter Alex Cameron has dropped his latest single ahead of the release of his upcoming studio album Oxy Music, the hypnotic and incisive ‘K Hole’. Cameron’s obsession with the ills of the modern world is clearly shaping the narrative of Oxy Music, with previous singles’ Best Life’ and ‘Sara Jo’ taking on feelings of paranoia, anxiety, freedom, and expression that feels uniquely contemporary.
Cameron rides the line between timely and timeless with ease, making clear references to the 2020s that don’t feel like they will be dated by the next decade. Backing him up is a lush groove that seems to float effortlessly along with him. The blissful mix of guitars, synths, and strings sounds like one hazy instrument. Cameron is crafting a possible apocalypse that you can still dance to, which might be the most dangerous kind of deteriorating future. Appropriately, ‘K Hole’ is intoxicating and disorienting, but this is one escape with no side effects other than pure joy.
Bartees Strange – ‘Heavy Heart’
American indie rocker Bartees Strange has dropped his latest single, the melancholy and hard-hitting ‘Heavy Heart’. Following the swirl of thoughts that come from reflecting on the choices you’ve made to get to your current place in life, ‘Heavy Heart’ is the sonic equivalent of kicking out at the universe for being so random and, at times, so meaningless.
Strange brings together a heady arrangement of guitars and drums to bring that swirl to life. It’s a heavy song, but it’s not aggressive – it’s just pure power. t’s a wild mix of personability and good old fashioned rock and roll. ‘Heavy Heart’ is a song for all occasions: if you want to dive deep into the passionate lyrics and wounded vocal delivery that Strange busts out, there is plenty of emotion to pull out of the track. But if you want to turn off your brain and simply let the song’s wild energy and grandiose indie rock wash over you, then ‘Heavy Heart’ delivers there as well.
Pond – ‘Lights of Leeming’
Australian psychedelic rockers Pond have returned with a brand new song, ‘Lights of Leeming’. Last year, the boys in Pond dropped their appropriately-named ninth studio album 9. Like most of 9, ‘Lights of Leeming’ is catchier and more conventional than some of the sprawling compositions of the group’s past work. Inspired by synth-pop and electronica, Pond are clearly revelling in kicking out the dancefloor jams.
For a group that have struggled to emerge out of the shadow of their sister act, Tame Impala, ‘Lights of Leeming’ does a solid job establishing a unique sound for the band. Dumb fun is right at the centre of ‘Lights of Leeming’, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be taken seriously as a song. It just works better as a mindless dance track, that’s all. Pond are amassing quite a catalogue of those, in between frenetic post-punk inspired jams like ‘Pink Lunettes’. It just goes to show how versatile Pond are, dropping a new single for every emotion and occasion.
BADBADNOTGOOD – ‘Open Channels’
BADBADNOTGOOD have returned with a slice of brooding cosmic jazz. The jazz trio’s new single ‘Open Channels’ was actually released last year but was only available with physical copies of the 2021 album Talk Memory. ‘Open Channels’ is less a song than it is a breeze that passes through you. The track opens with the low hum of Leland Whitty’s saxophone, ripples of bass from Chester Hansen, and shimmering pulses of cymbal and snare from the hands of drummer Alexander Sowinski.
As Whitty’s sax floats over nearly imperceptible modal leaps, BADBADNOTGOOD conjure up a noir palette reminiscent of Miles Davis’ soundtrack to Ascenseur Pour L’échafaud. However, the quiet presence of chimes, which lie just behind the action, also suggests the group’s temptation to slip into the transcendent sonic world of Alice Coltrane.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – ‘Tidal River’
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have shared their new single ‘Tidal River’. The single comes following ‘The Way It Shatters’, the first single from the group’s upcoming album Endless Rooms, which is set for its release on May 6th. The latest singles bring much excitement ahead of the new album and show the group at a new level of maturity with their zeitgeisty guitar-driven indie bliss.
The Australian group take a look at the current state of society in their home country. As a country that often self-proclaims itself as the “lucky country”, the group highlight Australia’s contradictory history of injustice and ignorance towards the environment. The erudite and considered lyrics give the listener much to think about while entertaining with an ocean of alt-punk sound reminiscent of early Talking Heads with a unique vocal twist.
Ezra Furman – ‘Point Me Toward the Real’
Art-pop legend Ezra Furman has shared her first song of the year. ‘Point Me Toward The Real’ is a languid ballad featuring added instrumentation such as horns and a drum machine. It’s one of her best cuts in a long time, evoking the maturity of an artist that’s been a round for a long time.
John Congleton produced the track, and the horn arrangements come as a courtesy from Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes. The soulful backing vocals are from Shannon Lay and Debbie Neigher, and together with the horns, they create a warming soundscape and one that will have you press replay without thinking. There are elements of Deerhunter, Patti Smith, and dare I say it, Bruce Springsteen, and it’s brilliant. We cannot wait to hear what else Furman has in store for us this year.
Kurt Vile – ‘Hey Like a Child’
Kurt Vile has unveiled a new track from his upcoming album Watch My Moves. Vile’s latest offering, ‘Hey Like a Child’, comes ahead of the full album release on April 15th and follows his last single, ‘Like Exploding Stones’. Featuring tightly interlaced guitar lines, tactical pitch bends, and monotone vocals, ‘Hey Like a Child’ sees Vile deliver one of his most enchanting and gloriously groggy tracks to date.
While Vile uses the tight click of a snare to ground his guitar lines in a distinctly upbeat groove, his vocals seem ever so slightly detached, perhaps even mournful. It’s as though he’s looking in retrospective, colouring the song with a nostalgia that is at once heart-warming and curiously devastating.