After a strange and unsettling first month of the year, now is a good time for some new music to bring us back down to Earth (or perhaps as far away from it as possible). January brought us loads of great new music including some protest songs from Father John Misty and OK Go, a dazzling new EP from Palm Honey, a comeback song from Slowdive that’s among the best I’ve ever heard, and much more. Here’s a list of 10 tracks from this past month that have been regularly invading my ear space.
1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
You may know Joshua Tillman from one of many places. He’s released music as J. Tillman, he’s the former drummer of Fleet Foxes, he’s collaborated with Lady Gaga, Beyonce, The Avalanches, and Kid Cudi, and he’s probably best known for the music he’s released under the name Father John Misty. He’s releasing a new album this year, Pure Comedy (out April 7th) and he just put out a music video for a track of the same name (and an 1,850 word essay explaining his new album). This brilliant, new ballad has especially drawn a lot of attention because of its controversial lyrics, which takes a stab at religious people (“they get terribly upset / if you question their sacred texts / written by woman-hating epileptics”) and their beloved Donald Trump (“where did they find these clowns they elected to rule them”).
2. Foxygen – Follow The Leader
California retro/experimental rock duo, Foxygen, just released their fourth album this month, Hang, to widespread critical acclaim. Though the album only clocks in at just over half an hour, critics have championed the record as being a return to form for the band after their last album, …And Star Power (2014), received mixed reviews. The singles on the new album, “On Lankershim”, “America”, and “Follow The Leader” are all high points, the latter of which being my personal favorite. It’s a funky, horn-filled, uplifting track with raw, soulful lead vocals from Sam France and wonderfully high-pitched backing vocals from guitarist Jonathan Rado.
3. Palm Honey – Going Normal
Palm Honey, along with Sundara Karma and The Amazons, are another member of Reading, UK’s batch of great new bands. The synthy, psychedelic pop band previously released four tracks on SoundCloud, including “You Stole My Blackout”, but have just released their debut EP, Tucked Into The Electronic Wave, and it’s unlike anything I’ve heard before (from this group or otherwise). The EP contains a finished version of “Palace” and three new tracks, “Stick The Knife In”, “I Can Try”, and “Going Normal. Probably my favorite of the bunch is “Going Normal”, which has really great, hazy vocal harmonies and a riff that you’ll have a lot of trouble forgetting. In an interview with Wonderland, the band said “I don’t think our previous releases have been particularly representative of our actual sound as a band and honestly I’m not that into those songs anymore. The EP is something I feel really represents us and what we want to do musically.”
4. Temples – Strange Or Be Forgotten
Temples are easily one of the UK’s finest bands and they continue to reliably put out brilliant track after brilliant track. The psych rock band are due to follow up their 2014 debut album, Sun Structures, with a new album out on March 3rd, Volcano. The first track they debuted from the new record was the shimmery, hypnotic “Certainty” and the band just released another new track from the record called “Strange Or Be Forgotten.” The track is one of lead singer, James Edward Bagshaw’s most infectious vocal performances to date and the synths so wonderfully cozy up to the vocals and the rest of the track.
5. Slowdive – Star Roving
Though I’m not sure I’m the biggest fan of Slowdive’s classic material, after hearing all the buzz about this classic English shoegaze band’s comeback single, I thought I would give it a listen. Having no expectations whatsoever, I listened to the track (the band’s first new song in 22 years) and came out a changed person. Like all good shoegaze records, the song transports you into another world and leaves you feeling like you’re floating on a cloud, forgetting all sense of being. Although I still would have preferred the vocals to be a little less drowned out by the rest of the track, I think it’s a remarkable achievement that the band have managed to release a track that rivals their best material from over two decades ago (something I hope fellow shoegazers, Ride can also achieve this year).
6. The Brian Jonestown Massacre (feat. Tim Burgess) – Fact 67
Legendary American psychedelic band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, are already due to release their sixteenth studio album next month, even though their previous album, Third World Pyramid came out in October last year. The album is called Don’t Get Lost and it’s out on February 24th via A Recordings. It features a new track with lead vocals from The Charlatans’ lead singer, Tim Burgess and although it’s a pretty minimalistic track, it still somehow manages to keep the listener hooked for six and a half minutes with its trippy guitars and pulsating basslines.
7. OK Go – Interesting Drug
Although I’m not a regular listener of OK Go’s back catalogue, I saw that they put out a music video for their cover of Morrissey’s 1989 single, “Interesting Drug” (one of his best singles) to protest the absurd inauguration of Donald Trump. The song contains the lyrics “there are some bad people on the rise” and of course, the video features images of The Donald and some of his most evil henchmen: Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and Donald Trump Jr. Though the song pales in comparison to the original, I enjoyed many things in it like the cheeky change in the original lyrics from “on a government scheme designed to kill your dream” to “on a Russian scheme designed to kill your dream.” The music video shows just a handful of Trump’s most abhorrent actions like his mocking of a disabled reporter, his leaked “pussy grabber” tape, and his appointment of an ExxonMobil CEO to his Cabinet.
8. Cameron Avery – Wasted On Fidelity
Having seen Tame Impala’s Cameron Avery support The Last Shadow Puppets live this summer, I was eager to find out when he was releasing his debut solo album since his live performance was so fantastic and unapologetically retro. This month it was announced that his debut album is out on March 10th via Anti- and it’s cleverly titled, Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams. In a statement, Avery said that it’s inspired by some big names like Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Etta James, and Frank Sinatra and he also said “I wanted to make something that sounded like the old records…the big band stuff with less metaphorical lyrics.” He’s already revealed two tracks from the album, the first being “C’est Toi” and the latest one is called “Wasted On Fidelity”, which shows off Avery’s warm vocal tones and some enchanting brass and strings.
9. Louis Berry – She Wants Me
Liverpudlian rock ‘n’ roller, Louis Berry, is back with another new track and this one’s just as fast and furious as the rest of his tracks. If you were a fan of some of his previous releases (.45, Nicole, and 25 Reasons), then you’ll love his new cut, “She Wants Me.” Some critics could fairly point out that track after track of all these short and sweet rock and roll tunes could get a bit boring, but I don’t have any problem with them since they’re all fantastically written and performed, even as formulaic as they may seem. This new track really displays Berry’s guitar chops and his trademark raw, scratchy voice.
10. Arcade Fire (feat. Mavis Staples) – I Give You Power
Arcade Fire, Canadian indie rock juggernauts, have returned with new music for the first time since their 2013 album, Reflektor. Along with the link to the new song, the band tweeted, “It’s never been more important that we stick together & take care of each other.” The track is available on iTunes and all proceeds will go to the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. They reposted the link to the track again on the day of the Women’s March with the caption “with the women of the world.” Speaking of women, this new track features guest vocals from Mavis Staples, the famous American R&B and gospel singer.