Welcome to The Rotation, a roundup of the month’s key moments in music and why you should listen. Read Volume 18 below, or scroll to the end for playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Previous instalments available here.
Although we have been spoiled for choice with releases in recent weeks, the news that the juggernaut Adele will be returning with new music this month has shaken up the music industry and is definitely leaving some artists to reconsider their release dates. For fans, these are exciting times!
This month’s selections include tracks that reflect the change of seasons and songs that offer some escapism for the colder days.
Songs of the Month
Parcels | ‘Comingback’
Five-piece Australian band Parcels released their excellent self-titled debut in 2018 but didn’t get the widespread attention many believed they deserved, despite having production from the great Daft Punk. Here they return with their joyous new single. With sprawling pianos and soaring melodies, it sounds like a song you’ve known forever.
The band described how this track went through countless versions and reworkings before ending up on this sound, yet it sounds so effortless and easygoing. No doubt expectations will be high for their new album.
The Main Squeeze | ‘Sunday Morning’
The Main Squeeze are getting ready to release their fifth album and this is the first single. It’s funky and groovy in equal measure with hints of old school R&B. The lead singer has a beautiful tone throughout and the vocal samples give it a hip-hop edge.
The band explained that they rented a house in the desert and recorded the new album in 8 days. If this is a sign of things to come, their fans will be in for a treat.
alt-J | ‘U&ME’
alt-J arrived in the early 2010s and were one of the most exciting and influential bands of that era. You can still hear elements of their sound in a lot of new music. Here they return with their first new music since 2017, a track about being at a festival with your best friends.
The track features the intriguing production and layered harmonies that we associate with alt-J but returns to the guitar being the main focus. The band’s new album, The Dream, is out on February 22 and will no doubt be worth the wait.
Aonair | ‘Bad Decisions’
Donegal artist Aonair is gearing up to release his sophomore EP, Loveheart Birthmark, later this year and this is the latest taste. The track is about repeating the same mistakes over and over and holding onto past traumas and is delivered with his trademark powerhouse performance.
The production is definitely ’80s inspired, even featuring an excellent guitar solo halfway through. Aonair is an exciting young singer-songwriter and will continue to grow in popularity with releases like this.
Benjamin Earl Turner | ‘LUV2LUV’
Benjamin Earl Turner may not be a household name yet, but he is keeping himself busy. He was recently cast in the lead role on a new show Blindspotting on Starz and fully independently released a new album, SELLING AIR.
He effortlessly flows from hip hop to reggae to indie and this track is a great example. This track has a laidback vibe but will stick in your head and you’ll keep coming back to it. Check out the album SELLING AIR for more from this fascinating new artist.
James Vincent McMorrow | ‘Planes In The Sky’
This track sounds like it was made to soundtrack a festival in the summer. The Malahide artist sounds so confident and comfortable floating over the breezy production. His unique R&B tone over the indie instrumental incorporates the strengths fans have long admired in his music.
McMorrow’s new album Grapefruit Season is out now and is just as eclectic as you’d expect, it’s an excellent album from a talented musician.
ELKIN | ‘Tokens’
Irish duo ELKIN return with this dreamy and beautifully weird single. The poetic lyrics reminisce on memories from their early 20s, comparing them to songs on a playlist and revisiting them. It’s a beautifully uplifting track with lush production.
ELKIN are preparing to release an EP which will hopefully bring more much deserved attention to the talented duo.
Sam Fender | ‘Spit of You’
The singer described this track as a song about boys and their dads—it’s a stirring analysis of his relationship with his father as they struggle to communicate despite being so alike. The second verse describes a heartfelt moment as he watched his father say goodbye to his mother as she passed away, reminding him to make the most of their time together.
It’s a beautifully heartfelt track with an excellent saxophone solo to give it an extra kick.
Fender’s new album Seventeen Going Under is out now and is another accomplished release from the young artist.
Reggie and Smino | ‘Avalanche’
Reggie has managed to remain a mystery despite some noteworthy releases. Here he teams up with the talented Smino as they go back and forth about their existential anxieties and unique perspectives over a joyous instrumental.
Clearly, they both grew up as fans of Andre 3000 as they both employ flows reminiscent of the great 3 Stacks. But this is a strong release for both artists and will build anticipation for more releases from both of them.
Hak Baker | ‘Cool Kids’
Hak Baker’s sound and delivery is rooted in his home of East London, there is no mistaking where he is from. He returns here with a coming-of-age story as he tells stories from his childhood.
Baker is an engaging storyteller with an important message. The production here is mesmerising too, reminiscent of the early days of The Streets, who he has already worked with. He is gearing up to release a new EP in the next few months.
Kali Uchis | ‘Due Mejor (feat. SZA)’
Kali Uchis released the original version of this track on the album but she has since explained that the intention was always to have SZA on the track. Both singers sound incredible as they float over the production. Interestingly, it is SZA’s first time singing in Spanish and she sounds amazing.
Kali’s album Sin Miedo was released last year and we eagerly await more news on new music from SZA.
Katie Tupper | ‘Live Inside’
Katie Tupper is a new artist from Canada and, at only 23 years old, she is in for a bright future. This neo-soul offering ruminates on the idea of identity in a relationship. It’s a romantic, jazz-based track that showcases her sultry voice and soulful production.
Her debut EP is set for release in 2022 and will be well worth keeping an eye on.
Kacey Musgraves | ‘Simple Times’
Kacey Musgraves released one of the best albums of recent years with Golden Hour in 2018. Since then she has gone through a very public divorce and has had a difficult time figuring out what her music should sound like after that heartbreak.
Although the new album does focus on that break up, it is not a heartbreak record, this track is a great example of how Kacey chose to focus on personal growth instead of feeling sorry for herself. This is a nostalgic track that will take you back to the ’90s, both in its references and in its sound.
Her new album star-crossed doesn’t hit the heights of Golden Hour, but it is a very good release and features some of her most introspective songwriting.
Yebba | ‘Far Away (feat. A$AP Rocky)’
Yebba’s debut album is a fascinating collection of tracks and this song in particular sums up her eclectic taste. Her beautiful voice is still the star, and her impressive songwriting is still present, but between the quirky intro, mesmerising chorus and unexpected feature from Rocky this is one of her most intriguing releases.
Her new album Dawn is out now and is likely to end up on many year-end lists.
Carrie Baxter | ‘You’
Carrie Baxter is getting an impressive name for her soulful releases. This is an excellent example of her old school influences and her voice sounds incredible.
With a string of live dates coming up and a new EP, What Now, coming out soon, the future is looking very bright for the Irish singer.
Baby Keem | ‘Vent’
This is the kind of track that will cause chaos at festivals all over the world when that first line drops.
Someone described Baby Keem as one of Kendrick’s voices that escaped and made his own album, and that is surprisingly accurate. Kendrick himself delivers that memorable first line, but Keem is still the star and keeps that excitement going throughout the track.
His new album The Melodic Blue is out now and showcases why he is one of rap’s most exciting new voices.
Westside Gunn | ‘The Fly Who Couldn’t Fly Straight (feat. Tyler, The Creator)’
Despite the fanciful title, this is a straight rap song from both artists over soulful, spitting production.
Westside released his album Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely Adolf last month and now follows it up with Side B, which is essentially an entirely new album. It can be hard to keep up with the releases from the Griselda camp, but if you take the time to listen, the standard they manage to maintain is shockingly consistent.
Paris Texas | ‘girls like drugs’
LA duo Paris Texas have been difficult to pin down, releasing impressive tracks in a number of genres, but their excitement is infectious. On their debut EP they freely mixed elements of metal and hip hop, and this track follows suit.
Their vocals are sharp and full of swagger and the production features barbed electric guitars and heavy drums.
It makes perfect sense that they are going on tour with Brockhampton over the next month.
99 Neighbors | ‘N. Michigan Gospel’
99 Neighbors is an art collective based in Vermont that has always shown potential but the results have often been varied. Here they manage to execute this wistful and reflective track perfectly.
The song builds a beautiful sonic tapestry as each lyricist reveals more emotional depth as the track progresses. The song is a testament to what can be achieved with a collection of talented musicians.
Their new album, brilliantly titled Wherever You’re Going I Hope It’s Great, is out now and is an eclectic mix of music reflecting the collective’s varied perspectives.
Sive | ‘Think Before I Speak’
Irish artist Sive releases her debut single reflecting on overthink and self-reflection. The lyrics explore the pressures we put on ourselves to speak out before fully understanding what is being asked of us. The production is influenced by folk music but the distorted drums give this a hint of Radiohead.
It is an accomplished release from a new artist. Her album is due in 2022 so we can expect to hear more as we get closer to the release.
Album of the Month
Little Simz | ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’
Is it possible to remain true to yourself as you become more successful and famous? How do you deal with personal issues when your every move is in the spotlight? What do you do when you achieve everything you’ve ever wanted but you are still not happy?
These are the questions that Little Simz is confronted with on this album. Since releasing the critically-acclaimed GREY Area in 2019 she has become a Netflix star, a household name, and her idols, including Kendrick Lamar, have praised her as being an important voice in music. But she still struggles with the same issues as before, and she’s struggling to reconcile her public persona with her personal life. The album’s title comes from the acronym SIMBI, her nickname used by close friends, you could see the album as a battle between Simz and Simbi, the public versus the private.
This is a well-worn narrative, but it never drags the album down, her lines are delivered with bravado and the mood is kept light throughout. This is helped by the excellent production provided by Inflo, and the instrumentals throughout are masterpieces from the producer rumoured to be behind Sault.
Simz asks genuinely fascinating questions, “Why the desperate need for applause, Why the desperate need to be remembered?” She openly deals with daddy issues, asking, “Is you a sperm doner or a dad to me.” She is a deep thinker and isn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues.
The album is possibly a few tracks too long and lengthy interludes may add to the narrative but make the album a long listen. You may recognise the voice in these interludes as Diana from The Crown.
It is a very accomplished album and has managed to shine despite being released alongside some of this year’s biggest albums. She may still be reconciling Simz with Simbi but regardless, she will have to get used to the standing ovations.
Recommendations: ‘Introvert’/‘Woman’/‘I Love You, I Hate You’/‘Point and Kill’/‘Standing Ovation’