Welcome to The Rotation, a roundup of the month’s key moments in music and why you should listen. Read Volume 20 below, or scroll to the end for playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Previous instalments available here.
It’s been another busy couple of months for new music releases. No album review this time around, but plenty of highlights to reflect on. Adele released one of the albums of the year, mixing her raw emotion with incredible production as she talks you through her recent divorce. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak released the most fun and exciting collaborative project of 2021 as Silk Sonic, and plenty of others have dropped new tracks to see out 2021 and welcome us into 2022.
Dijon | ‘Many Times’
I’m always excited to see new music from Dijon, all of his releases have been fascinating and so different to everything else out. Last month he released his new album, Absolutely, and it didn’t disappoint.
Clearly inspired by folk and soul arrangements, in particular Bon Iver, Dijon lets emotion drive the songs and their structure. The songs avoid being too polished as his raspy voice tries to get out his words.
This is the powerhouse single from that album, the speed of the song matches his unravelling mind as he makes less sense as it goes on. The album delves into the breaking point of a relationship and is well worth a listen.
Gang of Youths | ‘tend the garden’
Gang of Youths have featured here previously and will no doubt feature again. Lead singer Dave Le’Aupepe has such an engaging voice and approach to his lyrics. This song is based on his late father’s affinity for gardening, the lyrics explore his complicated relationship with his father and his legacy.
The production is mesmerising, the glimmering synths, the blaring horns and the beautiful saxophone. It sounds like a track written on a piano by Dave, you can hear this original draft in the sublime piano intervals, and then the band embellished the idea.
The Australian band will release their next album, Angel in Real Time in February, amid if this is a sign of things to come, we can expect another excellent project.
Pond | ‘Take Me Avalon I’m Young’
Another Australian band, Pond, returned with this offering. The track is a world-weary reflection that everything feels like déjà vu. Lyrically they recognise that history doesn’t repeat itself, it simply alludes.
Heavy thoughts for a rock song, but the production brings these reflections to life. Producer and songwriter Jay Watson has a side gig as a touring member of Tame Impala, and you can hear that in the drums and the soaring synths. The whole song builds to an incredible crescendo in the outro with every element sounding in sync with each other. It’s as if they start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Their new album, 9, also coincidentally their ninth album, was released last year and is well worth a listen.
Peter Doherty & Frederic Lo | ‘The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime’
Pete Doherty has certainly lived an interesting life and is known for countless different things both in his music and in his private life. But here he sounds like a new man. Based in Normandy now with his wife, this new sound is rooted in French culture. You can imagine hearing this walking around the streets of Paris.
Working with French composer Frederic Lo and inspired by the artist Maurice Leblanc it is undeniably French. But you can still hear his signature eccentricity and his unique storytelling.
It’s interesting to hear Doherty away from the chaos and with a little less noise, it is worth keeping an eye on what else he’s been working on.
Terrace Martin | ‘Leave Us Be’
Terrace Martin has become the go to collaborator for artists looking to incorporate elements of funk into their projects. Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg have both worked with him extensively and they both return the favour and pop up on his new album.
It’s a classic breakbeat at its base but the additions of the syncopated bass line, the light keys, the horns and Martin’s silky voice shows his ability as a musician.
His new album Drones is out now and has a great vibe, it’s a perfect album to put on for a relaxing evening in.
MICHELLE | ‘MESS U MADE’
As soon as you hear the opening notes on this track, you can identify the classic R&B influences and you immerse yourself into the groove.
The beautiful four-part harmonies sound so perfect over the beat. It’s a tender and raw track with revealing lyrics from the singers, but the nostalgic feeling created by the production is unavoidable.
MICHELLE will release their excellently titled new album AFTER DINNER WE TALK DREAMS on January 28, and based on the singles we’ve heard so far, it’s going to be an eclectic mix of indie and R&B.
Lyndsey Lawlor | ‘Bottle & Chain’
Fans of For Those I Love or Dry Cleaning will appreciate this 23-year-old Dublin artist. This mix of spoken word and the electronic sonic soundscape is very effective.
Lawlor examines drama from all aspects of her life under the microscope. Her honesty about her personal struggle with alcoholism and envy will hit home for most listeners in some way.
Her debut album Dearest Philistine, which is, again, another excellent album title, will be released in 2022, and with releases like this, anticipation will be high for a full-length project.
Pastiche | ‘Bad Loser’
Pastiche wants you to find the worst parts of yourself and embrace them. Take her lavish video for this track for example, it’s dark and demonic but still thoroughly exhilarating.
Pastiche is only 23 years old and is one of the most exciting Irish acts out right now. There’s no doubt you can hear elements of Billie Eilish all over this, but she definitely makes it her own. She wants to show that these things aren’t the bad aspects of her, they’re just aspects of her and they are worth celebrating.
Pastiche is an act that is definitely worth keeping an eye on, she recently sold out a show at Whelan’s and we’ll be watching to see what comes next.
Mandy, Indiana | ‘Bottle Episode’
Everything about this track is exciting. The opening marching drums, reminiscent of ‘Black Skinhead’ and French verses set you up to be slapped in the face by the guttural drumbeat.
Despite the name, Mandy, Indiana are a Manchester experimental band. War is never mentioned but it is the central theme to the song. Vocalist Valentine Caulfield sings in her native French, “and as the bullets hit them, the men dance almost.” This could be joyless and bleak but instead it unfolds as a thriller.
Their new project, …EP, is out now and is just as interesting and eclectic as this track.
Kanye West | ‘Life of the Party’ (feat. Andre 3000)
Despite Andre 3000 only being the featured artist here, he manages to accurately reference and mirror the theme of the album he’s being featured on while also digging deep and telling immensely personal stories. This is exactly why Andre 3000 is considered one of the greats. The level of detail he goes into about his parents’ marriage and his childhood memories is extraordinary.
The fact that this song almost didn’t see the light of day because of the back and forth between Drake and Kanye and some disagreements about Andre’s cursing would have been a real shame.
Very few rappers flow over old samples as well as Kanye, but this song is all about Andre. He may only deliver one verse a year but when he does it usually is considered the best verse of the year.
KAYTANDRA | ‘$payforhaiti’ (feat. Mach-Hommy)
Mach-Hommy had one of the best projects of the year in Pray For Haiti and it’s great to hear him here linking up with Kaytandra.
His ability to mix Creole and English and change his tone from cutting verses to a melodic chorus is extraordinary. Lyrically he implores everyone to turn their prayers into payments for his home nation. As you’d expect, the production from Kaytandra is blissful. The groove laced beat allows Mach to flow without overpowering or stealing the show.
Kaytandra released an excellent EP, Intimidated, last year with features from H.E.R. And Thundercat.
Denise Chaila | ‘Might Be’
Very few artists have the ability to reference both the Greek god of wine making, Dionysus, and Queen Medb, a figure in Irish mythology representing intoxication, but that’s exactly what you get with this new track from Denise Chaila.
Over a dark and searching beat, Chaila flows effortlessly with a playfulness similar to some of the best of her earlier work.
Her new EP It’s a Mixtape is out now and shows Chailia’s ability to mix her flow and shapeshift depending on the beat.
SIPHO. | ‘Beady Eyes’
SIPHO., a multi-instrumentalist from Birmingham, delivers this stunning new track. The production features glistening synths, thudding bass and gospel tinges, but his powerful voice steals the show.
Lyrically he’s exploring how you can know yourself while also sabotaging yourself and others, it’s a soaring track with plenty of personality.
SIPHO. has already featured on Jools Holland with Elton John, but based on his releases to date, he is a very promising young artist with a bright future.
Fana Hues | ‘Pieces’
When Tyler, the Creator released his album last year, it had very few features, but one in particular caught people’s attention, the appearance of a relatively unknown singer, Fana Hues.
Here she returns with this beautiful new single over a smooth R&B beat, her delicate yet powerful voice takes centre stage. Lyrically she delves into the instability of a broken and convoluted relationship.
This is a stunning track and raises anticipation for further releases from the young singer.
Blooms | ‘Text Me When You Get Home’
Irish artist Blooms returns with this poignant track addressing the culture of male harassment of women in public. Inspired by the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabrina Ness, Blooms wanted to shine a light on the issues faced by women to feel safe.
It highlights the absurdity of a society in which women are told to change their behaviour instead of the men committing the assaults. It’s a haunting track with a blend of electric and pop and restrained synths. The song comes to a shimmering climax as her voice fades under the track.
This is heavy subject matter covered in a beautifully cogent way. A new EP from Blooms is expected in 2022 and it will be an interesting listen.
Claud | ‘Tommy’
Claud returns with their first single since their album Super Monster earlier this year. It’s an emotional and heartwrenching track. They describe how their partner clearly loves someone else, but they would still accept playing the role of Tommy to keep their relationship going. It’s a heartbreaking example of her storytelling.
The track is produced by Dan Nigro, who worked on the debut album by Olivia Rodrigo earlier this year and you can hear the similar melancholic guitar and dreamy and emotive production.
The track arrives as Claud announces a North American tour in 2022, but based on this track, she has already improved on her impressive debut album and anticipation for more new music will only grow stronger.