Greetings and salutations, another edition of Sounds Like Now is upon us. A week filled with heavyweight names, surprise returns, soundtrack offerings, star turns and a truly awful video courtesy of Kanye West, who is really beginning to prompt concern.
The returning Villagers nab this week’s crown but there are stellar turns below from the likes of Chromatics, Mylets, Public Service Broadcasting, Angel Haze, Modest Mouse and The Cribs, who are, in fact, still knocking around. So let’s do it to it before it does it to us.
TRACK OF THE WEEK
Villagers – ‘Courage’
Having popped up on one of the standout tracks on Jape’s superb This Chemical Sea, Conor O’Brien makes an even grander return with ‘Courage’, the opening track from Villagers’ forthcoming third record, Darling Arithmetic. Confession time. I’ve never really got Villagers. In truth, I find it difficult to listen to O’Brien’s vocals for an entire album. It’s not a shot at the guy, he’s clearly capable of working melancholic magic but I find that I’m slipping into quicksand before the narrative closes off.
‘Courage’ is the first time I feel like I might get it. There’s no major change-up here, just another acoustic guitar-driven delicate waltz anchored by typically graceful vocals. And yet it connects for me in a way no other Villagers song has. Simple, elegant, beautiful.
BEST OF THE REST
Mylets – ‘Trembling Hands’
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Loop monster Henry Kohen’s new one sounds it like should have come free with an issue of Kerrang! or Rock Sound about 10 years ago. It would be packed in right next to other Next Big Things with Next Big Sounds and Real Big Attitudes. Here’s the rub. Kohen is the diamond in the rough, the one track worth burning to your Mini Disc (hey, some of us had to suffer that horror, okay?) so you could play over and over and over again. It’s pretty fucking great, is what I’m getting at.
Public Service Broadcasting – ‘The Other Side’
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If you’re new to the other inventive duo that go by ‘PSB’, their schtick centres around mixing a driving sound with old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material. It’s the kind of cute concept that can only run for so long so kudos to the pair for looking to the stars where their sophomore effort is concerned. Apollo 8’s orbit of the moon is the focus as J. Willgoose Esq. and his faithful drumming companion Wrigglesworth continue their interstellar exploration, building rhythm and tension in a similar albeit less high octane manner as Daft Punk’s recent ‘Contact’. Between this and the irresistible ‘Gagarin’, they’re two for two. Bring on The Race For Space.
Chromatics – ‘Yes (Love Theme from Lost River)’
[soundcl[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189328434" params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166" iframe=”true” /]Johnny Jewel of Chromatics and Ryan Gosling of Murder By Numbers are no strangers to one another having worked together on Drive. Though Cliff Martinez would ultimately provide the better-than-the-film score, Jewel and Gosling struck up something of a kinship. Enter Lost River, Gosling’s thus far critically-panned directorial debut for which Jewel supplies the tunes. It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect, but still worthy of your attention.
José González – ‘Leaf Off / The Cave’
Doing a Damien Rice and coming in from the cold after almost eight years is one José González, aka Him Off That Sony Ad With That Knife Song. Trailing new album Vestiges & Claws, ‘Leaf Off / The Cave’ is pretty busy and uplifting as far as A José González Song goes. Don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t broken out the saxophone or anything but his sun is shining and his latest soothes quite nicely as a result.
Angel Haze – ‘CANDLXS’
[soundcloud [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189058679" params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166" iframe=”true” /]n’t say Angel Haze is killing it on this track because that expression is nightmarish. Instead, I will posit that she’s really very good at what she does and ‘CANDLXS’ is a tremendous, seamless mix of subtle and epic.
Modest Mouse – ‘The Best Room’
Isaac Brock and his bouncing ball voice return as new record Strangers To Ourselves draws near. ‘The Best Room’ is the very definition of ‘a grower’. At first it sounds like typical Modest Mouse filler; ambling about enthusiastically with no real direction or purpose, but there is a song here and once teased out, it’s quite a good one. That it’s charming is a given, but there’s something extra playful here if you’re willing to keep going back.
Mew – ‘Satellites’
Oh dear. I love me some Mew – ‘Comforting Sounds’ is probably in the all-time Top 10 list – but what is this? Pet Shop Boys meets Death Cab For Cutie with a dash of J-Pop. It’s fine, I guess, but reeks of radio.
The Cribs – ‘Burning For No One’
Yep, Wakefield scamps The Cribs are still going having somehow survived the scorched-earth policy that claimed the likes of The Pigeon Detectives, Little Man Tate, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Hard-Fi, The Others, The Rascals, Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong (that fucking name…), et al. To be fair to the Brothers Jarman, they’re a better band than just about all of the aforementioned and ‘Men’s Needs’ remains a glorious slice of aggro-indie pop. Their latest offering isn’t in the same league as that one but it isn’t trying to be either, aiming instead for a hazy and wistful summer stroll type thing. In that regard, it works just fine.
Wait, The Pigeon Detectives are still around?!
Girlpool – ‘Chinatown’
How you feel about Girlpool will depend entirely on your patience for apathy. This is as low-fi as low-fi gets; lazy vocals, lazier guitar, a little too knowing in the throwback 90s vocal department and no real evident passion. It’s the kind of song you may utterly despise after only one listen. Then again, there’s a certain charm to its ‘Hey, whatever’ musings. If you’re into that kind of thing. Don’t look at me, I didn’t write it.
“IT’S JUST NOT WORKING” OF THE WEEK
Kanye West – ‘Only One’
As a track, ‘Only One’ has been pretty divisive. Some – this writer among them – think it makes for a fine interlude-type song that just about gets away with its heavy gushing. Others believe that we won’t hear anything as aggressive as Yeezus again for a long, long time. Surely we’re all on board when it comes to the horrendously awkward video that sees Kanye sledgehammer home the cloying family man sentiment as he roams a misty patch of land, alternately dancing, breathing heavily and pausing for quiet contemplation with his bemused-looking daughter. As Portishead’s Geoff Barrow tweeted in Yeezy’s direction, let’s hope he didn’t pay director Spike Jonze too handsomely for his work.