Listening Post: 17th January 2016
Between bubblewrap and the never-ending torrent of new music, it’s tough to keep up with what you should be listening to. Luckily, we’ve collected the very best tracks from the past seven days (you can picture us using a butterfly net if you *really* want) and displayed them in one handy location. Sit back, turn the volume up and delve into this Week’s Strongest tracks.
So where exactly do we fit The 1975? They’re not a rock band, even if they’ve started to gain a hold in the hearts of fans of shiny earworms – unless you want to take your local HMV’s ‘Rock/Pop’ racking system to heart. They’re not really an indie group either – they’ve far too much understanding of the Machiavellian workings of the big pop castle for that. But equally, to call them a pop group would seem slightly weird. They’ve been ‘at it’ for years to get to this point – something which in the modern world of mainstream bands doesn’t always feel to be the case, even if it often is.
When considered properly, though, a pop band is exactly what they are – but one in the heritage of 80s titans Duran Duran, perhaps. Frontman Matt Healy understands how bravado and pop image works. At times, it’s almost as if he’s reading it straight from the discarded scraps in the 80s Smash Hits! office bin. He doesn’t always get it right – sometimes it’s downright problematic – but it’s always fascinating. Not many bands can lay claim to that.
And when they turn it on, The 1975 can rip down all those previously mentioned genre boundaries in one fell swoop. ‘The Sound’ could maybe even be their biggest moment to date. That glorious rave piano, a hook line that sticks like superglue – it’s a monster. Taken from an album with the longest title in recent memory (‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’), it’s further proof that The 1975 are cultural chameleons. Try and pin them down, and they’ll change their colours before your eyes.
Eighteen months after they released their first self-titled EP, people are still shovelling the hype onto Creeper. The band can’t move for tired comparisons to MCR, AFI and Alkaline Trio yet they remain creatively unphased in the face of other people’s expectations.
Enter ‘Black Mass’.
With a rhythmic, frantic dance setting the pace before the hurried yell of, “Hey!” sees the track kick in proper, ‘Black Mass’ is the fastest we’ve seen Creeper move. Clocking in at a shade over two minutes, it’s also the shortest. While the band get straight to the point, there’s still plenty of room for those big band theatrics.
Sliding from relentless punk abandon to Back To The Future’s ‘Enchantment Under The Sea’ dance should be a jarring transition but Creeper, not content with effortless, make it look elegant. Moments earlier the commanding figurehead of Will Gould was standing with his arms outstretched, declaring, “Can I come over, I’m not a dream that you wish you’d had,” but now we find him cradling the mic, channeling his inner-crooner. And it’s glorious.
‘Black Mass’ is a song made for massive rooms. Despite the huge appeal, Creeper haven’t lost their outsider mentality though and this cut is just as unifying, emotional and powerful as anything they’ve put their name to yet. While the band are still a long way from believing the hype ‘Black Mass’, the first track to be lifted from their upcoming EP ‘The Stranger’, sees the band going beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. We’re starting to realise that it doesn’t matter how high we set the bar for Creeper, they’re going above it.
With a name destined to shock, Norwegian’s Slutface were always going to need really big songs to become more than just a name. Following the one-two of ‘Shave My Head’ and ‘Get My Own’ comes ‘Kill ‘Em With Kindness’, a track that cements the band as seriously great.
Sugary and sweet, the likes of “You’ve seen it all before / Madonnas of the world / crawl across the broken glass / watch the throne you kings / Genius bars and air guitars / What’s it all mean?” are delivered with short venom while the bubbling melody gives the track a sense of playful urgency.
‘Kill ‘Em With Kindness’ is a side-swipe at the “mildly sadistic” nature of the press and their joy in watching an artist fail, Slutface are all to aware of The Game but they’re facing the spotlight head-on. Refusing to fully lose themselves in the jubilant triumph of the chanted “Light it up”, the band are very much in control. Smirking as they sing, Slutface know just how big this track really is but rather than dwelling on indulgence, they charge forward.
The track pops with such ferocity it could easily get away from them but with Slutface holding the reigns, it was only ever going to light them up.
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From the the colourful rebirth of ‘Human Interaction’, the soaring bounce of ‘To Be Free’ and the free-spirited escape of ‘Drive’, it’d be all to easy to assume Tonight Alive’s ‘Limitless’ is a record of light and more light. It’s never that simple though.
In asking ‘How Does It Feel’, Tonight Alive channel the spirit of second album ‘The Other Side’ as they throw a cautionary glance over their shoulder to the path that’s led them this far. An adventure in shadow.
There’s a touch of early nu-metal swagger as powerful, frantic guitars tease the track’s soaring flight before those massive pop sensibilities take them somewhere serene and reflective. ‘How Does It Feel’ hits hard but this isn’t fan service or by-the-book throwback, instead the track takes the anger and frustration of the past and twists it in an anthem of empowerment. If there’s a song to mark the transition between Tonight Alive of old and the band set to drop their most daring album yet, this is it.
The gritted teeth lyrics growl with angst but where once Jenna McDougall would have snarled and spat in an attempt to purge those demons, now she simply laughs. (3:05 for The Chuckle of 2016, laughter fans.)
The band isn’t shrugging off their journey or the battles they’ve been through, though. As more and more of the record is unveiled, we’re shown just how dark things can get which makes the shining light of ‘Limitless’ all the more wonderful. ‘How Does It Feel’ shows a band growing past the pain that once defined them as they try and turn it into a positive. The fact this track is probably one of the most exhilarating songs Tonight Alive have ever written is just a happy bonus. We might not know how it feels but it sounds amazing.
With their first material since 2012’s ‘Dark Hearts’ Slingshot Dakota’s ‘Paycheck’, the lead single to recently announced third album ‘Break’, sees the band returning with the brash confidence of legendary heroics.
The fuzz-laden intro drones like a tortured arcade machine on the darkest of boss levels before the demanding, “give me a sign that you know me,” sees the band quickly breaking free and celebrating. Ominous yet jubilant, ‘Paycheck’ sees the band twirl with a newfound space and as the track proceeds, so do the ideas.
There’s a tension between the vocals and the rhythm with both vying for the spotlight but instead of overpowering one another they simply dance around it, flitting between light and dark. Elsewhere the constant buzz lays the foundations for flourishes of colour from an ever-expanding pallet.
‘Paycheck’ is a snapshot of a band growing outwards. Starting as they mean to go on, Slingshot Dakota go from strength to strength in the space of three and a bit minutes.
This comeback sees the band asking if they’ve been missed but through the track’s constant march and angular additions, they already know the answer. Would you like to play again? Yes, to both.
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And so here we are. After blue (amazing), green (pretty damn great) and red (a mix of good and wtf), Weezer prepare to return to the colour palette with their white album. You don’t give a record that sort-of-title lightly; it has connotations. This time, they really do have to deliver.
But – actually – maybe this is the right time for Weezer to finally reclaim their throne. The signs are there. 2014’s ‘Everything Will Be Alright In The End’ was probably their best album in more than a decade. The first of their surprise drops, ‘Thank God For Girls’ was weird, initially a provoker of Big Opinions, but in retrospect loads of fun. ‘Do You Wanna Get High?’, on the other hand, was sublime – a proper reminder that the band whose first two albums were without flaw still existed. Not even ‘Raditude’ could flush that away.
And then there’s this – ‘King Of The World’ – the song that comes with the announcement of Weezer’s 10th full length.
“Obviously, my favorite [he’s American, let him off, Brits – Ed] band has always been the Beach Boys,” Rivers Cuomo explains in the supporting press material. “What I love about them most are the melodies and the chord progressions.”
It’s in that line that finally the penny drops, both for us and them. Weezer possess one of the greatest tricks in modern rock. Just like The Beach Boys, it’s their ability to hit those harmonies which sets them apart. When matched with grittier, discordant melody they’re without peer. Few bands have a template that should be massaged rather than aggressively challenged; but this is certainly one of them. With those both hooked up, we can have all the “demented lyrics” Cuomo wants.
We’re three for three going into a new Weezer record. They’ve got more control over their destiny than ever before. They’ve even managed to drag themselves over to the UK for a couple of shows. Right now, anything is possible.
With their biggest ever UK tour just around the corner, Enter Shikari surprise dropped new track ‘Redshift’.
Bigger and more anthemic than the reflective call-to-change of ‘The Mindsweep’, this track sees the band grander and more unifying than they’ve dared tread before. The vocals are reassuring, the melody encouraging and the synths twinkle instead of decimate. Placards down, ‘Redshift’ sees the band holding out an open hand.
Lyrically the track sees Shikari pushing the storytelling aspect of their music to new levels, cutting fantastical elements of science with a human want for belonging.
Yet, for all the amplification and grand occasion, ‘Redshift’ is still an Enter Shikari track. There’s a global sense of belonging and a lust for more held aloft throughout while the moments of calm beauty can be found in the echoes of their previous material. It’s also heavy on heart and soul. It feels true.
‘Redshift’ feels like a track created with those imminent, cavernous venues in mind but it doesn’t lose any of the journey that’s carried Enter Shikari this far. On the eve of their biggest leap yet, the band are still finding new horizons to push against.