The last week of the official lockdown period here in the UK has ended. From Monday on, non-essential shops and beer gardens will open, which means we will slowly get back to normal life again. This weekend will probably be the last weekend not spent in a pub, which means it’s a good reason to, for one last time listen to these new releases while dancing around in your living room. At least that’s what I’m going to do. Happy weekend!
Editor: Megan Hofman
Years & Years – Starstruck (Polydor)
Years & Years are back with an electrifying new single – ‘Starstruck’ – the first release as a solo project taken on by frontman Olly Alexander. In March, it was announced that band members Emre Türkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy would take a step back from the band with Alexander explaining that the trio grew apart musically. However, their latest release is just as upbeat and danceable as you’d expect. In 2021 Olly appeared in Russell T Davies ‘It’s a Sin’ which follows the story of a group of friends amid the HIV and AIDs crisis of the eighties and nineties which Olly has said has influenced the music he has been making. In an interview, he explained the new era of Years & Years won’t have an 80’s sound per se but is “trying to channel that energy and dancefloor transcendence” and wanted to make a lot of “upbeat, euphoric dance tunes”. If ‘Starstruck’ is anything to go by, make sure to expect an album of feel-good, sexy dance-floor-filing dance tunes!
Words: Hollie Sackett
The Avalanches- Since I Left You – Prince Paul remix (XL Recordings)
It’s certainly ironic how on the day of Prince Philip’s passing, another prince, almost just as elusive, has made an exceedingly rare appearance for a remix of The Avalanches’ 2001 title track, ‘Since I Left You’. Unsung hip-hop producer extraordinaire, Prince Paul luckily doesn’t attempt to reimagine or recontextualise the Australian plunderphonic duo’s debut opener. If any producer did try to ‘improve’ on the 20-year-old masterpiece, it would likely sully the iconic and pioneering significance that the song contains even to this day.
Prince Paul first got the chance to broadcast his formidable understanding of hip-hop creation when he produced De La Soul’s debut album, ‘Three Feet High and Rising’ in 1989, 12 years before The Avalanches first revealed their plunderphonic insanity.
Prince Paul hasn’t had a full-length project since Handsome Boy Modelling School’s second album, ‘White People’ in 2004. The instrumental hip-hop act saw Paul and ‘Dan The Automator’ introduce their sample and feature-based tongue-in-cheek brand of hip-hop back in 1999 with ‘So…How’s Your Girl?’.
Prince Paul keeps the song pure at its core with the iconic “Since I met you” melodic sample holding the composition together, yet he certainly injects his wild Handsome Boy grooves and playfulness into the piece with breakbeats, re-recordings of instrumental parts and bending the structure slightly. Paul also adds vocal parts like female verses to tie in with the chorus sample and a short rapping feature towards the end of the appreciative and respectful remix.
Words: Doug Phillips
Holly Humberstone – Haunted House (Polydor)
This week Holly Humberstone released her new song ‘Haunted House’ written about the house that she lived in. No, it isn’t actually haunted, although it’s a very old house in which according to Holly “Loads of people have died in”. She wrote it about the way she and her family connect to the house and how, because of its age, it’s now falling apart. Holly is preparing to say goodbye to the house, the place which has many memories and the place she felt safest. All of that put into a song, is obviously going to be an emotional rollercoaster, which is exactly what this song is.
This is Holly’s first release this year, after releasing her debut EP ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ in 2020 and after she became the runner up for the sound of 2021 poll led by the BBC. It’s for sure going to be an exciting year for Holly, with many live gigs lined up and a confirmed collaboration with The 1975’s Matty Healy. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Holly.
Words: Megan Hofman
Tony Allen & Sampa the Great – Stumbling Down (Decca Records)
The latest’s posthumous release from the afrobeat pioneer, Tony Allen is a rhythmically experimental collaboration with one of hip-hop’s most underrated assets, Sampa the Great. Following the recent ‘Cosmosis’, featuring Nigerian poet, Ben Okri and grime star, Skepta, Tony Allen’s newest single further supports the assumption that his posthumous album is bound to be a colourful, rhythm-fuelled celebration of an absolutely essential drummer.
The instrumental is dark and serious from the moment it kicks off, as an ominous, booming bass bellows regularly throughout the groove. The eerie atmosphere is exacerbated by the lack of melodies or any clear chord sequence, something our brains tend to scan for when listening to music and so when we don’t find it, we feel a bit lost and far from home, an exciting, nervy sensation. ‘Stumbling Down’ really feels as though it’s trying not to draw much attention to the tonality or harmony of the track but is more focused on a primal complexity of rhythms that attack you from all angles and from a variety of different mediums. Whether it’s Sampa’s fluid flow, reverbed percussive clanging or Tony’s careful, yet assertive treatment of his snare drum, you’re bombarded with conflicting and interweaving patterns, the result of which isn’t hip-hop or afrobeat, it’s just unmistakably Tony Allen, a style within itself.
Words: Doug Phillips
Tierra Whack- Link
Everything about Tierra Whack is refreshing, inventive and intentional, even down to how she collaborates. Tierra has been known to feature on other artist’s projects, however as far as her own works go, she’s never bothered collaborating, until now. Not initially clear who the lucky feature is, the lyrics reveal all. ‘You can come build with me’,‘Building up an empire’, ‘Use your imagination’, ‘Build your foundations’.With lyrics this sweet, clean and construction-centric, it’s clear that Tierra Whack’s first collaboration is in fact with Danish toy giant, LEGO.
The surreal (because of course it is) video confirms it, as Tierra encourages friendly aliens to ‘build with her’ to make a giant LEGO spaceship and explore an imagination-nebula, before crashing back to where she started. LEGO must have recognised her vivid imagination and child-like creative tendencies and made a genius decision to essentially commission her for a fresh, relevant LEGO theme song.
‘Link’ is much like Tierra’s other bouncy, bubbly alt hip-hop bangers; cute melodies from the instrumental, song-like rapping, booming kick beats and a clear impression of fun. All of which is of course totally perfect for the LEGO partnership.
Words: Doug Phillips