Got time on your hands? Yeah, me too. So how about checking out some new tunes?
Lockdown’s meant I’ve discovered more new music than I have for ages. So this week, I’m taking a break from revisiting teenage albums to share this carefully curated list (well, thrown together after a few bottles of West Country idiot juice) of covid-era releases to help get you through lockdown. I hope you enjoy them.
Levellers – Food, Roof, Family
“Doesn’t everybody need the same things? Food, roof, family.”
Let’s start off with a new release from one of my all-time favourites. Yep, every 1990’s hippie’s favourite band are still at it. Like a time capsule sent into the future from their Glastonbury-headlining heyday, this has got everything you want from a Levs song: equal parts punk and folk, a political edge and, of course, the fiddle.
Becca Mancari – Hunter
“Letters in the mailbox, say I’m gonna hunt you down”
Like much of this list, here’s one I’ve got BBC Radio 6 to thank for. Becca Mancari’s ethereal voice combines with the unsettling lyrics to give the song depth and substance. I guess there aren’t that many songs about deluded stalkers (aside from The Police’s widely misunderstood hit of course) but this handles the subject matter wonderfully. Haunting and wonderful.
Madlib – Road Of The Lonely Ones
“Where did I go wrong? Can you tell me now?”
I know absolutely nothing about hip-hop. If you do, you’re probably thinking ‘what, you’ve never heard of Madlib?’ But I know I like this. There’s just so much going on here, no doubt to be expected from an artist who describes himself as DJ first, producer second, and MC last. I’ve got such admiration for everything here, from the vocals to the production. Not my usual genre by any means but well worth a listen.
BC Camplight – Shortly After Takeoff
“Coming into land, over the Pennines, I’m holding an old lady’s hand”
Channelling the Dandy Warhols among others, this humorous song about the artist’s fear of flying has so much going for it. It’s become one of my absolute favourites of the lockdown era – if it had been a record, I’d have worn it smooth by now. I can’t recommend it enough. And if you happen to share BC Camplight’s phobia, well, it’s not like you’re going to be taking a flight any time soon, is it?
Deer Tick – Sea Of Clouds
“Somewhere in a fog of a million pleasantries, I kept my secret safe inside”
If you’re not familiar with US rock outfit Deer Tick, think of them as like an amalgamation of the sound of all your favourite bands from the ‘90s. Here’s the latest release from this prolific and often overlooked group, infused with their hallmark bitterness and resentment that never crosses the line into emo moaning. If you like this, check out their 2013 album ‘Negativity’ – it’s a good ‘un.
Wu-Lu (feat. Lex Amor) – South
“I used to live in South London. There’s not much left”
It took me a long time to appreciate that protest music doesn’t only have to be folk or punk. Check out this blistering screed against inner London gentrification and communities lost, probably best described as alternative hip-hop. The anger and alienation are palpable throughout. Lex Amor’s panicked, high-speed verbosity of the second half is the highlight for me.
Fleet Foxes – Sunblind
“I’ve met the myth hanging heavy over you”
It’s not too often I’ll describe a song as beautiful with a straight face, but it’s justified in this case. Fleet Foxes’ wistful paean to many a departed musician is dreamy, evocative and carries an otherworldly aura. It’s just one of those songs that makes you feel better and appreciate life just that little bit more.
Ohtis (feat. Stef Chura) – Schatze
“You’ve been fucking around everybody that you found. Then you got cancelled on Instagram”
Ohtis and Stef Chura’s back and forth voices complement each other perfectly on this highly satisfying slice of satirical genius. Drawing on influences such as early Arcade Fire, this beguiling track nonetheless sounds like nothing else I’ve heard in lockdown. Cracking video, too.
Big Moon – Barcelona
“One more friend I’m trying not to be jealous of, how the bitcoin finally paid off”
They might not be breaking any new ground here, but with Barcelona, Big Moon have mastered the three-minute pop song. It’s damn near perfection. One for lazy sunny afternoons. Turn it up and listen to it in the back yard with a cold beer in your hand.
James – All The Colours Of You
“Everybody’s in their cave, facing what we can’t escape”
We’ll conclude with a new release with another ‘90s throwback I had no idea were still active until BBC Radio 6 gave this a spin recently. Catchy and uplifting, it references lockdown and trolls Trump and his Proud Boys – but it sounds like 1999. What’s not to like? Possibly the perfect song for these times.