Welcome back to Essential Listening, an article in which we compile all the best new music of the week into the definitive tome of modern music; The Far Out Playlist.
Quite a bit of wild competition for Album of the Week over the past five days: Big Thief, Alt-J, and Spoon all released great new LPs that rocked, rolled, and rollicked in equal measure. Big Thief were the ultimate champions with Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, which just might be the best album the band has made to date, but I highly recommend checking out both The Dream and Lucifer on the Sofa to here why they almost took the top spot.
Even Eddie Vedder, with his good-natured but largely inessential album Earthling, is having too good of a time to really get down on. When he screams “no negatory” on the album’s first track ‘Incinvible’, it doesn’t really matter that he’s fully transitioned into old-man dad rock. It’s a hell of a charming album, and just because none of these songs are worth a second listen doesn’t mean that you can’t have a good time the first time around.
Even the lower rungs of the singles that came out this week were pretty solid. The Beth’s returned with ‘A Real Thing’ and Spoon swooped in with one final preview of their new LP with ‘My Babe’, both of which were enjoyable and hard-hitting in their own ways. Maybe I’m going soft, but this was a pretty great week for new music.
But only eight songs can make this list, so here are the best new songs from the week, compiled into The Far Out Playlist.
The best new songs of the week, February 5th – February 11th:
Sharon Van Etten – ‘Porta’
American indie rocker Sharon Van Etten has returned with her first solo single in nearly two years with the stirring new track ‘Porta’. Last year, Van Etten teamed up with Angel Olsen to release the fantastic ‘Like I Used To’, a song that was crowned the number one song of 2021 by this very publication. However, Van Etten hasn’t released a solo single 2020’s ‘Beaten Down’, and ‘Porta’ represents her return to her own music.
‘Porta’ is a lot more electronic and dancefloor-ready than Van Etten’s usual folk-adjacent music. But it’s unmistakably her, with that rich voice belting out lyrics like: “Want to hold head up, don’t want to stay down / I want to live my life”. I’ve never been to a pilates class, but I imagine this song would kill it in terms of motivation and energy.
Julia Jacklin – ‘Just To Be A Part’
American indie-folk singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin has released a cover of legendary English singer-songwriter Bill Fay’s ‘Just To Be A Part’. It’s a part of Fay’s new album Still Some Light, a double compilation record made up of 1970s album demos and 2009 home recordings.
Jacklin’s take on the legendary singer’s beautiful melancholy is simply sublime. All the wistful yearning and uncertainty that flowed through Fay’s voice is amplified by the cracks and creaks of Jacklin’s own bray, and when she reaches those wild chorus melodies, the song simply soars.
Sunflower Bean – ‘Who Put You Up To This?’
New York trio Sunflower Bean have released details of their forthcoming third album, Headful of Suger, sharing its lead single ‘Who Put You up To This?’. The follow up to Twentytwo in Blue will arrive on May 6th.
The group’s talent for taking the DNA of classic artists and blending it with their own indie sensibilities has taken them from the dream-pop infusions of 2016’s Human Ceremony to the hard-edged Americana of 2018’s Twentytwo in Blue. Now, it looks as though Sunflower Bean are shuffling towards the dancefloor.
Father John Misty – ‘Q4’
Father John Misty has dropped his latest unmistakably Father John Misty-esque song titled ‘Q4’. Taken from his forthcoming fifth album, Chloë and the Next 20th Century, the references to writing desks are typically in place, the score is characteristically Hollywood, and his silken delivery is once more eternally understated.
In short, the Valium-ed Jim Morrison has delivered another great piece of music that somehow has you wondering whether or not you like it. It’s like a tasty meal that you can’t be sure you’d have again, so you have it again, and again. The perfectly LA-based tune is a ditty of substance, but it is nevertheless substance we have heard from Mr Misty a few times before.
Island of Love – ‘Songs of Love’
British indie rockers Island of Love have shared the first taste of their upcoming EP Songs of Love with the droning and fuzzy title track. The band represent the first signing for Third Man Records London, the UK branch of Jack White’s record company/vinyl revival depository.
‘Songs of Love’ is a strange concoction: the backing is mostly standard indie rock, with some cool guitar lines and tight arrangements from the group. This is maybe a little closer to that horrible damning term “post-punk” than I’m willing to admit, but ‘Songs of Love’ and Island of Love themselves have a lot more punch and a lot less mope than most of the other bands in the form. The DNA of punk, shoegaze, and noise rock shine through over the gloom, and the results are refreshingly eclectic.
Jack White – ‘Fear of the Dawn’
Jack White roars back with another new preview of his two, count ’em two, upcoming LPs, Entering Heaven Alive and Fear of the Dawn. The latter’s title track wakes you with a similar jolt to sticking your finger in a plughole before your morning coffee, as White seemingly sets about trying to fry his amp like an egg on the back of a shovel over the fires of hell.
If launching an album with the title track hints that you’re not messing around, then the song itself screams that message home like a banshee on speed. However, it screams that message home with such unabated uproar that you may well be fearing the dawn yourself, just as I was this morning when the adrenalised hum of the record literally rattled the toast out of my hand. Despite being titled ‘Fear of the Dawn’ there is no way this track is set for the yawny hours of daybreak.
Cola – ‘So Excited’
Cola, the successor to Montreal post-punk legends Ought, have shared a new track, ‘So Excited’, and released details of their upcoming debut album, Deep in View, which is due to be released on May 20th via Fire Talk Records.
Fusing flecks of The Strokes with Ought’s punchier moments, it’s a pulsating piece that, although minimal, has a constant pull, drawing you in and taking you for a ride. Darcy’s vocal melody is catchy as hell, and it dances around Stidworthy’s grooving bassline well. Interestingly, it was with this song that the new project initially came together united.
Foals – ‘2AM’
Foals have shared their brand new single, ‘2am’. The track comes from the rock troupe’s much-anticipated forthcoming album Life is Yours, and is their first release of 2022, following last year’s single ‘Wake Me Up‘.
Already anticipating a hedonistic summer, ‘2am’ is set to send festival audiences into a frenzy. Hooky to its core, the new single is as far from the post-rock crescendos of ‘Spanish Sahara’ as it’s possible to get. As frontman Yannis Philppakis confessed in a recent statement: “Musically ‘2am’ is one of the poppiest songs we’ve ever written”. But don’t be fooled. Beneath the track’s sun-soaked, cyclical groove lies real substance.