Our regular round-up of new songs and singles, featuring Julien Barker, Julia Deans, Hopetown Brown, the handsomer Gallagher and more…
SONG OF THE WEEK
Julien Baker – ‘Turn Out the Lights’
A new song for communal despair
The Fader recently described 21-year old Memphis songwriter Julien Baker as an artist who “writes songs for communal despair” and her new single ‘Turn Out the Lights’ is no exception. Julien Baker could sing about rainbows and it would still have you lost in a void somewhere between feeling 10 different emotions at once and complete nothingness. Her descriptive, (usually) linear narrative paired with the numbing melancholy she carries with her washes over you in a way few artists’ sad and mopey songs do. I worried that as Baker became more experienced she’d lose the rawness to her voice that had our heads turning back in 2015, but ‘Turn Out the Lights’ shows it’s absolutely still there, and if anything she’s tapped further into her range to hit booming notes we’ve not heard from her before. And just like all great Julien Baker songs, right when you let yourself fall into the track, it ends. / Kate Robertson
Hopetoun Brown – ‘You Know I Know’
A horn section having a good time
I will straight up admit that I had never listened to Hopetoun Brown before earlier this week and now I find myself searching everywhere for all their music. The usual smoky vocals of Tim Stewart are replaced with Sophie Burbery for this upbeat speedy sax-fuelled song. Weird Together’s Issac Chadderton on the bongos adds a whole other level of percussion, making it seem like a new direction for the group (essentially the horn section from Supergroove), but a good one. ‘You Know I Know’ moves fast and it’s a little confusing upon first listen, but then before you know it the singalong lyrics are stuck in your head. Then you go back for seconds and thirds and the song reveals even more levels to appreciate, like just how cool the sax is and how this ‘horn section’ is actually a fully fledged band. There’s just no-one else making music quite like this. / Bridie Chetwin-Kelly
Julia Deans – ‘Walking in the Sun’
The ex-Fur Patrol singer’s first single in, like, many years
‘Walking in the Sun’ starts off like a Bat for Lashes track, morphs into something that could’ve come from Tori Amos’ latest album (I’m thinking ‘Up the Creek’) and settles into some of Katie Melua’s better, edgier (comparatively speaking) stuff. Julia Deans’ latest is definitely a grower; it draws you in rather than hits you over the head. It’s the kind of song you imagine seeing at a festival, a few wines down, and you’d start swaying without knowing you were doing it. Maybe it’s something about the plodding, persistent piano or Deans using her strong and dry lower registers. Maybe it’s something about the hook, ‘we should be walking on the sun’, which doesn’t sound catchy written down but sticks in your brain and follows you around when Deans sings it. I can’t figure this song out, but when it’s over I want to listen to it again immediately. / Sam Brooks
Maroon 5 – ‘Whiskey’ feat. A$AP Rocky
The LA dad-band has still got it
Maroon 5 have dropped a new single and you can bet they’ve thrown another curveball! Following on from the SZA bop ‘What Lovers Do’ and in the lead up to their 2 November album release, the lads have recruited A$AP Rocky and are having a crack at Soundcloud R&B (only they did it with proper fancy production that I’m assuming stems from them being too famous to authentically lay down the track on a 2011 Macbook Air in Adam Levine’s bedroom). Now, I don’t know about you lot, but I’ve never been kissed “like a whiskey”. So expect some lyrical hurdles when trying to decipher the song, which relies heavily on the repetition of the aforementioned simile. It’s super cringey but push through a few listens and you’ll be away laughing. Like all great Top 40 pop music, it’s not there to be questioned, so if it doesn’t bother them, it doesn’t bother me.
‘Whiskey’ also serves as the latest instalment of Maroon 5 seeming to give absolutely zero fucks about what or who we expect them to be and subsequently churning out what’s quite possibly their best music yet. Forget anything that came after Songs About Jane, 2017 Maroon 5 is where you want to invest your time. Don’t believe me? The buzzy video for ‘Cold‘ is all the confirmation you need that this LA dad-band’s still got it. / Kate Robertson
Gun Outfit – ‘Landscape Painter’
This and Gun Outfit’s previous single ‘Strange Insistence’ drove me up the wall trying to figure out where I’d heard such slippery guitar playing before; I finally figured out it was Meat Puppets’ Up on the Sun. Cool album and a cool band to sound a little bit like I reckon. Gun Outfit is on the trustworthy US label Paradise of Bachelors (see also: new record by The Weather Station) whose vibe is basically folky Americana music without the cowboy boots. ‘Landscape Painter’ is a good indication of the band’s low-key Americana charms – the aforementioned quicksilver guitar is complemented by a drowsy, almost Nancy & Lee style vocal duet, making for a highly recommended sunset or late-night-appropriate jam. / Calum Henderson
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – ‘Holy Mountain’
Pretty good, but not as good as his interviews
After Oasis finally ruptured following a backstage altercation in 2009, Noel has had the upper hand in his fraternal rivalry with Liam. This almost seemed preordained – even when the band was together Noel was painted as the smart one, the songwriter and musical mastermind who put up with his brother, the admittedly charismatic frontman, despite not really needing to. Liam produced solid music with Beady Eye, but his profile was much lower than the older Gallagher. This all turned on its head this year, with Liam suddenly showing a shocking level of smart self-awareness, playing up his clueless-larrikin schtick to great effect on Twitter and in interviews, and dropping an album better than any other post-Oasis project by the pair.
And so, seemingly from the back foot, Noel delivers a new single. Distancing himself from the slightly austere and stately tone that can affect his slower moments, he rips into ‘Holy Mountain’: a glammy, lug-headed rocker which sounds a little like The Vaselines covering Bryan Ferry. It’s pure trash, but the hooks are undeniable, and it sets Noel up very nicely for a possible re-invention of his own. / Pete Douglas
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.