s your playlist in need of some refreshment? We have some suggestions.
J Tracey & Digga D — Bringing It Back
Two of Ladbroke Grove’s finest, Digga D and AJ Tracey, come together on this track. Aside from featuring one of the best bars of 2021 yet — “I locked up the food for kids like Boris/ And then I let it go like Rashford,” courtesy of AJ — the song is a real throwback, with a video that recreates the visuals for some of their most famous freestyles from years gone by.
SG Lewis — One More feat. Nile Rodgers
Producer and songwriter SG Lewis’s upcoming album, due out later this month, is largely inspired by the spirit and sound of disco. So who better to get on a track than the disco master himself, Nile Rodgers? The irrepressible 68-year-old lends some trademark guitar funk to this lively new single.
Iceage — The Holding Hand
Copenhagen band Iceage have matured further from their early punk sounds with each record they’ve released. They recently signed to indie label Mexican Summer and dropped this track, which suggests a new album could be on the way — and it’s something to look forward to, judging by the slow, aching excellence of the song.
The music world is mourning the loss of SOPHIE,. She was a true pioneer in both the underground electronic scene and within the trans community. This brain-scrambling track, produced some years ago but released for the first time just days before she passed, proves just how ahead of her time she was.
Arlo Parks — Collapsed in Sunbeams
A poet as well as a musician, Arlo Parks’ debut album begins with a spoken word piece fixated on tiny particulars, and finds her feeding a cat and slicing artichoke hearts. Elsewhere, she’s a careful observer, often one step removed from the story. As a whole, these are songs that offer comfort rather than expressing pain – which could be what we all need the most.
Fredo — Money Talks feat. Dave
When Dave and Fredo linked up for Funky Friday in 2018, it shot straight to number one. Now the duo are back at it with this new single, taken from Fredo’s new album Money Can’t Buy Happiness (also released today). It’s got one of the most interesting UK rap videos we’ve seen in a long time, too, so definitely check that out.
FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again.. — Don’t Judge Me
FKA twigs collaborates with drill kingpin Headie One and producer Fred again.. for this startling new track, which charts the struggles of love and discrimination. The beautiful accompanying video is essential viewing too, with Kara Walker’s Turbine Hall fountain at its heart and featuring cameos from the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, Munroe Bergdorf and Clara Amfo.
An artist to watch for 2021, Bristol-based Billy Nomates will drop a new EP called Emergency Telephone on March. This single, which has an electronic post-punk tinge, is the first taste of what’s to come — it’s a defiant rebuttal of those whose words fail to get to the heart of the matter: “Everything that’s been coming out your mouth has been way too delicate/ Ethereal and floating, spirited and effortless.”
Various artists — Indaba Is
The latest release from Gilles Peterson’s globetrotting Brownswood Recording is this extraordinary selection of music from South Africa. Curated by Thandi Ntuli and Siyabonga Mthembu, and recorded in Johannesburg over five days last year, it draws lines from the country’s rich jazz heritage and ends up everywhere from futuristic roots music to doom metal. It’s electrifying.
Ben Howard — What A Day
Working alongside The National’s Aaron Dessner — the producer who helped Taylor Swift to complete her indie-folk transformation last year — Ben Howard will return with his fourth album Collections From The Whiteout on March 26. This sunny first single is brushed ever so faintly with a waft of psychedelia, and arrives alongside a pleasantly absurd video about animal hunters who get a surreal taste of karma.
Squid — Narrator feat. Martha Skye Murphy
Brighton five-piece Squid announced this week that they will drop their highly anticipated debut album Bright Green Field on May 7, and this is the lead single. Sprawling out across eight-and-a-half minutes of wonky, brilliantly disconcerting post-punk, it looks like they won’t be resting on any laurels for the full-length release.
Billie Eilish, Rosalía – Lo Vas A Olvidar
Google Translate at the ready: Billie Eilish has released a new song and she’s proving her multilingual credentials. A collaboration with future-flamenco star Rosalía, the lyrics flip between Spanish and English (the title means ‘You Will Forget’). It’s a powerfully restrained track, both artists showing off the subtleties of their voices over misty instrumentation.
The Belfast-raised, London-based electronic duo Bicep have 10 new songs are complex enough to keep headphone listeners interested but far from passive. “The live version will be much, much harder,” Matt McBriar has promised. One day we’ll hear these songs as they should truly be experienced, but this will do very nicely for now.
Soulwax — A Hero’s Death (Fontaines D.C. remix)
Is there anything this Belgian duo can’t remix? Soulwax have rejigged tracks by Bowie, Dizzee Rascal, Robyn, the Rolling Stones and many others in the past, and now they’ve taken on Fontaines D.C. It takes some skill to transform the Dubliners’ gloomy post-punk into a disco stomper, but they’ve pulled it off.
Years & Years – It’s A Sin
If, like us, you’ve had Pet Shop Boys stuck in your head every time you’ve read about, then this cover might provide an alternative way to scratch the itch other than playing the original on repeat. Performed by the show’s lead actor, Olly Alexander of Years & Years, it’s a stripped back piano rendition that gets straight to the melancholy heart of the song.
Named on the shortlist for the BBC’s Sound of 2021 and with the big-bucks major label backing of Warner, this year is looking like it could be a pretty sizeable one for the Hertfordshire teenager. This heart-aching bop is her opening salvo, a piece of tightly written pop with an ever so catchy chorus. Keep your ears peeled.
The veteran LA rockers will release a new album, Van Weezer, in May, but before then we’ve been given this newly announced record. It’s quite the contrast to that upcoming power-pop release, and instead focuses on tracks built around pianos with lots of lush orchestration, with the strings recorded at Abbey Road.
James Yorkston and the Second Hand Orchestra – The Wide, Wide River
Fife folk musician James Yorkston’s last album, The Route to the Harmonium, took him five years to make, little by little, playing every note. For this one, he recorded four songs in the first day. That’s thanks to a loose approach with new collaborators: the multiple Swedes who comprise The Second Hand Orchestra. Even when the subject matter is bleak, as on There is No Upside, everyone sounds like they’re enjoying themselves immensely.
Ariana Grande – 33+45 Remix feat. Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion
The original album version of this track certainly wasn’t a picture of innocence (as anyone who’s added up the numbers in the title can tell) but now she’s upped the ante with two suitably amorous verses from Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. You couldn’t get a much bigger trio on a track together right now – expect this one to do some hefty numbers.
Lana Del Rey — Chemtrails Over the Country Club
It’s become almost customary for a Lana Del Rey announcement to be accompanied by some controversy (this time it’s been about racial representation on her album cover and comments about the Capitol riots that were supposedly taken out of context) but dig through it all and you’ll find this excellent new track. Minimal pianos, darkly romantic lyrics, restrained vocals — it’s classic Lana.
Across 2017 and 2018, south London quintet Shame were one of the hardest-touring bands in Britain, bringing their scuffed post-punk sound to hundreds of venues and festivals. Drunk Tank Pink bristles with the pent-up aggression of men who aren’t allowed to be loud and shirtless in public any more. The production is incendiary, but there’s relative sedateness on Human, for a Minute and epic closer Station Wagon, where the band show a new sonic maturity and rise above the rawness.
Tom Jones — Talking Reality Television Blues
Who saw this coming? Tom Jones is back, and he’s given us a stormy, six-and-a-half-minute blues track with lyrics about how the rise of TV eventually gave us a Trump presidency, all delivered in an ominous, spoken-word baritone. It’s unexpected, but really very good. It’s his take on a Todd Snider song, and will feature on Surrounded By Time, a new covers album due on April 23.
Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs
Recorded last July, Spare Ribs is very much of its time. Frontman Jason Williamson lays the crosshairs on everyone from the failing Tory Government to “f***ing class tourists” in the music industry. Williamson delivers plenty of Malcolm Tucker-level swearing but it shouldn’t mask the more tender side of his writing, such as his portrait of a small-town childhood on album closer Fishcakes. It’s all squarely matched by Andrew Fearn’s productions, uninterested in varnishing their gritty post-punk surfaces, and in a lot of cases sounding stronger than ever.
Belfast dance duo Bicep were one of the most popular live acts in the scene before lockdown hit, and their new album Isles, out next Friday, was inspired by those packed-out gigs. In these locked-down times, then, their music is about as close as you’ll get to the dancefloor. Misty vocals and a skittish drumbeat characterise this new single — definitely one for the smoke machines when we’re all back in the club.
Mogwai — Ritchie Sacramento
The Scottish post-rock veterans indulge their poppier, more shoegazey side on this single, the latest taste of their 10th studio album, As The Love Continues (February 19). It’s more tightly structured than a lot of their work, and carries a heartfelt message — penned after the death of Silver Jews’ Dave Berman in 2019, it’s frontman Stuart Braithwaite’s tribute to all the friends who have passed away over the years.
Foo Fighters — No Son of Mine
At the tail end of last year, Foo Fighters released Shame Shame, the first single off their upcoming album. It was a groovy oddball of a track, but this latest installment sees Dave Grohl and the gang stepping back into more familiar territory — it’s a riff-tastic punk rock rager, proving the band haven’t forgotten how to get heavy.
Slowthai — MAZZA feat. A$AP Rocky
’s forthcoming album, TYRON, will be split into two halves: the first seven tracks will be lively and hard-hitting, while the following seven will be more subdued and introspective. This simmering new single will make up part of the first cohort, and features a guest verse from US favourite A$AP Rocky.
Kylie & Dua Lipa — Real Groove (Studio 2054 remix)
Two of 2020’s disco saviours,and , come together on this track. It’s a remix of Real Groove, a cut from Minogue’s latest album, with the pair duetting on a floor-filling chorus and an extended instrumental break that’s sure to keep you boogying through the January blues.
Barry Gibb & Friends — Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1
Two decades since the last Bee Gees album, and following the deaths of twin brothers Maurice and Robin Gibb in 2003 and 2012 respectively, oldest brother Barry is finally ensuring that his group’s legacy has the respect it has always deserved. This album sees 12 songs given a classy country-soul makeover, with contributions from the likes of Dolly Parton, Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow.
Nubiyan Twist — If I Know feat. K.O.G
Talking of the January blues, if the Kylie-Dua combo doesn’t blow away the cobwebs, this effervescent track surely will. The latest collaboration between Afro-jazz outfit Nubiyan Twist and Ghanaian artist K.O.G., it sparks with Afrobeat and highlife rhythms, resulting in six minutes of gold.
The KLF — Solid State Logik 1
After The KLF vanished from the music world in the early Nineties — a departure that included a notorious BRIT Awards performance, burning a million pounds in cash and deleting their entire back catalogue — the electronic duo have made an unexpected return. They’re in the process of uploading their music onto streaming services, starting with this eight-track collection of their best-known material.
Aaron Frazer — Introducing…
In the soul revival group Durand Jones and the Indications, Jones got top billing but the occasional lead vocals of drummer Aaron Frazer were every bit as captivating. One notable enthusiast was musician-producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who phoned to invite the musician to his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville for an intense week of co-writing and recording, resulting in this delicious debut solo album. Frazer doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, but the music is proof that there’s plenty of value in an old sound done supremely well.
Paul McCartney — McCartney III
Forty years after releasing McCartney II, Paul McCartney has delivered the final installment in the trilogy. The songs here are finely crafted, that effortless way with melody front and centre, and aside from the odd deviation, he never pushes too hard at the traditional stylings of classic pop songwriting. Even with such a rich, full sound, the overall feel is relaxed and freewheeling. Macca’s having fun knocking around the house, free from any pressure for these songs to unite an arena, and at his most appealing.
Drive-By Truckers — The New OK
The New OK, released in physical formats today after its appearance on streaming services in October, is the 13th album from Drive-By Truckers — a document of an unlucky year that is as lyrically bleak as their soulful Americana sound is appealing. A kind of optimism arrives late on with a rowdy Ramones cover — an odd fit on a powerful album that has anger as its central emotion.
Hayley Williams — Petals For Armor: Self-Serenades EP
During the quiet days of lockdown, Paramore’s Hayley Williams passed the time by recording a series of acoustic cover versions and posted the so-called “self-serenades” onto Instagram. Now, she’s releasing an EP inspired by exactly that. It’ll feature stripped-down versions of two tracks offfrom earlier this year, as well as a brand new cut, Find Me Here.
Little Dragon and Moses Sumney — The Other Lover
Moses Sumney released one of thewith græ, and this latest installment of his work proves he’s still full of creative juice. It’s a collaboration with Swedish outfit Little Dragon, and the two come together perfectly: Sumney’s voice neatly intertwines with Yukimi Nagano’s, and the whole thing builds with grace.
Madlib — Road of the Lonely Ones
It’s a pretty good combo: legendary US hip-hop producer Madlib provides the music and electronic music guru Four Tet chops, edits and arranges it all into an album. The finished product, Sound Ancestors, will arrive in January and this track is the first taste of what’s to come, a moody groove of a track with some typically astute soul sampling from Madlib.
Taylor Swift — Willow remixes
Swiftian devotees have hardly been deprived of new music in 2020 — we’ve had two new albums,and (more on that below), both of which were pretty fantastic. But if you’re still craving more, then check out the various remixes of the track Willow that Swift has been putting out. There are three so far, ranging from the kind of synthy pop Swift was known for a few years ago, to something a bit more trip hop-ish.
You’ve got until Monday December 28 to see/hear the Chineke! Orchestra give the U.K. premiere of Adolphus Stork’s lovely 1979 work, Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed: In memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr, conducted by Karena Bovell from the Memphis Symphony. Recorded last month at the Royal Festival Hall, now on the Chineke! YouTube channel.
Taylor Swift — Evermore
Surprise! Again! Taylor Swift’s lockdown adventures continued with the news that she has a recorded second secretly written album. Evermore is the “sister record” to July’s Folklore, recorded with the same team swiftly afterwards, Aaron Dessner of the National and Bon Iver included. While so many of us have been waiting for the world to restart, this restless talent has created so much, and so much of it brilliant.
James Blake — Covers EP
Fans requesting covers and then performing them on Instagram was “one of the things keeping me going mentally throughout lockdown,” James Blake said. They sustained many of us too — his rendition of Frank Ocean’s Godspeed was superb, and it’s one of the tracks on this EP comprising Blake’s own takes on other people’s songs.
Nilüfer Yanya — Feeling Lucky
This west London artist swept up plenty of critical adoration for her debut album Miss Universe back in March 2019, and this new EP is her much-anticipated follow-up. The release, led by fizzing single Crash, is going to be relatable for a lot of listeners in 2020, exploring as it does themes of feeling at the mercy of powers beyond our control.
Live at Windmill Brixton — In Between The Lockdowns
In the gap between Lockdown 1 and Lockdown 2, the much-loved grassroots venue Windmill Brixton hosted 77 gigs. Some of the best performances have been immortalised on this 13-track live album, featuring the likes of Black Midi, Squid, Shame and Sorry. It’s all excellent, and available to buy on Bandcamp, with proceeds split equally between the venue and local charity Brixton Soup Kitchen.
This fascinating four-part radio series sees NTS host, DJ and audio producer Zakia Sewell embark on a quest for her own “Albion”. How exactly that’s defined is an ongoing question, but in the process of answering it she explores her own identity as a mixed-race woman, and interrogates themes of land ownership, culture, belonging and more. It’s all punctuated by folk music artefacts and a cast of enlightening interviewees. Catch up on.
Story of coronavirus vaccine race to be told in landmark exhibition
he amazing story of the race for a cwill be told in a landmark international exhibition next year.
Curators from the– which has itself served as a vaccine centre – have teamed up with experts in China and India to put on the show.
The museum has already started collecting items from the pandemic and among the exhibits going on show when it reopens will be the empty vial that held the first ever dose of the vaccine given to Margaret Keenan in December.
Museum managing director Jonathan Newby said the vial, which contained the first Pfizer jab used in a mass vaccination programme, was going to be thrown away until their curators stepped in.
He said: “That’s the job our curators do. So we rang round, pulled lots of strings and got to speak to the right people and not quite at the last minute but the day before said please, please, please do not put these in the bin and so they were saved”.
Among the other “day to day ephemera” collected by the museum are signs used at Downing Street press conferences urging viewers to “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”.
The international exhibition, which has a working title of Hunt for the Vaccine, is set to open in November 2022 in China and India as well as the museum followed by a national tour.
Mr Newby said: “It tells that amazing story from effectively February 2020 and in particular how the team at Oxford but teams right across the world worked at such a furious pace with energy and commitment and ingenuity and everything that we all believe human beings are capable of at their very, very best particularly when deploying science and technology and how they developed the Covid vaccine in record time and they got it out there and then initiated these amazing vaccine rollout programs that were all completely in awe of”.
He said a by-product of the world’s struggle to contain the pandemic had been a “raising of scientific literacy” among the general public.
He said: “We’re very used to putting complex scientific principles and ideas over, telling the stories of great inventions in everyday language so to some extent it’s made our job quite a bit easier because we are able to use those tools we’ve honed over decades and decades and that level of engagement is now that much greater”.
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