Big hitters like Kendrick Lamar kickstart the year alongside an influx of exciting newcomers – it’s Another Man’s guide to the best tracks of January 2018
- TextTom Connick
With Christmas vanquished and another year kicking into gear, it’s officially new music season. The polls and pundits might have had their say, pushing the likes of Sigrid, Pale Waves and Jorja Smith to the forefront of mainstream musical consciousness, but elsewhere we’ve become enamoured with newbies from Superorganism, Nahkane, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and more as we look to another 12 months of emerging sounds.
It’s not all fresh faces this month, though. Indie stalwarts like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and James Blake return, as well as big-time hit producers like Kendrick Lamar, SZA and former Talking Heads icon David Byrne. They’re all returning to the fray for what already looks set to be a golden year for music – get stuck into our picks of January’s very best below.
Kendrick Lamar and SZA – All The Stars
Propelled by thunderclap percussion and a dead-of-night aesthetic, the first hint at Kendrick Lamar’s upcoming Black Panther OST is a stunning affair. Sharing the spotlight with with 2017 wunderkind SZA is a masterstroke, Solána Imani Rowe’s honeyed vocals proving to be the perfectly pairing with one of Kendrick’s most emotionally wrought performances to date, as the pair exchange tales of romantic ambition, producing an early contender for song of the year in the process.
Superorganism – Everybody Wants To Be Famous
Transcontinental psych-poppers Superorganism are one of 2018’s most enticing prospects. The core of the sprawling collective – Kiwi multi-instrumentalists Emily and Harry and Japanese-American singer Orono – were brought together via an exchange of messages and ideas on an online music forum, before flying across the globe to hole up together in a London crash pad. Now a seven-piece, Superorganism kickstarted the year with Everybody Wants To Be Famous – a weird-pop hit in waiting, chock full of cash register sounds, syrupy synths and ironic sentiment.
David Byrne – Everybody’s Coming To My House
Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne announced his long-awaited solo return this month, with the dancefloor-baiting Everybody’s Coming To My House. Chirruping horns and heavily compressed disco beats move proceedings to the house party in question, before things erupt into a flurry of colourful confetti, with Byrne proving he’s still got an ear for a giant hook. Taken from new album American Utopia, and preceding a huge world tour, as 2018 lurches into view, Byrne’s iconic dance moves are back in pole position.
Amen Dunes – Miki Dora
Channelling Tom Petty through his gloomy storytelling, Sacred Bones Records golden boy Amen Dunes welcomes in the new year with a rumination on pride, loss and ever-present snatches of distant memories. Atop a rolling, sand-blasted backing, Damon McMahon shares seemingly disparate sentiments and snippets of lines like the troubled poet he is, as an insistent march of modern Americana swells up behind him. A special return for a conflicted, confusing character.
James Blake – If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead
Staging his shock return ahead of an equally surprising run of European tour dates alongside Kendrick Lamar, James Blake’s latest is a guttural cut of neo-soul expression. Returning to the chopped vocals and discomforting soundscapes of his earliest full-lengths, Blake once again proves himself one of modern electronic music’s most idiosyncratic voices. Like asking Alexa to read you a sonnet, and then throwing her in a blender, it’s a creepy fusion of classic songwriting and production from another dimension.
Preoccupations – Espionage
The clattering post-punk of Preoccupations has always drawn upon a sense of impending doom, but such foreboding has never seemed so fitting. As we spend each day peering over our shoulders for a glimpse of an approaching warhead, the Canadian troupe have penned another soundtrack for these terrifying times – one which finds frontman Matt Flegel barking anti-war sentiments, weaving a tale of “supplying of the billion-dollar funeral industry” as his bandmates barge their way through destructive, industrial noise.
Nakhane – Clairvoyant
Growing up gay in a strict, Christian household in South Africa, Nakhane’s powerful, futuristic pop is fuelled by his defiant attitude. Clairvoyant is a stunning first hint at his upcoming album You Will Not Die – sat somewhere between Perfume Genius, Christine & The Queens and the dearly-departed Wild Beasts, it’s a mind-blowing fusion of clattering rhythm, fidgety electronics and silken vocal sounds, marking Nakhane out as one of the most individual and important voices this year is likely to produce.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – American Guilt
Returning to the grisly, distortion-heavy sounds of his earliest productions, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson seizes control of his anxieties with American Guilt. “Oh no, here comes the American guilt!” he wheezes from behind blown-out guitars, before lashing out at the country whose freedom once inspired the beautiful pop of last album Multi-Love – “When the meathead steps in,” he sighs, “even the Nazis like him.” As we prepare for the next UMO full-length, it seems love is out the window – it’s fury that’s fuelling Nielson now.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Mainland
Over in Australia, this grim weather is a distant memory. It’s all sun-kissed seasides and festival season on the Southern Hemisphere right now, as perfectly encapsulated by the summery beach-pop of Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. Their latest single Mainland is a shimmering soundtrack for a blissed out road trip on the surface, but scratch below the sandy surface of singer Tom Russo’s lyricism and you’ll find some grisly details; from a “rotting pier” to a “black sky”. Written around the time of the European migrant crisis, it’s proof that beaches aren’t always an escapist’s paradise – sometimes they harbour darker tales.
Hop Along – How Simple
The foggy-headed sentiment of Hop Along’s dizzying indie-rock is on peak form with How Simple. Finding beauty in the banal, singer Frances Quinlan sings of checking herself out in car windows and childhood beds, before the high-spirited tune takes a more heartbroken tact: “How simple my heart can be, frightens me” she admits, forced to reflect on the realities of romance, and how it contrasts with those early-days fairy-tale expectations. New album Bark Your Head Off, Dog is set to be another beguiling entry to Saddle Creek Records’ evergreen roster of country-tinged indie storytellers.