In the second edition of our Deep Cuts column, Getintothis cut through the end of year noise to bring you the best new tracks of the month.
By any reasonable measure, 2016 has been a tough and challenging year that has left people low on optimism and fearful of the future. From Brexit to Trump, politics has failed us, threatening the very values of tolerance, open-mindedness and compassion that so many rightly hold dear. Yet with Christmas now around the corner, what is there for those seeking much needed festive cheer?
If politics has let us down and is unable to articulate those values – our values – then where should we look?
It is in this environment that culture and music should and must play a prominent role. Now we’re not saying that music should be overtly political – indeed that approach can grate and be off-putting. Much like the recently departed Leonard Cohen, music is better served when it teaches how to think rather than what to think.
Indeed it is the values of music rather than any forthright political message that should and will resonate. Music unites, irrespective of borders and boundaries. In this smaller more accessible world where distribution relies less on a physical form, it is ever-easier to encounter sounds from across continents.
New music travels like never before. From beyond the seas and through the power of music we can understand that what unites us isn’t our place of birth, the colour of our skin or what football team we support. We are united by our very humanity. Our capability to understand and to empathise. By shared aspirations, goals and desires. It reminds us that we are more similar than we are different.
Music breaks down barriers and, crucially, acts as a common language. Language helps us communicate but also acts as a barrier to those who don’t understand, it reinforces insularity. Music knocks this down allowing us to connect and understand without the restrictions of linguistic incomprehension.
As if to emphasise this internationalist sense of optimism our Deep Cuts selections below include new music from these shores but also, Australia, Argentina, Turkey, France and – possibly – Chicago.
There is, of course, also room in music for the overtly political to encapsulate a sense of frustration and to highlight and draw attention to injustice and prejudice. Pussy Riot used the capacity of new music to spread a political message to highlight Russia’s records on human rights and the support provided by the Russian Orthodox Church to President Vladimir Putin.
Closer to home, North West provocateurs Cabbage celebrated their inclusion on BBC’s Sound of 2017 list with an appearance last night on North West Tonight. The live favourites indicated their intent of using their music as a form social commentary and protest, showing that music remains a viable form of popular protest.
Indeed the North West’s music scene remains vibrant. Liverpool’s strong showing at the Festival awards highlight this. Creamfields, Liverpool Music Week, Liverpool Sound City and Positive Vibrations were all big winners highlighting the city’s commitment both to new music as well as its willingness to celebrate cultural diversity and its multi-ethnic heritage.
Sound City has long celebrated new music, often with a strongly international flavour, while the new Reggae festival Positive Vibrations amply illustrates that music can be a positive and integrative force that encourages cooperation and collaboration while remaining respectful of cultural identity. Although not an award winner, Liverpool Psych Fest champions the power of new music. Its international flavour shuns narrow insularity, disregards borders and thumbs its nose to petty nationalism.
It is this spirit of international cooperation, embodied through new music, that can help us overcome the challenges posed by an uncertain world.
Yet new music can only thrive if their remains a commitment to culture and to the arts. Whatever the criticisms, Liverpool feels lucky with its vibrant and organic music culture. LIPA helps, acting as an artistic hotbed that brings new ideas to the city, constantly refreshing itself. Elsewhere, the proposed Ten Streets project shows that the city continues to place a value on culture while the Northern Lights venture by Baltic Creative will provide a collective community space for new music to develop.
Never underestimate the power of music, and new music in particular, to identify, to confront and to help us to overcome our problems. We should find every opportunity to support new music and to encourage its creation.
To this end we have selected 12 brand new tracks to help get you through to the end of the year. The range is broad and diverse – both geographically and stylistically – reminding that there is a wealth of emerging talent just waiting to be discovered. As Christmas approaches, ignore the marketing-led campaigns for Christmas Number One and take a listen to some of the below instead. You might just make the world a better place at the same time.
– Paul Higham
1. Yellow Days: Gap in the Clouds
Just 17 years old, Yellow Days, aka George van den Broek, has impressed us all with his ability to sound so youthful but have a musicality that is ahead of his time. The single Gap in the Clouds boasts his stunning vocals, comparable to that of Paolo Nutini, which seemingly do not match his appearance, yet nevertheless make him all the more impressive.
This, paired with his instrumentals – which combine elements of so many varied styles – displays a uniqueness that remains rare in music. Yellow Days is an example of why the new music scene should be supported and followed, and if this single is anything to go by his debut album is sure to be something special.
- Lorna Dougherty / @ldough_
2. Known to Collapse: What Is Said
- Paul Fitzgerald / @NothingvilleM
Having gained some acclaim with their previous two, relatively low key albums, Argentina’s Las Kellies seem primed and ready to make waves across this side of the equator with their new record Friends and Lovers, released on Fire Records.
The latest single from the LP, Sugar Beat, is an infectious slice of post-punk perfection, with an ethereal, faraway sound. With a punchy rhythm section bouncing beneath guitars which sound as if they’ve been transported straight from Young Americans‘ era Bowie, Sugar Beat is sharp and instantly catchy.
With the dreamy, effected vocals, along with the post-punk groove and production, it has flavours of Warpaint but feels more urgent. If this is an example of what Buenos Aires has to offer, we certainly want to hear more.
- Adam Lowerson / @AdamLowerson
4. Katie Mac: Eye to Eye
The return of Katie Mac is as fresh as the winters breeze, with her new track Eye To Eye full of bold, confident rhythms and lyrics throughout.
Those who know Mac will know all too well the power that she possesses with her striking vocals, but where her earlier work seemed delicate and even fragile at times, Eye To Eye is a thundering powerhouse of swing meets blues-dipped folk.
The driving beat courses along a magnetic hook, while Mac‘s vocals conjure images of Brittany Howard at points.
With the Merseyrail Sound Station finalist set to play dates with a full band, tracks like this will further prove her progression in the flesh.
- Craig MacDonald / @83Craigymac
Over the years we’ve had some great acts from the other side of the world: The Triffids, The Go-Betweens, The Birthday Party and Courtney Barnett to name but a few, and now there’s another one to add to the list of rocking and rolling Antipodeans.
Julia Jacklin hails from Australia’s Blue Mountains (no doubt somewhere that is less romantic than it sounds) and has just released her stunningly good debut album, Don’t Let The Kids Win.
This track, her new single, Hay Plain, is taken from that that self-same album, is a dark and deep rolling tune, and is a fair representation of the darkest country vibes that permeate the album. There’s something about Julia Jacklin that’s worth looking into further. Good music does travel well.
- Rick Leach / @Rickjleach
6. biskuwi: Ardent
Turkish producer Biskuwi has been populating his SoundCloud profile with some really quite luscious, dubby techno of late. His most recent track, Ardent, is no exception to this rule.
Ardent is a deep, dark, brooding track, with more in common with progressive house than it has with techno. Sure, it is built from a collage of industrial, electronic sounds that are reminiscent of techno, but the way the track builds, burning slowly like a midnight oil, certainly mirrors the ethos of a more progressive sound.
Rather than embodying the popular electronic notion that it is ‘the drop’ that is all important, Ardent provides euphoria in a totally different manner, building the track gradually and allowing the rapture to wash over the listener in lapping waves, rather than drowning in a thunderous sonic ocean. Beautiful techno indeed.
- Ste Knight / @SteMachine
French duo Her, released their first EP Her Tape #1, at the beginning of this year. They now release the track Queens, a track which combines the electronic synths with the guitar mix throughout creating an amazing balance of hip hop and guitar rock which keeps the steady beat throughout the track.
The mix of pace and tone of vocals over the track adds to build the song’s pace against the steady melody. Towards the end of the track the entire speed has picked up and the tension is released in a hypnotic beat and melody, while becoming brilliantly blunt and short to the end of lines.
This track seems a good indication of the broad influence on the band and maybe even the different avenues they could explore with this inspiration.
- Jess Borden / @JessKateBorden
8. Gulf: All Too Much
Having made a difficult transition from a five-piece down to a two-piece which halted the momentum they had started to build up, the band return with new single All Too Much, and a sound refreshed with new enthusiasm, ready to go again.
All Too Much is a far from a reinvention of Gulf’s sound, but more of a reminder of why we grew to love them in the first place. It’s a glistening psych-pop gem, with infectious grooves, choppy disco rhythms and an ear worm melody. Boss.
- Adam Lowerson / @AdamLowerson
9. Richard M Daly: Making Contact
Richard M Daly is – according to a quick Google search – the 54th Mayor of Chicago, Illinois. Either it’s a different bloke, or there has been a drastic career change. The answer remains to be seen. This track, Making Contact, has its hook in the form of an infectious piano riff which acts as the biggest earworm of its kind in a period of time not immediately remembered from the top of the head.
It’s an eerie slice of electronic rock that shouldn’t have a hard time finding a home somewhere in the ether. The laid back piano is off-set slightly by the beat, which heightens the extra-terrestrial lyric. We just hope it goes down as well in his (possible) home town of Chicago as it has with us.
- Shaun Ponsonby / @CosmicSlopper
10. Spinn: Green Eyes / Bliss
If any jangly guitar sounds are going to get stuck in your head this week it will be those of Spinn’s new single Green Eyes– as the young, Liverpudlian foursome unleash their indie debut.
Gentle frustration and pining leak out of the song, with words filled with fledgling freedom. Their work is comparable to that of JAWS, as well as having some clear influences from bands such as The Smiths.
The relaxed, but crafted, vocals (by Jonathan Quinn) give an effortless aura to the song. As well as the harmonic accompaniment by the guitars.
Spinn are all set to release their second track Bliss on December 2, so keep your eyes and ears peeled on the Merseyside Indie scene because these are the guys to look out for.
- Lily Corke-Butters
11. Mikhael Paskalev: Witness
He may be of Norwegian-Bulgarian routes but Mikhael Paskalev is an artist born of LIPA and one of its most theatrical and enigmatic alumnus yet. Don’t believe us? Just check out the below video for his latest offering, Witness.
Two and a half minutes in we did start to wonder if in fact we were watching a short, and somewhat unnerving, film project, however it does indeed make way for a deliciously sexy slice of pop music at its finest. The hook of “keep dancing, you ain’t guilty of anything that ain’t right” is instantly sunk into your ear canal as your muscles twitch to life along to accomplished and dreamy guitar lines that along with Mikhael‘s agile vocals weave the song together.
It also boasts an unavoidable stand out moment, as brief as it might be, when Paskalev serenades us with “rainbows and laser beams“, unmistakably reminiscent of one Freddie Mercury. It’s pop for perfectionists.
- Vicky Pea / @vxpeax
12. HMLTD: Stained
Kooky oddballs HMLTD have released their debut single Stained, complete with its disturbing video which showcases their melting pot tendencies.
Stained goes down in a riotous blaze of invention that fuses the energy of punk with the taut tension of post-punk while marrying it with dark gothic undertones. Making heavy use of repetition and arresting and forthright lyrical images, it comes together around a heavily processed sound that gives way to a euphoric release and sinister ending.
It is easy to see how they would be a thrilling live proposition and so they proved when sharing the bill with Pink Kink at EBGBs, producing an art-pop cacophony of bewildering, intoxicating and intriguing noise that defied any attempt to easily pigeonhole. One to most definitely watch with interest.
- Paul Higham / @pmhigham