Birmingham's prince of indie, Sam Lambeth, takes a look at the songs that defined February 2017.
1). Mac DeMarco – ‘My Old Man’
The loveable, chain-smoking slacker made a two-fisted return at the tail-end of January with two songs from his forthcoming album, This Old Dog. The standout, though, was ‘My Old Man’, which took DeMarco’s usual brand of lovelorn longing and added a contemplative acoustic chug as the sigh of “looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me” feels more like an admission of defeat than a scream of pride.
2). Ride – ‘Charm Assault’
Well, if Slowdive and The Jesus & Mary Chain can do it…Now it’s the turn of fellow shoegaze legends Ride to make a return, and they’ve done it in brilliant fashion. ‘Charm Assault’ leaps out the traps with a glammy intro reminiscent of Don Fleming’s Gumball, before the familiar glacial riffs bring it all back home.
3). Incubus – ‘Nimble Bastard’
After the twinkling torpor of 2011’s If Not Now, When, Brandon Boyd and co return to their harder roots with the brilliantly titled ‘Nimble Bastard’. Beginning with guitarist Mike Einziger’s metallic motifs, the song blossoms into an irresistible call-to-arms chorus that bodes well for new album 8.
4). Surfer Blood – Six Flags In F Or G
New album Snowdonia is the first the band have made since the loss of guitarist Thomas Feteke, but it’s a surprisingly upbeat affair. The one track that acknowledges loss, deliberate or not, is the swooning ‘Six Flags In F Or G’, which changes tack from a rumbling rocker to a stately swoon.
5). Temples – Strange Or Be Forgotten
Temples’ influences still wonderfully stay locked in ‘60s paisley and psychedelica. The Kettering band’s new album Volcano is set to continue their purple patch, with the loving swoons of ‘Strange Or Be Forgotten’ propelled by lush guitars and James Bagshaw’s soaring howl.
6). Superfood – Double Dutch
With an upcoming tour and a freshly-inked contract with Dirty Hit, Superfood have come out of the studio feeling refreshed and a lot happier than when completing their debut. The lack of rush has helped them craft compelling, sample-heavy songs like ‘Double Dutch’, an ambient electro rocker that’s lush and lovely.
7). Cabbage – Gibraltar Ape
Rapidly becoming one of the bands to watch for 2017, ‘Gibraltar Ape’ is described by Lee Broadbent as a “pub paradox.” Produced by The Coral’s James Skelly, it mixes languid, Pete Doherty-style jangles with a more menacing, chorus-inflected crunch that bodes well for the band’s next collection.
8). Kane Strang – Oh So You’re Off I See
Following on from last year’s brilliant Blue Cheese, New Zealand noisenik Kane Strang brings his monotone, but strangely soothing, hum to a bed of sludgy bass and jagged melodies as he sighs: “I got no dreams, no guts, just enemies” before the contemplative chorus takes hold.
9). Marika Hackman – Boyfriend
Once a mannered folkie, Londoner Marika Hackman has changed her sound to winning effect with ‘Boyfriend’. “I held his world in my hands/I threw it out to see where it would land,” she croons victoriously, her vicious wit backed up by the winning grunge of The Big Moon, no less.
10). King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Sleep Drifter
The Aussie experimentalists are beginning to rival The Fall and The BJM for their prolific output – new record Flying Microtonal Banana is apparently one of five albums the band plan to release in 2017. One of the standouts is ‘Sleep Drifter’, blanketed by an eerie, Stones-esque guitar riff, a distant harmonica and a rough and ready chug.
11). Pond – Sweep Me Off My Feet
With production from Tame Impala head honcho (and sometime Pond collaborator) Kevin Parker, ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’ has the lush, irresistible soundscapes of Currents with Pond’s own brand of peaceful rock. It bodes well for their new album, due for release early this year.
12). The Britanys – Dime a Dozen
For those missing Arctic Monkeys, or at least the early scampish side of the Sheffield band, The Britanys could fill the void. ‘Dime a Dozen’ reintroduces Turner’s hitherto missing Yorkshire brogue over a strutting, shamelessly indie riff that’s ripped straight from the songbook of 2006.
13). Hannah Lou Clark – Don’t Sweat It
Taken from her forthcoming EP The Heart and All Its Sin, Hannah Lou Clark enlists the help of Spring King with new song ‘Don’t Sweat It’, a wonderfully poetic slice of lo-fi scuzz that stays on the right side of pop. It continues Clark’s knack for fuzz-filled smartness.
14). Bleached – Can You Deal?
Bleached have always had a knack for taking the better parts of pop-punk and giving them a reverb-addled edge. New single ‘Can You Deal?’ addresses the tiresome gender boxing to winning effect, backed up by grungy undercurrents and a guitar solo straight from 1995.
15). The Orwells – Vacation
The band have made a long-awaited return with the decadent jangle of Terrible Human Beings, which takes the hellraising rock of Disgraceland and adds a slight touch of melodic muscularity. Falling between these two perches is the excellent ‘Vacation’, which boasts a wonderfully anarchic chorus.