Birmingham's prince of indie, Sam Lambeth, takes a look at the songs that defined May 2017.
Phoenix – J-Boy
French pop aristocrats Phoenix returned from a four-year exile with a song that mixes the thumping indie of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix with the synth-heavy Bankrupt! ‘J-Boy’, however, is an uplifting, romantic ode that oozes wistful contemplation as Thomas Mars sighs “is it still you?”
Foster the People – Pay the Man
After a lengthy sabbatical, electro-tinged trio Foster the People came back with a three-pronged attack – the best of the three released tracks was ‘Pay the Man’, which felt like classicist FoP with its strutting keys, pop sensibilities and catchy chorus.
LCD Soundsystem – Call the Police
After initially signing off with the suitably elegiac This is Happening, DFA head honcho and LCD Soundsystem figurehead James Murphy has returned in a big way. ‘Call the Police’ has the ache and propulsion of ‘All My Friends’ but stands on its own terms for its poignancy.
Haim – Want You Back
Completing the rout of big hitters returning in the month of May, sleek pop trio Haim released ‘Want You Back’, a shimmering ode to monogamy that took Haim’s notable love for Fleetwood Mac and bathed in the kind of synths Don Henley would have loved back in the ‘80s.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Vomit Coffin
Australia’s maniacal monarchy are heading towards a prolific output that could make Anton Newcombe blush. ‘Vomit Coffin’ continues their purple patch, blending a pogoing chant reminiscent of their earlier song ‘Rattlesnake’ with a straight-to-video voiceover and paisley-splattered riffs.
Girlpool – Kiss and Burn
Of all the bands poised to embellish their sound, the curiously creepy lo-fi harmonies of Girlpool would not have been first on the list. A fuller remit has benefitted the duo, however, particularly on ‘Kiss and Burn’, which blends a Shins-esque arpeggio with a striking chorus.
Gothic Tropic – Your Soul
Born out of the rough but romantic underbelly of Los Angeles, ‘Your Soul’ is a twinkling blast of power pop that shimmers and glows. Over a twinkling guitar chug and subtle, shining synths, Gothic Tropic continue to blend sun-drenched pop with browbeaten romanticism.
Matthew Sweet – Trick
A prominent part of the alternative rock movement of the 1990s, Matthew Sweet has always had a reliable knack for crafting wistful melodies with rough, power pop-indebted riffs. ‘Trick’ is proof he has lost none of his capabilities, a chiming chorus matched with a strutting guitar coda.
Courtney Barnett – How To Boil An Egg
Following last year’s wistful ‘Three Packs a Day’, Aussie troubadour Courtney Barnett continues to hone her wonderfully wonky rock with ‘How To Boil An Egg’, a jaunty lo-fi rocker reminiscent of skewed legends Pavement, as Barnett whines “I’ve been trying really hard” over scuzzy sentiments.
Paramore – Told You So
Life may be a constant circus of media speculation and band lawsuits for Paramore, but from great turmoil comes great tunes. After Laughter is a sparkling, but surprisingly sombre, collection of bombastic pop, but it’s better when it is reined in, particularly on the Afropop sensibilities of ‘Told You So’.
Slowdive – No Longer Making Time
The seminal return of dream pop royalty Slowdive was no tiresome jaunt into nostalgia – their self-titled album was the perfect storm of ascending rhythms, pulsating soundscapes and lilting, haunting vocals. The pick of the bunch is the epic, sterling ‘No Longer Making Time’.
Ride – All I Want
Shoegaze legends Ride continue to add to their legacy with songs that take their initial style and mould them to twenty-first century standards. Cut-up vocals may herald something completely experimental, but soon enough waves of uplifting, hazy guitars signal Ride haven’t lost their traditional knack for knockout, ethereal beauty.
King Nun – Sponge
Last year’s ‘Tulip’ showed that London band King Nun could become a prominent force, and they continue that feeling with ‘Sponge’. An almost Black Francis-esque drawl permeates the melodic shards of the verse, before subtle loops and rollicking drums propel a chorus that’s easy to soak up.
The Districts – If Before I Wake
The Districts revel in soaring tunes, and ‘If Before I Wake’ doesn’t skimp on the grandiose tendencies. With its twinkling synthesisers, Rob Grote’s elevating vocals and the wiry guitars, it bodes well for their forthcoming album Popular Manipulations.
Soccer Mommy – Out Worn
Jagged but tuneful guitars fuel the laconic contemplation of ‘Out Worn’, which
demonstrates Soccer Mommy’s – AKA NYC-via-Nashville musician Sophie Allison – ability to craft wry, but winsome, lyrics with a ‘90s hook. “I’m sick of living in the eye of the storm,” Allison sighs over a heartfelt chug.