Machine Head – Bastards
After 27 years, some bands might be tempted to put out crowd-pleasing, laurel-resting material, but the Oakland metal veterans have instead written the divisive and stirring Bastards, one of the most arresting protest songs of the Trump era (taken from their new album, Catharsis). Written the day after the election, its lacerating lyric sheet is worth reading in full, but takes aim at racists, “second amendment thugs” and Wall Street, and champions “the pussy generation, the PC and the brave”, reclaiming the hateful language of the right.
Frontman Robb Flynn does this most boldly with a recasting of Lady Liberty’s line “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”: “So give us all your faggots, all your niggers and your spivs / Give us all your Muslims, the so-called terrorists / We’ll welcome ‘em with open arms and put ‘em in our mix / We’re better off together now, embrace our difference.” Like Bruce Springsteen did with “yellow man” in Born in the USA, Flynn takes the racist rhetoric of the right and ferociously turns it back towards them.
Chvrches – My Enemy (feat Matt Berninger)
An often deeply satisfying pop trope is to take a glum singer from the glum world of guitar rock and juxtapose them with the fabulousness of dance-pop: think Anohni doing Blind with Hercules & Love Affair, Ian Svenonius ranting in Shit Robot’s Simple Things, or the entire career of New Order. Scottish trio Chvrches, whose new album is out 25 May, repeat the trick by roping in the National’s frontman Matt Berninger – he is transmuted into a moody R&B starlet, his morose croon set against Lauren Mayberry’s perky yet equally sad vocal.
Riko Dan – Hard Food
Roll Deep member Riko Dan has one of the most instantly recognisable voices of any British MC: a sarky, high-energy timbre that straddles London and Jamaica, with patois flitting in and out. He’s become the go-to guy to give underground producers a bit of ravey toasting – as on Rabit’s Black Dragons or the Bug’s Iceman – and his new EP adds to them: Joker, Pinch, Mumdance, Walton and Ziro create ribcage-bothering, reload-inviting grime and dub backings for him to fire battle-ready bars over.
P Adrix – Zelda Shyt
In championing a raw, unvarnished take on Angola’s kuduro dance style, where its stumbling beat was paired with the coldness of techno, Lisbon label Principe brought a completely new sound to underground western dancefloors around 2012, and made straightforward 4/4 suddenly seem rather dull. They’re still going strong, and new signing P Adrix is the perfect introduction, making insanely funky, off-kilter ghetto house laced with that kuduro syncopation. Long-time Principe star DJ Nigga Fox is also on this month’s playlist with new track Poder do Vento.
Natalie Prass – Short Court Style
Following up her self-titled 2015 debut, Natalie Prass releases her most propulsive material yet – which, given that her previous record was a brilliantly realised blend of soft rock and folk, perhaps isn’t saying much. This is disco-funk as fluffy as a pomeranian after a blow-dry – reminiscent of Feist, and, further back, the kind of singer found on the brilliant Ladies of Too Slow to Disco compilation: Carly Simon, Laura Allan and the rest. Will have you clicking your heels amid the bleak midwinter.
MGMT – Me and Michael
A different kind of disco is channelled here – the camp, overblown 1980s Italian variety – for this strident ballad. It results in the sort of sturdy, vulcanised melancholia that closed out John Hughes movies: all booming drums, big simple melodies, and a singer who sounds like they’re nobly holding back tears while staring down a long straight road.
MTv – Smooth Motion
Japanese producer Kohei Matsunaga, aka NHK yx Koyxen, is currently in a patch as purple as a Dairy Milk in Prince’s fridge. His new album Parallel Tempo, full of scary ambient techno and peppy acid, has just come out, not long after the friendlier, sparklier Exit Entrance, released on DFA last year (if they whet your interest, head further back to the titanic Dance Classics trio on PAN). He also collaborated with countryman DJ Nobu at MTv, and their track Smooth Motion – essentially a two-bar synth pattern repeated in various tones of light and shade – could prove a magnificent secret weapon in techno sets.
US Girls – Rosebud
Noone is making pop quite like Meghan Remy: an almost trip-hop-like melange of samples, psychedelia, dusty breakbeats and swooning vocal lines. Her technique reaches its apotheosis on the brilliant Rosebud. She throws you off with a gaping hole where a chorus should be, eventually filled with the kind of soulful, forthright pop top line that Adele is usually fed.
Marisa Anderson – Cloud Corner
Anderson, from Portland, Oregon, is a rare female adherent to the “American primitive” style of guitar playing (though she may reject the label) – a pretty yet emotionally fraught fingerpicking, shot through with the blues. Hers is often delivered on an electric guitar, adding a gorgeous rough irreverence. She’s stepping up to the Thrill Jockey label after a number of self-released albums, with Cloud Corner the first track – a whimsical wall of echoing melody – to emerge.
Ursula K Le Guin & Todd Barton – Heron Dance
Always Coming Home was a typically ambitious project from science-fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin. Written in 1985, it’s a story set in a flooded, post-apocalyptic California about a people called the Kesh, with two-thirds of the book given over to documentation about the tribe, including poems, recipes and maps. And even music which, extraordinarily, was performed on fictional instruments that Le Guin designed herself, built by her friend Todd Barton. Released on an accompanying tape, it’s being reissued in March; Heron Dance opens the album, where what sounds like a zither blends with an unidentifiable alien wail, all of it riding a steadily loping groove. Following Le Guin’s death in January, it’s another reminder of the sheer scale of her universe-building.