- Please note that from now on we will update the same playlist each month, topped up with new tracks, so that you only need to subscribe to this single playlist. We have collated all the tracks from the year’s playlists so far into the one above, with the first 50 being May’s selections – enjoy!
Florence + the Machine – Hunger
While Florence + the Machine’s singles are never short on impact, it’s hard to remember the last one that hit as hard as Hunger, the first single from her fourth album, High As Hope. The setting is business as usual – gospel harmonies, battered piano, touches of harp – but Florence’s voice holds the centre as she sings lyrics as intimate as the music is powerful. “At 17, I started to starve myself,” she sings, and outlines the vices she used to commit to fill the void – the drugs, the love of strangers – then marvels at a figure whose ease and beauty seem to defy death. After all the drama and revelations, Hunger’s most breathtaking moment is a pause: “And for a moment, I forget to worry,” she sings as she beholds this liberated whirlwind, and the song cuts dead, dropping you off a cliff edge.
Paris – Gone (feat Trippie Redd)
Post Malone’s enormous success with his second album, Beerbongs & Bentleys, this month shows that the world has a considerable appetite for white blokes with face tats moaning infectiously about how they wish they were dead. Coming through to sate them further is girlishly handsome goth rapper Paris. Lyrics such as “I keep seeing coffins / This syrup keep me coughin’” could have been made by a SoundCloud rapper lyric generator, but they’re wed to a brilliant, anthemic, tumbling chorus.
Doon Kanda – Lamina
Jesse Kanda is the brilliant visual artist who has created record sleeves and videos for FKA twigs, Björk and, most enduringly, Arca. His aesthetic is of bulging, mutant biomorphic humanoids, poignantly gesturing in affection, confusion or confidence despite their beastly appearance (a style shamelessly ripped off by the Horrors for their last album campaign). He releases music as Doon Kanda, and it’s no undercooked side project – the latest EP, Luna, is highly accomplished, full of eerie, awkward rap instrumentals, and Lamina’s raw organ melodies make it one of the highlights.
Christina Aguilera – Accelerate (feat Ty Dolla $ign & 2Chainz)
The first track to be released from Liberation, Christina’s first album in five years, is one of the year’s best pop songs: boundary-pushing yet catchy, with a truly magical arrangement where diffuse elements cohere against the odds: rumbling bass, 80s boogie chords, a mashed MPC’s worth of simultaneous samples. Produced by Kanye West – a fact kept pretty quiet after his slavery comments last week – it shares the chaos of Life of Pablo, but soothed by Aguilera’s always-commanding vocals. She is ably aided by Ty Dolla $ign pushing his guest vocals into gorgeous hoarseness, and 2 Chainz smartly halving the tempo for his middle eight.
Kadhja Bonet – Delphine
Masterful and unique neo-soul, as LA singer Kadhja Bonet floats mesmerisingly around her higher register with psychedelic touches – wandering synths, bulbous bass squelches – sitting beneath her. After six minutes, the melody ends up twining around your bones, and the way the arrangement is written, with everything gently tugged back to Earth by a slow, boom-bap drum pattern, keeps everything in exquisite equilibrium.
Róisín Murphy – Innocence
Given they have both been separately been ploughing a furrow of deep, smart contemporary disco-house, it’s remarkable that Róisín Murphy and Maurice Fulton haven’t worked together more – just a single remix prior to this. She is the former Moloko siren with the inimitably erotic voice; he’s the producer behind everything from shouty electroclash duo Mu to bonkers boogie project Syclops to that ridiculously hot Alice Smith remix that you still hear aired today. On their new collaborative 12-inch, All My Dreams pairs filthy slap bass and giant toms with sexy pronouncements from Murphy on the way to a post-punk-disco classic, but even better is Innocence, with an acid bassline spurting between upfront deep house rhythms and funky timbales. Absolutely essential.
Onyx Collective – FDR Drive
While the hipster jazz cognoscenti are all about Kamasi Washington and Alice Coltrane-inspired cosmic vibes, it’s refreshing to hear a combo who don’t shy from traditional styles. Onyx Collective are a New York four-or-more piece who have played with people as varied as David Byrne, Princess Nokia and Blood Orange, but on their own tracks, such as FDR Drive, they skew to swinging post-bop, topped with Isaiah Barr’s melodic, Sonny Rollins-ish saxophone.
Oliver Coates – Charlev
Oliver Coates has played cello with Radiohead and Anna Meredith, released an album with Mica Levi (2016’s superb Remain Calm) and covered John Luther Adams’ Canticles, among his other classical pursuits. But it’s his recent solo foray into electronic music where the breadth of his unique vision comes to life: 2016’s Upstepping was as influenced by Arthur Russell as pirate radio, and going by Charlev, it looks like his second album under his own name will switch lanes again while maintaining Coates’s inventive streak. It’s an eight-and-a-half-minute journey that veers from a kind of meditative agitation with echoes of dabke music, to more corrosive depths – another smart study in contrasts.
Deafheaven – Honeycomb
Sitting, as ever, in a gloriously personal space between double-kick-drumming black metal, heavy prog à la Motorpsycho, and My Morning Jacket-style soulful rock, Deafheaven are back with a track that has patches of hard riffing and uplifting solos, but which ties it all together in a single, overwhelming arc. Like a true metaller, you can’t really work out what George Clarke is screaming about, but the keen feeling is such that you don’t need to.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Breathe In, Breathe Out
In spring 2017, Melody Prochet announced her second album as Melody’s Echo Chamber, Bon Voyage. But after suffering a serious accident that left her hospitalised for several months, the release was postponed until later this year. The lyrics to its first single seem to address the arduous process of recovery and the temporary hopelessness of her situation – “It’s been so long, there must be some kind of light to come” – but the music, produced with Swedish psychedelicists Fredrik Swahn (of the Amazing) and Reine Fiske (of Dungen), is a featherlight odyssey, filled with space and intrigue.