Tierra Whack – Only Child
The Philadelphia rapper made one of the most joyful and addictive records of last year with her debut Whack World: 15 tracks, each exactly one minute long, covering failed friendships, her departed dog, and her not inconsiderable swagger. Can she scale up her vision to full-length songs? Only Child emphatically shows she can. Everything from verse to bridge to chorus is an indelible hook, all charged with a kind of plaintive schoolyard innocence. Two other tracks released this month, Clones and Gloria, are just as good – we could be approaching 2019’s best hip-hop release.
Squid – Houseplants
Yes, the LCD Soundsystem influence is very, very conspicuous, particularly in the yelped, slightly adenoidal vocals. But there is something so giddy and charming about this hyped London-via-Brighton indie-punk quintet that it doesn’t really matter. Reared – like James Murphy – on Neu! and Can, they take a steady motorik rhythm and step on the gas, hurling it through corners to make something much more hectic. Chuck in some regulation post-punk saxophone and some cutely scraped percussion, and the result is a jittery, infectious workout.
Show Me the Body – Madonna Rocket
A pail of ice water to the face here, from the banjo-toting New York punk trio who are lining up their second album, Dog Whistle. Madonna Rocket is a high-tempo thrash through splashing cymbals and garage-grade riffs, with an almost ska-punk approach to its ferocious off-beat. The group have built a cabal of like-minded artists around them called Corpus, and this faith in community is shot through the song. “When I meet someone that’s good I wanna die with them,” shouts Julian Cashwan Pratt. “All I have is family, I would die with them / You can’t tell me there’s more.” The whole things vibrates with the almost painful intensity of true camaraderie.
Ariana Grande – Bloodline
If Ariana Grande had to exhibit her resilience on last year’s Sweetener – her first album since the suicide bombing at her 2017 Manchester Arena concert – then by this year’s sort-of surprise album, Thank U, Next, she had earned herself space to indulge her id and unfettered desires. Bloodline turns the classic friends-with-benefits trope into a warning to her partner not to expect anything more from her, her ultimatum strengthened by uncompromising, seductive dancehall and pin-sharp brass.
Maria Somerville – Dreaming
The daydreaming romance of doo-wop is often a neat callback for indie artists, from Cat Power to Atlas Sound – and Irish outsider songwriter Maria Somerville is the latest to tap into the 1950s sound. With lazily strummed electric guitar and full-bodied organ chords shining through the lo-fi production like a milky sun, she waltzes through the shoegazing ballad with wonderment. It’s the sweetest moment from her debut album All My People, which has earned comparisons with Grouper for its murky songcraft.
Hayden Thorpe – Diviner
Some will instinctively bristle at this debut solo release from Wild Beasts’ crooning co-frontman, following the band’s breakup last year. Will he be too sweet without the rougher vocals of Tom Fleming to offset him? Actually, Thorpe’s voice is so distinctive – tremulous but manly – that he can absolutely stand alone. “I’m a keeper of secrets / Pray, do tell” is a quintessential Thorpe lyric, with foppish romance offset with a dash of modern sleaze. It opens a stirring ballad audibly played on a knackered upright piano whose rickety sound gives the song a subtle vulnerability.
Jessie Ware – Adore You
Despite leaning towards the mainstream on her last album, 2017’s Glasshouse, Ware has recently been showing off her enduring love for smart club tracks with slightly left-of-centre producers – the kind that made her name. She has followed last autumn’s Overtime, produced by Bicep, with Adore You, her first collaboration with Metronomy’s Joe Mount (whose paws were also all over Robyn’s Honey) and Simian Mobile Disco. It is heavenly stuff: a soft, glimmering devotional sung over bell-like tones that gradually distort into an intense storm. In their midst, Ware tries out a proper Mariah-style dolphin whistle, and carries it off.
Vendredi Sur Mer – Chewing-Gum
There is not exactly a shortage of fantastically menacing, French-language lounge pop, thanks to Serge Gainsbourg and all the lusty, lizardy singers who have followed in his wake. And yet, Vendredi Sur Mer – AKA Charline Mignot, actually from Switzerland – stands out. Chewing-Gum follows the brilliant Ecoute Chérie, and entrenches her nervy robot-funk style. It gasps and purrs in all the right places, then a flutey synth solo wafts in, as pastiche-perfect as a pair of velvety curtains blowing in the breeze.
MXMJoY – Can Man Conquer It All
In our recent interview, Bristol’s Janine Rainforth revealed that rape and attempted murder left her feeling she had no choice but to quit her brilliant post-punk band Maximum Joy as they were on the brink of great things in the early 80s. After decades away from music, having lost her nerve to perform, she returned to the stage a few years ago, which led to a new album. Released as MxMJoY, PEACE evolves the sound of Rainforth’s former band into dreamy, dubby reveries that – as on Can Man Conquer It All – make excellent use of the 80s’ most ersatz presets, threaded through with her yearning voice.
Efdemin – Oh, Lovely Appearance of Death
Released by Ostgut Ton, the in-house label for Berlin techno paradise Berghain, Efdemin’s album New Atlantis duly features plenty of stern minimal techno for copping off in dark corners. The title of this opening track also dovetails nicely with the club’s health-goth aesthetic, but it actually turns out to be a very different beast: a stately ambient track featuring whirring tones that cluster together then ebb apart. It is topped with US artist William T Wiley delivering Charles Wesley’s 1780 poem Funeral Hymn for a Believer, resulting in a thoroughly 21st-century devotional.