Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

Idles (left) photo by Ellie Rumbold; Radiohead (right) in Oxford, 2007 Photograph: Insight-Visual UK/Rex Features

My brain has already separated my last 10 months in Melbourne from arriving in London so much that several times this week I thought I’d forgotten to write this week’s post. Somehow though, through all the chaos of moving back the day before my induction week for an MA, I found the time. And I’m glad I did, because a lot of great singles came out this week- here are my honorable mentions for favorite new track:

The new band with the best name -Geese– are back with the title track from their upcoming record “Projector”. I’ve got a full review coming out over at musicistoblame.co.uk soon, so keep an eye out for it over there or on their socials.

Let’s Eat Grandma’s first new release since 2019 isn’t as adventurous as their name or the best cuts from their last studio record “I’m All Ears”, but it’s a well-crafted synth pop song. With a runtime over 5 minutes, I wish “Hall of Mirrors” had a few more ideas peppered in, but I’m happy to see the duo releasing new music.

Another band also had their first release since 2019 – Molly with Charles’ silky blue-eyed soul cut “What Are We After” is similar to their older work, but there’s a lot more polish on the production here. Fingers crossed a full length album is finally on the way.

Amber Mark announced a new album “Three Dimensions Deep” along with new single “What It Is”. It’s a groovy neo-soul cut about the soul searching that often comes after heartbreak. Definitely worth a listen, and I’m looking forward to the album coming out early next year.

Following up their viral hit “Chaise Longue”, Wet Leg are back with another raunchy, bouncy track “Wet Dream”. They’ve written another great riff, and it’s nice to see the irreverence from their debut wasn’t a one time thing.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Beachland Ballroom” by Idles

Across their first 3 albums, Idles have tried a lot of different things. “Brutalism” was pretty true to it’s name, by far their harshest, heaviest album. “Joy As An Act of Rebellion” was where the band seemed to really find the sound they’d be going with going forward, a little bit lighter, but still in your face and loud. “Ultra Mono” was the band’s most sonically diverse album. But on all three records, they’ve tried their hand at a ballad of some sort that, at least for me, just didn’t quite land. “Slow Savage”, the closer from “Brutalism” doesn’t find it’s feet and is a pretty weak way to end an otherwise very strong album. “A Hymn” from their latest record feels like it’s building towards some grand finale that just never comes. “June” from their 2nd LP, with a gut-wrenching performance from lead singer Joe Talbot has probably been the best of the bunch. But as impactful as the song is, it’s far from Idles at their best.

“The Beachland Ballroom” is the first time they’ve been able to strip back and slow down their sound successfully. Talbot deftly slides in and out of his trademark growl, picking his moments to belt out some great lines like “If you see me down on my knees, please do not think that I pray”. The rhythms on the song almost sound like something out of an old school soul song, but the crunchy guitars are never far off and the thumping bass reminds me of some of the most harrowing cuts from “Brutalism”.

The whole song is about feeling helpless, on the brink of giving up, and I mean the whole song. There’s no progression narratively, there’s no pay off with Talbot pushing through or finally falling apart. But somehow that lack of closure is really satisfying. There’s catharsis in just letting yourself feel a bit shit sometimes, and “Beachland Ballroom” captures that feeling pretty perfectly.

Idles have established themselves as one of the more prominent rock acts in the world in a really short time. Like I said, this is far from the first time they’ve tried their hand at this kind of sound, but this newest attempt feels more indicative of greater risks the band is now willing to take. They’ve got another album coming out later this year, “Crawler” and I’m hoping to hear them take more chances like this.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “A Wolf At the Door” by Radiohead

Yes, my favorite old track of the week is a creepy ass Radiohead song- no I have not had a super depressing first week back in London. Actually the complete opposite. It’s been pretty manic and I haven’t really had a chance to recover from the 35 hours of flights & airports, but it’s been amazing being back.

There’s lots of music that I associate with London or experiences I had while in London, and Radiohead is pretty high on that list. Outside of the hits I didn’t start listening to the band until I started my BSc at Goldsmiths when I first moved here the first time. It used to be a massive cliché to get into Radiohead while at Uni, but to be honest it’s just one of many things I have in common with people 10 years older than me (I also can’t stand the TikTok, fellow adults). Over the course of the first 3 years I lived here, I slowly made my way through their discography, taking my time to get to know each album, especially the better ones. And they’ve become one of my favorite acts of all time- they’re in that “I’m surprised it took me x amount of weeks to feature them” club I keep mentioning. I’m surprised it took me 17 weeks to feature them.

“In Rainbows” is the usual hipstery pick for best Radiohead album, but I think “Hail to the Thief” is criminally underrated. I’d still pick “Kid A” as my favorite, but it’s neck & neck with “OK Computer” for 2nd. Despite being one of their more musically diverse albums, not really adopting any one dominating sound, it’s one of their more cohesive projects. A big part of that is how “Hail to the Thief” bookends itself, with the frenetic opener “2+2=5”, and the dramatic closer “A Wolf at the Door”.

Immediately this song sets itself apart from the rest of Radiohead’s discography, as Thom Yorke isn’t singing on the verses. Instead a spoken word stream of consciousness is spilling out of his mouth, with words just piling out on top of each other. By this point the band had started writing lyrics that didn’t necessarily mean anything, but fit the melody they wanted, a style they employed most often on “Kid A”. Here though, the words are striking and definitely carry meaning but are given no time for you to think about them. It creates this uncomfortable anxiousness. That feeling only grows as Yorke finally sings on the chorus, but the lyrics aren’t given any more respect. The melody feels rushed against one of the more lowkey instrumentals on the album, and the chorus in particular feels like it could soundtrack a gothic-horror film.

If you actually find a way to keep up with the lyrics (or look at a lyric sheet like a normal person), there’s a lot of the usual Radiohead themes- paranoia, disassociation, distrust & corruption in institutions. But this spoken word delivery captures these anxieties in such a refreshing way. The band’s never afraid to try wild, new ideas and it’s what makes them great. But it often means we get one-time wonders like “A Wolf at the Door”, and we never hear them do something like this ever again. I guess that’s what makes it special though, and what makes it one of their best songs.

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