In the past, I’ve generally not posted a “tracks of the month” post at the beginning of the year, instead of waiting until early February. This year is different, partly because so many great new songs have already been released from releases due in 2019, but also because my end-of-year (Countdown) series covers December to November.
So this week looks at songs almost exclusively from upcoming releases, songs that are already available in one form or another online. Every single band I’ve featured on this website before, so perhaps this is also a pointer to my listening for the early part of the year, as these releases become fully available.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
Twenty years since their last new material – and a few years since the band began to regroup for the odd live show here and there – probably the most stridently left-wing industrial band of all return, and their return is for a reason:
“Britain would not stand divided by xenophobia. Working-class communities would not be under siege. Capitalism would not have created a climate change crisis pushing the planet towards a dangerous brink. And the Thatcherite ideals that Graham Cunnington and Paul Jamrozy spent Test Dept’s early years raging against would not be so terrifyingly back in political vogue.” [source: Test Dept. Bandcamp]
Oh yes, they are back, and still furious. The first track from their new album clearly sets the tone, “a fist in the face of rapacious greed” as the song’s hook goes, a pummelling industrial roar that takes on the scourge of trying to find a place to live in twenty-first century Britain. The great thing is that this is a fantastic track, never mind hitting the bullseye politically too.
/Figure Sans Noms
/Data Mirage Tangram
The Young Gods – finally – signalled their return with a number of live shows last year, where they debuted a handful of new songs alongside a selection of old favourites (and indeed their London show topped /Countdown/2018/Gigs on this site). One of those new songs was this track. Produced by the band with Alan Moulder, there is a clear shift in their sound once again, to a spacey, proggy groove that actually suits the band very well – even if it is quite unexpected to hear the band actually using guitars outright rather than sampling them! Into their fourth decade as a band now, they continue to sound like no-one else, always pushing and challenging themselves rather than settling into rehashing.
/Everything Is Gone
OHM return, with a new name and a subtle pivot in style to reflect it. It is still Craig Joseph Huxtable & Chris Peterson, but on first listen, this is a harder, more aggressive sound, with a pounding, relentless drum pattern underpinning swirling synths and barked vocals. Most importantly, though, this is a cracking tune that has me bristling with anticipation for the forthcoming album, and certainly seems like a huge step forward from an artist that previously promised much, but maybe didn’t always deliver to their potential.
/SLAVES OF FEAR
/VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR
Following the excellent series of collaborative singles last year, the ever-intriguing HEALTH return with their fourth album imminently. Their third album DEATH MAGIC (#3 in Countdown: 2015: Albums) was a mix of accessible industrial rock and scorching noise, and going on the first handful of tracks from this new album, “if it ain’t broke…” applies. This is no problem, especially with this title track, which appears to be a mellow and reserved track until a stomping groove locks in, and the general sonic picture becomes rather more crowded to excellent effect. While the lyrics are as cryptic as always, I can’t help feeling that there might be a deeper political meaning in this track – I guess I’ll have to wait for the rest of the album to decypher that.
Because of the way my cut-off dates work each year, there’s always something that has to be held over to the following year, and this year it was the new Neuroticfish album. Let me clear here – I’d loved to have included this in my albums of the year list last month, but frankly the whole thing had been written by the week before it was released, never mind before I received it! Anyway, like the excellent last album A Sign of Life, this takes them well beyond “futurepop”, using elements of other electronic styles (particularly urban bass music) to great effect, but never losing sight of the pop element that has always been the core of what Neuroticfish do. This song is intriguingly beatless for much of the verses, but never feels like it is dragging. This is clever stuff, and the album is well worth your time.
This exceptional north-east-based band release their third album next month, and after (finally!) seeing their excellent live show at Goth City in October (/Memory of a Festival/031 refers), I’m waiting with baited breath, as the new songs aired there were all excellent. Including this one, a sultry, slow-paced roll that unfolds in a languid fashion and reading between the lines, feels unimaginably dark. You can order the new album on the Bandcamp link to the left, by the way.
/It Won’t Be Like This All The Time
The Twilight Sad, so I’ve found with various friends, are one of those bands that you either love or really don’t – and I’m very much on the “love” side. Their intensity remains undimmed from the early days – and live they are often something else – and after a few years since their last album, high-profile touring with The Cure, and a move to Mogwai’s label Rock Action, on their new material they sound revitalised. This track is a great example – James Graham’s vocals soar over the electronically-assisted rhythmic muscle, and the guitars are…fuzzier again. I must ensure I see them live next month in London, it’s been a while.
/The Chains of Fame
/In The House Of Strange Affairs
The venerable Thrill Kill Kult has been going through something of a renaissance recently, as they marked the thirtieth(ish!) anniversaries of their classic albums on WaxTrax! with a well-received tour – and doubtless will get more attention when Industrial Accident gets a wider release this year. But they are also continuing to look forward with new music and their first new album in five years or so – and this first single from it is a brilliant, slick piece of groovy sleaze, with hooks and samples galore. Now please come to Europe, TKK!
/Reaganomic (Original mix)
While we’re awaiting the delayed release of debut album Manifesto for a Modern World (delayed to due manufacturing errors with the physical product, sadly), we at least have another new song from this excellent project to enjoy in the meantime. Released on a sprawling French compilation that I’ve not had the chance to dig into otherwise yet, this is R&M’s most obvious embrace of New Beat stylings yet, and the stately groove and subtle samples though still shine through that this is an R&M production regardless. Having heard this now, I’m also a little surprised it isn’t featured on the upcoming album, too, as it is clearly good enough to feature.
/Fire, God and Fear
As has often been the case in recent years, there’s not a lot of upcoming metal music to excite me at the moment, but an exception will always be made for Rotting Christ, who over their past few albums have evolved into a fascinating, genre-defying band – and have explored at length the links between ritual and belief (and far beyond Christian “norms”). The new album, though, appears to be moving on, and going on the title of the album and the lyrics to this song, appear to be looking at the outliers in religion, the ones who make unpopular or “heretical” decisions and proclamations. The use of choral vocals here, too, is an impressive touch that makes the track sound absolutely huge, and I’ll be intrigued to see where else this most restlessly creative of bands are going to turn their attention to on this album.
/The Hangover Song
/The Hangover Song / Limb
After every big celebration comes the hangover, right? So just as we leave the Christmas period, London band LOCKS are here to help us with the comedown. Perhaps this follows from The Gin Song, and interestingly this surprisingly upbeat song has a whole lot more energy and fight than its maudlin predecessor. If you’ve heard LOCKS before, you’ll know what to expect – catchy, hugely enjoyable alt-folk with an Irish lilt to it – and if you’ve not, welcome to the fold, now go hunt out the rest of their material as frankly there’s not been a middling song yet.
Here’s to what 2019 brings, then. Cheers! (Although mine won’t be gin).