Hello, Hello, can anyone hear me?!? Testing. Testing. Technology is attempting to derail the Tracks of the Week but we soldier on as the robots try and take over. A-I won’t let that happen. Some pearlers in the mix this week. Wrap your listening devices round these sweet sweet tuneages. Boom!!
Slate – Saint Agatha
Why we love it: Slate released their debut single ‘Tabernacl’ in the spring and it was one of those tracks that made you absolutely pay attention. The Welsh quartet return with follow-up ‘St Agatha’ which begins with the most glorious twangy guitar creating a striking atmosphere from the very beginning. To have an earworm of the lyric “Bury me in the churchyard” perhaps gives the best indication of the gothic mood of this track. However it moves at pace, this is not a drab slow stroll but a gallop through the world that Slate obviously inhabit. Produced by Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard’s Tom Rees, its extraordinary that this is only the second single. It’s so accomplished. Learning that the four band members bonded over the written word playing poetry games over pints making total sense when hearing these first singles. They found an affinity with the surreal works of Arthur Rimbaud and the Welsh poets R. S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas, and these influences seep into the very being of Slate.
And do listen to the very end of the track. Rather than an abrupt close, the quiet, echoey outro of the guitar generates a thrilling final few seconds. Of ‘St Agatha’, guitarist and frontman Jack Shephard explains: “‘St Agatha’ is the first song we wrote about being Welsh. Though, living in in the south, we each converge at the forefront of anglicisation. At the time of writing, we were indulging in literature, landscapes as well as each another, in an attempt to re-connect with much of our disregarded national identity. So much was left unrevealed to us in school. We read about a churchyard on the border, where some people are buried with their heads in Wales and their feet in England. It was the perfect place to tell the story of a conflicted protagonist. Severed at St Agatha’s, between there and the homeland.”
One To Watch. No question. (Julia Mason)
Home Counties – Bethnal Green
Why we love it: because Home Counties are making some of the best query pop around at the moment. This is their first single for a while and suggests a new EP or LP is in the works. Utilising their ensemble, multi-instrumentalists who swap between guitar, bass and keys fluidly, they all play a part in this one note multi layered harmonic vocal, lead by newest member of the band, Lois Kelly. This is, by their own admission, the most pop they have gone, and the synth heavy, with almost a 80’s/90’s computer game soundtrack sound, with nods to Two Door Cinema Club, especially with in video treatment. An excellent return.
They say it’s about “the experience of being an active participant in the gentrification of an area, and the conflicting feelings of guilt that come with trying to justify your presence there.” (Jim Auton)
Swimming Bell – Ash in the Jar
Why we love it: Swimming Bell is the solo project of the LA-based singer-songwriter and guitarist, Katie Schottland and she will release her second album Charlie on January 19th next year via Permanent Records. And the first single to be taken from the forthcoming record is the rather delightful ‘Ash in the Jar.’
Speaking about the new single, Katie Schottland says: “Sometimes a song appears and I can’t remember how or why or where I wrote it. It’s the magical part of songwriting. I actually wrote ‘Ash in the Jar’ about a year before I moved to California, but I had been daydreaming and perhaps manifesting my future. I had visited and toured the California coast many times. These adventures inspired ‘Ash in the Jar’ and then the song lured me to actually make the move to LA.”
And this spirit of true hope and high adventure percolates through ‘Ash in the Jar’, as the song shimmers out of the heat haze of a City of Angels’ morning. It is evocative of time and place, the excitement that lies ahead underlined by some beautiful pedal steel guitar. (Simon Godley)
Office Dog – Big Air
Why we love it: “‘Big Air’ came about during a period where I was living back in Dunedin. Lyrically, I think it’s about life’s peaks and troughs and how sometimes with a big high there’s a heavy low that follows. With the video though, I like that it just focuses on this first part – the comedown never comes and it’s just these three kids having a day completely to themselves, catching some big air.”
This is singer-songwriter Kane Strang talking about the new single from Office Dog – the trio from Auckland, New Zealand that he leads – and it’s accompanying video directed by Sophie Black. ‘Big Air’ is taken from the band’s debut album Spiel, which is already out in Australasia via Flying Nun Records and launches internationally on 26th January via US imprint New West Records.
‘Big Air’ demonstrates that Kane Strong clearly has a gift for the type of melody that fuses euphoria and melancholy and together with bassist Rassani Tolovaa and drummer Mitchell Innes the three men carry the tune onwards and upwards into the firmament. And then there it remains, a power-inflected popular star. (Simon Godley)
Flat Party – I’m Bored, Give Me Love
Why we love it: London newcomers Flat Party have released their new single ‘I’m Bored, Give Me Love’. Opening with a blast of guitars this is such a fun track. Tongue in cheek in its lyrics, the themes are so relatable and it’s delivered with swagger and confidence, the vocals of Jack Lawther jumping around with a passionate delivery. Yet it’s tight as well as bouncing, perhaps indicative of its producer Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine, Black Country New Road, Sorry).Of the new single, the band’s lead vocalist Jack Lawther said: “The inspiration for ‘I’m Bored’ came about when we were all still at university, and I was down in Brighton visiting friends (possibly for pride). Around this time, I was dealing with my first breakup and drinking a lot and I fancied a bartender at one of the pubs we were at. I was also completely clueless as to what to do with this feeling, so I just kept getting more drunk and that was basically my night. Musically the song came about very quickly, I must’ve written it in about twenty-minutes or so, which is probably the reason it turned out pretty loose and scrappy. It’s really not that deep, it’s just a horny song for horny people.”
The six-piece state that they don’t want to be pigeon-holed, rather their overriding ethos is rooted in escapism. They have absolutely accomplished this on single ‘I’m Bored, Give Me Love’, and the video is a visual gem. (Julia Mason )
Earth – Angels (The Bug Remix feat. Flowdan)
Why we love it: Because the 30th anniversary of Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version is most certainly a cause for celebration. Can it really be that long since those drone metal merchants Earth released their debut album? Yes it can, and to mark the occasion on November 3rd Sub Pop will release the 30th anniversary vinyl edition, in conjunction with an album of remixes from the likes of The Bug, Justin K Broadrick, and more. And to whet our considerable appetite for that record, we get to hear ‘Angels (The Bug Remix feat. Flowdan).’
Speaking about his remix of ‘Angels’, The Bug – the recording alias of English musician and music producer Kevin Martin – says: “When I first heard Earth 2 I didn’t even make it to the end of the album, as I later embarrassingly confessed to Dylan Carlson. But ironically it ended up being one of ‘those’ records that sounds so alien on first listen, but ends up being a constant companion, absolutely embedded under my skin and in constant rotation. So much so that I later approached Dylan to collaborate on our 2017 album Concrete Desert for Ninja Tune. So it was incredibly flattering to be approached by him to reinterpret one of Earth 2’s choice cuts. As I knew Dylan was a fan of my work with Flowdan, it was a no brainer to invite my regular partner in musical crime to spit on the mic for my rework. We aimed to fuse drone, hip hop, low end dirt and grime into a monolithic slab of sonic f-ck you. The result made us smile in the best possible way.”
The Bug’s description of the song is unerringly accurate. It is a suitably mind-blowing subterranean slice of sound, coming at us from another world. (Simon Godley)
Superchunk – February Punk
Why we love it: American indie rockers Superchunk release new single ‘February Punk’, a rare B-side from their Majesty Shredding era. Born as a companion to lead single ‘Digging For Something’, it now has its moment to shine, and shine it does. A blistering sub 3 minutes blast of exuberance. A breathless canter to blow away the cobwebs and wake you from your slumber. Singer and guitarist Mac McCaughan shares the following about the track: “It’s about it never being too late to get into cool stuff.”
Which is good to know for any first-time listeners to Superchunk. The track comes ahead of the band’s fourth singles compilation Misfits & Mistakes: Singles, B-sides & Strays 2007-2023, a massive 4-LP or 2-CD collection covering their return from hiatus up to present day set to be released on 27 October via Merge Records. The release includes a staggering: 50 songs (16 of which are on physical media for the first time) sourced from out-of-print releases, digital singles, compilations, and more. What a place to start to get into the nitty gritty of Superchunk before they tour the UK and EU in November. (Julia Mason)
Paws – One Nation Under Dog
Why we love it: Scottish alternative rock band PAWS share new single ‘One Nation Under Dog’. The track reflects the tumultuous times we live in. Brutally honest it despairs at the lack of possibility to change our rapidly changing world, as it hurtles towards the impact of such events as climate change the developing technology. However this is not set within a melancholic soundscape, far from it. All power chords and delivered with a strong vocal, perhaps it is an expression of acknowledgement, and thus hope.
Phillip Jon Taylor explains: “’One Nation Under Dog’ is rooted in my fears for the future and feeling helpless; climate change, how we all interact with each other socially whilst tech advancement and social expectation in that world ramps up and on. The title isn’t some big statement or anything. We just like the play on words for such a big statement.”
‘One Nation Under Dog’ follows previous single ‘Disenchanted’ and both with on PAWS self-titled album out 27 October via Ernest Jenning Record Co. It’s good to have PAWS back, bringing with them their view on the pains of modern living, wrapped in an instrumentation all of their own. (Julia Mason)