New Music Friday: the top releases this week

It's Friday, which means it's New Music Friday, which means it's time for us to pick out some of the biggest and best releases of the week. Grab our weekly YouTube and Spotify playlists to hear more...

Fridays who want new music who want Fridays who want new music. Always should be records you really love!

Thou knowest the score by now. A selection of brand-spanking new records, all of which have emerged in the past few days. There’s no other way.

Enjoy them alongside a little coffee and TV; enjoy them with your mate Tracy Jacks - or, as is more likely given the current circumstances, on your own, holding out for tomorrow; enjoy them, should you have the means to do so, in a very big house in the country.

Tracks with a crazy beat from Croatian Amor/Varg2TM, Lord Of The Isles and The Coup; then there’s Lucinda Williams’ and Mark Lanegan’s thoughtful songcraft, sure to win over even the most charmless man; and that’s not to mention the tender, tender songs of Everything But The Girl.

(God, this intro is a low, isn’t it. Cart me off, fellas - my writing’s got no distance left to run…)

Croatian Amor & Varg2TM - Body of Water / Body of Carbon

Posh Isolation favourites Croatian Amor and Varg2TM (that’s just Varg messing about with his name, by the way) teamed up for the ‘Body of Water’ and ‘Body of Carbon’ EPs in 2018 and 2019 respectively. This new edition presents the records together and, for the first time, on vinyl. As such, the two sides here demonstrate different ways for how their mournful, reverb-drenched synth-sound can be played - while the former leans into the beatless takes that we also hear in Varg’s ‘Nordic Flora’ series, the second half delivers trancey and gothic techno.

Everything But The Girl - Temperamental

The last few years have seen a reappraisal of the late-90s, generally considered British music’s fallow years prior to now. A narrative dominated for a while that the time between ‘Country House’ and ‘Is This It’ was one of milquetoast electronic soul, the songs of which weren’t worth a second glance. I’m glad that this period is being reappraised - it means that some really rather good work from bands like Saint Etienne and Everything But The Girl can be given a fair hearing, one not coloured by lingering Britpop suspicion. The latter’s final LP, 1999’s ‘Temperamental’, yokes together a variety of of-the-moment sounds (jungle, downtempo, house) with a jazz-tinged wistfulness encapsulated superbly by Tracey Thorn’s vocals. Fans of what The Durutti Column were doing at the time should check this remastered ‘Temperamental’ reissue.

Lord Of The Isles - Lord Of The Isles feat. Ellen Renton

Whities is a label with a few tricks up its sleeve. Best-known for bass-driven techno innovations, the Nic Tasker-led imprint also does a good line in avant-garde experimentalism and boundary-pushing spoken-word - see records like Rupert Clervaux’s ‘After Masterpieces’ on the second count. This new EP from producer Lord Of The Isles and poet Ellen Renton holds the two sides of the Whities sound in balance. A track like closing cut ‘Inheritance’ is 'Whities 029' in miniature - beginning with widescreen synth atmospherics and evocative verse that one imagines Renton delivering while staring out over cliffs at dawn, the track soon blooms into a halcyon-glow shuffle that will bring a tear to the eye of many a raver.

Lucinda Williams - Good Souls Better Angels

You know the old saying - Souls Good, Angels Better, George Best. Speaking of the best, country-rock veteran Lucinda Williams was named ‘America’s best songwriter’ by Time magazine back in 2002, so it’s safe to say that one can expect expert songcraft from her new LP ‘Good Souls Better Angels’. This is as fine a display of Williams’ earthy charms as any other record in her long, distinguished career, with roadhouse-blues brawlers backed up by stoic ballads.

Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs Of Sorrow

Like the aforementioned Williams, Mark Lanegan is a songwriter who has earned his respect as the years have gone by. If you can drag yourself away from the extremely entertaining slanging match he’s currently having with Liam Gallagher on social media, you’ll find some of the hard-won charms of ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ to Lanegan’s new LP ‘Straight Songs Of Sorrow’. Of course, Lanegan’s music is a little grungier than Williams', and Lanegan also shows off a bit of the world-weary cynicism one associates with certain points of Eels’ discography, but at its core this is another captivating episode of Americana Confidential.

Modern Studies - The Weight of the Sun

Oh this is just so nice. In the hands of others, the styles which are in play in Modern Studies’ music could be spun out to the most outré ends - we’ve seen plenty of moments down the years when people have tried to blend kosmische, folk-rock and psychedelia and come out with something impressive but ultimately alienating. However, ‘The Weight Of The Sun’ demonstrates that, if you get the blend right, one can spin something glorious from those tones. These songs are as radiant as summer sun, the harmonies of The Mamas And The Papas glittering on the water.

The Coup - Sorry To Bother You (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The Coup’s Boots Riley once wrote a screenplay for a film called ‘Sorry To Bother You’. He couldn’t finance the film, so The Coup wrote an album of the same name, which was released in 2012. Then, a few years later, Riley actually made the film, and The Coup did all the music for it, collaborating with the likes of E-40 and Killer Mike in the process. As such, this new LP ‘Sorry To Bother You’ is a release of the soundtrack from the movie, not a reissue of the old studio album. Got that? Anyway, this is a set of typically righteous party fodder from the band - some songs lean to Rage Against The Machine, others to Janelle Monae (who appears on a couple of tracks).

Buscabulla - Regresa

Buscabulla’s debut LP has been a loooooong time coming - the Puerto Rican duo’s first EP was released way back in 2014, after all. ‘Regresa’ is very much worth the wait, delivering a set of hypnagogic, evocative synth-pop tunes that work the sounds of Blood Orange and Ariel Pink into something wholly Buscabulla’s own (the Blood Orange links are unsurprising - Patrick Wimberly, who has worked on some of Dev Hynes’ music, has production and mixing credits here). Fans of Helado Negro will be pleased to note that he busied himself behind the scenes on ‘Club Tú y Yo’.

Masaki Batoh - Smile Jesus Loves YOU

Pretty dope stuff, this Masaki Batoh LP. The excellently-named ‘Smile Jesus Loves YOU’ features not just the famed Ghost/The Silence member, but also a fair few guests - some of whom are also in those aforementioned groups. Sonically ‘Smile Jesus Loves YOU’ maintains the same air of potent, smokey psychedelia that has long been Batoh’s calling-card. From the far-out concrete of the title-track to folksy, almost John Martyn-esque numbers like ‘Pobrecito Mi Cigarro’, everything here glows with mystic energy.

Loefah - Natural Charge / D1 - Crack Bong (Loefah RMX)

We’re now at a point in time where archival dubstep tunes are being given shiny new editions and presented as relics from a bygone era. This makes me feel very, very old. Both Loefah’s ‘Natural Charge’ and his remix of D1’s ‘Crack Bong’ have been knocking around since the genre’s mid-2000s heyday, but this new Version Records EP represents a first official release for either tune. The Loefah formula’s elemental power has endured down the years - dubbed-out cells of melody, crashing drums and enough bassweight to shake a soundboy to his very foundations.