Editor’s Picks: Top Four Songs Of January 2016

We’re already in February. What? It’s already been one of the most insane months of new musical releases in memory, and we still have eleven months of 2016 to go. From a stunning David Bowie finale, to the long-awaited eponymous debut from Nevermen (a frontman supergroup consisting of Faith No More’s Mike Patton, TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and rapper DoseOne) surprise releases from Massive Attack and Rihanna, new music from Kanye, PJ Harvey, A$AP Rocky and a tonne more, it’s actually overwhelming – and did I mention that’s just what we’ve been listening to in the past couple days?

The past thirty one days have been musically intense. And I’ve made a real effort to not just listen to hip-hop, considering that my 2015 was almost exclusively rap-centric. So to try and lay it all out, here’s your loyal H&E editor’s top four tracks of the month that has just passed.

4. Explosions In The Sky, Disintegration Anxiety

I fucking love Explosions In The Sky. I love post rock, and they’re among the world’s best when it comes to it. Their particularly unique brand of instrumental music, dominated by flickery guitars and immensely emotive, sweeping phrases, has stunned me both on record and on stage for years. They’re a band that I associate with at least two past relationships, meaning that I’ve had a tumultuous and at times, almost resentful connection with the Texan quartet. However, my relationship with EITS has prevailed although those relationships did not, and I was overjoyed to learn that they were gearing up to release their first new record in five years. Read our Flashback Friday piece on The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place to discover how another of our writers has been similarly impacted.

I was admittedly worried that their new material would rehash their old sound, but it doesn’t. It progresses. This track is heavier and shakier and darker than what we’ve heard from them before. It’s not soaring and majestic in a way I may have expected. It broods, it drones, it bathes in darkness and uncertainty. As the rhythm comes in, you’re not sure what to expect. Every layer that we’re familiar with is there, but they’re heading in a totally different direction – the road less taken, the road with a dark and distorted rhythm. Most importantly, it leaves me wanting so much more. And come April 1, when their album The Wilderness comes out, I have a feeling we’re in for something truly special.


3. Iggy Pop & Josh Homme, Gardenia

It’s difficult to quantify my collective respect and love for both Iggy Pop and Josh Homme, of QOTSA and Eagles of Death Metal recognition. The pair have separately released some of the most meaningful and influential music in my life and musical journey. When I heard that the pair were releasing a collaborative album, my heart nearly stopped. And the first single Gardenia is simply phenomenal.

To me, Iggy Pop’s career was nothing short of over. It’s been a long while since he’d released anything memorable – a judgement I doubt I’m alone in believing. But hey, it’s 2016. If the world can fall in love with Justin Bieber and Zayn Malik, it should not be surprising that at age sixty-eight, Iggy Pop may be on the brink of releasing one of the best records of his career.

Homme has reportedly called Post Pop Depression a sequel of sorts to Pop’s seminal solo album Lust For Life, and it’s easy to see why. Gardenia is equal parts fun and lustful, with a slinky post-punk rhythm, remarkably coquettish lyrics, and an almost teenage infatuation with this woman, Gardenia, along with her hourglass ass and the ditch of her spine. I haven’t heard a song that’s put this much of a smile in my face in a long while.

2. Massive Attack, Take It There ft. Tricky & 3D
I cannot believe that Massive Attack just dropped an EP. It was almost midnight when I heard the word that Ritual Spirit was upon us and I genuinely freaked out. Trip hop may just be my favourite niche genre ever, and other than Portishead, Massive Attack are very obviously the leaders of the clan. They hadn’t released new music since Heligoland in 2010. With incredible features from Young Fathers, Azekel, Roots Manuva and Tricky, they packed as much as they possibly could into the release – and I for one, am so grateful for that. I’m also grateful for the news that this isn’t the only MA we’ll be hearing this year – they reportedly have a second EP and a full album on the way.

The lead single and video is Take It There ft. Tricky. Now, the very fact that this track features Tricky makes it extremely special. A founding member of Massive Attack, he had not recorded with the group since way back in 1994. Also, I am a die hard Tricky fan. False Idols and Maxinquaye are two of my all time favourite albums, and everything he’s done as a solo artist has well and truly crept under my skin.

This song fucking rocks. It’s flawless. The dark blend of a rhythm with a heavy piano, and the hazy vocals, only complemented by the deeply disturbing video clip. It’s seductive and dark and sexy and yet kind of upsetting, and it does things to me in a way that only Massive Attack can manage.

1. The Drones, To Think That I Once Loved You

I have long classified The Drones as my favourite Australian band ever. My god, do I love The Drones. Every single time I’ve seen them live I am blown away. Each time I listen to them, I am blown away. And that doesn’t happen to me very often. Their incredibly unique sound – more poetry than lyrics, more garage versions of Nick Cave meets drunk punks than your average Aus rock, has endlessly been a source of emotive relation for me. So tormented and hyperbolised, yet so close to home, that I’ve experienced manic phases where I listen to them constantly, and then cannot play them for months on end, multiple times over the years.

I was honoured to chat with drummer Christian Strybosch last year (in what was his first ever media interview, funnily enough) about the ten year anniversary of Wait Long By The River…, during which he also revealed that they were working on a new album. Christian said, “it’s a bit of a departure from what The Drones have ever sounded like”, and with 2015’s Taman Shud  and now this, I have a feeling we’re in for one of the best Australian albums in memory.

To Think That I Once Loved You feels like the spiritual sequel to Nine Eyes, from their unbelievable 2013 album I See Seaweed. “I’m all I needed finally on my own,” Liddiard boasted, having discovered solace in solitude. Yet there was always a sense of self-convincing in that song. And now, To Think… feels as though that character was ultimately uncertain in his sentiments, and fell back into a relationship with another – no doubt the same woman from the first song – only to once again come away from it, darker and more bitter than ever before. There’s an intensity, a realness in the new track, an emotional power that has shaken me to my core in a way that I have not felt in some time.