Now Hear This: New music from Jonas Brothers, Little Simz, Solange, Foals and Loyle Carner, plus spotlight artist Picture This

In her weekly column, music correspondent Roisin O'Connor goes through the best releases of the week

Monday 04 March 2019 15:27
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Picture This at a (chilly) performance at the top of the Empire State Building
Picture This at a (chilly) performance at the top of the Empire State Building

It feels strange writing about new music on a day when all I want to do is plug in and listen to The Prodigy. RIP Keith Flint.

I've added the dance pioneers' most famous track, “Firestarter”, for fans who fancy a trip down memory lane.

Also released on Friday was an incredibly moving tribute from the late rapper Cadet's cousin, Krept of the duo Krept and Konan. More of Cadet's friends and family celebrated the south London artist's life at an impromptu gathering in Hyde Park, along with a night at Brixton Academy that paid tribute to his legacy. “Last Letter to Cadet” from Krept and Konan is the final track from a series of songs between the two where they had candidly discussed their friendship.

Elsewhere on the playlist is “Almeda” by Solange, from her exquisite new album When I Get Home. You can read a full, in-depth review by Kuba Shand-Baptiste for The Independent here. There are two tracks from Little Simz's new record GREY Area, which was released with a look to becoming one of the best rap albums of 2019. This is Simz's finest work to date: it shows off her versatility as an artist via full-throttle assaults on tracks like “Boss” and “Offence”, and a more velvety delivery on “Wounds” ft Chronixx and “Sherbet Sunset”.

There have been some really impressive offerings from British artists of late. Simz is leading the charge, but you also have Loyle Carner and Jorja Smith on the poignant “Loose Ends”, which intertwines Carner's signature warm, smoky vocal notes with Smith's affecting falsetto over a classic hip-hop beat (kept fresh with an electric guitar line).

With each new release, I'm getting more and more geared up about the Foals album (or the first part of it), Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. “Sunday” is quite a switch-up from the previous singles they've put out for this record; slow-moving and expansive, with a sweet-yet-sad message about making the most of youth and the friends you have, in the knowledge that older generations have f****ed it up for us quite a lot.

Squid, one of my favourite post-punk bands, have released their fantastic new track “Houseplants”, which has the kind of breathless urgency and dash of surrealism that just makes you smile. It's a pretty blunt “f*** you” to middle-class apathy but also, in a similar vein to “Sunday” by Foals, an exasperated scream at the s**t situation we find ourselves in when it comes to minimum wage, increasing rents, and a looming future that “doesn't exist”.

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I'm not going to pretend that the new Jonas Brothers track is beneath me, because I'm a sucker (pun intentional) for upbeat pop with enough sugar to rot your teeth, especially after so much gloom and doom (not that I don't enjoy listening to that, too). “Sucker” is the American trio's first new music in six years, and it seems as though the break has done them good. Joe Jonas has brought the sense of fun he injected on DNCE, the project he started after the Jonas Brothers split back in 2013. But there's a sultry side as well, which you can thank Nick Jonas for, following solo efforts like “Right Now” and “Close”, which had a much darker, sexier tone compared to the innocent pop he was previously associated with.

I mentioned it in last week's column (I think), but as a reminder and because they're my spotlight artist this week: I spent some time in New York hanging out with Irish band Picture This. I saw them play three times – at an album launch, at a fan event and at the top of the Empire State Building (seriously) – so that probably qualifies me as some kind of super fan.

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They're wonderful guys and impressive for ambition alone. It's clearly paying off: the band are playing an unprecedented five-night run at the 3Arena in Dublin this month. For context: this feat is usually achieved by bands who have been around for a lot longer, like U2, Queen, Guns N' Roses, and Bruce Springsteen. Picture This also just released their new album, MDRN LV, which is packed with rock-pop anthems exploring 21st century love in all its forms.

Irish band Picture This

Check out the chat I had with the band, below, and maybe try and see them live at one of their UK shows:

Hi guys! What was it like playing at the top of the Empire State Building?

Ryan: Cold! But it was amazing to finally do it, we didn’t think we’d be able to pull it off. So there was a moment where we were up there, at the top of the world, during this amazing moment of our career. Jimmy got quite emotional.

Jimmy: I never would have imagined I’d be able to do anything like that in my life. Things are picking up so quickly now, and it’s crazy but we love it.

There's a decent-sized gap to be filled where One Direction left off...

Ryan: We’re f***ing ready to fill that gap. We’re the hungriest band around. We’re been waiting for so long to release this album. We scrapped an entire other album before this, because it sounded too similar to the first one. And we’re too ambitious for that. That’s why we love The 1975, each album is different, but it’s still clearly them. I inspire to have their integrity, but on an even bigger scale.

You've actually had a lot of support from Niall Horan of 1D, right?

We supported him in London, which we think gave us a big stepping stone, and also in Stockholm where we started our European tour. That was a great time for the band, Niall really looked out for us, and still does. Hopefully we'll get to work with him at some point in the future.

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