I’d be quite chuffed if Taylor Swift released a new single on my birthday, but I’m willing to bet Donald Trump won’t feel the same way (the US president turns 77 today). Swift’s new track “You Need to Calm Down” – the second single from her forthcoming album Lover – is a sweetly mocking anthem encouraging right-wingers to drop the homophobia because “shade never made anyone less gay”. There’s also a subtle shout-out to the LGBT+ charity GLAAD (“Why are you mad, when you could be glad?”), and disparagement for people who choose to waste their time hating others.
Krept and Konan have shared their thoughtful narrative documenting a young man struggling to make something for himself after developing his rap skills in prison, only to be released and learn that drill music has been banned by authorities.
Four artists from The Independent’s ones to watch for 2019 are here with shiny new singles. Iceland’s Glowie has the groove-filled “I’m Good” and Arlo Parks offers a calmly devastating “George”. Then there’s King Princess, whose short-but-sweet track “Useless Phrases” features whimsical beeps and whirls of synth beneath cutting lyrics, and Another Sky with the glitchy “Life Was Coming in Through the Blinds”.
There are some massive albums out today: Madonna, for starters, with Madame X, and Bruce Springsteen, who got a rave review from our critic Mark Beaumont for his “late-period masterpiece” Western Stars. Bill Callahan’s 20-track record Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest is another career high, loaded with songs written from his perspective as new husband and father. His voice has a distant quality to it but maintains warmth and personality via the crackly, analogue production and shimmering, expansive instrumentation.
Bastille have released their third album Doom Days, which you can learn more about in my colleague Alexandra Pollard’s interview with them here. It’s arguably their best (and certainly their most ambitious) record to date, full of melancholy yet danceable numbers that take you through a single night out. Personal favourites include the title track and “Another Place”, where frontman Dan Smith ventures out of his comfort zone both vocally and subject-wise (I’d say it’s a little more personal than he usually goes).
It’s hard not to be pulled into the thudding riff on “Body” by The LaFontaines (not to be confused by the excellent Irish band FontainesDC). These guys are Scottish, and have just put out their third album Junior via SO Recordings. There’s another juggernaut of a track from Big Spring, with some heavy Nine Inch Nails vibes in that chugging guitar and then the big squalling chorus – it’s very “The Hand That Feeds”.
Subscribe to the Now Hear This playlist!
Bat For Lashes has made a majestic return with her sprawling Eighties-influenced “Kids in the Dark”, and BANKS and Francis and the Lights sound fantastic together on “Look What You’re Doing To Me” – a track from his new album Do u Need Love?. Mariah, A 19-year-old Cuban-Puerto Rican artist, has a confidence beyond her years over the reggaeton beats of “Perreito”. County Line Runner’s “Saw You in a Dream” has a heart-rending sadness beneath its uplifting rhythm.
This week's spotlight artist is the Belgian hip-hop artist DVTCH NORRIS, who just released a brand new EP titled Fahad Seriki, I Hate You. It makes for pretty heavy listening, thanks to his low gasping delivery and menacing beats. There are some clear Tyler, the Creator influences on there and I'd say some early Jay-Z, too. I had a quick chat with DVTCH about the EP and what else he's getting up to.
Hey DVTCH NORRIS, how did this EP come about?
I moved out of my mom’s house in Ekeren to go live in Brussels. Started working on a lot of new demo’s as soon as I could. At that time I was experimenting with different styles and sounds.
90 per cent of the songs were made in my new home in Brussels. When it came to writing, I wanted to be transparent and show fans that I’m not perfect. This EP is us basically going out on a first date: you asking me to tell you something about myself, and I respond with brutal honesty, telling you how bad of a person I am. I went through a lot of self-hatred during that time so a lot of songs made were pretty dark.
The Belgian hip hop scene is booming right now, do you think there's any particular reason/s behind this? Who else should I be listening to?
The rise of hip hop is a global epidemic. I think it’s because of its vibrant/outspoken culture that resonates with the youth of today. The Belgian scene is pretty small but it’s expanding. You should go check out Glints, Martha Da’ro, Explore, Darrel Cole, Brihang, Moka Boka, Chibi Ichigo, Chuki Beatz, Le77 & K1D
There's occasionally stigma for European artists who are clearly influenced by American hip hop. Have you faced any of that and what's your response?
I haven't experienced this stigma yet.
What other music are you listening to right now?
Jpegmafia’s album VETERAN. The album motivated me to sing more and taught me how to keep my aggressiveness under control. Flamaga by Flying Lotus and IGOR by tyler The Creator have been on heavy rotation as well.
What else do you have lined up for 2019?
I’m doing a few bootcamps in an abandoned police station. That's where me, Yann Gaudeuille and Ashley Morgan work on a lot of music. We invite cool artists and producers to come work with us. I got some cool festivals coming up like Dour, Splash & Couleur Café.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies