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Weekly Listening: Kurt Vile, Drake, Janet Jackson and more

Wednesday 29th July 2015

A revolving cast of contributors showcase some of the best new music releases from the past week.


Kurt Vile – ‘Pretty Pimpin’

Though, on the face of it, ‘Pretty Pimpin’ is about Kurt Vile’s mistaken identity - seeing himself in the bathroom mirror and not recognising the clown blocking the sink - no fan, however casual, is likely to mistake the rollocking guitar chords or taffy-like vowel sounds on this track for anyone else. 

The track meanders through a fuzzy narrative, where even the day of the week is definitely uncertain and probably irrelevant, against ripe, chewy instrumentals and a bish-bosh drumbeat. Starry-eyed synths make an appearance against Skynyrd-style guitars, and lyrics sung from beneath a tangle of unbrushed hair.

It is more unconstructed than some of his tighter singles (‘Jesus Fever’ springs to mind), but certainly no worse for a little looseness. It’s a late summer track whose mooching beat keeps pace with its long-haired-slacker lyrics (“All I want is to just have fun/Live my life like a son-of-a-gun”). 

Most of all, it's seriously good. When we get to it, he concludes that that teeth-brushing figure in the bathroom mirror, clad in Vile's very own clothes, looks "pretty pimpin'". Not a bad description for this excellent, cruisey track, as full of promise as the start of a sunny weekend. 

'Oh silly me, that's just me,' sings Vile - and if there is more like this in the pipeline, we're in for a treat. Glad tidings indeed for his forthcoming album. – Natasha Frost

Drake – ‘Charged Up’

Drake’s charged up. After his charitable (Drake’s words) feature on Meek Mill’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, the rapper has found himself under the accusation of having a ghost writer. This is his reply.

The title is a red herring. Rather than a fiery attack, the track is slow and minimal, at times startling so. Lines intending to disrespect Meek Mill are delivered with cool, level headed judgements. There are no angry put-downs. The calm of this track isn’t to do with a lack of care on Drake’s part, but intended on minimising potential damage. It is evident that Drake does not want a Jay Z/ Nas level brawl. He argues that in America’s political climate, it is detrimental that they are fighting one another. This cold reality is expressed when Drake utters “cops are killing people with their arms up/but your main focus is trying to harm us”.

This isn’t to say the track is humourless. There are some sly jabs at Meek Mill’s career and some throwbacks to the actual track that started the tension. On ‘RICO’ Drake claimed that to him, “the girl of your dreams is not a challenge”. On ‘Charged Up’, its “no woman had me star-struck”. The repetition of this theme also helps debunk Mill’s claims of ghost-writing. Similarly, Drake’s comparing of Meek Mill to a career in need of donations speaks for itself.

‘Charged Up’ is in equal parts light-hearted and serious. It appears Drake would rather have the feud finished; its distracting and possible damaging claims could be unearthed. However if material of this quality is to be the norm, as a fan I say bring on the beef. – Alex Lyall

Janet Jackson feat. J. Cole – ‘No Sleep’

Fresh from accepting the Ultimate Icon Award at last month’s BET Awards, Janet Jackson has officially resurfaced from her mysterious self-enforced obscurity with her new track ‘No Sleep’.

Neither throwback nor trendy summer hit, ‘No Sleep’ is sultry and understated and absent of the cringy gimmicks often associated with comebacks *cough*. Instead it is a calm and confident affirmation of Jackson’s continued relevance and clout in an increasingly oversaturated market.

Originally unveiled in June as a solo track, the revelation here is the addition of a verse from J. Cole. Collaborating with a successful contemporary rapper is the oldest trick in the book for fading stars, yet it works: rather than cynical, the inclusion of an artist like Cole feels canny on the part of Jackson’s production team and he proves more than capable of the kind of subtlety required.

Sentimental and sensual, Jackson has sweetly dedicated the track to her husband and, given the dysfunction so frequently associated with her family, the sense of personal and professional contentment here is both touching and refreshing. Seven years have passed since Jackson’s most recent release Discipline yet if ‘No Sleep’ is any indication her upcoming eleventh album will be as sleek and self-assured as ever. – Katie Parker

Wurld Series – ‘Stone Door’

There's something terribly English about Wurld Series. Someone once lent me a big book on English folk from the 60s onwards. I didn't read it, but I imagine it was about people who live in places with names like Hove-on-Trentsworth-on-Thames who wear a lot of corduroy and dry out their own herbal teas and wear wire-rimmed glasses because that's what they've always worn. Maybe it's the vaguely dirge-like nature of the song - the hollow bodied, ship like nature of it. Nick Drake is a lazy comparison - 'Stone Door' sounds earlier, more mysterious and worn. Like corduroy pants, come to think of it. – Eden Bradfield

Pixx – ‘Fall In’

4AD is a label I’ve felt a very strong connection to and the artists on it formed a large part of my adolescence and early adulthood. Red House Painters, Dead Can Dance, Grimes, Lisa Germano and the Pixies all really worked their way into my ears and body.

Pixx has that same quality. There is a sense of mystery and ambience that sometimes you can very easily articulate on paper, but other times it slips away from you and you lose the words to describe what you are hearing and feeling.

Her previous single had that atmosphere in spades, but ‘Fall In’ takes it and blows a bunch more smoke in your face. While the vocals are mixed in a way that’s much clearer than previous material I have heard from her, the lyrics are much more acidic and the pitch-shifted vocals in the rear of the mix make it extra murky. The refrain of “I can’t please you” sung so plainly hits very close, and while Pixx doesn’t break into new territory, her contribution to the 4AD pantheon is strong. Her Fall In EP is out on August 28. – Luke Jacobs

Foals – ‘Mountain At My Gates’

‘Mountain At My Gates’ is the second single released by Foals in anticipation of their fourth studio album What Went Down. Frontman Yannis Philippakis describes the song as “popper, funkier and more down-tempo” when compared to their other tracks, in what is tipped off as being an album full of extremes.

The track itself echoes the melodic riffs of Foals’ 2012 hit ‘My Number’, beginning with a simple groove that would entice any indie rock lover. However in typical Foals fashion, the song quickly escalates into a darker tone, which climaxes with Philippakis’ trademark howl. The outro then spirals the song through an intoxicating finale of psychedelic riffs and drums.

Lyrically, the song has been cleverly constructed in a simple-yet-effective manner. In an interview with NME, Philippakis explains how the lyrics “came out instantaneously in the room”, showcasing a new way of songwriting when compared to his typical development of preconceived ideas.

‘Mountain at My Gates’ serves as an exciting introduction for Foals’ forthcoming album, which remains eagerly awaited if the album can produce more tracks like this. – Nicholas Baker

What's your song of the week? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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“Hero by Babeo Baggins feat. Babe Simpson. Drake loves Barf Troop - so they are definitely about to get more recognition. It's also a wonderful song. ” — Andrea Quinlan

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