The Mic Recommends...

On this Easter Sunday, The Mic team reviews another crop of new releases destined for soundtracking the Bank Holiday weekend, which given the current lockdown situation, probably feels exactly the same as every other day. Don’t fret though as hopefully this week’s batch of releases will be perfect for passing the time in quarantined bliss. Stay safe and stay at home, here are this week’s picks from our team of writers. Cover Image: Alfie Templeman

The Strokes - ‘The Adults Are Talking’

The New Abnormal is a return to form for The Strokes. The last we heard from them in a full album context was the nauseating vocal jazz pastiche Call it Fate, Call it Karma that closed out their disappointing 2013 label obligation Comedown Machine in suitably deflating fashion. So for them to open their first new album in eight years with maybe the finest Strokes song in over a decade feels like something of the fulfilment of a promise to fans taken with the hiatus after 2013: to return until they have something worthwhile to show for it. The fact this song also sounds recognisably like the Strokes (albeit it a mature, stranger iteration) without caricaturing the middle-aged rockers as nostalgia baiting parodies of their younger selves is even more astonishing. Kaleidoscopic garage guitar interplay, passionate Casablanca’s vocals and tight rhythms ensue. Owen White

Phoebe Bridgers - ‘Kyoto’

The second single trailing Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album, Punisher, Kyoto is a lush track, even sporting a horn section, courtesy of Bright Eyes’ Nathaniel Walcott. Bridgers had hoped to record a music video in Japan last month, but has instead released a green-screen version due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s stated that Kyoto touches on her imposter syndrome: “being in Japan for the first time, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and playing my music to people who want to hear it, feeling like I’m living someone else’s life.” Evocative balladry from the acoustic voice of a generation. Louis Griffin

Charli XCX – ‘forever’

Charli channels her exasperation at quarantine into forever, a mesmeric track full of frustrated repetition and experimental instrumentation. As the first single from her upcoming album, ‘how i’m feeling now’, forever boxes the listener into an intimate space, encircling them in a welcoming, yet not always comfortable, environment. This lo-fi bedroom pop track takes features of Charli’s newer style - the aggressive noise of Click, the vulnerable repeated verses of I Don’t Wanna Know – and mixes them with her iconic vocals: sometimes clear and precise, sometimes covered in jarring distortion, creating a feeling that borders the line between familiar and uneasy – a line we are all too familiar with in such uncertain times. A. G. Cook’s production is stellar as usual, making quite a busy track feel effortless and natural. Charli’s transparency and the involvement of her fans in the song-writing and artwork process, alongside the quality of the ‘homemade’ track has left me very much anticipating the rest of her upcoming album. Patrick Donnelly

twenty øne pilots - ‘Level of Concern’

It's been a while for the dynamic duo, twenty øne pilots, but if there was ever a time we needed their energetic, hopeful vibes, it would be now. Their latest single, Level of Concern, is the perfect addition to any quarantine playlists you might have made, in an attempt to spice up this groundhog-day routine we've been thrust into. An analog-disco, electronic sound, reminiscent of Daft Punk, greets listeners on this return. The first song written on Tyler Joseph’s electric guitar; Level of Concern is proof that the darkest of times can compel inspiration. Maintaining a funky underlay, it is catchy and addictive and blossoms into a track that could nestle into any of their earlier works. There's a side to Joseph's song-writing that can feel exclusive to their (now pretty expansive) fan-base, but here we're listening to something that speaks to us all. The lyrics are, conventionally for them, drenched in questioning and anxiety, with references to lockdown, global panic and ignorance. They are undeniably, and sadly, relevant to our present, but could mould easily into future contexts and capture different scenarios, whilst still framing a bittersweet reminder of the world in which it was released. The flecks of familiarity are also a welcome treat - hearing Joseph's falsetto, blanket over a crisp, trademark-tambourine bridge, is akin to comfort food. Structurally, they have stuck to their twenty one pilots formula: somewhat predictable, but it always works. And with predictability in desperately short supply, it's a dose of something we desperately needed, in any form. Faye Nichols

Purple Disco Machine - ‘Hypnotized'

Ahead of his anticipated second album, Tino Piontek aka Purple Disco Machine, is back with a sterling offering packed with delicious bass-lines, pop, funk and disco-inspired rhythms, all united with compelling, catchy melodies to make this track the perfect song to see in the long Easter bank holiday weekend. Featuring talented UK outfit Sophie and the Giants, Piontek has crafted a masterpiece: a real mood lifter, ready to soundtrack Spring 2020. Tristan Phipps

Gorillaz (Feat. Peter Hook and Georgia) – ‘Aries’

Aries continues the success of Gorillaz’ “Song Machine”, their newest phase of music, with a low-key track that boldly echoes the synth-pop sounds of New Order. Hook’s catchy bassline is the star of the show, resounding confidently in the forefront of the track, accompanied by Albarn’s airy, laid-back vocals. Georgia’s drums are crisp, building up to great effect at the more-heightened parts of the song, augmented by the addition of the repetitious background vocals. The excellent production and mixing of their previous tracks, Momentary Bliss and Désolé, is matched here too, allowing each artists’ sound to come through both individually and as a cohesive unit. Unlike these tracks, Aries only features Albarn’s voice: creating a welcome call-back to some of the sounds of Gorillaz’ first phase. The Gorillaz evolution continues in blistering fashion. Patrick Donnelly

Alfie Templeman - ‘Happiness in Liquid Form’

At just 17 years old, Alfie Templeman is a strong contender for the young poster boy of bedroom indie with his laidback attitude and serene summer melodies. Templeman’s latest single, Happiness in Liquid Form, displays a maturing understanding of genre alongside the ability to stick to his lo-fi roots. With hints of disco, the track is paving the way for an early summer hit. The lyrics “Why am I still here / When you threw me down the sink?” hint at his themes of uncomfortable love explored in earlier songs, whilst the song-defining line “Cowabunga! I feel younger” displays Templeman’s quirky attitude towards songwriting and performance. Already successful, this single proves there’s far more to come from Alfie than guitar bedroom pop; he’s able to produce a solid dance track likely to be blasted out of Bluetooth speakers at barbecues across the country. Rebecca Hyde

Do Nothing - ‘New Life’

Do Nothing are often lumped in with the current post-punk resurgence, but don’t be fooled; their sound is much more far-reaching than that label implies. They’ve just released their debut EP, Zero Dollar Bill, and second track New Life is the perfect introduction to their sound. Far more melancholy than their previous output, it’s full to the gills with interesting, complex rhythms and licks; meanwhile, frontman Chris Bailey is still holding it down with his off-the-cuff lines. Mark our words, big things are in store for them this year. Louis Griffin

Read Cameron Chadwick’s review of the EP here.

Mega Happy - ‘I Sit Next To An Empty Seat’

With captivating bass hooks and compelling guitar lines ready to reel you in, Leeds four-piece Mega Happy are not being held back by the lockdown one bit. Building on what has been an impressive twelve months for the band, seeing them take to the stage multiple times in both Sheffield and Nottingham, this single is a real statement of intent. Another showcase that these young lads know how to write catchy indie-rock, I Sit Next To An Empty Seat already looks set to be a hit at the live shows with over a thousand plays on Spotify within 24 hours. As lockdown prolongs the wait for live music, fans will be chomping at the bit to hear this on a stage soon. Tristan Phipps

Read our full exclusive of the track here.

M. Ward - ‘Heaven’s Nail and Hammer’

One of the most quietly-revered figures of indie-folk in the new millennium, M.Ward doesn’t possess a flashy style or an enormous freakish personality or even a certified classic album under his own name, yet at its heart, his latest single is a staggering 50’s pop homage abetted by a loose and airy atmosphere, and measured, charmingly blemished vocals. Heaven’s Nail and Hammer is something more sublime and simply heavenly than a simple pop folk tune with barbershop harmonies on its chorus. A winter treat for the start of spring, the warm guitar timbres and relaxed playing in the enormous atmospheric mix give it the enchanting feeling of a campfire roaring against the frosty night, with just enough sweetness and inky black unknown to balance out. Fans of Twin Peaks will appreciate the tone here. Owen White

Floating Points - ‘Bias (Mayfield Depot Mix)’

Last year, electronic wunderkind Sam Shepherd released Crush, his second album under his Floating Points moniker, met with the same critical rapture as the first. This is a live version of the track Bias from that album, recorded at The Warehouse Project last year; in Shepherd’s own words, he “let the leashes of some of my drum machines and synths run away”, and this was the result. It’s more freeform than the album version, but just as taut and urgent. His microphone was picking up noise from the dancefloor, and if you listen closely, you can pick it out. Riveting. Louis Griffin

Sammy Virji - ‘Dance Flaw’

Perhaps one of the fastest rises in the bass scenes over the past eighteen months, Sammy Virji has quickly made a name for himself. Not only a superb producer, having jumped on board with UKG revelation Conducta at Kiwi Rekords, Virji has built a reputation for delivering some of the most energy filled, exhilarating sets in the scene. Alongside long-time companion Cunning MC, Virji has taken his new wave of garage and bass nationwide in the past twelve months, featuring manic Nottingham sets at Detonate Festival and Stealth. Latest release Dance Flaw promises more of the same from Virji: high-intensity, cheery, a real ‘wobbler’ you could say. While the Stealth dancefloor may remain unlit for the foreseeable future, Virji’s future remains bright. Barely in his mid-twenties, it is remarkable how the DJ has fast-tracked himself into the upper-echelons of one of the most competitive circuits, and with an abundance of energy, passion, drive, and talent, he looks set to remain there for the foreseeable future. Tristan Phipps

The Strokes - ‘Ode to the Mets’

Another cut from comeback album The New Abnormal, Ode to the Mets is a defining closer for The Strokes’ first full-length album since 2013. At five-minutes fifty-one seconds, it is one of the longest songs in their discography, but not a single moment is wasted. As the song progresses and instrumentation is layered on, it climaxes as Julian Casablanca’s vocals pine for their hometown of New York City. The outro collates nostalgia for a time listener’s have never even experienced. In a glittering career spanning two decades, it stands firm as a defining creation in recent memory. Conor McGarry

WarlocK- ‘Geralt of Labia’

Midlands based metal jesters WarlocK return with another single full of energy and humour, this time aiming their comedic sights at the titular Geralt the Witcher – to great effect. Right from the first few notes, the intro monologue (over the top of an adept rendition of the Kaer Morhen theme from the Witcher games) cements the tone of the track. The lyrics centre around the promiscuous nature of the fantastical character throughout his adventures, in both the game trilogy and Netflix’s new series - offering plenty of laughs for those in the know. However, that’s not to say the only good qualities of this song are to be found in the lyrics. With instrumentation sharper than dragon’s teeth; the music is tight, punchy and incredibly catchy with a ripping solo to boot. The bass sticks out as especially virtuosic at times, with some really strong fills underneath the solo – adding further depth to the track. With equally exuberant vocals, the track is perfect for quenching an eighties metal thirst. Max Jeffries