The Mic Recommends...

As days continue to pass and the world remains in a state of tranquility, the team at The Mic continue to peruse the vast back catalogue of riches in the music world, delving into hidden gems and modern classics. The music industry, much like everything right now, continues to adapt and stagger on, and this week welcomes a fresh batch of new releases for everyone to delve into. On this week’s ‘The Mic Recommends…’, we highlight twenty-two new releases to wrap your ears around in the coming days.

Declan McKenna - ‘The Key to Life on Earth’

In McKenna’s latest release, he explores a kooky spin on his staple indie-rock sound. There’s twangy synths, and guitar riffs to send you into a Hendrix daze, with vocals that hint to something further than McKenna’s immediate lyricism. The volume of the backing vocals uphold a worrying sense of unity behind the songs meaning, but it rightfully reinforces what the track is pointing towards, with McKenna’s own voice singing with desperate passion as the seconds go on. It’s not unheard of for the singer to explore political and existential themes in his lyricism, and ‘The Key to Life on Earth’ is no exception. There’s positivity in its composition and melancholy in his words that create the most ironically euphoric contrast. Lucy Gray

Jamie xx - ‘idontknow’

Jamie Smith, aka Jamie xx, is one-third of Mercury Prize-winning pop outfit The xx - but where his most interesting output lies is in his solo work. His debut album, In Colour, was a fascinating trip from tropical house all the way through to rave and back again. On new single idontknow he takes a decidedly darker and denser lens to his sound, with chopped samples and breakbeats littering the track. It is a remarkable new direction, and cements the artist as one of the most interesting voices in electronica today. We can only hope that a new album is on the horizon. Louis Griffin

The Streets & Tame Impala - ‘Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better’

A collaboration none of us knew we needed, that we most certainly did. The fusion of The Streets’ grittiness and Tame Impala’s dreaminess creates a sombre tone to joint collaboration, Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better (a title fitting for the self-isolating times the song was released in). The two artists possess such parallel sounds that strikingly compliment one another. Mike Skinner’s authentic lyrics feel more down to earth, while Kevin Parker sounds more distant and jarring than ever before. Who knew a Kevin Parker collaboration would include lyrics about Brexit? Izzy Felton

Bon Iver - ‘PDLIF’

This week, Justin Vernon has collaborated with ex-GOOD Music signee, Kacy Hill to deliver a typically crafted Bon Iver soundscape: electronically manufactured, meticulously manipulated, and profoundly touching. PDLIF (Please Don’t Live in Fear) sees the man who is often distinguished by his ability to celebrate the human voice celebrating humanity in a more general sense, for its community and unwavering compassion, something which has been more prominent than ever in light of recent events. Vernon accepts that current circumstances are frightening and unprecedented, but that such times are when it is most important not to live in fear, but to maintain faith that ‘There will be a better day’. Matt Andrews

Jehnny Beth - ‘Innocence’

Jehnny Beth is best known for her work with Savages, but she’s about to release her startling debut album. Beth is manic on Innocence, railing against the patriarchy with avenging fury. This is all delivered over a brutal electronic dub; but somehow she manages to both have her cake and eat it, when the verse collapses into a frankly gorgeous chorus. In her own words, these are “all the extremes of life, in the way I know it”. An artist at the top of her game, putting violent truths front and centre. Louis Griffin

girl in red - ‘midnight love’

As an entirely home-made one-woman project, girl in red’s first release of 2020 is a sophisticated take on youthful antagonism and romance which defines their place in upcoming musical artistry. The vocals are a distinct feature which characterise strength and subtlety, reminiscent of or comparative to those of Cigarettes After Sex, initially accompanying a soft and pulsating series of percussive beats and piano which fluctuate. The single settles as a characteristically teenage anthem as the blistering chorus resonates with a pulsation as it ebbs and flows, fading out towards the end, creating a smooth bridge between youthful revelation and solace. With the defining lyric ‘I can be your midnight love / when your silver is my gold’, the one-woman project continues curating their ‘world in red’, potentially associating romance and rage with youthful revelation and discovery. As part of a long series of single releases since 2017, midnight love is so far an asset to girl in red’s continually evolving discography which could anticipate an album of intriguing takes on female emotion and definite rejections of any possible expectation or stereotype. Nieve O’Donnell

Glass Animals - ‘Heart-Shaped Box’

Glass Animals have been keeping busy over the quarantine period, recording a number of covers from their homes in a ‘behind the scenes’ look at their recording process. By popular demand, Heart Shaped Box has been made available on streaming platforms, as the first of a two-part Quarantine Covers. A sultry, hypnotic interpretation of the classic Nirvana hit brings the band back to the atmosphere of breakout single Gooey, especially trailing the bounding energy of their previous single Your Love. The track is sparsely decorated, with only a slow baseline and delicate, twinkly synth melody shining the spotlight on Dave Bayley’s lusciously woozy vocals. Louise Dugan

21 Savage (Feat. Summer Walker) – ‘Secret’

Despite enduring a relatively quiet 2019 in terms of new releases, so strong was the success of 2018 sophomore record i am > I was, Atlanta rapper 21 Savage still dominated the US charts, while taking home Best Rap Song for a lot at the 2020 Grammy Awards. However, the dozey voiced rapper is back in full force with fellow Atlanta resident and emerging R&B starlet Summer Walker. Having already displayed her versatility over the past year, collaborating with huge figures in the scene such as Drake, Bryson Tiller and Jhené Aiko, Walker once again displays her raw, expressive take on R&B. Sampling Xscape’s late 90’s track My Little Secret, there is a touch of the traditional about this record, with Walker firmly in her comfort zone as she croons to the listener throughout. While 21’s laid-back tones complement Walker’s voice to perfection, don’t expect the Atlanta rapper to stick around in the R&B scene. Last week, a photo on Instagram was posted of him and young mastermind Metro Boomin’ back in the studio together. Savage Mode 2 is in the pipeline, and will surely see 21 return to the highest echelons of the US trap scene. Tristan Phipps

Car Seat Headrest - ‘Hollywood’

Far more immediate than the sound Car Seat Headrest are known for, Hollywood is a single that wears its influences, disparate as they may be, firmly on its sleeve. For a start, the verses verge on rap, propelled along by an almost trap-sounding drum patch. Then there’s the guitar riff underneath it all, feeling like a sort of 90s MTV reject, and to say nothing of Toledo’s furious stream-of-consciousness lyrics. A remarkable volte-face from previous singles Martin and Don’t Cool Me Down, forthcoming album Making A Door Less Open is looking more and more fascinating by the day. Louis Griffin

Last Dinosaurs – ‘Flying’

One of the biggest names in the Aussie alternative scene for the best part of the decade, indie-rock stalwarts Last Dinosaurs adopt a different approach on new single Flying. Unleashing their inner funk, the four-piece have ventured down the path of 90’s nu-disco, house, and dance, to create a thoroughly compelling track. Inspired by travels to Europe as an impressionable younger man, guitarist Lachlan Caskey reveals that venturing to “tacky” euro bars got him “vibing on nu-disco again”, as he enjoyed the “freedoms of (being) a single young man”. Despite being a world away from their usual indie-rock sound, Last Dinosaurs have put together a sterling disco offering, complete with infectious grooves and bubbly melodies. This change of direction certainly marks them as ones to watch ahead of the potential release of their fourth studio album. Tristan Phipps

DMA’s - ‘The Glow’

Australian trio, DMA’s, release their third single in the lead up to their third studio album The Glow. Releasing the title track arguably suggests what to expect from the rest of the album, which is set to be released in July; grit, tech, and euphoria. Following the 90s synth charm in Life is a Game of Changing, The Glow suggests a balance in their new record, with O’Dell’s melodic vocals stamping the DMA’s trademark all over it. The track is up-tempo and busy, with a lot going on in its layers. It is not a fragile layering and every element contributes its fair share in the overall punch of the track; it is set up to be a clear contender in future setlist’s for its sheer volume and density. Lucy Gray

Orlando Weeks - ‘Blood Sugar’

Orlando Weeks is probably best known as the frontman of The Maccabees, but Blood Sugar is taken from his debut solo album Safe In Sound. This is a subtle, beautiful track, embellished with soaring harmonies, very evocative of James Blake, albeit with a tactile edge, as opposed to the gleaming electronica Blake peddles. Weeks here presents a tender, heartfelt ballad, but the devil is in the details. The production is outstanding, and this is a track that reveals itself slowly, like an unfurling flower. Safe In Sound chronicles the birth of his son, and Blood Sugar is an ethereal telling indeed. Louis Griffin

Tiestö (Feat. Becky Hill) - ‘Nothing Really Matters’

After having already dropped a 2020 banger in the form of Better Off Without You (Feat. Shift K3Y) back in January, Becky Hill has returned yet again, this time collaborating with Tiestö for another dance anthem, Nothing Really Matters. The track provides charismatic vocals from Hill that listeners have all come to expect and an incredibly catchy chorus is sure to secure this track as a 2020 summer hit. Go give it a listen if you fancy a good boogie whilst isolated in your room. Joe Alton

Wun Two - ‘deux jeunes filles’

Wun Two’s stock-in-trade are the kind of lo-fi beats that harassed students are all too familiar with - frequently soundtracking a last-minute essay hand-in. However, as in any popular genre, many tracks can feel like landfill, not nearly memorable enough to make any great splash. But Wun’s output is a cut above; new track deux jeunes filles is a slender cut, coming in at less than two minutes, but does all it needs to do within that time. Grab a cuppa, sit back and relax. Louis Griffin

Delaire The Liar - 'Locked For A Reason’

Following a shake up to the band’s line-up, seeing Em and Chaz join Ffin, Delaire The Liar have released their second single. Where predecessor Shovel continued the band’s distinctive expression of unbounded passion and determined, exhilarating pace, Locked For A Reason is the flip side of that coin; a stripped back, acoustic arrangement, leaving an expanse of open space. Ffin’s desperate, yearning vocals are softened by harmony and introspection, as he explores a sense of loss and pain so soul-searing and deeply affecting in a way that not many can. Louise Dugan

George Ogilvie - ‘Grave’

This week saw the release of George Ogilvie’s debut album White Out, a guitar led EP transposing Ogilvie’s transcendent vocals to the masses. Grave is an emotional track narrating a difficult spiral the singer found himself in, and showcases the mystical folk sound that runs throughout his discography. Ogilvie exhibits influences from artists such as Bon Iver and José González; and if you’re a fan of Ben Howard’s Every Kingdom, you’ll fall in love with Grave. Izzy Felton

Exchecker - ‘Clueless’

An emerging talent within the Nottingham hip-hop scene, Exchecker bring classic hip-hop into the modern era with latest single Clueless. Cameron Chadwick, alongside lifelong friend and producer Sam Oakley, challenges the classic hip-hop stereotypes with his latest single - bringing a more chilled, relaxed, and calm rhythm combined effortlessly with expressive, meaningful vocals. Listening to the track a few times through, listeners can begin to properly appreciate the lyrics, unveiling a whole new meaning to the song. Clueless is more than your typical UK hip-hop track, it is a story brought to life through music. Owen Thomas

Picture This - ‘Troublemaker’

Picture This have given the first taste of their third studio album with their new single Troublemaker. Frontman Ryan Hennessy explains the song is about ‘a love that seems doomed and volatile, but has so much spark and excitement that you just can’t seem to let it go’. The lively track truly captures these electrifying emotions. Its flirtatious lyrics are combined with vocals full of attitude and its bouncing bassline and punchy chorus give it potential to be a real summer anthem. The Irish pop-rock band first performed the new song on yesterday’s WHO and Global Citizen’s ‘One World: Together at Home’ special supporting healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. Rachel Irwin

Westside Gunn - ‘327’

It would appear we’re in the 90s again. Or at least that’s the impression you get from 327, a cut from Westside Gunn’s latest LP, Pray For Paris. An immaculate beat, courtesy of Camouflage Monk, sits somewhere on the West coast, with soulful keys and old-school boom-bap drums. This is a posse cut, with Billie Esco, Joey Bada$$ and Tyler, The Creator all making appearances. Of course, as is the norm with any track he shows up on nowadays, Tyler completely steals the show with a beautifully braggadocio verse. Nostalgia, updated. Louis Griffin

IC3PEAK & Zillakami - ‘TRRST’

The Russian experimental electronic duo feature ZillaKami, half of trap-hop punk hybrid pair City Morgue, on their latest offering, showcasing their signature off-kilter barrage of discordant vocals, crushing synth and abrasive bass beats bubble together in an intense and unnerving witch’s brew of blistering sound. But sonic evolution is hinted at with a sparse, foreboding interlude, tip-toeing almost into the territory of orchestral, in a darkly foreboding build up, giving way to ZillaKami’s unmistakable vocals and aggressive flow. With an upcoming album rumoured to also feature trap-metal heavyweight Ghostemane, their sound certainly cannot be labelled mundane. Louise Dugan

Tom Misch and Yusef Days (Feat. Fredde Gibbs) - ‘Nightrider’

The latest collaborative single from jazz-inspired Tom Misch and Yusef Days, Nightrider’s long introduction induces hypnosis instantaneously and upon the arrival of a bass groove, it does so in a melodic way that maintains the relaxed nature of the track. The instrumentation is precariously balanced to ensure listeners are not overwhelmed, resulting in the easy listening nature of the song. The vocals only continue this; and the rap adds further layered bliss. The collaboration with Yusef Days once again succeeds in blistering fashion, making their album, due for release on the 24th April, an enticing prospect. Robyn Walford

Bishop Nehru - ‘MEATHEAD’

Bishop Nehru is one of the brightest rising stars in the traditional hip-hop revival scene; he’s been putting out records since the age of fifteen, and here he reunites with a forefather of the scene, the revered MF DOOM. DOOM has been following Nehru’s career since their collaborative album, NEHRUVIANDOOM, back in 2014. The vintage-looking cover of MEATHEAD sees DOOM and Nehru sat with herbal teas, and that is exactly the mood here; a jazzy, laid-back beat, two of the slickest lyricists around, and a classic hip-hop feel - what’s not to love? Louis Griffin