The Sorry Scholar’s Best Tracks of February 2020

Well well well, what a month. The Strokes return. The Avalanches return. New music from Perfume Genius, Dirty Projectors, Car Seat Headrest, US Girls, La Roux, Kesha, Carly Rae Jepsen, Phoebe Bridgers, Gorillaz, Grimes and Mark Kozelek… what is going on?? Newcomers DJ Knuf, 100 Gecs, Emma Jean-Thackray and Ian William Craig drop gorgeous new songs and that’s all without mentioning a multitude of slaps from Denzel Curry, Nicolas Jaar and Pop Smoke, who we sadly lost this month… This one’s for him 💨 Find the Apple Music and Spotify playlists below: 

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 18.23.36

We love all of these songs, but here’s more on five of the standouts:

Spotlight on Five:

Strokes – At The Door

There have been The Strokes comebacks before, several of them, and so we’ve had the enough practice to know to err on the side of caution. But this one is special. With thick and minimal production, built around a gently strummed guitar and fat synth line alone, Casablancas gives one of his most convincing vocal performances in a decade – perhaps because it sounds like he means what he’s singing about this time: “lonely after light/You begged me not to go/Sinking like a stone/Use me like an oar/And get yourself to shore” tells a potent tale of isolation, and self sacrifice.

U.S. Girls – Four American Dollars

One of the best things about U.S. Girls’ brand of music is that it thoroughly busts the myth of protest music as the sole reserve of bearded white men weaponising their 12 string guitar. Pete Seeger never produced something as outright entertaining as Meghan Remy’s funky as fuck new single; which opens with a crunchy 808 and looped strings which sound like a crate-diggers dream, and grows into a sharp, witty act of solidarity with the American underclass. Continuing her devotion to the immigration population, the sexually chaste and the economically oppressed, with scant lyrics that say more with few words than most politically-focussed artists do across their entire diatribe-ridden records, Remy throws conservative slogans right back at them: after all, “you gotta have boots, if you wanna lift those bootstraps”.

The Avalanches & Devonte Hynes – We Will Always Love You

The Avalanches’ mission statement and the concept of the entire plunderphonics scene has always been implied – in between the nostalgia a record crackle, and the affectionate retooling of a thousand samples from across popular music – but never conceptualised so assertively as upon their comeback single: “Every voice ever played on the radio over the last 100 years now exists in the stars; the transmissions of these singers are forever floating around out there, lost in the cosmos, endlessly traveling. Tonight Smokey Robinson duets with Dev Hynes and The Roches”. Masterfully, the Avalanches recognised the beauty of The Roches’ 1979 folk ballad ‘Hammond Song’ but turned those Celtic harmonies into something cosmic, an ascendent R&B cut which Dev Hynes weaves himself into as if it were an original.

Willie Nelson – First Rose of Spring

Releasing his 70th album on the eve of his 87th birthday, Willie Nelson is a towering inspiration for musicians who were told the well of inspiration only ran so deep, and for those of us who struggle to walk the stairs at 25. ‘First Rose of Spring’ is a heavy dose of the former; a gorgeous ballad with a mournful soulful guitar, and Nelson’s voice close in the mix, delivering wistfully a tale of love by sunlight.

Emma-Jean Thackray – Rain Dance/Wisdom

London composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, bandleader and DJ Emma Thackray is at ease working with the London symphony orchestra as she would be debuting a mix of NTS; but this sleek jazz cut debuts a multitude of her talents without compromising on the warmth and playfulness which many polymaths intellectualise out of their songs. ‘Rain Dance’ begins as a lolloping piece of lounge jazz, with her talent behind the decks hinted at through an ominous dub baseline alone – but intensity of the music develops in the ‘Wisdom’ portion of the song, which thickens the sound with the presence of a throbbing trombone and quickens the pace with a piercing sax line and a furious drum pattern – all of which explain without words why Thackray is one of the most promising new talents in the bristling London jazz scene.

Words by Liam Inscoe – Jones with thanks to Ellie Freedman.

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