Best things we heard in September…

Lisa Whiteman: Arab Strap – ‘The Turning of Our Bones

Arab Strap ARE BACK!!  From the Twitter teasers earlier in the summer drops beautifully dark, typically playful yet morbid return from the grave. Confirming they are now signed to Mogwai’s Rock Action Records, Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat’s first new single in 15 years is an utter joy, if the sexy undead, maggots, saxophones and bongos are your thing. Which clearly they are. 

This is a seriously gorgeous, funky gothic return from Arab Strap, accompanied by a no-less-than-expected faux-gore and wonderfully subtitled video. Between this and Mogwai’s 2018 live record released in the same week, the grown ups are showing the kids how its done.

Death and sex, pals, its all we have. Welcome back. You had me at “ominous guitar music”.

Let’s salsa and rave.

Fran Slater: Arlo Parks – ‘Hurt’: I’ve been hearing the name Arlo Parks for a while now, but after watching her play a beautiful cover of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ with Phoebe Bridgers I actually made the effort to get out there and give her a listen.

It was a good move.

I’ve picked out recent single ‘Hurt’, but honestly I’ve been on a total Arlo Parks binge for the last week or so. Smooth-as-fuck voice, lovely lyricism, endless confidence, and all of this without an album in sight as yet. As well as ‘Hurt’ check out ‘Cola’, ‘Black Dog’, and her cover of ‘Creep’ and then join me in waiting impatiently for that debut LP.

Pete Wild: I’ve been on an early Tom Waits jag – specifically The Early Years volumes 1 and 2. They are a revelation. So many songs that feel like the best most familiar song you’ve ever heard, only you’ve never heard them before. It’s like standards from another (possibly better) universe. Quite simply bliss in your ear holes. And if Tom Waits never made sense to you… start here.

Kathy Halliday: Of Monsters and Men – ‘Visitor’ – I’ve written about my love for OMAM before. They’re just so dreamy and Icelandic – their music makes my heart smile. ‘Visitor’ is no exception. It’s a voracious, indie-pop track with an 80s feel that wouldn’t be misplaced on the Breakfast Club. I was initially apprehensive about the direction they seem to be taking away from their debut, My Head Is An Animal, which always reminds me of mountains and the Icelandic landscape. But if this track is anything to go by, I really do hope there’s a new album on the horizon with the same vibe.

James Spearing: Best in September? The correct answer is of course Kelly Lee Owens with Inner SongDo we really need to tell you how great it is, again? No.

So the slightly less correct (but no less exciting) answer is the Soulwax remix of Roisin Murphy’s ‘Something More’. And what a remix it is. This is a perfect pairing just before new album Roisin Machine hits my letterbox, and has got the whole family dancing round the house. A joy.

Tom Burrows: Mercury nominees / Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ – I’ve been catching up with the Mercury Prize nominees throughout September and have enjoyed discovering albums from Moses Boyd, Laura Marling, Kano, Georgia and Dua Lipa. But the best thing I heard came from elsewhere. Thom Yorke’s latest playlist for Sonos Radio starts with ‘O Superman’ by Laurie Anderson. I’d never heard this song, released in 1981, before. Immediately I was mesmerised by its atmosphere, its subtle tone shifts, and Anderson’s vocoder-aided delivery. It sounds like both the early 80s, and the future. It sounds foreboding but melancholy; comforting but sinister. And I love the fact that a minimal, strange, eight-minute art piece reached no.2 on the UK Singles Chart. The age of ‘O Superman’ means that it’s probable that many of you have heard it before, but for me it was a stunning musical discovery.

Yasmin Duggal: With the oohs of Stevie Nicks and the drums of Phil Collins, Miley Cyrus took to the Live Lounge this month for four gorgeous renditions of songs old and new. Her latest 70s disco-tactic track ‘Midnight Sky’ has filled the airwaves during a very peculiar September but was brought to the Live Lounge with a rawness as she scaled the notes and wowed us with her incredible power. Last year’s ‘Slide Away’ came as a stripped-back delight, oozing with emotion and really exhibiting her husky quality; I just adore this song – there’s such a vulnerability to it which still sounded so fresh a year on in the socially distanced parameters of that iconic space. As any Live Lounge fan knows, the star of the show is always the cover, and Miley treated us to two – a Mileyfied powerhouse take on Billie Eilish’s ‘My Future’, and a nod to her grandma in a heartfelt cover of The Eagles’ ‘Take It To The Limit’. From Hannah Montana to Bangerz to 70s queen, Miley’s had her fair share of reincarnations, but I love her new single, I’m eagerly anticipating the album, and I’m thrilled to see what this iteration of Miley Cyrus brings to the table.

Fat Roland: RAMZi – Cocon – This is my pick for the best album I heard in September 2020 and definitely not a secret message to an evil Russian spy. Pssst, Ivanov, are you reading this? This month I loved the sleepy tropical vibes of Cocon by RAMZi. She says these tracks are protective “micrococoons”, but it’s is more of a trip than that: this short album feels like a magic carpet ride through mystery techno forests. Ivanov, check the red telephone, Nicolai has an urgent message for you. We’re at the muted end of the house music spectrum – here, BPM stands for Beautifully-Paced Meandering. The hazily hypnotic Raga Slug and the bassy head-nodder Nos Enfants have all the dubby production hallmarks of the great Andrew Weatherall. The way Spring Emu launches into gently tribal drum ‘n’ bass is glorious: Transglobal Underground on ketamine. Ivanov, the eagle is wearing the exploding trousers, repeat, the eagle is wearing the exploding trousers. Wink wink.

Nick Parker: Fashionably late to the party as usual, this month I’ve caught up with SAULT’s Untitled (Black Is). While Picky Bastard James picked up on the ‘Wildfires’ track in his ‘best of’ from a couple of months ago, I’d say the high point of this generally excellent album is ‘Hard Life’. It’s a track that manages to slide effortlessly between an aggressively saturated drum-led opening section, driven hard by the on-beat bass (synth?) part, and a sudden opening up into one of the most beautiful mult-part harmonies I’ve heard this year*. What a track.

[*a close second, btw, is the live video for Lianne La Havas’s cover of ‘Weird Fishes’]

Matt Paul: So this month I got stuck on Kero Kero Bonito. They did a remix of a Metronomy song which tbh I wasn’t super into. But, instantly from their album artwork I could tell that their own music was going to be pretty bright and jolly. And really they absolutely nail that vibrant electropop tone. With songs about trampolining and flamingoes it has provided a good distraction from the world at large. Their most recent track ‘It’s Bugsnax’ is a theme for a video game about an island with bugs that look like tasty tasty food and it’s a real earworm.

Sam Atkins: Tom Aspaul – Black Country Disco – After going all in on this year’s Mercury shortlist for this month’s podcast, I’ve fallen back into listening to playlist after playlist of forgotten songs I’ve loved from the last few decades in much of September. So with that in mind I want to shout out one of the few new albums released this month that deserves way more attention than it’s getting. After songwriting credits with some of music’s biggest names, Tom Aspaul independently released debut album Black Country Disco is 10 absolute belter pop songs in a row. Everything is written from such a uniquely down to earth place that it’s as relatable as it is catchy. An album that contains the best song about being in the West Midlands you’ll ever hear on a pop record, Black Country Disco deserves to be heard.

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