It seems like every month this year has been a big month for music, but in truth, May topped most of them for musical activity. New critically acclaimed albums from Radiohead, ANOHNI and James Blake dropped in a matter of days, not to mention the long-awaited return of The Stone Roses. We try our best to sum up the high and low-profile successes from May right here.
1. Radiohead: Burn The Witch
Lawsuits aside, Radiohead’s comeback took over the world again like they’d been away for 30 years rather than 5. 'Burn The Witch', the energetic peak of A Moon Shaped Pool, has everything: dreamy Thom Yorke vocals, sublime string writing by Jonny Greenwood, refugee-related words of warning and a downright creepy video to accompany it. Long may their reign continue.
2. James Blake: I Need A Forest Fire (ft. Bon Iver)
The long-awaited, feverishly anticipated collaboration has finally arrived. While the danger of two similar artists joining forces is justified, James Blake and Justin Vernon extinguished any fears of treading on each other’s toes with 'I Need A Forest Fire'. Rather than fighting for space like a clumsy cartoon crossover, the blend between the two is even more smooth than you’d anticipate – the points when Blake stops singing and Vernon begins in this ethereal anthem is beautifully deceptive. It’s what you expected, hoped for even, and it doesn’t let you down.
3. Dear Pariah: Be Free
The final track of an album is usually designed to be an epic, and very often slow and anthemic. Dear Pariah’s 'Be Free', in contrast, brings new album Misc. to a swift and swirling conclusion. Aided by echoes and pumped up guitar riffs, the London singer/songwriter - who was one of our first Discover artists last year - winds down slowly, before a footstomping conclusion turns the screws even tighter.
4. Told Slant: Tsunami
As part of the artist collective The Epoch, Told Slant has friends to fall back on. It seems that sometimes he needs them. 'Tsunami', taken from new album Going By, is stuffed full of memorable, honest lyrics, and conveys them purely and simply. The hookline “Isn’t this silly and aren’t you beautiful” is passed around between friends throughout the song, transforming from a affectionate phrase from a loved one to a reassuring smile from close family. As a note of self-confidence, it’s brilliant.
5. Eagulls: Velvet
Something about George Mitchell’s bellowing vocals lifts Eagulls from smooth, echoing guitar music to a constantly intense musical experience. 'Velvet' would be a fairly soothing, middle ground song without Mitchell’s input. With it, it gains a hard edge, a worn brutality that brings new life to the track that curses Cupid and his “deceiving… sealing up the world to our hearts to watch us stay alone…” With exhaustive melodies, hard-hitting lyrics and a rare sense of integrity, Eagulls are one of the most interesting names in the Leeds music scene at the moment.
6. Chance The Rapper: All We Got
An electronic vocal performance by Kanye West. A rousing accompaniment by the Chicago Children’s Choir. A mixture of scattered polyphonic fanfares and deep-rooted bass punches from a joyous brass ensemble. A vocal performance that recounts the rapper’s early life, culminating in a chorus that proclaims “music is all we got.” Sporadic vocal flips and electronic hums in the background, providing yet more layers. Chance The Rapper got everything right here.
7. Car Seat Headrest: Fill In The Blank
Will Toledo’s relentless output of material as Car Seat Headrest continues with new album Teens of Denial, their second album released by Matador. What starts off as an angry retort to those that claim to be depressed, 'Fill In The Blank' eventually reveals the fate of the performer, as someone who has in fact had enough of the world themselves. The continuation of Toledo’s lo-fi sound benefits the song, giving the character within a real bite, as well as being rough around the edges.
8. Emily Afton: Words From Your Tongue
At first glance, Californian Emily Afton’s 'Words From Your Tongue' comes across like a standard, if well-written, indie pop track. With rasping vocals and weighty backing, the feel of the track is something familiar, yet still welcome. The introduction of a little trombone solo, followed quickly by a rhythmically charged, many layered outro, however, shows that Afton’s ambitions lie much further than recreating a sound we are accustomed to hearing.
9. Cass McCombs: Opposite House
Slowly meandering calmly through hysteria, Cass McCombs' soft croon simply sings phrases like “The ceiling is on the floor / Floor in the refrigerator / What of the door? / It's there no more.” All the while, Angel Olsen provides light, almost shivering backing vocals, with sweeping instrumental backing alongside a legato guitar line that reduces all words to something conversational.
10. Joey Purp: Photobooth
A self-promoting entrance louder and brasher than most, 'Photobooth' introduces Joey Purp, part of Illinois hip-hop group Leather Corduroys. 'Photobooth' samples the king of funk front men, James Brown, scaling back 'Boo-Ga-Loo' to a series of samples that mimic the bestial screeches of Moon Hooch. It leaves Purp making his self-loving case above what now sound akin to sirens wailing, while still retaining a sense of cool.