The New Cue #83 October 29: Tendai, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Sasami, Bonobo, Pick A Piper, Kadhja Bonet, Metronomy, Fela Kuti, NewDad, Sam Evian, The Go-Betweens
29 October, 2021
Welcome to your regular Recommender Friday edition of The New Cue. Our Friday editions are usually for paying subscribers only but as it’s the last Friday of the month, we’ve decided to take down the paywall so all you non-paying crew on the mailing list can have a peek at what you’re missing. For just £5 a month, our subscribers get the full New Cue experience: three editions a week, interviews, mind-blowing selections by our favourite artists, a Story Behind The Song here, a Lost In Music there, with a bumper Recommender edition just like this one landing every Friday morning.
Recommender is where we get to tell you what we’re listening to and you can see if you like it and then when Keith over the road asks you what’s good at the moment, you can pass off all the information as your own. “Come on Keith, you telling me you haven’t heard the new Kadhja Bonet single? Catch up mate!”. Here’s a playlist to listen along whilst you laugh to yourself about what a donut Keith is:
We’ll be back on Monday when we will come sauntering back into your inbox - I mean, it’s so close we might as well just stay the weekend, right? - with a chat with Elbow’s Guy Garvey. What a lovely man, great hugger.
We hope you enjoy the edition enough that if you’re not already a subscriber, you’ll feel inspired to press this little button right here…
Ted, Niall, Chris
An Album To Blow Your Mind
Underworld’s Karl Hyde on Indian guitar virtuoso’s 2005 album.
Calcutta Slide-Guitar (2005)
“He is a master of the Indian slide-guitar. A lot of people might not know that there is this tradition of playing slide-guitar that was brought out of a Hawaiian lap steel. Someone brought the Hawaiian lap steel to India and it caught on, so there is a strand of this masterfully-played slide-guitar that actually sounds like speed sitar. Whenever I’ve turned anybody onto this album, they’ve always got back to me straight away and gone, ‘that is incredible, how don’t I know about this guy?’. The guy is a legend.”
The great joy of producing this Recommender each week for you is the repeated journey that it sends all three of us on to discover new music. We know that deadline is coming around every Wednesday (Thursday) so we have to get the goods together for you. I’d be a bit lazy about the musical treasure hunt otherwise, assuming the valuable stuff will just find me in time. Doing The New Cue makes me actively seek it out, shaking that digital pan, sifting for audio gold as soon as the previous edition has been sent to your inbox.
We’re living through an extremely fertile period for new recorded music, that’s what I’ve discovered on this weekly expedition. I’ve passed through some barren eras as a music writer, i.e. 1998-2001, but despite all the economic, health and political impediments currently ranged against music makers in 2021, there are so many new adventures in hi-fi to undertake every week.
This is all an extended subtweet aimed at someone using the ludicrous announcement of a new Beatles museum in Liverpool during this week’s budget statement to pontificate doomily on Twitter about the chances of the Beatles forming today as, he claimed, nobody was interested in investing in young Northern bands nowadays (unaware, no doubt, of Wigan’s Lathums hitting number one with their debut album only last month). It’s true that nobody starts making music in 2021 to become wealthy, or maybe to even earn anything. Then again, The Beatles didn't form in order to become rich, revered or famous. They just wanted to play music together. Nobody writes a book, a play, paints a picture (or starts a newsletter) for boundless cash for that matter either. That doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of Beatles popping up all over the globe. There are. I hear them every week. Creativity is rampant. They don’t look or sound remotely like The Beatles, of course. That’s the point. There’s so much amazing, inventive, beautiful music under construction right now. You just have to reach out. It’s right there. If you pay for it, too, then maybe the artists can continue on their quests more confidently.
Anyway, I made a playlist of some of the best songs I’ve heard this October. I had to limit it to 90 minutes in length out of editorial decency. It could’ve run for hours.
Here’s the first revolutionary artist of the week: Tendai, a 21-year old from Custom House in dockside East London, who is signed to 0207 Def Jam and has followed up the ghostly inner-city funk of his debut single Not Around with Infinite Straight, a menacing conversation with death that defies categorisation. Is it R&B? Is it a modern blues? Is it hip hop? There are flashes of new wave guitar and a spoken word section from Dora Jar, the similarly gifted young Californian singer-songwriter. It could be anything. It’s really good, for certain, even if I’m reminded slightly of an updated Seal (not a bad thing: I have danced to Seal in nightclubs).
The return of Hurray For The Riff Raff was announced yesterday. Hurray For The Riff Raff is one of the musical alter-egos for Alynda Segarra, the Bronx-born, New Orleans-based singer-songwriter who’s made seven albums under the alias since 2008 but really left an impression with 2016’s The Navigator, a concept album based upon her Puerto Rican identity. She’s now signed to Nonesuch and appears to have risen to that accomplishment by turning in her best single to date, Rhododendron, a song written during the pandemic that’s about getting down with plants. It’s the first taste from her Life On Earth album, out on 18 February and billed as “nature punk”, which sounds like a brilliant idea. In her PR, she says the single is about “finding rebellion in plant life. Being called by the natural world and seeing the life that surrounds you in a way you never have. A mind expansion. A psychedelic trip. A spiritual breakthrough. Learning to adapt, and being open to the wisdom of your landscape.” See what you think. The video is groovy.
Also announced this week for a February release is Squeeze, the new album from the experimental American songwriter and multi-instrumentalist known as Sasami. She’s previewed Squeeze with two very different sounding songs, the metallic howl of Skin A Rat and the melodic shoegazing of The Greatest, which, she explains, “encapsulates the album’s range”. I mean, it’s quite a broad range between the two points, but they’re both brilliantly realised explosions.
I’ve massively over-written this week, so I’d just like to briefly add Bedouine’s Waysides album to your listening pile, too. I banged on about the acoustic loveliness of this LA-based singer-songwriter a few weeks ago around her It Wasn’t Me single, but if you need some bittersweet ruminations on love and life that match the autumnal light outside this coming week, give the wheel over to Azniv Korkejian. She knows what she’s doing.
As a resident of Southend-on-sea, I have a lot of conversations in my house about the tide. It’s in the contract for living round here, you become a tidal bore. You check when high tide is every day, you talk about it for a bit, you plan a little stroll around it, you download a tide app, all that tidey jazz. This means is that I, Mr Tedious Tide Talker, You See That Ship Over There, It’s Taking Washing Machines To China, am the perfect crowd for the new Bonobo single Tides. More downbeat than the dance producer’s usual output, it has a tranquil, Mezzanine-era Massive Attack-style groove and soothing, melancholic vocal. Guest vocalist Jamila Woods is probably crafting some clever metaphor from her tidal references, but not to me. She’s singing about Southend-on-sea. She wants to go to Adventure Island. Wavey!
Of a similar vibe but not singing directly to inhabitants of Essex seaside towns is the new single from Canadian electronic artist Pick A Piper. Taken from his forthcoming EP Sea Steps (hold on a minute!), Keep Your Head Up is a hypnotic blend of layered synths, gently propulsive beats and looped vocals. It’s a soft, sad banger. A sosanger! Pick A Piper, real name Ben Weber, is also a member of Caribou and if you’re a fan of Dan Snaith’s group you’ll probably dig this and if you don’t it’s not my fault, you forgot to read the Ts & Cs didn’t you?
Over the past couple of years, LA’s Kadhja Bonet has collaborated with Childish Gambino, Anderson. Paak, Khruangbin and more. Her excellent recent single For You, out now on Ninja Tune, shows that she belongs in that sort of illustrious company as an artist in her own right too. Her first solo work since 2018 is emotionally bruised synth-pop, all minor chord desolation and melodic anguish. It’s sosanger central round here this week, what can I say, Whiny Sappy People talk to me.
Come on Niall, look for something uplifting for your last choice, everyone’s starting to think you’re having a breakdown… OK, how about the new single by Norwegian singer-songwriter EERA, a chiming indie-rock anthem titled The Beat that isn’t actually that uplifting but I really like it and I’ve chosen it now so that’s that. It’s the follow-up to Ladder, which was recommended by my handsome, fresh-faced, pursed-lipped TNC colleague Chris Catchpole back in August, and it’s out now on Just Dust Recordings. An album, Speak, follows in December.
Over the past ten years, Partisan Records have been releasing specially curated box sets mining the rich back catalogue of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. Following on from selections picked by Erykah Badu, Brian Eno, Questlove and cantankerous Cream drummer Ginger Baker, the fifth installment has been put together by Chris Martin, alongside Kuti’s son Femi. It’s out on December 10th and while the perma-bouncy Coldplay singer might not seem an obvious choice to lead an expedition into the depths of Kuti’s output, the extended 25-minute mix of 1980’s simmering Original Sufferhead they put out to announce the project earlier this week suggests Martin knows his onions when it comes to Kuti deep cuts.
Similarly hypnotic but lighter on seething political ire, LA harpist and composer Mary Lattimore can magic up a path to sublime musical nirvana using little more than a harp and some effects pedals. Although it can occasionally make you think you’re waiting for a hot stone treatment and a skin peel, 2018’s Hundreds Of Days is still a record I revisit whenever I need my chakras cleansed without having to change into a robe and slippers. Out today via Ghostly International, Collected Pieces: 2015-2020 sweeps up unreleased songs, Bandcamp only releases and limited edition tracks from the past four years. It showcases a more experimental, less tranquil side to Lattimore’s music. There’s loads to explore in here, but the 13-minute, backwards looping Be My Four Eyes in particular is astonishing. If you’ve ever wondered what The Durutti Column being sucked into some sort of parallel universe Fantastia might sound like (and who hasn’t?), wonder no more…
The band’s rubbish name notwithstanding, NewDad’s debut EP Waves was one of my favourite new musical finds earlier this year. The Irish fourpiece have just released the first track from their follow up EP which is due early next year. Ladybird brings the blurred, 90s indie textures of Waves into focus, adding a far sharper songwriting edge to their somnolent, dream pop drift. It’s a rich serving of jangly, melodically deft, lovelorn excellence and I’ve had it on a loop all morning…
It feels like only a few weeks ago I was talking about how great Metronomy's new one-off collaborative Posse EP was. A quick search on my laptop reveals it was, four to be exact. A month is a long time in pop music though and lead Metronome Joe Mount is already back with the first track to be taken from the follow-up to 2018’s Metronomy Forever. It’s called It’s Good To Be Back, appropriately enough. As bubbly electronica bounces up against sweet, Fleetwood Mac-y MOR, it’s a swift delivery of pure musical joy - not from concentrate, 100% of your RDA of positive vibes in just under four minutes. For some reason Mount appears to have dressed up as Frank Spencer in the video too…
Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself
Say hello to your new favourite artist
Name: Sam Evian
A Brief History: Over two previous albums, Sam Evian has honed his breezy, singer-songwriter-y chops whilst also perfecting his skills on the other side of the mixing desk as a producer and engineer for Cass McCombs, Big Thief and more. After relocating from New York City to a rural Catskills town, he got to work on a third album where he could utilize all his talents in one place.
He says: “My interests run pretty far and wide and I'm a music sponge, so it’s hard for me to stay in a lane. Technically, I play guitar and sing songs but I love writing on piano, drums, bass, saxophone - the new record leans toward psych R&B I think. I spent a lot of time working on this record alone, in my studio. Previous records have been more focused around capturing a live band sound, but on this record I focused more on pushing myself to do as much as I could on my own. Ten years of New York City hot lava gave me a pretty strong hustle and work ethic, but I'm happy to be up here in the woods figuring myself out, digesting my time in the city, playing music late into the night without bothering anyone.”
We say: Evian’s new record Time To Melt is an album that reflects the expanse of the surroundings in which it was made, dreamy Americana with an ever-so-slightly psychedelic wonkiness about it. His way with a hook keeps it standing upright, though, with a gentle rhythmic shuffle and strings that sound like a Sunday afternoon by the fire. It’s nap-time cosmic soul.
For fans of: Matthew E. White, Cass McCombs, Mac DeMarco
The Go-Betweens co-founder Robert Forster on why we should value fruit…
“When I look at the design and beauty of an apple or an orange, it's real worth for something as beautiful and as neat as that would be, like, £100. That’s what an apple should cost because it’s so perfect. But we get them for 50p! I’ve been an avid fruit eater my whole life. Fruit is a great luxury, fruit’s a great cheap luxury. It’s a giveaway luxury. When I go past a fruit stand, it’s like passing an art gallery. I find it spectacular. The beauty and the cheapness of fruit is very overlooked.”