Major Lazer : Watch Out For This # Bumaye

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Delayed more times than your average big budget hip-hop album, the promise of a full-length follow-up to Major Lazer‘s 2009 debut album Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do has been dangled and then cruelly snatched away so many times you’d be forgiven for believing it might never come out. Now we know that Free The Universe has been pushed back again – to April 15 – but with that announcement comes the surprising news that Diplo and friends have signed with Secretly Canadian, who will release the record as a joint venture with Mad Decent and Downtown. By way of apology for this latest hold-up, the group have offered up this free mini-mixtape, as well as album track “Watch Out for This (Bumaye)”, a typically heavy dancehall rave-up featuring Busy Signal, the Flexican and FS Green that suggests the LP could just might end up being worth the wait. Listen below.

Survival Knife : Name That Tune

The recent flurry of activity surrounding Unwound’s back catalogue (their complete recordings were remastered and reissued at the start of the year by the Número Group label) may have caused some fans to jump to the conclusion that a reunion may be on the cards. So for those of you haven’t already spontaneously combusted, here’s the bad news: Unwound are not getting back together, at least not just yet. There’s a pretty sweet consolation prize on offer, though; two of the much-missed post-hardcore group’s original members, Brandt Sandeno and Justin Trosper, have formed a new group – Survival Knife – and on March 5 will release their debut 7″, “Traces Of Me”/ “Name That Tune” through Sub Pop. And here’s the good news: as one would expect, it rocks hard. Listen to “Name That Tune” below.

UK psych double : Gnod and Hookworms

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Here in the UK, it’s often said – mainly by soft Southerners – to be “grim up North”, but for two of our most exciting psychedelic rock bands the next few weeks look set to bring their day in the sun. First up are Manchester space cadets Gnod, who this week follow up a series of increasingly adventurous albums with Chaudelande, featuring tracks recorded in the titular Normandy town at the start of the group’s 2011 European tour and previously released as two limited edition 12″s, compiled on CD for the first time by Rocket Recordings. It’s a fine document of the Salford sun-worshippers at their blown-out, Krautrocking best; listen to “Visions Of Load” below.

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They may be separated geographically by the Pennine hills and a fair stretch of motorway, but Gnod and Leeds lads Hookworms are certainly coming from the same place spiritually. Having seen these guys play a number of times at their local, the wonderful Brudenell Social Club, I have to call myself a fan: boasting a confidence and stage presence that belies their tender years and a synth-heavy, hypnotic sound that calls on Suicide and Pere Ubu as much as Neu! or Hawkwind, these kids are headed for big things. Debut album Pearl Mystic is out March 4 via Gringo Records; listen to the sprawling “In Our Time” below.

Mister Lies : Mowgli

The debut album from Chicago’s Nick Zanca AKA Mister Lies ticks a couple of common press release cliche boxes – shadowy, publicity-shy bedroom producer, recorded in a cabin in the woods – but the sounds contained within make it stand out from the crowd. Mowgli, out February 26 via Lefse Records, plays mix & match with electronic music sub-genres that are often found thrown together – twinkling Aphex Twin melodies and skipping Burial percussion (“Ashore”), rave synths and clattering drum ‘n’ bass rhythms (“Lupine“), R&B and squelchy electro (“Align”), roughneck dubstep and hazy ambience (“Hounded“) – but Zanca’s enthusiastic approach and ear for unusual hooks and textures ensure there’s plenty here that’s guaranteed to impress the “been there, heard that” blog kids; listen to “Dionysian” below.

Light Heat : And The Birds…

Light Heat is the latest venture of Quentin Stoltzfus, who used to front Mazarin and is joined here by a group of friends including 4/5 of The Walkmen (Paul Maroon, Matt Barrick, Peter Bauer and Walter Martin), and you can hear clear echoes of both of those groups in “And The Birds…”, the first taste of the project’s eponymous debut album, out June 24 via Ribbon Music. The press release promises a mix of classic country rock and Krautrock-influenced rhythms, and whilst the latter are more apparent in another teaser track, “The Mirror“, “And The Birds…” is certainly rich in… well, Byrds-y harmonies; listen below.

Alex Bleeker And The Freaks : Dont Look Down

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New Jersey janglers Real Estate certainly like to keep themselves busy: guitarist Matt Mondanile’s other band Ducktails have just released their latest long-player The Flower Lane, and now bassist Alex Bleeker is preparing a new album with his ragtag collective The Freaks. How Far Away is due out May 28 on Woodsist, and features contributions from members of Mountain Man, Woods and Big Troubles, as well as Real Estate drummer Jackson Pollis; listen to the breezy, gently rocking lead single “Don’t Look Down” below.

The Dream : Slow It Down ft. Fabolous

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Having co-written such worldwide pop megahits as Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and (ahem) Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, Terius Nash – AKA The-Dream – probably has enough money to ensure he never needs to work another day in his life, and the fact that he keeps cranking out album after album of his own astonishingly accomplished futuristic R&B to comparitively little commercial success suggests that creativity and artistic expression – rather than wealth and fame – are what motivates him. On Valentine’s Day Nash premiered “Slow It Down” the first single from May’s Fourplay – the official follow-up to the “Love” trilogy that came to a close with 2010’s Love King – and revealed that the reason the record has been delayed so many times over the past year or is because he’s been working in secret on Beyonce’s new LP. Plenty to look forward to in the coming months then, but for now here’s the typically hook-heavy (and potty-mouthed), Fabolous-featuring single.

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Iceage : You’re Nothing

Danish post-punk four-piece Iceage are the only band I’ve ever seen live that made me feel genuinely nervous. At last year’s Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, the pissed off-looking group took to the stage in the blazing late-afternoon heat and proceeded to tear through a set blighted with technical problems that seemed fraught with danger from the start and only got more volatile as it went on. The band often seemed to be playing at cross purposes, racing each other to the finish line and and yet somehow, miraculously, arriving there at the same time, but it wasn’t just the thought of the quartet breaking apart like a meteor before our eyes that put me on edge; moreover it was the very real prospect that if his guitar pick-up fucked up one more time, or even if someone in the crowd dared to cheer at the wrong moment, frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt – a terrifying teenage bundle of dead-eyed detachment and manic aggresion in a Lonsdale t-shirt – might just snap and stab his bandmates with a broken bottle before garroting himself with his mic cord. Of course, none of this was entirely unexpected: 2010 debut LP New Brigade had brilliantly captured the unsettling energy of Iceage’s live shows and sophomore album You’re Nothing (out now via Matador Records) repeats the feat, sounding at times as though the band had been recorded balancing on the wing of a moving aeroplane – leaning desperately into the wind and thrashing at their instruments, trying to hear themselves over the roar of the jet engines – and at others like the most tightly disciplined of hardcore oufits. A more commanding presence than before, Ronnenfelt still sounds like some intense, unhinged hybrid of Ian Curtis and Henry Rollins, groaning “Pressure, pressure/ Oh God, no/ I can’t take this pressure” on the lurching “Ecstasy” and howling “Excess! Excess!” at the moon on “Coalition” (below), while his colleagues flail wildly behind him, but the album is just as thrilling in its more coherent moments – “Burning Hand”, “Wounded Hearts” – and, somewhat surprisingly, its stand-out track (“Morals”, set to a slow, martial drum-beat and featuring mournful piano) is essentially an Iceage ballad. I wrote recently about the current shortage of old-school punk sensibilities, but if Pissed Jeans are taking up the mantle of “new punk”‘s grumpy old men, they clearly have themselves some exuberant allies in these angsty young Danes; Iceage will gladly drag punk back into a shadowy back alley and give it a good roughing up, happy in the knowledge that they’ll feel even angrier afterwards.

Elephant : Skyscraper

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Fleetwood Mac. ABBA. The White Stripes. Just three examples of why, when it comes to mixing business and pleasure, it isn’t always an unmitigated disaster when things turn sour. Broken relationships can be nasty, but when you’re in a band with your ex and those wounds are still raw, the resulting tension can lead to some pretty explosive pop music and for Elephant – a duo bridging the UK’s North/ South divide – an acrimonious split might just have done the world of good. After a series of acclaimed singles, Amelia Rivas and Christian Pinchbeck signed with Memphis Industries in 2010, but personal problems left the future looking uncertain. Thankfully, the pair have managed to rebuild their (professional) relationship to the point where they can work harmoniously together again, and if the huge, Brill Building pop of “Skyscraper” is anything to go by, their much-delayed debut album might just be a Rumours-style exercise in soul-saving catharsis; listen below.

Eat Skull : III

EAT SKULL – III – LP

It can’t have escaped the notice of anyone with ears and an interest in indie-rock that the trend of reverse fidelity snobbery that seemed so prevalent towards the end of the last decade appears to be dying down; with the onus once again very much on big, shiny production values, those groups still burying their mumbled vocals under layers of distorted guitar and recording their songs on old cassette boomboxes are now finding themselves swimming somewhat against the tide. One band that seem willing to adapt but reluctant to change their ways too much are Portland’s Eat Skull, who are back after a four-year absence with their third long-player, the imaginatively-titled III, out February 19 on that last bastion of lo-fi, the Woodsist label. If their version of “upping the ante” doesn’t stretch as far as getting Brian Eno in on production duties, the leap in ambition in terms of songwriting is evident right from the start, with synth-heavy opener “Space Academy” (below) actually recalling The Egg Headed One’s earliest ’70s glam-pop solo material (Here Come The Warm Jets), and grungey rockers “Dead Horses” and “Your Hate” offering plenty of opportunities to stomp, whistle and holler along to melodies that are not only audible but also (whisper it) accessible. The biggest surprise, though, is “How Do I Know When To Say Goodnight“, a primitively rendered ambient-dub-techno-pop experiment that stretches out to space whilst remaining rooted in the same muddy earth as contemporaries like Times New Viking and label bosses Woods, and although the the dirge-laden second half of the album struggles to keep up that initial momentum, those first four songs alone are reason enough to argue that modern psychedelic rock is best when it steps out of the murk and reaches for the stars.