On The Radar: Will Butler, Liam Bailey, Punch Brothers, Real Lies & Circa Waves

Bored of trawling Spotify for hidden gems? Look no further – have a listen to this week’s five unmissable new songs, selected and reviewed by Music Editor

otr banner 3 As 2014 draws to a close, it’s time for us all to get terribly excited about the ‘next big thing’. The BBC’s Sound of 2015 longlist was published last week, with past ‘On The Radar’ placeholders SOAK and Shamir deservedly bagging spots. Other exciting appearances on this year’s list are Rae Morris, Wolf Alice and Years & Years. The Brits Critics Choice Award went to the less inspiring but still wholly talented James Bay – think Tom Odell with added fedora. All in all, it’s been an exciting couple of weeks for new music. Below are some excellent new tracks that seem to have slipped through the cracks left by the avalanche of 2015 trendsetters; feast your ears on some rock n’ roll madness from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler gone solo, the latest Arctic Monkeys tribute track from Circa Waves, and the addictive grimy electro-pop stylings of Real Lies.

Will Butler – Take My Side

Will Butler is known for being the cool, happy-go-lucky one from Arcade Fire – the fun younger brother to more earnest frontman Win. It was Will’s unparalleled energy (and fantastic dancing) that helped make Arcade Fire’s Glastonbury headline slot this summer one of the best of the season; on the lead single from his upcoming debut solo album Policy, Will’s effervescent charm is given free reign. Subsequently, ‘Take My Side’ makes a late entry for the best rock song of the year.

The album is billed by Will and the label as showcasing the best of vintage American music, but sonically this track pays far more attention and homage to 60s rock n’roll and 80s punk typified by British artists like The Beatles and The Clash. The grisly, playful guitar line that appears first at 0.35 and crops up at nuanced intervals is the stolid backbone of ‘Take My Side’, exhibiting the kind of innovation that can only originate from the creative overflow of a member of the most important band of the last 10 years. I’d put a lot of money on Policy being a defining album of 2015.

Liam Bailey – Villain ft. A$AP Ferg

Strangers to Liam Bailey may be caught off guard by the first 45 seconds of this track, which chooses to open with A$AP Ferg’s feature spot before introducing Bailey himself. Sampling someone with a dollar sign in their name represents a tonal departure for Bailey on this song; usually characterised by gentler soul stylings, ‘Villain’ offers an edgier, bolder approach that pays dividends – it’s a confident, moody powerhouse of a track. A little deeper digging reveals Bailey to be another pioneer of the neo-blues revolution that has so far yielded the talents of Michael Kiwanuka, Liannne La Havas and Hozier. As satisfying and empowering as ‘Villain’ is, Bailey’s home is clearly this subtler soulful movement – 2012 track ‘Please Love Me’ exhibits the magic that happens when his sultry tone is done true stylistic justice.

Punch Brothers – Julep

Having stood sentinel and watched passively as the folk revival flourished and faded, New York bluegrass 5 piece Punch Brothers’ latest single indicates the band’s intention to continue doing entirely their own thing, regardless of the transience of their contemporaries. ‘Julep’ exhibits a refreshing introversion and minimalism, offering a lighter yet no less convicted musicality than their superb 2012 album Who’s Feeling Young Now? The frenetic mandolins have been replaced by stripped back plucking, morose walking bass lines and some elegant, tender songwriting  – it’s truly sublime, moving folk music, but one can’t help but hope that the band find a place for the refined chaos of songs like ‘Flippen’ on 2015 album The Phosphorescent Blues.

Real Lies – World Peace

The latest single from the London-based band is a cool, collected and deftly composed piece of swelling electro-pop. There’s something satisfyingly New Order-like about ‘World Peace’; the underlying retro dance vibe is offset by a pulsating bittersweet Temper Trap malaise that offers a perfect balance of charm and chill. There’s no solid news of an album but, given the vogue for retro electronica that has garnered bands like Jungle mainstream prominence, Real Lies’ debut will likely be one that wins them a strong fan following.

Circa Waves – Fossils

Circa Waves’ breakthrough song ‘Get Away’, released back in 2013, reeked of promise. Billed following its release as a successor to Arctic Monkeys and The Vaccines, the band hasn’t yet delivered the goods, with their Young Chasers EP going largely unregistered and a debut album still to materialise (it’s now slated for March 2015). ‘Fossils’, a charming enough dip into the indie-pop pool, sees the band veer off the expected course, renouncing their Libertines-esque rough charm in favour of a Two Door Cinema Club/The Kooks   peppiness; it might go some way in winning over the masses, but it’s a shame to see such indie-rock promise sacrificed in the process. It’s definitely worth holding out for the album – Circa Waves may surprise us yet, and offer a record worthy of ‘Get Away’.

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