For the past four years Paul Lester has been writing his New Band of the Day column for the Guardian, hipping music lovers to groups including Fleet Foxes, La Roux, and the Vaccines long before they break out. Last week he hit the 1000 mark and instead of using the opportunity to talk about how awesome he is, he simply wrote about another band: Hot Horizons. As usual, Lester picked a winner. The Leicester, England, quintet (led by two harmony-loving brothers) combine floaty folk-inflected pop with blippy electro beats -- it's like Donovan mixed with Grizzly Bear with an assist from Bon Iver. Their new EP, All of This, will be released in May and the title track, which is streaming on their website, promises good things.
Eighteen-year-old Philly rapper Tayyib Ali made a name for himself last fall with his mixtape 18 and this month he's set to drop his new one, Keystone State of Mind. Maybe it's the catchy '60s lounge sample, maybe it's Ali's smooth, friendly flow and honest message, but I can't stop listening to the title track. "Rap is my life," he says at the end of the track. "This is what I'm passionate as hell about." You can tell.
Sometimes, all the superlatives in the world can't come close to describing a piece of music. This is one of those tracks. Long-known for epic, rousing tunes that quiver and brood with tension before erupting into colossal walls of sounds, And So I Watch You From Afar, a four-piece from Belfast, Northern Ireland, are back with one of the most monumental pieces of music we've heard in, well, ever. It's like a soundtrack for armageddon, only louder. Absolutely astonishing.
A good friend of mine once made me a mixtape, which featured the Wreckless Eric song Whole Wide World. Every time we'd take a car trip together it was tradition to play the mix and this yearning, quixotic track by the British Stiff Records rocker never failed to tug at my heartstrings. So I practically melted at my desk when I came to the closing track of Bahamas' debut album Pink Strat, released last month, only to find a beautiful, acoustic rendering of the 1977 track by the Canadian folkie (aka Afie Jurvanen), formerly a musician for the likes of Feist, Jason Collet, and Great Lake Swimmers.
This song from San Francisco psychedelic four-piece Wooden Shjips has all the ingredients to ease you into a Friday: Loose, syrupy guitars, pulsating beats, and hypnotic echo-y vocals that culminate to give your brain a little massage. The band was recently handpicked by my favorite reclusive rocker Jeff Mangum to play London's All Tomorrow's Parties festival in September, and the Neutral Milk Hotel frontman isn't their only high-profile fan: They were also included on previous New York ATP lineups curated by both Jim Jarmusch and Pavement.