While Nerve Radio prepares itself to relaunch on October 10th with a whole host of new and exciting shows, one of Nerve’s flagship programmes from last year is returning with a whole new look, a whole new set of incredible new tunes, and even a whole new presenter to run it. In advance of its new series premiere on October 15th, James Stephenson will be posting written articles talking about his picks for the best new music released over the last week, and will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year. Showcasing the best new releases from established artists, as well as musicians who deserve a slice of the spotlight, this is the only place you’ll need to find something new to listen to.
Discover something different when Nerve Radio’s New Music Monday with James Stephenson launches on October 15th, 2018.
So we’ve arrived. Nearly six months after the wonderful Joshua Coase abdicated the New Music Monday mantle, a new Uni year has begun, and I’ve got a brand new show to run. Over the next few months, I’ll be trying my best to bring some brilliant new music from absolutely all over the place your way every single week, with the help of loads of Nerve Radio presenters as well as you guys, the listeners and readers. There’s a tonne of new features and ideas coming your way this year that I’d love to share with you now, but I know that you’ll hear them very soon. So without further ado, here’s my first ever picks for the New Music Monday!
JAMES STEPHENSON’S TRACKS OF THE WEEK
HUMAN – DODIE FT. TOM WALKER
Ironically, this track’s actually been around in various guises for a couple of years now, but the version of this track from Dodie’s upcoming EP of the same name is the one I’ve been loving since its release. Dodie’s had a rise to musical fame that could once be seen as nothing but a pipe dream a few years ago, but her nearly 2 million subscribers on YouTube channel doddleoddle have made sure any release by this 23 year old Londoner a major event.
Dodie first performed ‘Human’ back in 2016 with Jon Cozart on YouTube, but Jon is gone and Tom is on, with ‘Leave A Light On’ singer Tom Walker taking his place for the studio version. Their voices work really well together on this gentle, Oh Wonder-reminiscent track that showcases their individual strengths as well as Dodie’s touching and layered lyrics – she has the writing skill of a musician far beyond her years. This record is perfect for a chilled out autumn night.
VIVID – BROCKHAMPTON
From chilled out nights to…well, BROCKHAMPTON (they write their name in caps lock so I do as well). BROCKHAMPTON’s sound seems to start at Soundcloud rap but then unspools into just about every other musical genre conceivable, from lo-fi to harmonies that you could see in a boy band, which is intriguingly what BROCKHAMPTON describe themselves as.
Yet somehow, this delightfully strange musical collective led by Kevin Abstract manages to put together all these sounds superbly on their new album Iridescence, which goes from emotional choir singing on the terrific ‘San Marcos’ to near-worrying violent emo-rap on ‘J’Ouvert’. However, ‘Vivid’ is my favourite from this record, a first-rate bona fide rap bop that sounds like Run The Jewels at their best, with a great beat behind even better flows from the BROCKHAMPTON boys.
They’ve been bubbling under the radar for some time now as a kind of cult sensation, but with records like these BROCKHAMPTON are set to jump directly into the spotlight.
LITTLE THINGS – ALLIE X
Heading out of the slightly scary BROCKHAMPTON universe, this week sees a synth pop banger from Allie X, a Canadian singer-songwriter who you’ve heard more of than you might think. She’s got songwriting credits on half of Troye Sivan’s latest album ‘Bloom’, she’s fresh off being an opener for Hayley Kiyoko on her Expectations Tour, and with her new track ‘Little Things’, Allie continues to show she’s a star on the rise.
With a pulsing synth beat and soprano vocals that has Chvrches’ sound all over it, this is a really solid pop song that continues to show pop is still alive and kicking even as rap dominates the charts – if there’s one thing that I will defend as New Music Monday presenter, it is my unabashed and shameless love of everything pop and everything that might just be a little bit cheesy. Songs like ‘Little Things’ are proof that if you know where to look, pop can still be absolutely fantastic.
BIGGER – ST. LUCIA
St Lucia have dropped their long-awaited third album ‘Hyperion’ this week, and by long-awaited I mean I myself have been dying to hear this record. Their last album ‘Matter’ was an absolute masterpiece of 1980’s pop sounds brought into the modern day, with songs such as ‘Do You Remember’, ‘Home’ and ‘Run Away With Me’ still coming on my Spotify with near-alarming regularity.
The brainchild of Jean-Philip Grobler, a South African musician who studied at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and now lives in Brooklyn (music truly is global – another hopeful theme of New Music Monday this year), St Lucia are on reliably brilliant form on this record, based on Greek mythology to a degree and packed full of top notch tracks – this would be a worthy James Stephenson’s Album Of The Week winner on most weeks, although Hyperion has to settle for a mere nomination this time round.
My pick of the tracks is the opener, ‘Bigger’, with great lyrics and vocals from the brilliant sounding Grobler rising perfectly over a rousing, piano-led instrumental to kick off this album with terrific gusto.
EMOJI – AU/RA
Yes, I know. That title is terrible, and as a movie obsessive it triggers flashbacks to one of the worst movies of last year and possibly ever.
But hear me out: this is a track by Au/Ra, a SIXTEEN YEAR OLD by the name of Jamie Lou Stenzel to her family and friends, but who you might know as the vocalist from CamelPhat’s smash hit club tune ‘Panic Room’, that, if this does count as a recommendation, causes me to start screaming its chorus on the dance floor without fault. While ‘Emoji’ (a shudder travels down my spine every time I type it) isn’t a drop-your-drinks and dance club anthem, its a great bit of dark alternative pop from Au/Ra, who isn’t even old enough to attend a university and yet this student radio presenter is left to just talk about her talents.
This track has got a really nice baseline and chord structure that feels like it should be playing in your car late in the evening as you drive it, and with Au/Ra managing to make a song of this quality at just sixteen, its worrying times for the rest of us. NB: I couldn’t find a solid picture of the artwork, but this wonderful collage should do the trick…
AMERICAN NIGHTS – THE NIGHT GAME
This isn’t release artwork either, but it’s definitely artwork of some kind. That handsome devil is Martin Johnson, the founding member and lead singer of The Night Game, who’ve been building buzz for a year or so now and have just released their self-titled debut album. Johnson has had success before, as a producer and writer for acts like Jason Derulo, Ariana Grande and Victoria Justice (yes, this man did production for Nickelodeon’s ‘Victorious’), but with The Night Game he is without doubt reaching his artistic peak.
An absolutely brilliant singer and writer, Johnson and his new band have been building up some fully justified momentum since their outstanding debut single ‘The Outfield’ (which featured Gotye of ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ fame on backing vocals in this week’s New Music Monday Fun Fact), and on their self-titled debut more than live up to their potential. ‘American Nights’, which has been being performed for a while now, is a standout, with Johnson in supreme vocal and lyrical form on this luscious, guitar-driven track that I reckon will be perfect for any road trips you’re planning.
WAVE – THE MIDNIGHT
The Midnight. If you’ve ever met me, you know that I like these guys quite a lot.
The brainchild of Danish house producer Tim McEwan and American country singer Tyler Lyle, The Midnight are a ‘synth wave’ band that sound like they’ve crashed into the music industry of 2018 in a DeLorean, such is their love and betrothal to the synth-packed sounds of the 1980’s. The marriage of a house producer and a country singer doesn’t sound like one that could possibly work: it does, perfectly. The Midnight have been releasing some of the best music I’ve ever heard for years now, and their latest track ‘Wave’, from their fourth record ‘Kids’, is truly stunning.
While the production of the track is absolutely incredible, almost goosebump-inducing even, its the vocals and lyrics of Tyler Lyle that take this song from excellent to a flat-out masterpiece. ‘Wave’ is a complete triumph, and The Midnight are a band that require your attention.
GUIDING LIGHT – MUMFORD & SONS
This band, on the other hand, should already have that attention firmly. Mumford & Sons have been the first and last words in folk and bluegrass music for almost a decade now, although Marcus Mumford and company’s sound has seemed to expand far beyond that limiting definition over the years. ‘Guiding Light’ is the first single from their upcoming album ‘Delta’, to be released in November (and not the first album with a Greek influence behind its title mentioned this week), and based on this track a superb album could be on its way.
‘Guiding Light’ has just about everything you’ve come to expect from the Sons, from the gravelly vocals and harmonies to the Americana-tinged guitars and brilliant drums. This track is anthemic: full of great moments that will lead to nothing but lighters in the air at festivals all over the world over the next few months and maybe even longer. With this fully-rounded record, there’s no denying that Mumford & Sons are back and just as good as ever.
JAMES STEPHENSON’S ALBUM OF THE WEEK
KIDS – THE MIDNIGHT
Although its been a really strong week for great albums, The Midnight’s ‘Kids’ always felt like it was going to be the choice for my first Album of the Week. In fact, it felt almost right that it should be, because to my mind its the sort of album that defines what I want New Music Monday to be about this year.
This show is about hearing not only new music, but discovering something different: something exciting that you haven’t heard before or anything even close to it, a song that might introduce you to a new artist, even an entirely new genre. ‘Kids’ is one of those albums that, although it comes from a genre (synthwave/retrowave) many might not have heard of, its so packed with outstanding, moving music that I reckon it will inspire a whole host of music fans to dig not only into The Midnight’s truly outstanding discography, but to discover more that this weird, strange and magical genre has to offer.
From its opener ‘Youth’, a three minute near-instrumental broken only by retro voice clips talking about computers that somehow manages to be emotional and beautiful, through textbook synth wave bangers like ‘Lost Boy’ and ‘Explorers’ and all the way to the stunning six-minute closing track ‘Kids (Reprise)’, that warps a Los Angeles children’s choir into the sound of your childhood that you can never get back. ‘Kids’ is inherently an album about lost youth, sounding like pure 1980’s movie soundtrack but sung from the perspective of somebody looking back at it from today. It ends up being rousing and devastating all at once in its own unique, and often musically incredible manner. If there’s any album you need to check out right now, its definitely ‘Kids’.
OTHER ALBUMS YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT THIS WEEK:
HYPERION – ST LUCIA
IRIDESCENCE – BROCKHAMPTON
So there you have it. The first of many long write-ups, full of amazing new music that I hope both you and I are going to love for the rest of this year. I’ll be doing write-ups each Monday for the entire year, and once Nerve Radio gets itself back up and running on October 10th, New Music Monday will finally make its long-awaited return to the Nerve digital airwaves and the speakers of the Student Centre at 6pm on October 15th, and every Monday at 6 from then on in (excluding holidays of course).
Until next week :)