Mini Mansions mark their return in 2019, following up from their 2018 EP Works Every Time with GummyBear, the first single taken from their new album, Guy Walks Into A Bar…, set for release on July 26th. The LA outfit were founded in 2009 as an offshoot project by Queens Of The Stone Age bass player Michael Shuman, and have sporadically loitered around the mid-levels of the indie pop scene over the past decade. They hit a high in 2014 with their hit track Death Is A Girl, and have collaborated with the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets, Sparks and Arctic Monkeys (Alex Turner even pops up on their track “Vertigo”).
The new single can in fact be taken as a direct sequel to the Monkeys fifth album AM, picking up the baton precisely where they left it. The mid-paced glam stomp that opens the track clearly brings to mind R U Mine, with an accentuated bass line enforcing the groove of the song. A chunky synthesizer riff contrasts nicely with a subtle organ line that sits underneath the song, neatly adding a layer of depth to their sound. Shuman croons his way through as many tongue-in-cheek puns as possible, “Boy, I thought you was sweet, girl, but you’re just sugar-free”, and the track culminates with some rousing soul-tinged vocals. It’s a song that even after the first listen just gets under your skin, and like their best work, it keeps moving at a steady beat until your feet can’t help but move along.
Whilst it does little to reinvent the well trodden wheel it follows on from, it’s a slick, distilled number, with some interesting little developments to their established sound. It acts as a tantalising taster for their new album, and is destined to sound huge across festival fields this summer. Mini Mansions are currently supporting Arctic Monkeys out on their Australian arena tour, and will be back on UK shores in May.
For all musical acts, there are tracks that stand their own. Whether it cements their career, signifies a change in direction or, on a grander scale, is unique to the industry – musicians are graded song by song. Over the twelve months of marvelous music that 2018 brought us, there were a whole host of singles that catalysed careers and united fans across the country. But which records stood out for the contributors at MCR Live? Which songs will outlive the year and remain lodged in our brains (and playlists)? Take a look at what we picked, right here:
‘Curse of the Contemporary’ was released, seemingly out of nowhere, in April by Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (Tuung) under the name LUMP. It was at the beginning of our heatwave, and that bass-line became the staple of my summer. Now, it feels just as fresh as it did back then – Marling’s gorgeous vocals glide effortlessly between octaves over Lindsay’s almost hazy sounding guitar. ‘”f you should be bored in California, I’m sure I’m not the first to warn ya” threatens to stay in your head on a loop for weeks, but it’s hard to complain; it never gets old.
By now, you’re used to lyrics about anguish and pity towards the World, cast alongside a heavy punk-edged, indie bassline. The lead singer straddles their Fender, gaunt black makeup streaked down their face. ‘Only My Honesty Matters’ gladly sets that image aside. The ‘B’ in B.E.D. is Baxter Dury, the stark voiced son of punk legend Ian Dury – of Madness fame – whose vocals take lead in the track. Much like his famous father, Baxter’s voice is a thick, cockney drawl which pours out the lyrics put together by himself and singer/songwriter Dellilah Holiday ‘D’, of London-based punk act Skinny Girl Diet.
It’s a modern-day poem that speaks of how predictable and complacent society has become: “Listening to Florence & The Machine and having a roll-up/Impudent white, obvious people with shocking clothes and awful music, red death and assigned to being a nob/alternative thoughts, alternative clothes or leisurely dressed boss, corduroy, all-in-one time team”. The backdrop is a repetitive chorus of drums and synths orchestrated by Dellilah and ‘E’: composer and musician Etienne De Crecy. It’s not the commonplace political, bohemian angry song, that leaves you with sweat dripping from the nape of your neck. It’s stating the obvious, it’s matter-of-fact, it’s not mocking us, it’s pointing the finger. It’s Dury.
Early on this year, lady of the moment Gou released a classic house track on Ninja Tune that undoubtedly deserves a mention. What makes this such a stand-out tune is that it has so many layers throughout, possessing both buoyant energy and features her own enchanting Korean vocals throughout. The depth of the track stands out against her previous releases, a step away from her synthy disco signature.
‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ has since had many remixes, which reveal the appeal it has had to more artists in the electronic music scene. It remains fresh and current while lending to the classic 1990s-house background, and it’s clear this is just one of many more exciting releases coming from Peggy Gou.
Known for crafting a U.K. rock sound so iconic that it would later be engrained into the woodwork or concrete of every rock dance floor across the country for a decade. ArcticMonkeys released ‘Four Out of Five’ in 2018 with a completely fresh musical idiom.
With a new ’80s funk-influenced, down-tempo and up-stroke guitar infused sound that stunned fans everywhere, Alex Turner and the rest of the band released a really dynamic and thoughtful concept album, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, and ‘Four of Five’ was released as its lead single.
Accompanied by an awesome music, video which pays great homage to science fiction movies; ‘The Shining’ and ‘A Space Odyssey 2001’ by Stanley Kubrick, ‘Four Out of Five’ is jam-packed with layers of lyrical storylines and cryptic narratives, a unique and brand new sonic pallet with instrumentation that is off the charts, and a whole new artistic direction.
Last month, Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and prolific producer Danger Mouse dropped Lux Prima, the first single from an exciting project (due next year) the two have embarked on. It’s a nine-minute-long, sandwich of a song – it opens and ends with an ambient, winding synth section featuring an Air-esque drum and bass line. Three minutes in, this ends and Karen’s distinctive vocals work together with a string staccato, crooning ‘I’m nowhere / I’m no one / I’m nobody / There’s nobody but you’. The looping structure enables us to get fully immersed for a while in a dreamy, astral soundscape while we wait for more of this fascinating collaboration.
If you found yourself circulating electronic music festivals this summer, this will surely be one of your most heard and remembered tracks. The blissful tones of this relaxed yet stimulating dance track will be sure to inspire minds for months to come. Sampling the vocals from 1972 track “Neither One of Us” by Gladys Knight proves a success running throughout creating a haunting edge and a message about heartbreak.
One of the most interesting points about this track is the fact that it is made up of synths and melodies quite simplistic, yet it does not sound simple in the slightest. Coming straight off his album Knock Knock, this tune is an ultimate crowd pleaser which will be circulating electronic music for a while to come.
Saturday 22nd September saw the final night of Arctic Monkeys’ triumphant 4-day run of gigs in their hometown of Sheffield. You could forgive them for being tired. Especially after a gruelling tour that’s taken them round the world and is still not finished. But this isn’t an ordinary band we’re talking about. This is Arctic Monkeys. This is a band which has shaped a generation of indie music lovers. They don’t do things by halves.
Their latest album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ showed that they haven’t lost any of the talent which saw them break onto the scene in 2006 and change the music landscape in the UK. Sure, the formula changes with each album but the quality remains and 12 years after their debut you still get the feeling this is a band that’s best years are still ahead of them.
I say this with certainty because on this particular evening, in front of their people, they were better than I have ever seen them. Opening with ‘Four Out Of Five’ off their latest album they ripped through old and new tracks. ‘Brianstorm’ is the perfect second song in a set. It sees pints getting thrown, bodies going wild and people humming the tune at the top of their voices. Is there a more perfect sight than watching all that sort of madness unfold at a gig?
‘Dancing Shoes’ quickly follows and it really struck me how well the songs of their first album still stand up. Alex Turner prowls the stage throughout the gig but the high point of his performance is during ‘Cornerstone’ where the camera follows him throughout. Staring into the camera he just completely oozes sex appeal. That sarcastic smile on his face, his hips gyrating, he knows exactly how to work an audience.
The following track ‘One Point Perspective’ is the best on the latest album for me. It’s a song which budding songwriters should study. The lyrics are perfect, the pacing is perfect, it really is Turner on top of his game. Tracks like this just remind you of how good of a songwriter he actually is. The best of our generation? It would be hard to argue against that.
The biggest sing-a-long of the night comes when they play an accapella version of ‘A Certain Romance’. A song that still resonates with people today all these years later. If anyone tells you Arctic Monkeys aren’t a political band then put this track on for them. Turner was writing about the demonisation of the working-classes long before Owen Jones wrote a best-selling book about it. Here, it echoes around the FlyDSA arena beautifully. Thousands of people all sing at the top of their lungs in unison. It’s a perfect moment.
The double-header of ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’ and ‘Do I Wanna Know’ gets the crowd grooving with the riff to the latter shuddering your entire body. Turner’s vocal range is on full show during these tracks. Each lyric is delivered with an infectious attitude. Some bands can only dream of being able to perform tracks this good.
The encore is the brilliant ‘Star Treatment’, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and ‘R U Mine?’. That Saturday in Sheffield we were theirs. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand and they knew it. 12 years on from their debut album we’re still obsessed with this band and they continue to create music that surprises and enthralls us. As weird as it sounds this is a band that’s probably just getting started.