Now Hear This: Glastonbury highlights, new music by Thom Yorke, Flohio and MUNA, plus spotlight artist Chronixx
Post-Glastonbury, our music correspondent catches up on the latest releases
In the aftermath of Glastonbury, you have to wonder if everyone just wants a break from new music for a day. But after watching so many talented, exciting and diverse artists perform across the weekend at Worthy Farm, if anything it seems like there’s a bigger appetite for new music than ever.
It was a spectacular event, covered by The Independent’s crack team of writers who reviewed so many artists, from headliners Stormzy, The Killers and The Cure to other highlights including Miley Cyrus, Lizzo, Rosalia, Janet Jackson, Slowthai and Kylie Minogue. Kudos to our on-site writers Alexandra Pollard, Jazz Monroe, Anna Leszkiewicz and Mark Beaumont, who by now I hope are almost home for showers and sleep.
This column arrives a little later than usual, so first I want to catch up with last week’s album reviews, including this one by head of culture Patrick Smith of Let’s Rock by The Black Keys. We were swapping thoughts back and forth on this for a while, and agreed that while it’s not exactly reinventing the rock and roll wheel, it’s a technically brilliant album that pays homage to the electric guitar, and one that features plenty of scuzzy blues grit and hooks galore.
I did a review of Thom Yorke’s third solo album, ANIMA, which I was (perhaps naively) surprised by, in a good way. A lot of solo projects can be too indulgent. On others, the absence of the rest of the band can come across like an awkward silence. But ANIMA is great, and explores some of Yorke’s favourite themes of politics, dreams and the subconscious via techno, dance and electronic influences.
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Flohio, who performed over Glastonbury weekend, dropped a new track on Friday called “Hell Bent” that is one of her most intense releases to date – right off the bat she comes out rapping about overcoming obstacles with sheer ambition.
Glastonbury is among the festivals that have yet to sign up to the Keychange initiative, which was launched to encourage festivals to aim for a 50/50 gender parity on their lineups by 2020. It was recently announced that “phase two” has been launched, which means any organisation that wants to improve its gender representation – from orchestras to broadcasters, record labels and venues – can sign up.
“The gender gap is an industry wide problem even if posters with festival line-ups present one of the easiest ways to see the problem,” Vanessa Reed, CEO of the PRS foundation and founder of the Keychange initiative, tells me.
“That’s why we’ve opened our pledge to any kind of music organisation, whether conservatoire, orchestra, label, broadcaster or trade body. If we want sustainable, systemic change then every part of our music ecology needs to be led by people who recognise the benefits of a balanced and diverse workforce and work together to make that change.”
“The response I remember most when the Keychange pledge launched was a sense of relief that we were doing something tangible and practical that people could get involved with. Lots of people who approached us at conference panels – particularly younger people – seemed embarrassed that festival line-ups were still so lopsided in spite of the numerous social media campaigns and press articles that challenged their programming.”
She added: “We have always welcomed a multiplicity of approaches to reaching our gender balance goals and we knew that the largest commercial festivals would probably want to do it in their own way. The most rewarding fact is that since 2017, Keychange has escalated awareness about women on festival line-ups and major players like Primavera and Glastonbury are responding even if they haven’t signed up to the pledge. Doing nothing is not an option anymore.”
Serpentwithfeet has another exquisite new release with Ty Dolla $ign, “Receipts”, which he began writing when he moved to Los Angeles last summer.
“I was and still am mystified by the city – the mountains, the men, the hummingbirds. I played an early demo for Ty Dolla $ign and he asked to join me on the track,” serpentwithfeet explained upon the song’s release. “This song carries a lot of weight for me because it’s a snapshot of two brothers rhapsodizing about unforeseen romance. Ty is a huge part of my L.A. story so ‘Receipts’ feels like a perfect document.”
Adam Lambert shared another slow, luxuriant jam, “Comin in Hot”, from his forthcoming album Velvet – read more about that in our interview with him here. He said rude things about our critic Mark Beaumont after reading his Glastonbury review, but Liam Gallagher’s single “The River” is one of his best solo efforts to date: lustful, dangerous-sounding and with all of his idiosyncratic swagger.
My spotlight artist for this column isn’t exactly new, but I think everyone might have had their fill of new music by now. Chronixx, one of Jamaica’s biggest stars, just did a reissue of Dread & Terrible Project to celebrate its fifth anniversary. It includes a new track, “Jah is There”, and I caught up with Chronixx to talk about that, his legacy so far, and what he has lined up for the future.
Hey Chronixx. How do you view your musical legacy so far?
I’m humbled by the fact that I have a musical legacy in the first place. The reggae revival we’ve witnessed in the past 10 years or so has been incredible to see, and I’m honoured to be a part of it.
Dread and Terrible came out when I was about 20 or 21, and I think that whenever youths make music that is of a cultural substance it becomes very pure and powerful. That is what the whole Dread and Terrible experience was, it was a new voice giving you that same traditional thing. And now, with afrobeats being so global, it’s much more accepted. But it wasn’t at the time, and back then I felt it was really important to reach out to Africa and attempt to make that connection to bring the stories full circle. To let them know what our life is like right now, what type of experiences we have.
Can you tell me a bit about your new single?
“Jah Is There” was made at the same as the original EP, but didn’t make the track list at the time, so I really wanted to add it in time for the re-release.
What are your plans for the future, both the rest of 2019 and in the next few years?
The rest of 2019 I plan on touring Africa, the UK and the Caribbean while writing and composing more music with my musician friends worldwide.