Every Friday our NoiseTrade New Music Tip Sheet highlights three recommended picks from that week’s batch of new releases that we think are worth checking out at your local record shop or via your preferred online music distributor of choice.
Look Now (Deluxe Box Set)
After a five-year break between studio albums, Elvis Costello & The Imposters released their most recent album Look Now back in October of last year. The 12 songs represent some of Costello’s most nuanced pop songcraft, including some impressively fashioned co-writes with legends Carole King (“Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter”) and Burt Bacharach (“Don’t Look Now,” “Photographs Can Lie,” and “He’s Given Me Things”). After a few months of celebratory press and an explosive tour, Look Now is getting a little more love through an incredibly cool box vinyl set. In this impressive version, the album is spread across eight colored vinyl 7” singles with two tracks per single and four bonus songs that didn’t appear on the original release. The box set also includes four postcards and a 16-page booklet of lyrics and artwork.
Since her 2016 sophomore album Stillness in Wonderland, English rapper Little Simz has been popping up on a variety of releases, including records albums by Gorillaz, alt-J, Khalid, and Ghetts. Now in her mid-twenties, Little Simz has built her third solo album, GREY Area, around the difficulties that have surprised her most, telling BBC Radio 1: “I’m right in the dead middle of my twenties — no one warned me it was going to be this hard.” If the ferocious 1-2 punch of album openers “Offence” and “Boss” are to be believed, it doesn’t seem like Little Simz is too terribly worried about those changes. Even when she pumps the brakes a bit to groove on tracks like “Selfish” or “101 FM,” there’s a confidence and settledness in her delivery that never feels like false braggadocio. Don’t miss this one!
Gang of Four
In the last few years, post-punk legends Gang of Four have put out some of their most musically invigorating and politically-charged work since the late-‘70s and early-‘80s. Both 2015’s What Happens Next and 2018’s Complicit EP bristled with bureaucratic angst the band’s punk-funk-industrial sonic hybrid. Happy Now continues to build on that formula with some new musical elements added in, which true to form, has always been part of the creative ethos of the band. Lead single “Paper Thin” was released back in 2019 and the electro-heavy groove had some fans pausing their excitement until they could hear the full album. However, taken within the context of the band’s entire catalog, the forward-leaning atmospherics is a good sign that Gang of Four is continuing to push out expectation and create fresh and energetic music on their own terms.