This could be the year of the great Chaka Khan comeback
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Chaka Khan – ‘Like Sugar’
Could 2018 be the year that Chaka Khan finally gets the cool points she so richly deserves?
I could go on for hours about how Khan has been criminally overlooked in recent years. While many of her 70s and 80s pop/funk peers have undergone credible resurgences, Khan has remained something of a nostalgia act. She commands huge crowds, but they’re huge crowds of people who were there. Who loved her when she released ‘Ain’t Nobody’. Who cheered when she won those Grammys in the mid-80s.
That ends right now.
‘Like Sugar’ is the perfect song for Chaka Khan in 2018. Producer Switch has shown a deep appreciation for her history as well as a keen sense for what’s gonna catch peoples ears in the modern day. It’s hard-hitting funk that commands you to move. It’s got a tripped-out, spacey vocal that the nu-disco movement has built much of its sonic aesthetic on in recent years. That music has always owed so much to Khan, it’s about time she gets hers.
Khan will most likely have a new album out by the years end. Her last one featured covers of Bobby Womack, Doobie Brothers and Joni Mitchell – great artists and decent renditions, but so illustrative of Khan’s reputation as a throwback artist.
She’s not. She’s as relevant as ever in 2018. And it feels like the world’s gonna know about it real soon.
The Chills – ‘Complex’
If you’re yet to get across The Chills’ excellent comeback album of 2015 Silver Bullets, you’ve got to amend that. It’s a cracker. And we’re glad to hear their relatively quick return with another big and beautiful piece of indie rock in ‘Complex’. Martin Phillipps’ knack for concocting genius melodies remains staggering and the band’s driving accompaniment suits it all to a tee.
Lola Kirke – ‘Supposed To’
You’d imagine the rivalry in the Kirke family is pretty intense, because it seems every member is just impossibly talented. Google them and prepare to feel inferior. Lola Kirke’s latest track is one of the most spirited modern outlaw country jams you’ll hear all year. ‘I can’t be, so I’ll just do all the things I’m not supposed to’ is a brilliant line of defiance and she delivers it with such charm that you just know that she’s getting away with just about anything.
Christopher Port – ‘DTF’
If you haven’t spent a late night/early morning glued to the couch listening to Christopher Port jams on your headphones, then you have a new thing to add to your to-do list. The only issue is that he doesn’t have all that much recorded material, so the experience ends pretty quickly. Thankfully he’s expanded that catalogue with new single ‘DTF’ (great name IMO) and its lively, chopped-up electro soul is just the kind of mind bender that will peel you off the couch and have you dancing your way to bed.
LUMP – ‘May I Be The Light’
Another track from the Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay super-project LUMP that shows off both Marling’s incomparably stunning vocals and the pair’s amazing knack for razor-sharp production. It’s a hypnotic track – its bubbling synth drones and irregular time signature will bounce around your brain – and it’s a bit odd and spooky at times. The surreal vibe is refreshing, a minor sidestep for both artists that also manages to retain the best parts of what they usually do. Their debut album is out now.
Ro – ‘Diary’
A stunning track from relatively recently Melburnian singer-songwriter Ro. ‘Diary’ is a stunningly sunny jam that fells like the kind of song that could lift you out of just about any mood, no matter how dour you’re feeling. Great verses, an even better chorus and production so glossy I want to check my hair in it. With a single this good, we know there’s gotta be more gold in there.
Tangents – ‘Swells Under Tito’
One of the first things you see when you Google Tangents – ‘Swells Under Tito’ is a site that suggests it as a potential workout song. That, to me, is completely bananas. The complex rhythms that dart about this piece of beautiful, artful, instrumental music require your full attention. The last thing you want to do when hearing those glorious contrasting countermelodies is be worried about whether your body can produce enough oxygen to get you to the end of your run.
Actually, who am I to say you can’t run to this? This is a thrilling piece of music and you should listen to it wherever and however you want. Just make sure you listen to it, and appreciate how each individual element is so great in isolation, and even better when they all come together.
Dark Fair – ‘Off Into My Head’
Their influences are The Breeders, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Joy Division, Sleater-Kinney, PJ Harvey, Elastica, The Kills. Singer Ramona Moore sounds kinda like Kim Deal, but not at the expense of not sounding like herself. ‘Off Into My Head’ has a dark, edgy feel to it, and has the balance of melodic and noisy pretty much on point. What I’m trying to say is that you need to hear Dark Fair, pronto.
Darling James – ‘Silver Bullet’
I spend a fair bit of time in the regional Queensland town of Warwick, and nothing about that place suggests it would produce an artist as talented as Darling James. That’s pretty much an irrelevant point – he hasn’t lived there in decades – but I’ll take any chance I can get to shoehorn in a reference to the Southern Downs.
‘Silver Bullet’ is the latest in a long line of impeccable indie pop songs that (now) Melbourne-based musician James O’Brien has delivered since the early 2000s. As time goes on, O’Brien finds new ways of pulling together top-notch musicality with razor sharp production and songwriting. There’s something kind of classic about the melody on ‘Silver Bullet’ that makes it feel familiar, but a definite modern pop edge to the production that assures us we’ve never heard it before. Rock solid, as always.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise – ‘Fever Pitch’
Jury’s out on the name (I think it’s terrible, anyone who likes fun probably thinks it rules) but there’s no denying the creative ambition of Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Kings Of Leon fans will be drawn to frontman Sam Melo’s southern intonation in the song’s beginning, but probably won’t expect him burst into a pretty decent hip hop verse towards the song’s end. It’s inventive and fun and the sign of a band who aren’t interested in maintaining the status quo.