We’re two weeks into 2023 and Essential Tracks returns! Cut us some slack, we’re still getting our bearings after the year that was and recovering from the holiday hangover. But the new releases are starting to come flooding in, and so we’re doing our best to get caught up. This week’s best new songs include the return of Everything But the Girl, a serene but sinister ambient piece, plus a banger of a pop single from an artist you’ll want to watch this year (trust us!). Check out our Essential Tracks this week below.
Everything But the Girl – “Nothing Left to Lose”
Everything But the Girl couldn’t have come back at a better time. The sounds of ’90s-era house and downtempo are permeating the pop consciousness again, while their stylistic heirs in artists like Jessie Ware and The xx have kept the UK duo’s own uniquely sophisticated electro contemporary. Which is to say that “Nothing Left to Lose” feels both like instantly classic EBTG and something new and modern at the same time. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt’s have made music separately over the past two decades, but this first glimpse of their reunion proves just how strong they still are together, its big, oozing basslines and hazy atmosphere perfectly intersecting with Thorn’s expressive vocal presence. You’d swear no time has passed at all.
From Fuse, out April 21 via Buzzin’ Fly
Debby Friday – “So Hard to Tell”
Canadian artist Debby Friday has a background in dark and intense electronic/industrial sounds, having previously released a pair of EPs on Los Angeles noise-rap powder keg Deathbomb Arc (one of them awesomely titled Bitchpunk) much like her Sub Pop labelmates clipping. The brief, harsh flash of electronic noise that opens the song is a bit of a fakeout—”So Hard to Tell” is, instead, a hook-driven three minutes of perfect pop, briefly holding up the armor of sonic aggression but instead revealing a vulnerability that propels Friday’s music into a more rarefied realm. It’s always a little surprising when a pop song this spectacular comes from an artist with a penchant for darker, more abrasive sounds, but Debby Friday is quickly revealing herself to be a uniquely versatile kind of performer.
From GOOD LUCK, out March 24 via Sub Pop
Shana Cleveland – “Faces in the Firelight”
La Luz songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Shana Cleveland returns with her second set of solo material this spring, its new single arriving after both one of her best albums with her full-time group as well as some of the most life-changing experiences someone can go through: giving birth and undergoing treatment for cancer. “Faces in the Firelight” feels like a recentering of sorts, a slow and gorgeous psychedelic folk ballad lightly traced by strings and just this side of surreal. It’s among her prettiest compositions, subtle but not necessarily understated. When I interviewed Cleveland in 2021, she said she wanted people to “feel love” when they hear her music, and with “Faces in the Firelight,” that feeling is undeniable.
From Manzanita, out March 10 via Hardly Art
Faten Kanaan – “Florin Court”
We typically reserve this space for bangers, rippers, slappers, etc. and so on. “Florin Court” is none of these things—electronic composer Faten Kanaan’s music typically doesn’t have beats, and this meditative progressive electronic/ambient piece is no exception. Its arpeggios cascade over each other in succession, with a sublimity that feels almost like sacred music, eventually transitioning into an eerie glow of haunted-after hours neon. It feels like a convergence of two contradictory but complementary halves, the serene and the sinister finding an unexpected harmony.
From Afterpoem, out February 24 via Fire
The Men – “Anyway I Find You”
The Men’s default mode is playing loud, playing fast and playing hard, as if they bear a grudge against their own instruments. Of course, even when they slow it down a bit and let in a little more space, The Men still harbor a unique heaviness. “Anyway I Find You” is just such a song, dropping the BPMs after the rippers they’ve already released from New York City and juxtaposing a touch of country-rock twang with a little bit of post-punk gloom. It’s a combination that works mostly because this is familiar terrain for the band, even if they’ve never really done both at the same time before. But amid the grime and the grit they find a satisfying harmony, offering some of their strongest and most melodic sounds without sacrificing the muscle that drives them.
From New York City, out February 3 via Fuzz Club
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.