Reasons to be Cheerful: All the best music from February 2024

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There’s a missing princess, the worst Willy Wonka experience in history is dominating the headlines even though the children in the original film suffered far worse fates, and the mummified remains of four monkeys have been found at Boston Airport making February 2024 a rather quiet and normal month in the 21st century. Thankfully, the interesting music trends that have also dominated the new indie era have continued too.

This release in this rare leap year really rammed home the point that genre is increasingly becoming a blurred melee as bands experiment with bringing a broader scope to their sound. While this has all but ruined the categorisation system that many record shops have been sporting since time immemorial, the way that bands like Mannequin Pussy brilliantly melded punk and an ambient pop sound akin to Madonna’s Ray of Light was one of many highlights February had to offer.

Why are genre barriers steadily dissolving? Well, not only does it seem like a natural evolution of music when most of the notes available have finally been presented in just about every way, but we also live in complex times, so a one-track form of expression doesn’t quite seem to fit. All you have to do is look at social media to see that irreverence akin to pop can sit directly on top of a morose tragedy reminiscent of folk followed by an angry punk rant.

So, without further ado, introducing the unruly and unranked ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’. It’s like the Oscars, but everyone is a winner, and everything is actually good and selected independently without bias. Check out the delights below, and they’re all wrapped up in a bumper playlist to boot.

All the best music from February 2024:

Filthy Underneath by Nadine Shah: A triumphant return for Whitburn’s finest. This introspective masterpiece takes listeners on a rollercoaster of emotions, storied by Shah’s incredible tones and awash with catchy and compelling tracks.

‘Wild Geese, Wild Love’ by Amanda Bergman: A luscious new single from Swedish singer-songwriter Amanda Bergman, who is set to return with her first solo album since her 2016 debut Docks. She’s as lilting as ever, conjuring backseat on a long drive energy, complete with sultry rasping vocals.

Ngélar by Lair: Taking listeners on a spaced-out, psychedelic journey through their home of Western Java, Indonesia, Lair are operating at the top of their game. A mind-bending exploration of psychedelic rock, complete with funk sensibilities and utterly incredible guitar playing.

‘Mr Nobody’ by Joe & The Shitboys: The Faroese punk band returns with a comic blitzkrieg about being righteously rude to rude people. It’s reminiscent of the Beastie Boys, and even if you’re not keen on it, it’s only 86 seconds long.

Where’s My Utopia? by Yard Act: Leeds post-punk poster boys Yard Act return with their sophomore album. Dealing with their recent success and the self-reflection that has caused, the album also features the kind of humour that has endeared the group towards fans, in addition to their expectedly excellent musical proficiency.

‘City is Taken’ by Bodega: Ahead of the release of their third album, Brooklyn art-rockers Bodega have released this fantastic new single. The track takes a self-aware approach to the gentrification of New York City and the difficulties faced by being an artist in the city.

‘Mental Health’ by Man & the Echo: The lead single from the recent ‘Dead Centre’ EP, this song sees Warrington outfit Man & the Echo embrace their more melodic influences. Despite its relatively easy-listening atmosphere, the track still retains the witty lyrical brilliance of lead singer Gaz Roberts.

Qasr by Sheherazaad: Sheherazaad juggles her American passport with her Asian heritage and just about blurs every genre that the world has ever conjured in the process. This results in a truly affecting volley of honest and wholehearted reflection. It’s a record that feels like the moment in the indie movie where the character happens upon a happy ending.

Sheherazaad - Qasr - 2024

(Credits: Far Out / Sheherazaad)

‘Sick in the Head’ by Kneecap: Belfast’s radical trio Kneecap dropped this rallying cry ahead of their upcoming album Fine Art. More polished and mature than their earlier releases, Kneecap still managed to capture the raw energy and power that gave them a name.

‘Mahal’ by Glass Beams: If you’re in the market for some far-out jazz influenced by everything from Anatolian psych music to Indian folk, then look no further than masked Melbourne trio Glass Beams. A seamless blend of East and West that demands your attention.

‘My Mood Waves’ by The Lovely Eggs: Their first release since the Iggy Pop collaboration ‘I, Moron’, this feel-good track is influenced by 1960s pop-psych and 1990s grunge rock. It is as wonderfully eclectic and endearing as The Lovely Eggs themselves.

‘Derailer’ by Wine Lips: Toronto psych-rockers Wine Lips take on a heavier sound on this new track, the first to be taken from the upcoming record Super Mega Ultra. ‘Derailer’ is an adrenaline shot of beautifully fuzzy garage psych; what is there not to like?

I Got Heaven by Mannequin Pussy: The latest album from Philadelphian punks sees the band get playful with puns and wistful pop in a bold mix that puts the contradictions of Christianity and shame to the sword. This is an epic swirling masterpiece and the band’s finest effort to date.

‘Sleeping In The Mountains’ by Billiam: Endearingly lo-fi organ-based punk hailing from the vibrancy of Melbourne’s DIY scene. This song sounds like the sort of thing the rebellious teenagers of extraterrestrials listen to.

Pregoblin II by Pregoblin: A classic singer-songwriter seasoned with an outsider artist edge as tracks waver in their own mercurial way. It’s a quirky and literary creation with shades of influence from our Album of the Year for 2023, H Hawkline’s masterful Milk for Flowers. We can only hope this singular gem continues to grow on us in a similar manner.

Night-bound Eyes Are Blind To The Day by Whitelands: Shoegaze sweetness from one of London’s finest emerging bands. Luscious tremolo-laden guitars form a blue-sky backdrop for themes of race, neurodivergence and political commentary, cresting a clever juxtaposition, like a vision of utopia while examining the clouds that obscure it.

One More Thing by Lime Garden: Not just a promising debut, but a statement of intent from one of the finest modern bands around. They put to bed the question, ‘If Is This It is still so influential, then how come you don’t hear it’s energy reverberated in much these days?’ A thrilling collection of tracks that typify indie’s inherent appeal.

‘That’ll Show ‘Em’ by Ellie Bleach: A plodding piano that Abbey Road might have included allows Bleach to sing about a fading prognostication of fame and the pains of growing up, coping with reality, and imagined talk show appearances. As you waltz along, the jazzy track gathers up around you.

‘Foi Boto’ by Fabiano Do Nascimento: Brazil by way of Tokyo and London, this jazzy venture is as footloose as they come in every sense. Great barbecue music with enough of a fruity complexity to be commented on by the hipsters present.

How Many Love Songs Have Died In Vegas’ by Swim Deep: Bill Ryder-Jones produces a shoegaze piece of reflection from Swim Deep. It’s as blissful and dreamy as anything else from the genre at its best as the band sings, “There are some times I wouldn’t back, and others I would like.”

A Trip to the Moon by Ghost Funk Orchestra: Worthy of inclusion in the monthly round-up for the names alone. This funkadelic record is endlessly listenable, which is just as well, seeing as though it is 15 tracks long. But in the process, at least it shifts the clouds and gets jazzy with some genuinely innovative arrangements.

‘The Dream Of Delphi’ by Bat For Lashes: Natasha Khan finally returns, and she does so with a strange, ominous synth that signifies in an instant that she’s going to be getting experimental. What follows is Enya reimagined as, well, cool and closer to Radio 6 than 2.

‘May Ninth’ by Khruangbin: They say it all simply with the line “Waiting for May to come.” They needn’t say more, and neither need I or you can imagine the rest from that single wistful utterance.

Khruangbin - 2024

(Credits: Far Out / Press)

Souvenir by Omni: A comic and performative edge is brought to pulsing post-punk rhythms. These are then stylised by a funky, dance sound that makes you think of trendy people in ’80s movies bopping away in turtle necks.

‘Butterfly Net’ by Caroline Polachek + Weyes Blood: It’s arguable that some of the remixes that Caroline Polachek has released from Desire… are better than the originals. This cut featuring Weyes Blood certainly pronounces that challenge with a purring sense of profundity in its wake.

Prelude to Ecstasy by The Last Dinner Party: It’s almost impossible to get through as little as a 50-word write-up on this record without mentioning the phrase, ‘hotly anticipated’. In fact, it has seemingly proved impossible. Strip hype aside, though, and you have a great indie record with some incredible arrangements and production.

‘Brown Paper Bag’ by DIIV: The first band Far Out ever interviewed way back when, DIIV finally return with a strong single. Ominous and brooding, the gritty track wades through the darker side of shoegaze as grungy verses trudge into an unexpected, exultant guitar-led instrumental chorus.

‘Sonido Cosmico’ by Hermanos Guitierrez: The duo return with a shimmering dual guitar effort that sounds like it could be cut from a quieter moment in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Once again, Hermanos exhibit a habit of making their notes seem like they are the sonic representation of a heat mirage rising from the hills of the Atacama Desert.

Phasor by Helado Negro: The sweet ambient sounds of Helado Negro drift a few rays of summer back into your life. He’s an artist who has made experimental electro-folk feel seamless and easy, and that takes great mastery of your craft.

‘Common Man’ by Grace Cummings: With a voice that could haunt an empty house, Grace Cummings bellows a tale that conjures images of the wild west, but beyond its cowboy imagery, its core examines the plight, or perhaps lack thereof, of the millions who live by: work, home, cup of tea, bed.

‘Save’ by Animaux Et Paysage La Chaine: French dreaminess that whisks up a sort of non-nerdy adjacent to Dark Side of the Moon vibes. The stirring instrumental features a prominent synthesised slide guitar that has its own ASMR-like quality of being a sonic knife through butter.

‘Un Instant ou Deux’ by Perilymph: A serving of lovely French jazz-prog funk fusion, ideal for playing while cooking and burning the house down in the grooviest way imaginable.

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