Follow us on
Facebook Icon LinkedIn Icon Twitter Icon Youtube Icon Instagram Icon
Feature Image

New Music: February 2024 - Curated by Sharon O'Connell

Sharon O’Connell selects four standout albums to listen to this month, including new releases from MGMT, Nadine Shah and Idles

Tags: Music,

Listen now on


Loss of Life 

MGMT made their entrance in 2007 with Oracular Spectacular, a supercharged, psychedelic-pop set weighted with bass synth yet simultaneously buoyed up by giddy melodies and youthful, yearning vocals. It was a hard act to follow, but their subsequent follow-ups – Congratulations, MGMT and Little Dark Age – were largely well received.

The duo’s fifth album, Loss Of Life, lands after a six-year hiatus and sees them striking out into fresh musical territory. They’ve joked that they’re now “running at around 20% adult contemporary”, which is a wry way of describing these engagingly trippy and (mostly) light, thoughtful songs. There’s a distinct 90s flavouring, with a lyrical focus on what it means to be alive in the 21st century and for our life force to fade. 

Built on a smaller scale than usual, tracks feature grungy guitar blasts and some 70s-rock vamping alongside the synths, with judicious horns and strings. Despite Andrew VanWyngarden’s often brutal existential observations, the album has a sense of effortless charm, recalling Sufjan Stevens, Mercury Rev and Grandaddy. ‘Dancing In Babylon’, featuring Christine And The Queens, disappoints as a syrupy power ballad, but the sweetly forlorn alt-rocker ‘Mother Nature’, Elliott Smith-esque ‘Nothing To Declare’ and ‘Nothing Changes’, where Eric Matthews channels early Bowie, amply compensate.

Out now.

Label: Mom + Pop

Nadine Shah

Filthy Underneath

It’s little surprise that darkness and pain are recurring themes in Nadine Shah’s latest album. In recent years she’s come through the traumas of divorce, rehab, an attempt to take her own life and nursing her terminally ill mother. She may dwell – how could she not? – but Shah does not wallow: instead, she delivers vivid observation, self-reflection and interrogation, cut with poignancy and even humour.

Though she’s no stranger to emotional honesty (her 2013 debut LP emerged from the grief of losing two friends to suicide), the sonics of Filthy Underneath – synths outweighing guitars, strikingly prominent rhythms – make it hit very differently. These are clear and charismatic songs in which Shah’s voice, a supple, intriguingly rich and saturnine instrument, is the focus. It’s especially impressive on ‘Food For Fuel’, which taps the vocal folk tradition of her Pakistani heritage and the terrific ‘Topless Mother’, with its thrillingly exultant chorus. Very different are ‘Hyperrealism’, a classy, keys-driven ballad that suggests a dalliance between k.d. lang and David Sylvian, and album closer ‘French Exit’. Here, Shah’s lowering tone fits the sombre subject, though her eye for detail (“pizza-box lid when I couldn’t find paper”, before her suicide attempt) is as lacking in self-pity as it is sharp. 

Out now.

Label: EMI North



How to stop your USP becoming an albatross is an issue many bands have to consider and Bristol quintet Idles are no exception. The group made their mark through years of furiously impassioned live shows, impressed with their debut LP, Brutalism, and established a reputation for foam-flecked post punk/hardcore with 2020’s Ultra Mono, a UK Number One. Their 2021 follow-up, Crawler, signalled a change in direction, with ‘The Beachland Ballroom’ and ‘Car Crash’ dealing out slow-mo, noir-ish lounge rock and degraded indie grime respectively.

Tangk is their fifth album and sees Idles exploring widely without diluting their characteristic intensity. There’s space where once there was (mostly) dense, roiling sound, plus interesting electronic textures and production tics. Singer Joe Talbot dials down his usual harsh chanting/barks to admit softer vocal tones, as might be expected in what is a set of unashamed love songs, an admission of his vulnerability, emotional needs and mellower life outlook. The delicate opener ‘IDEA 01’ nods to Radiohead while the lowering ‘Grace’ suggests Fontaines DC’s Grian Chatten as a kindred spirit. There’s still plenty of fire in Idles’ belly, though, as the pummelling ‘Gift Horse’ and jabbering ‘Hall & Oates’ attest.

Out now.

Label: Partisan

Karen Vogt


Karen Vogt is the Australian-born, Paris-based vocalist/guitarist of dream-pop band Heligoland. She’s also a solo experimental soundscaper. Her fourth album sees her joining Nite Hive, a label launched last year by fellow electronic adventurer and compatriot Penelope Trappes.

Waterlog is intriguingly explorative in both theme and sonics. It’s less radical than last year’s Le Mans, where Vogt mixed recording samples from the 24-hour car race with her vocals, but emotionally more immediate and profound. The title refers to the unexpected river she cried on the death of her cherished cat, the portal to a wider expression of grief. ‘Rolling Tears’ is the first of seven tracks improvised with vocal loops and synths, Vogt’s exquisite voice soaring and sighing like an angelic choir of one, before giving way to the gently swelling drone of ‘The One That I Love’. ‘Weighted’s thrum builds in pace and volume until her vocal is subsumed, but there’s a shift with ‘The Wilder Things’, which rests on a sustained, otherworldly synth coda. This is followed by ‘Last Act Of Love’, another heavenly choral piece fit for a cathedral and a sweet, if anguished closer.

Out now.

Label: Nite Hive

Share this article: