Our favourite tracks from September 2023, featuring: The Vaccines, Slowdive, The National and more.
Welcome to the latest edition of our blog that counts down the best new songs from the month that's just been.
In this article, we count down eight indie tracks worthy of attention from September 2023...
7. Declan McKenna - 'Nothing Works'
Singer-songwriter Declan McKenna announced the release of his third studio album What Happened To the Beach? earlier this month. The London artist’s new record is set to be released on 9 February and the announcement was accompanied by the release of second preview single ‘Nothing Works’. His new one covers writers' block and the worry of failing to match expectations set of him. As McKenna would explain, “Nothing Works came out of the frustration of feeling boxed in and tied to expectation, but it is a euphoric tune, at its core it’s a celebration of being true to yourself.” Having released music for the past nine years, it's easy to forget Declan McKenna is still only 24 years old...on his new tune he sounds sceptical beyond his years.
6. The Chemical Brothers – 'Feels Like I Am Dreaming'
‘Feels Like I Am Dreaming’ is the penultimate track on the legendary dance DJs tenth studio album For That Beautiful Feeling. Even on first listen, it was a song that immediately stuck out as a highlight: a hidden gem yet to be released as a single. The meandering track is an anxiety-filled dance masterpiece, more nightmare dread than the dream state expected from the song’s title. Tom and Ed are provided a little help from Wolf Alice singer Ellie Rowsell whose repeated vocals of “And I feel like I am dreaming” more than contribute to the general theme of unease. That The Chemical Brothers are still producing dance music this captivating after more than 30 years is well worthy of celebration.
5. Slowdive - 'the slab'
Slowdive gifted us with their fifth studio album everything is alive earlier this month and it was another breathtaking effort from the Reading shoegaze legends. A record which moves between a feeling of melancholia and hope, between a classic sound and depth-filled freshness. Album closer ‘the slab’ is an outstanding piece of music: a 90-second build-up meets Neil Halstead’s lo-fi vocals and haunting guitars. As the Slowdive singer would reveal in a press release, the album closer is “the heaviest on the record and as the name suggests we wanted it to feel like a big slab of music.”
4. The Vaccines – 'Heartbreak Kid'
The Vaccines have proven to be one of the most consistent mainstream indie bands since exploding onto the scene in the early 2010s. Any new music always goes down a storm and their new does exactly that. A little over two years since fifth album Back In Love City, the South London band have returned again with ‘Heartbreak Kid’. Their latest track is a joyful take on romantic loss and is the first taste of “hopeful and euphoric” new album Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations. Their sixth record is set to arrive on 12 January 2024. Not a bad way to introduce it, eh?
3. Pastel – 'Your Day'
Pastel are a young band from Manchester who, if there’s any justice, will go far in the music industry. Last year’s EP Isaiah, which followed appearances on Soccer AM and a performance supporting Liam Gallagher at his gigantic summer Knebworth show, was an excellent collection of tunes firmly wearing their hometown cities influence on their sleeves (think of bands like The Stone Roses and The Verve). ‘Your Day’ is another larger than life, electrifying banger to further the fervour surrounding these lads. The band would sum it up best in a press release: “Hope and optimism pepper the lyrics but the music on this tune is bellicose for a reason. ‘Your Day’ is a statement; an opening shot fired. Our debut album is coming.” We can’t wait to hear more.
2. The National – 'Smoke Detector'
The National surprised us all on 18 September when they dropped their second album of 2023, Laugh Track. You’d have thought the mixed reviews which greeted April’s The First Two Pages Of Frankenstein would’ve inspired the Cincinnati band to take some time off to rip it up and start again. Instead, they’ve doubled down by releasing an album said to act as a second chapter to their last. The new one, again, isn’t going to win over any new admirers – the highpoints are mixed with several slow-burners, while the 59-minute run time is indefensible to the many who felt …Frankenstein outstayed its welcome. Where they are at their most focused and immediate is on the album’s final track ‘Smoke Detector’. Matt Berninger spits out his frustrations over 8 minutes of raw, post-punk. This unpolished tirade feels at odds with everything before it - exactly the raucous vibe we want to hear more of.
1. Bleach Lab – 'Everything At Once'
After a collection of impressive Eps and gathering new audiences on their early 2023 support of indie veterans We Are Scientists, Bleach Lab’s debut album If You Only Feel It Once has finally arrived. And their first full-length release exceeds all expectations - an outstanding collection of expansive songs both hazy and jangly in equal measure. The band’s strength comes when the glittering guitar work of Frank Wates meets the emotional lyrics of singer Jenna Kyle. Amongst the many highlights is ‘Everything At Once’ with its industrial bassline and similarly blissful guitar licks. Kyle, meanwhile, is at her evocative best: “I've been numb for so long / 'Cause I'd rather feel nothing than everything at once” she sings in the chorus. Get on these guys if you haven’t already!
You can hear the above songs and more on our regularly updated Blinded By The Floodlights 2023 indie recommends playlist.