Will Hodgkinson is the chief rock & pop critic of The Times and author of the non-fiction books Guitar Man, Song Man, The Ballad of Britain and The House Is Full Of Yogis; the latter a bestselling childhood memoir on his parents’ transformation from dull suburbanites to meditating, cult-following freaks after an unfortunate bout of food poisoning. A sometime broadcaster and contributor to Mojo, Vogue and Monocle, Will lives in Peckham with his wife and teenaged children, who get annoyed when he practises guitar for his Neil Young tribute band, the Nearly Youngs.
Parquet Courts > Freebird II
Sharp, loud and snotty, this is an unusually tender reflection on singer Andrew Savage’s difficult childhood from the most exciting New York band since the Strokes.
Danny Brown > Ain’t It Funny
One of the most progressive rappers out there, Detroit’s Brown combines singular squeaky tones with an overwhelming sense of doom, as displayed on this post-punk-tinged classic.
Courtney Barnett > City Looks Pretty
Deceptively brilliant songwriting from the laid-back Australian indie rocker, who sings about the strangeness of returning home after a long tour abroad.
The Strokes > New York City Cops
It is worth revisiting The Strokes’ 2001 debut album as a reminder of just how taut, fresh and brimming with confidence it sounded back then — and still does now. This song captures the spirit of 70s New York punk with crystalline perfection.
John Grant > Tempest
Leaving behind the MOR balladry of debut Queen Of Denmark, everyone’s favourite gloom-laden songwriter embraced vintage synthesisers on his latest, Love Is Magic. This tribute to an early arcade game that provided respite from adolescent torments is particularly beautiful.
Spiritualized > I’m Your Man
Jason Pierce celebrates his own, deeply flawed character on this lovelorn lament, from Spiritualized’s return-to-greatness latest And Nothing Hurt.
Ibibio Sound Machine > She Work Very Hard
An old African folk tale becomes a disco stomper in the hands of a band led by Eno Williams: born in the UK, raised in Nigeria and marrying the musical cultures of both.
Connan Mockasin > Do I Make You Feel Shy?
There is something distinctly creepy about this sickly smooth synthesiser pop tune from New Zealander Mockasin, but then, that is at the heart of his strange appeal.
Kamasi Washington > Street Fighter Mas
LA’s Washington has made jazz a cultural force to be reckoned with once more. This heavenly ode to the arcade game of the title demonstrates how he’s making jazz that engages with the everyday.
Kurt Vile > Wakin’ On A Pretty Day
Like J. Mascis and Neil Young before him, something about this longhaired layabout suggests he can only just about be bothered to get out of bed to get to the studio. He’s at his lackadaisical best here.
Snail Mail > Heat Wave
19-year-old Lindsay Jordan keeps to fairly straightforward indie rock but her music has great charm and, in a subtle way, originality.
Ezra Collective > Space Is The Place
The collective at the heart of London’s jazz explosion take Sun Ra’s cosmic classic and give it a smooth once-over, with oddly effective results.
Mac de Marco > Freaking Out The Neighbourhood
Even though he seems like the kid in class most likely to blow off his fingers with a home-made bomb, de Marco’s music is gentle, breezy and tropical. This apology to his mother for being such a liability captures it all perfectly.
Jarvis Cocker > Fat Children
Back in action with latest project Jarv Is, Britain’s greatest stick-legged pop star recounts an unfortunate altercation with some overweight youth, from his solo debut from 2006.
Primal Scream > Velocity Girl
The Scream have gone through countless incarnations but it all started with this perfect folk-rock ode to an Edie Sedgwick-like damaged beauty — and it lasts a total of one minute and 25 seconds.