Now Hear This: New music from Billie Eilish, The Strokes, BLOXX and Joesef, plus spotlight artist Beach Bunny

Roisin O'Connor
Chicago band Beach Bunny

I’m going to keep this week’s column succinct as I’ve been up since midnight to review the Billie Eilish Bond theme. Turns out it’s good, perhaps better than I expected, although I am disappointed it spends more time paying tribute to tropes of previous classics, rather than putting a proper Eilish stamp on it. Read the full review here.

The Strokes are back with a new song from their forthcoming album (first in seven years), The New Abnormal. If you’ve seen that viral meme of the woman trying kombucha for the first time, well, that was how I looked hearing “At the Door” for the first time. Frontman Julian Casablancas appears to have steered the band far away from the guitar-based sound of Is This It, which brought them worldwide fame in 2001. This new track is a demented space opera built with what sounds like analogue synths and Casablancas’s keening delivery. I still hate kombucha but the song is great.

If you’re wondering what I think of Justin Bieber’s album, Changes, well… there’s another review you can read here. A few Bieber fans have told me I’m just bitter because I’m single (you need to read the review for context). You got me, Beliebers. The too-long-don’t-read version is: it’s not great – actually, it’s pretty bad. Now you can go back and jam to Purpose.

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Bergen, Norway-born pop singer Hedda Mae has released her debut single, “Pride Goes Before a Fall”. I love it – it’s got a big funk vibe and plenty of attitude on the verses. BLOXX, the pop-rock band you may recall me raving about last year, have their new track “Coming Up Short”, which takes a more serious tone than their last song “Go Out With You”, although it’s still got that brilliant driving rhythm – they’re supporting Twin Atlantic in Oxford on 14 March so go check them out if you can.

Joesef has “Think That I Don’t Need Your Love”, a strong Valentine’s Day mood with dreamy vocals and sharp bursts of horn. Next on the playlist is DJ Emma-Jean Thackery’s enchanting “Rain Dance / Wisdom”, drenched in reverbing synths, woozy beats and some late-night brass.

My spotlight artist this week is Beach Bunny, a Chicago four-piece who just released their debut album Honeymoon, right in time for V-Day. It’s “angry girl music of the indie-rock persuasion” (10 Things I Hate About You) – think Best Coast, Letters to Cleo, Paramore… but then a softer track such as “Racetrack” reminds me a little of Agnes Obel. Check it out and read my Q&A with frontwoman Lili Trifilio, below.

Hey Lili, how's your 2020 so far?

2020 has been absolutely insane! We’ve been doing a lot of prep work for the Honeymoon album release and there’s a mix of excitement, anxiety, and nerves. We released a new single titled “Promises” with a music video shot by Everybody’s Baby which was super fun to make. In addition, I’ve been writing loads of new tracks, focusing on having good mental health, and anticipating all the wonderful things that are right around the corner. Couldn’t be more stoked for 2020.

Tell me a bit about your new album

I started working on Honeymoon unintentionally in 2018. I was constantly writing over the months of that year and it just so happened that there were enough songs to fill up an album and sound fairly cohesive together. It felt right to be making an LP instead of another EP at the growth rate things were headed. I typically write about my own experiences in my lyrics so although Honeymoon doesn’t have the most cohesive narrative there’s still a running theme throughout the compilation. The new album is mostly romance centered and talks about dealing with love, loss, and all emotions in between that.

What other music have you been listening to lately?

I have recently been listening to a lot of Eighties-inspired modern pop music such as Carly Rae’s Emotion, Caroline Polachek, and new Aly and Aj. I also have been addicted to Charli XCX’s entire discography.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Apart from the album release, we have big touring plans around the corner. We’re so excited to travel to Europe and play Coachella which are two major milestones for the boys and I. I plan to continue writing and hopefully release more music in the later half of 2020. Things have been so crazy lately that it’s hard to predict how this year will go, but I'm very excited for the future and am doing my best to trust my intuition to guide me. We’re all open and stoked for whatever the year will bring.