The best (and worst) new singles this week: Mercury Rev, Sharon Van Etten, and more

Plus Orb offshoot Traffik Island reveals its first track through Flightless.

Single of the Week

Mercury Rev feat. Norah Jones

Okolona River Bottom Band (Bella Union)

Norah Jones has recently been stacking up her indie cred. Last year saw the jazz-pop singer collaborate with Jeff Tweedy and Doveman and here she joins Mercury Rev on a glorious version of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Okolona River Bottom Band. The lead track from the Rev’s full album reimagining of Gentry’s The Delta Sweete, the stripped-back original is transformed into a sweeping astral jazz number. Jones shines out front, seeming to conduct and embolden the band’s baroque arrangement. Gentry’s 1968 original is a friggin corker, too. 

Traffik Island

17 (Flightless)

Two weeks into the New Year and the 2017 nostalgia has already arisen. Kidding. Traffik Island’s debut single is more in tune with 1967 than any of this decade’s stylistic trends. A psych-pop throwback about someone’s failure to mature, it sits somewhere between the cutesy end of Piper At the Gates of Dawn and the more adventurous end of The Monkees catalogue. Project mastermind Zak Olsen wisely avoids the affected lo-fi qualities that can weigh down ‘60s pop homages, shimmering into the New Year in style.

Sharon Van Etten

Seventeen (Jagjaguwar)

Two weeks into the New Year and the 2017 nostalgia has already arisen. Still kidding. The third single from Sharon Van Etten’s upcoming record is a keyboard-powered power ballad that pines for the freedom of 17 while recognising the virtues of growing up. Nearly all accomplished adults went through a phase of filthy teen recklessness. Fun at the time, but clinging to it several years later isn’t a good look. Van Etten puts in a stellar vocal performance and although synths have replaced guitars, the minor key crescendo wouldn’t sound out of place on any of her records. 


Strange Power (Independent)

A lesson in doing a lot with a little from Melbourne trio Arbes, ‘Strange Power’ feels like a mini-epic though it’s assembled from scarce materials. The rhythm section’s sprightly exchange is dressed by swishes of hooky lead guitar. Ethereal synths pad out the atmosphere while the lead vocals alternate from strong-willed to hypnotised.