via The Roundup – 2/13/15
Here we are: another busy week over, and a lot of things going on. Between Beyoncé-Beck Grammy drama, Beyoncé-style album drops from Drake and Hidden in Plain View, and the release of Fifty Shades of Grey (soundtrack featuring Beyoncé!), it’s clear a lot went down. But aside from the world-running of Lady Bey (both actually and spiritually), we’re culminating this week with another round of The Roundup. I’ve curated another 20 tracks that have been filling my ear-holes all week, for your enjoyment. Read some blurbs about each song below, and scroll down for the full playlist!
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Multi-Love”
Unknown Mortal Orchestra have always felt like a retro throwback act, and if “Multi-Love” is any indication, their next record is going to be as vintage as ever. The vocals here are the clearest they’ve been. Gone is the fuzzy, aloof nature, and what we have is a more mature sound. The band pays homage to the 70’s rock of bands like Electric Light Orchestra, but also finds a way to make this sound feel current in the indie realm. I personally can’t get enough of that minor chord change (“she wants to be your love”), followed by a quick, effortless drum fill. It’s not exactly clear who “Multi-Love” is, but does that matter? The name isn’t important, but the sentiment of heartbreak is. And who can’t relate to heartbreak better than comparing your downtrodden ticker to being trashed “like a hotel room”? Especially fitting for all the single ladies on Valentine’s (or Galentine’s) Day.
Sun Breaks – “Turnstile”
Coming from different indie projects, Sun Breaks feels new in the indie world, but also like they’ve been here forever. I most readily compare this to the jumpy sounds of Mr. Bungle, even though it doesn’t hop genres nearly as much. It definitely has enough “indie” quirk and nonsensical nature to it that will certainly turn some heads.
Speedy Ortiz – “Raising the Skate”
“I’m not bossy, I’m the boss!” declares lead singer Sadie Dupuis on the band’s first single for their sophomore LP Foil Deer (out 4/21). Musically this feels so much like past tracks, kind of like a cross between the distorted percussion-heavy “Tiger Tank” and the 90’s R&B influenced melodies of “Shine Theory”. The song has a lot of nice touches, between the swooping reverb-ed vocal at the back end of each chorus, and the quick guitar thirds in triplets that close each chorus.
Red Sea – “Life Image Module”
I was ecstatic to hear that lead singer of Beach Fossils was starting his own label, so I’m glad to see some of the first artists being released getting their dues. The whole track here follows a Latin-tinged, almost Bossa beat, with some clean jazzy guitar comping. The vocals feel a bit reminiscent of Animal Collective, which makes for an interesting mix.
Soft Cat – “Somebody”
This is a lovely, delicate, string-heavy acoustic number. Sounding kind of like indie pop giants Owen Pallet or Magnetic Fields, Soft Cat makes comforting, nostalgic, and beautiful music. This feels sync-ready for the low point of a comedy-drama or prime-time TV show (too bad Parenthood’s no longer around).
Joanna Gruesome – “Last Year”
Here comes the fun. This is music that operates on two spheres. It’s punky and bratty, with ranty vocals that immediately recall Meredith Graves, but on the other hand, it’s poppy and sweet by the chorus. This fits right in for fans of Perfect Pussy, Speedy Ortiz, Dum Dum Girls, or Mr. Twin Sister.
Divers – “Tracks”
Compared to a pop-punk Arcade Fire meets The Gaslight Anthem, Divers make some nice, powerful indie rock. It’s a perfect summer song for good times on the Jersey Shore, and it makes me wish for summer in this dismal winter. “Give love a chance” leads off the chorus to a real anthemic, upbeat feel. While it doesn’t sound too far removed from its Jersey influences, maybe that isn’t a bad thing.
Pile – “The World is Your Motel”
Boston pummel-rockers Pile dropped another track from their forthcoming LP You’re Better Than This, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard them feel more like Les Savy Fav than before. It’s been said that some people don’t get the point of Pile, as documented here, but I don’t think there’s really much of a point regardless. This is music to escape into and let yourself go. It’s frivolous and nonsensical (“Dumpy woman in a tracksuit/It’s all the same to me!”), yet aggressive and cathartic. The guitar lines accentuate this aloof punk nature, and it’s easy to get lost in. Bonus points to that downhill plunge of a scream three quarters in.
The Rentiers – “Stories of Adam”
This act takes acoustic folk-punk to a new level. The song first takes form as an acoustic number that feels anthemic (with some nice organ/piano work in the background). The punk teeth show soon enough in the second verse, where we get nice backup vocals from Chumped singer Anika Pyle. The whole feeling seems like a love letter to adolescence, one the continues well into your twenties. The third verse sets a full band kicking in, with some more distorted guitar arpeggiation, and some solid backbeat drumming.
Cyberbully Mom Club – “FRIENDS”
Joining the ongoing thrush of female-fronted scrappy indie is Cyberbully Mom Club. The vocals feel vaguely like Amanda Palmer, but the whole sound is more in line with Free Cake for Every Creature, Diet Cig, or Band Practice. It’s also scathingly self-aware: “And I get so scared of all this madness/And how my songs all sound the same”.
LVL UP – “Somebody Kill Me Please”
I used to enjoy watching The Wedding Singer, until one summer where my mom watched it on repeat every day, to the point that I can’t stand to even think of it. So it’s exciting to hear that not only is Father/Daughter Records continuing their Faux Real compilation in lieu of Record Store Day, but also that slacker indie rockers LVL UP are joining them for a rendition of Adam Sandler’s “Somebody Kill Me”. If ever there was an indie band today to cover this, LVL UP would be the guys to do it. It fits like a glove.
Chris Weisman – “Backpack People”
Some more gorgeous, sleepy acoustic indie pop this week. This song feels fragile, and the sound of Weisman is most comparable to Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave. It’s a hushed observation, yet radiant and comforting. Definitely the aural equivalent of cozying up on the couch with a blanket, a cup of Earl Grey tea, and a good book. Which is interesting, given that the subject matter points more in the direction of traveling vagabonds than the agency of home.
Calypso – “Velvet Void”
This is some intriguing, mystical bedroom pop from French label Atelier Ciseaux. It feels foreign, with some almost Middle Eastern melodies going on. It reminds me of female-fronted acts of yesterday, namely Mazzy Star and Veruca Salt (mostly because of that third chorus with the distorted guitar). The song reaches an interesting point where I almost can’t tell if the time signature is changing or the structure is coming apart altogether. This makes for a fitting key change to a much more surreal sounding lower female vocal. It’s astonishing how much more ethereal this song gets on repeat listens, and by the end it’s a truly bizarre trip to look back on.
Maribou State – “Rituals”
One of two heavily electronic tracks this week, Maribou State seems to share a bit (beyond six letters) with electronic DJ Caribou. “Rituals” feels like a cut that could have fit perfectly on Caribou’s superb last record Our Love. The synths, the thin backbeat, the clean reverbed guitar, the stuttered vocals, the synth bleed. The whole thing makes for a convincing aural doppelganger, but at the same time it manages to be its own thing. Keep on the lookout for this act!
PWR BTTM – “Hold Yer Tongue”
After catching a splendid write-up of this queer punk duo on Stereogum, I couldn’t pass up including this. “Hold Yer Tongue” feels like a new spin on Krill meets Joyce Manor, which I love. Between strong falsettos, screams and overall punk embodiment, this is an act to watch. This shifts so fast between taunting lines (“I don’t like liars/No one likes a crier”), and tough, intense responses (“So what?”). Also gotta love that bluesy jam (7th chords, y’all) that closes out the song.
Rye Pines – “Pessimist”
“There’s no such thing as summer or spring,” begins this quick rough-and-tumble of a less than 2 minute indie rocker. This also reminds me of Krill, and to some degree early Modest Mouse. I like this feel all in all, and this is another one to play on cold days when all you want is for it to be warm.
Faith Healer – “Again”
Let’s get some more dream pop/retro feel in here, shall we? This feels very much like it’s caught in the 60’s or 70’s, with The Kinks. It feels very vintage, but also a little punky. I dig the backup vocals in the chorus, and the vamping guitar parts. The whole song takes off to a Blondie-esque rocking finish, with a driving drum rhythm and some nice noodling guitar leads. The cover art reminds me of a tongue-in-cheek take on The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The whole thing comes crashing to a halt with some skyrocketing guitar work. But it’s a good crash!
Kodak to Graph – “Los Angeles”
I’ve been digging these DJ beats from producer Kodak to Graph. The sound is a cross between Caribou, FKA Twigs, and even a little Com Truise. This feels funky, chill, and down-tempo, but also dance-floor ready. I really love the interpolated vocals on this thing, as well as the production overall. Some nice hand clap percussion enters at the minute mark, and about 1:20 minutes in we get more activity. Some nice synth bleeds join in, with more interpolation, and a sharper beat. The whole thing grows around two minutes in with more vocal sampling, and a driving bass beat. Some of the synths here recall sounds from Little Dragon and even Crystal Castles, sans distortion/noise. This makes for an excellent sound collage, between the various vocal drops, percussive meditations, and bells that close the track.
Kathryn Joseph – “The Bird”
Easily the greatest surprise to uncover this week (I found this on a fellow vinyl lover’s Instagram feed!), Glasgow singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph crafts delicate, raw, and gorgeous piano pop. Immediately recalling work from Joanna Newsom, Sharon Van Etten, and Agnes Obel (among others), “The Bird” is the exceptional opening number of Joseph’s latest record Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled. There is a dismal quality to it, but Joseph finds a simple beauty in sadness:(“It will be better/I do not know”). I’m hooked, and eager to hear more.
Braids – “Miniskirt”
Making another case for female-fronted bands, the latest from Canadian synth-pop act Braids is a bold, unflinching feminist statement. Between lines like “everything he touches is for him” and “my little miniskirt is mine, all mine”, this is a track that is as tough as nails. I’m eager to hear what will come next from this group on their next record, Deep in the Iris.
BONUS: Beckyoncé – “Single Loser (Put a Beck on It)”
OK, OK. I’m not analyzing this as a serious piece of art or anything, but you have to admit this is pretty cool. And it comes off as the Internet’s perfect response to the backlash between all that Grammy drama that kicked off the week. Reactions to this track have ranged from “a truly beautiful peace of musical artistry”, all the way to deriding the anonymous mash-up artist as a “horrible person.” My verdict? While the songs are fairly obvious for both artists, there’s a sheer joy that comes from hearing two songs fit so well together. And the timing of this release is impeccable. Will we (should we?) be talking about this for weeks to come? Heck no. But in case you missed it, let this be a little something extra to help you chill out this weekend.
Here’s the full playlist. Until next week, keep your ears open!