In a post-Random Access Memories scene, electronic music has leaned towards a groovier, old-school dance feel, almost returning to the simple, danceable purity of before the dubstep invasion. To many of his rapidly growing fanbase, Saint Pepsi makes music that does what Daft Punk’s latest could have achieved: return to an old-school feel without losing the cutting edge of modern electronic music technology. The rising Boston DJ and songwriter incorporates elements of funk and disco into his sleek, deeply catchy electro-pop while maintaining a fresh feel on “Fiona Coyne,” his self-described “single of the summer” and new fan favorite. Unlike many modern DJs, Saint Pepsi sings the words to his own song, keeping the vocal delivery melodic without overuse of reverb. He leaves the effects to the music, adding up to an irresistible beat that will get you moving without feeling like you should be twenty years older.
Upon the release of their self-titled debut and the subsequent success of lead single “Let’s Go Surfing,” The Drums were pigeon-holed as somewhat of a knock-off Beach Boys. This couldn’t have been less true. Their stellar debut and its predecessor Portamento were far more inspired by the sounds of Orange Juice, Joy Division, New Order, and other 80s New Wave. The band was so inspired by this era of music that it became blatantly obvious, the song ‘Best Friend’ may as well have been ‘The Village’ by New Order. The Drums never denied who their influences were and who they were as a band.
Their newest release and its influences are far more unclear. “Magic Mountain” continues just as Portamento did,with more ominous sounds and raw bass lines you would expect to hear on Unknown Pleasures. But that about the only way their old influences shine through on this debut single. “Magic Mountain” finds lead singer Johnny Pierce yelping and sounding frantic. The sporadic composition of the song reminds me of an early Bloc Party tune, which is a departure from The Drums’ old sound, but a welcome one. It’s going to be exciting to hear what the rest of the album sounds like - I’ll be waiting with bated breath.
NEW TRACKS: The Rural Alberta Advantage, “Terrified”
Few do minor key indie rock better than the Rural Alberta Advantage. The Canadian trio makes a racket on their excellent new single “Terrified.” The song begins with southwestern-flared strumming until it brings in, in rapid succession, Nils Edenloff’s tortured, old soul falsetto and the one-two-three punch of the rest of the group. “Terrified” does indeed make love sound terrifying, especially considering all this talk about a woman holding a knife. The tune clocks in just over three minutes and absolutely rocks. With a couple of EPs and two full-lengths under their belts, RAA is set to drop Mended With Gold on September 30.
Brighton, England’s punk outfit Gnarwolves are back, and they’re heavier than ever. Though they always sounded grittier than most of their pop-punk counterparts, “Smoking Kills” takes things to the next level. The track opens with vocalist Thom Weeks growling “I feel so dumb,” and then basically just explodes into dirty skate punk goodness. Accompanied by beer-soaked skateboarding footage, it makes me want to crack open a forty and engage in the hoodrat hijinks of days gone by. All while listening to Gnarwolves of course.
The ladies of HAIM have done it again y’all, and this time they’ve invited rising hip hop star A$AP Ferg along for the ride. “My Song 5” was one of the most overlooked tracks on Days Are Gone, probably because it’s a bit different from the rest of the debut. Even before A$AP Ferg came on board, the song had a harder edge than many of the peppy HAIM singles like “The Wire.” The value of “My Song 5” lies in the emphasis on percussion and guitar work, which are two of the best components of a HAIM live show. With A$AP Ferg’s rhymes backing the song, the already present grit is just further enhanced.
It’s safe to say that the anticipation for alt-J’s second album is incredibly high. After releasing a debut that took home nearly every award it was nominated for, fans everywhere were eager to hear what the indie innovators would do next. Last month, they surprised us in the best of ways by releasing “Hunger of the Pine,” a single off their upcoming album This is All Yours. The song showcases alt-J’s unique sound and ability to explore sounds unlike anything we’ve heard before.
They’ve done it again. The new trio has just shared “Left Hand Free;” a song that highlights the band’s curiosity to explore some different genres. We’ve known alt-J almost purely as a group that ventures into unchartered music territory, but “Left Hand Free” comes from a field of reinvented rock, a style made popular by the Black Keys. Singer Joe Newman said in a recent Rolling Stone interview that the slick track “didn’t sound like us at all, but it was so catchy”. Even though it’s probably not what fans were expecting following “Hunger of the Pine”, “Left Hand Free” is a solid track that shows that the band can make a great song; regardless of the genre they choose to explore. I’m now more ready than ever to hear what the trio has for us next.
Seriously, the first time I heard Little Daylight’s new track “My Life,” I could not help dancing (awkwardly) at my desk at work. It’s that type of song that you are obligated to blast with all your windows down and sing along as loudly as humanly possible. The synthy track melds nicely with lead singer Nikki Taylor’s voice, and Eric Zeiler and Matt Lewkowicz’s instrumentals. The three-piece perfectly toes the line between dance pop and alt-rock on the upbeat, summery track. The defiant lyrics also make this the perfect summer anthem with its “live your life” message.So hit the beach, forget your responsibilities, and turn the volume up to 10.
NEW TRACKS: Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, “Born In The USA”
June 4 marked the 30th anniversary of the Boss’ seminal and generation-defining Born In The USA, an album that has gone platinum in the US alone 15 times over. For this special anniversary, Nashville’s Lightning Rod Records will release Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Born In The USA on September 16. Each classic track will be covered by a different artist, with their spin put upon it. Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, often called the “First Couple of Americana,” open up this endeavor with their take on the title track. While the original’s jaunty bombast masks the lyrics whose woefulness casual listeners so often gloss over, Isbell’s and Shires’ cover is haunting, sparse, and foreboding. Chances are this version won’t get played at any political rallies.
From their April release Shriek, Wye Oak has brought us the gently expressive new single “Logic of Color”. In keeping with the rest of the album, the song slowly finesses its way into the listener’s ears, opting for a cumulative effect over an instant one.
It starts with a bouncing synth bass, going back forth between the leading dominant pitch and the home of the tonic. I was reminded somewhat of Hugh le Caine’s early electronic work “Dripsody”, while others may think James Murphy has seen the light and decided to make another LCD Soundsystem record.
The next element added is Jenn Wasner’s voice, which comes in for a short duet with the synth. Wasner emphasizes the lead-ups to the starts of measures and beats, creating a sense of forward motion. This amount of syncopation is not heard that often, and it is welcome. As for the actual pitches, there is a measured balance, with each rise to a peak accompanied by a descent to a valley.
After a verse, drums and synth chords join. The total amount of elements is fairly minimal, but the judicious deployment keeps the texture from being too sparse. The song carries on, allowing the melody to sink in. Wasner plays around with dynamics and even creates a kind of call and response with herself, assisted by some multi-tracking.
About two-thirds of the way in, there is a fade that leads into a heavy synth swell. It seems to be an ending, but turns out to be more of a semicolon. The band gives the verse another go-round, before finishing on that initial bass line. This time, it leaves on the tonic, with a satisfying feeling of fulfillment.
Show of hands, who’s heard “Wonderwall” enough for several sad lifetimes? Hope it didn’t kill your love of Britpop though, because check out Superfood. They don’t come with antioxidants, but they do come with pop sensibilities that shouldn’t come so easy to such a young group. The shouted minor key chorus is basically Buckingham Palace on a rainy day incarnate. Their La’s-meets-Stone Roses sound is guaranteed to convert all.