LITTLE DARK AGE – MGMT

I’ve been playing the first single off of MGMT’s new album, their first in four years, on repeat over the last week or so and it was the perfect pre-cursor to Halloween. The song clearly pays homage to gothic 80s synth-pop (which the music video overtly refers to), but it feels like more of an acknowledgement that the band is in on the joke than an indication that they’re heading for a major genre shift.

The song somehow mixes a funky dark bassline, monotone vocals, and a breakdown that sounds like it’s been lifted directly from the baroque era to create a completely modern sound. This song certainly will not change pop music the way songs like ‘Time to Pretend’ or ‘Kids’ did, but it’s a solid addition to a band’s discography whose last two albums failed to make an impact.

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PORK SODA – GLASS ANIMALS

I have to admit, it took me a long time to get on board with Glass Animals. There are just certain bands where I need to mature a bit before I listen to them with fresh ears. I was the same way with Vampire Weekend. I absolutely did not understand them when their first album came out and now that I’m older I can appreciate what amazingly innovative musicians they are. Now, I think Glass Animals are a completely unique band who sound like they’re from another planet in the best way.

Every Glass Animals song sounds like a fever dream that I don’t want to wake up from. ‘Pork Soda’ in particular from their newest album, How to be a Human Being, is both disconcerting and seductive at the same time. The hook in the chorus of “Pineapples are in my head” is ridiculously catchy while at the same time being absolutely nonsensical. So catchy, in fact, that it’s managed to get pineapples banned from multiple music festivals the band has played at. Any song that causes mass hysteria about fruit is all right with me.

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APOCALYPSE – CIGARETTES AFTER SEX

I recently heard Cigarettes After Sex’s song ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’ somewhere and realized I somehow knew all the words without actually being aware of who sang it. I looked up the band and could not believe they had only just released their first album on June 9th because I felt like I had known this song forever. As for their debut album, ‘Apocalypse’ is one of my favorite songs. It perfectly embodies the band’s dreamy, hazy, melodic sensibility.

There is no rational reason that the lyrics “Your lips, my lips, apocalypse” should work. Even writing them now makes me cringe a little bit with secondhand embarrassment to be honest. HOWEVER, I hear Greg Gonzalez sing them within the context of this song and all of a sudden they sound beautiful and heartbreaking to me — such is the power of the band’s ability to create an atmosphere of warmth and the perfect kind of romanticism that borders on melodramatic without tipping over the edge.

 

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MILLION ENEMIES – WAVVES

The first song I ever heard by Wavves was ‘I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl’ and I loved it for it’s punk-y humor and catchy melody. Punk music has always had a kind of self-loathing sense of humor, as it’s roots lie with youthful anarchists who, by their very nature, exist on the fringes of society. Wavves also has the DIY spirit that punk is traditionally associated with, having chose to self-release their first album back in 2008.

I’ve written before about my my soft spot for garage and surf rock and Wavves definitely falls under that umbrella. With their lo-fi fuzzy sound and mischievous lyrics, Wavves are the perfect summer band. Their music always sounds sun-drenched to me and yet this album sounds like a maturation for the band. This song feels a bit different for them, with it’s hip-hop influenced stomping beat and barn burner of a chorus, but I love it all the more for it.

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WAITING ON A SONG – DAN AUERBACH

This is the perfect song to play going into Memorial Day Weekend. I’m currently loving Dan Auerbach’s second solo album, released eight years after his debut solo album. I’ve read a few complaints about the pop-ier direction he has gone in for this album, but I think The Black Keys have always maintained a bit of a pop sensibility despite their retro-influenced blues-rock sound.

Auerbach’s solo albums are little more laid back than the band’s music; more ‘The Lengths’ than ‘Howlin’ For You’. The song has a warm sound that’s heavily influenced by music from the early 70’s, my favorite era of music. To me, this song is all blissed-out sunshine, perfect for the summer days when you have nothing to do but lazily enjoy yourself. Dan Auerbach knows how to craft a timeless pop song and that’s alright with me.

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IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J

Out of the many, many things there are to like about alt-J, my favorite may be that they don’t sound like any other band I can name. They produce songs that are both catchy and musically creative, all the while being utterly original.

This song is the second single from their upcoming third album, RELAXER, now set for release on June 2. The first two singles are so solid, the release date has been pushed up a week — and deservedly so. This song has a killer chorus that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I first heard it and I love how it grows in sound when the chorus gets repeated. Throw in an intense horn section and key change at the end and I’m hooked.

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HOT THOUGHTS – SPOON

I just had my mind blown when I realized that Spoon’s debut album was released when I was four years old. I started listening to them in high school as ‘The Underdog’, an instant classic, was inescapable at the time. Since then, they’ve released eight more albums, including their most recent, Hot Thoughts. 

Spoon songs have always been sing-alongs, filled with punchy guitar riffs and percussion, but have pretty much stayed under the indie pop umbrella. With Hot Thoughts, they tiptoe into electronica and even disco. The title track above opens with echoing synths that begin to weave organically with the percussion and guitar lines. This album has a solid groove to it that I caught only faintly in the past from the band and I’m loving it.

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JUMP HI – LION BABE

First thing’s first: Jillian Hervey, lead singer of the NYC music duo Lion Babe, has the most amazing hair you will ever see. I always thought I had thick hair, but this is another level. It’s no wonder the daughter of Vanessa Williams is a Pantene ambassador.

Now that that’s out of the way, Lion Babe makes genre-crossing, soulful, vintage-influenced music. Despite moving from smooth R&B (see ‘Treat Me Like Fire’) to neo-disco (‘Where Do We Go;) to soul with a hip-hop influence on the above track, ‘Jump Hi’, every different genre has the same uplifting force pulsing behind it…and this is all on their first album. I love that most of their music videos are shot in and around NYC as well, as their music is just as eclectic as the city itself.

Up on the Spotify playlist now!

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ALASKA – MAGGIE ROGERS

Much has been said about Maggie Rogers. The 22-year-old is largely known for moving Pharrell to tears  when she played him a demo of the above song, ‘Alaska’, during a masterclass at NYU. Since then, she’s graduated, gotten a record deal, made her TV debut on The Tonight Show, and gone on tour (including her most recent performance at SXSW). Her viral and almost mythical big break may have made her special, but it’s not what will make her great.

Listening to ‘Alaska’ while I write this, I’ve stopped maybe three times because the song is so distractingly good. Listening to it in your headphones makes it even better, paying attention to all the completely unique layers of sound going on. One of the biggest complaints about modern synth music is that it’s inorganic. Rogers deftly bridges this divide between nature and the synthetic, mixing samples she recorded out in the wild with a pulsating beat and layering her gossamer falsettos and harmonies over everything.

Reflecting on a past relationship during a hike she took while taking a break from making music, Rogers sings, “I walked off you/And I walked off an old me”. As Amanda Petrusich explains: “first you relinquish the thing you loved, then you relinquish the part of yourself that loved it.” I’ve replayed this song over and over and I swear every time I probably make the same awed, emotional face Pharrell makes in that video that’s now been seen by over 2 million people. And if I don’t, I definitely feel it. Every time.

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SHUT UP KISS ME – ANGEL OLSEN

A couple of months ago I was reading a few different lists of the “best songs of 2016” and I have to be honest, outside of the list on Rolling Stone, I was not familiar with many of the songs at all. This song by Angel Olsen was featured on one of the lists I read and I can’t believe I had never heard it before because it’s my ideal mix of lo-fi fi grunge and indie pop. I want more when the track is over, which is something I feel after all of my favorite songs. 

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