Jenny Hval and Susanna are both well-respected Norwegian singer-songwriters with striking voices who favor unique, complex, and often quite minimal compositions. Last year, Hval released a pretty good experimental pop LP called Innocence is Kinky, and Susanna released her fourth solo full length (she has an additional three under the name Susanna & the Magical Orchestra), The Forester. Together on this new collaborative project, they form a very clear bond between their favorite styles.
“I Have Walked This Body” opens on a dark, somber drone, with Hval delivering a keening but mostly placid vocal. Soon though, things get weird. An eerie vocal affect and some well-placed static later, it almost leaks into Shaking the Habitual territory. Both singers’ voices get nicely showcased here, as the song slowly morphs and slides through a few different phases, before growing quite cacophonous and intoxicating, and then finally collapsing back into the void from whence it came. The two women clearly know what they’re doing here. Their collaborative album is a whopping 15 tracks long, so I am very interested to see what they do across such a huge canvas.
Meshes of Voice comes out Aug 19 via SusannaSonata.
“Holy Holy,” Orenda Fink’s third song to drop from her forthcoming record Blue Dream, opens with a very classic-sounding guitar progression. Then you realize the almost spiderweb quality it has–spindly, dewy, and delicate. Fink’s vocals come in shortly and it’s all just pretty, blissful, and mournful. Fink wrote the song while grappling with the struggle of how we can love someone so deeply if the relationship ends in death. “Where does the love go?” she asks. The album was written after the death of her beloved dog. It all sounds very dour, but in this track (and the two others she’s dropped) there is also a sense of hopefulness, of yearning. Fink is looking for answers.
The song progresses quite nicely, with a beautiful chorus replete with a luminous harmony (which has always been one of Fink’s strong suits). In the first verse Fink sings, “We come into this world all alone/And we leave with not much more,” but by the chorus she seems to exalt her deceased love into the clouds above. A shimmering chime sounds out for emphasis, and then a keyboard gently glows, like the embers of a sinking fire. Fink has always been an astounding talent – her group Azure Ray’s debut remains one of my all-time favorite records – and her forthcoming record is bound to be one of aching loss, but also of a tender beauty, the kind that comes from having hope in times of darkness.
Blue Dream is out August 19 via Saddle Creek.
“Queen,” the lead single off Perfume Genius‘ forthcoming third LP Too Bright, is without a doubt singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas’ most extravagant song to date. This time around, he is forgoing the spartan piano arrangements we’ve found powerful in his prior releases in favor of bright synths, punchy drums, and comparatively pristine production. But the emotion that came with his sparse, reverb-y work of the past has not dissipated with this more ornate compositional palette. Hadreas’ vocals are assured, forceful; giving “Queen” the last of the makings for a great pop anthem. While I’ll admittedly miss the forlorn piano melodies should the album entirely go in this glitzier direction, this is a pretty interesting change of pace for Hadreas and a plenty evocative piece in its own right.
Too Bright is due out September 23 via Matador.
So much hype surrounding Half Japanese’s upcoming record Overjoyed – it’s their first full-length thing in 13 freaking years! It’s not so hard to see why all the excitement: the band’s DIY sound was groundbreaking throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s and was influential to countless notable alt/indie rock artists, including Kurt Cobain and Daniel Johnston.
Now it’s 2014, and with lo-fi music so readily accessible with the web, I can’t really imagine this new single “In Its Pull” being mind-blowing for most listeners. That being said, Jad Fair still knows how to write the hell out of a song, so this is a pretty killer track all the same. It sounds in-the-moment like the group’s best work and I dig the raw production Deerhoof’s John Dieterich brings to the table. Thankfully, it looks as though Overjoyed will be a plenty enjoyable comeback that will be just offbeat enough. We know too well that sometimes even that is too much to ask for…
Overjoyed is due out September 2 via Joyful Noise Recordings.
A few months back, Finland’s Can Can Heads delivered a wonderful little musical curiosity in the form of their second full-length effort Butter Life. The group has actually been around since 1993 and has pretty much been doing whatever the fuck they want the entire time - very noisy, spastic, no-wavey rock for the most part. That’s what you get here on Butter Life, too, but the band’s material is so brisk, it always feels fresh. So, if you’re a fan of noise rock or are big into Finland’s experimental music scene (and with music like this, how could you not be?), then give this LP a shot. Happy listening!
Butter Life is out now via Karkia Mistika Records, Verdura Records, and Bottom of the Pops.
Magazine/label Mass Appeal recently announced a compilation album with the goal of highlighting a number of the hottest MCs at the moment, including Pusha T, YG, and Mac Miller; as well as showcasing the talents of some of the imprint’s up-and-comers. “Old English” is the first track off this forthcoming all-star effort, and it certainly has us looking looking forward to hearing the rest. Young Thug, A$AP Ferg, and Freddie Gibbs are freaking fire on this thing and producers Salva and Nick Hook turn out a top-notch, banging beat. Hear it above and enjoy!
Mass Appeal Compilation Vol. 1 is due out September 2 via Mass Appeal Records.
Extraterrestria/GalaXXXian, the new double album from DJ Qbert, is being promoted as the producer’s first proper full-length effort since 1998′s Wave Twisters. But despite this 15+ year gap, you might still have been hearing his work over the years, in particular a nice bonus track on the deluxe edition of that great Run the Jewels record last year.
This new project of his is split up into a disc “from space” and a disc “from earth.” The former, Extraterrestria (stream here) is meant to “transcend turntablism” and explore what “skratch music sounds like in the future.” If you dug El-P’s last LP Cancer 4 Cure, then you stand a good chance of enjoying this side of the project. El-P actually appears as a guest MC on the second disc, GalaXXXian (stream here), which is decidedly a bit more traditional than the first half, with Qbert placing an emphasis on bangin’ beats and “the illest skratches.”
There is no shortage of ear-catching sonic textures throughout this thing, and there’s a number of great guest verses - ones from Del the Funky Homosapien and Kool Keith, to name just a couple. Above, find the previously mentioned El-P-featuring highlight “OG BBOY.” Enjoy!
Singer/songwriter Lia Ices last record was 2011′s criminally underrated Grown Unknown. Since then she’s kept an almost impressively low profile, which seemed pretty normal for the artist who once reveled in her own general anonymity. But now she’s releasing a follow up, Ices, and with it comes first single “Thousand Eyes.”
At first, it’s all a little shocking: Ices’ first two records were strewn with complex, mostly acoustic, slightly avant-garde chamber folk-pop (throw another signifier in there, Jeremy, really). So when “Thousand Eyes” crashes out of the speakers with electronic-based beats and pretty, high synths, I was caught off guard. But acoustic strums quickly become a backbone for all the feathery electronic textures, providing a beautiful backdrop for Ices’ fantastic singing. It’s all almost beatific, which makes sense: Ices has stated this album is all about the notions of flight and levity, and the song beams with a positive energy. “And we know that we go on / ‘Cause we go on, go on, go on” she sings, and that seems as good an explanation as any in her hands.
Ices is out September 16 via Jagjaguwar.
Stream: Orenda Fink – “You Can Be Loved”
Omaha-based songwriter Orenda Fink, one half of Azure Ray, is getting ready to release her third full-length solo album. She already showed us first single “Ace of Cups”, and now a new one has arrived: “You Can Be Loved,” a dreamy, soft piece of pop. With slightly twangy, stringy guitars, and Fink’s perfectly understated voice (which she also uses to harmonize nicely with herself), the song establishes itself to be very much in the same vein as “Ace of Cups,” while also deepening the sound and showing a different shade of what is one of my most anticipated records of the year.
Blue Dream is out August 18, via Saddle Creek.