“Oxygen” is the second single to drop from Swan’s latest epic To Be Kind (after last month’s stellar, staggeringly funky “A Little God in My Hands”), and it is among the fiercest and most thrilling moments of its two-hour-plus runtime. It is certainly the most thoroughly noisy piece on the project, built on an unwavering no-wave bass groove and skittering drum line – guitars, lap steel, and finally brass falls piling on, amounting to something paradoxically crushing and danceable.
But the icing on the (dense, dense) cake is frontman Michael Gira’s vocals, which are at their most manic here, ranging from caveman-esque grunts on the bridge to a nasally call progressing into the second verse – “HEY THEEEEERRE.” It’s all just so cathartic; as a listener, you get release just from hearing these guys belt this thing out. It’s a sort of vicarious thrill that Swans has pretty consistently provided over the course of its now three-decade-long career.
And there’s also something to be said of the excitement this song manages to inspire despite the fact it has been kicking around for years in a number of iterations, in Gira’s solo acoustic sets, and then the live version that appeared on the limited edition live album Not Here/Not Now late last year. The band’s promotional/funding approach for these last few releases has been quite genius, as it has allowed the band to give glimpses of new content as they develop it – tiding us over, but allowing for plenty of surprises on the finished product. For instance, the glorious addition of brass here!
To Be Kind drops May 12 via Young God and Mute. A gentle reminder we loved their last one.
tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus is no stranger to bombastic, twisted, cacophonous, brazen pop songs that explode out of the speakers. She is no stranger to odd flourishes that sound at first out of place and then perfectly correct. The first single from her upcoming album Nikki Nack, “Water Fountain”, fit all of those signifiers more or less on point. This second track, “Wait for a Minute” feels like a slightly different beast (there’s no “WOO-HA” to be found here).
The track rides a very simple groove, and has no hugely clever tricks up its sleeve. It is a tUnE-yArDs slow-jam, guided by Garbus’ most potent instrument: her expressive voice. By constructing a song that isn’t as knotted up as usual, she gives herself ample room to show off that wonderful instrument. There are still tenets of her sound that peak through here – check those so-damn-close-to-off-beat “huh” sounds she makes in the chorus – but it all congeals to produce a soft, infectious, and still a little off-beat song. Definitely looking forward to this one.
Nikki Nack beams down to Earth on May 6 via 4AD.
As mentioned previously, Brian Eno and Underworld co-founder Karl Hyde are coming forth with a collaborative full-length called Someday World. Despite having basic elements, the lead single “The Satellites” was a nice, mildly moody treat – it was great hearing these two electronic music veterans working together and just delivering a well-written tune.
“Daddy’s Car” has a lot of the same elements, including the bright horns that helped make “The Satellites” so captivating, but overall this new single is bolder with its instrumentation. Not in the sense that Eno and Hyde are doing something incredibly ambitious or adventurous – the components here are still pretty basic – but the song does sound grand nonetheless. Its arrangement is certainly more upbeat and zestier than the earlier glimpse we got of the project, and it’s decidedly heavier on vocals. These two tracks forecast an album that’s going to be dynamic, have stellar production, and simply be a great ride. So we’re properly excited for this thing to drop via Warp on May 5!
Here’s our review of Eno’s latest.
Having dropped the art rock wonder Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything earlier this year, Thee Silver Mt. Zion is readying a new “remix” EP that will be released just later this month. It is called Hang on to Each Other and features two lengthy revamps of the song of the same name from the collective’s 2005 effort Horses in the Sky.
Now, I’m wondering if fellow post-rock act Mogwai stole the name Rave Tapes from them, as judging from the EP’s B-side, “Birds Toss Precious Flowers,” that would be a fitting name for this project. This song is a headlong foray into electronic dance music…and the guys and gals at Thee Silver Mt. Zion actually pull it off. While it doesn’t remotely resemble the mostly acapella track it purports to have used as a “launching point,” the track is a true-blue house odyssey that remains captivating for its full 12 minutes. I can’t say I was expecting this from the band, but hell, I think now I’d like to them go totally electronic for a release in the future.
From the band: “It’s like that famous quote that Emma Goldman never said = “DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION”!”
Hang on to Each Other is due out April 29 via Constellation. A gentle reminder the band’s latest full-length is amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_UR-FF5h2I
Orville Bateman Neeley (OBN) III has no time for the blues. The Austin frontman is all punk, all day – no bullshit. To call him, with his excited studio persona and writhing stage antics, electrifying would be an understatement; to say his bandmates present a flurry of barnburning garage-punk grooves would be as much of one. So, I recommend just pressing that play button above and letting the music take you where it may. If you find that the things around you are starting to get broken, like lamps, windows, your monitor, and such – don’t worry; that’s just the OBN IIIs’ magic working.
“No Time for the Blues” is taken from the band’s upcoming album Third Time to Harm, due out May 27 via Tic Tac Totally.
Recent Secretly Canadian signees Dub Thompson drop a new track and music video that reminds me of a more lush, psychedelic take on Odelay-era Beck. Really enjoying the band’s approach to groove, vocal delivery, and the slightly lo-fi tone of the recording. Not only that, but the marching theme melody of this track, strangely enough, is incredibly fun. If every track is this good on the band’s forthcoming album, 9 Songs, the only disappointment will be that it’s, well, 9 songs. Enjoy, and look for this album on June 10th!
clipping. is sounding pretty polished on “Work Work,” the lead single from their Sub Pop and studio debut clppng. The harsh noise elements of Midcity are all but gone, but the trio is progressing and maintaining their identity as one of hip hop’s most forward-thinking outfits magnificently.
While the song sports some club-centric synth work and clipping. has clearly placed a greater emphasis on their hooks, the track’s instrumental is nevertheless incredibly inventive. According to Rolling Stone, the beat was “made by rolling a ball-bearing in a metal Thermos, smashing cinder blocks, and crumpling a beer can.” And on the flow front, all of the electricity of the Midcity-and-prior work is preserved – hell, it might just be turned up! The outlook for the group’s debut is extremely promising.
clppng is due out June 10 via Sub Pop. A reminder we absolutely loved the aural assault of Midcity last year:
At long last we have the first single from Swans’ upcoming double album To Be Kind! “A Little God in My Hands” is quite the change of pace coming off thoroughly heavy efforts like The Seer and the limited edition live CD Not Here/Not Now (which contains a few early iterations of tracks to land on Kind). The track has that post-industrial strut not unfamiliar to fans of the band – such a beefy, beefy bass line! – but it’s strangely funky, even suggesting a bit of a krautrock influence. The uncharacteristically twangy guitar flicks call Neu!’s “Hallogallo” to my mind, and the trudge is also accented by these light synth splutters that are a welcome addition to Swans’ ever-growing compositional palette.
The sauntering stomp of the song’s verses gives way to eruptions of blaring horns (more likely Thor’s clarinet), piercing electronics, and revved guitars – the sort of crushing climaxes you expect from Swans, but the band has done well to keep things fresh.
Frontman Michael Gira has promised that although even longer than The Seer, To Be Kind will be “more vocal-oriented” than its predecessor. Gira opts to wail his lyrics throughout “A Little God in My Hands” in a nasally, although not at all off-putting sort of way. But judging from the Kind songs the band had been developing live on their last tour, there is going to be a great deal of variety across the LP on this front – ranging from soft, weathered crooning (the title track) to throat-searing howling (“She Loves Us!”). Moreover, during the second verse here, we get a vocal cadence from presumably Annie Clark (St. Vincent), and it is absolutely lovely. I am excited to hear where and how else her voice has been utilized over the course of the record.
To Be Kind drops via Young God on May 12 (or, a date that’s too damn far away)!
Finnish rock group The Scenes evidently feel anorexia is boring, but thankfully their music is anything but. This song is catchy, catchy, catchy. The “twiggy” guitar tones, that “woohoo-ooh” falsetto vocal, and my gosh that finale! – they all add up to an unlikely earworm. And of course there’s a good, powerfully-delivered message here: anorexia blows; lead a healthy lifestyle and be cool with your body, y’all. Check the track and its simple B&W music video out above.
“Anorexia Is Boring” is taken from the band’s upcoming LP Beige, which is due out in April via Sound of Finland. Be on the lookout for it!
This passionate, smooth little piece of indie rock comes courtesy of Future Islands. Their new single “A Dream of You and Me” has a really appealing sensitivity to it, especially in the lead vocal’s just-on-the-brink-of-quavering sincerity. The bright guitar, bass, and keyboard tones add a playful element to the proceedings, everything combining to make an emotive, catchy track. It’s accompanied by some slightly abstract images that move along in what looks like stop-motion.
Future Islands’ new record Singles is out March 25 via 4AD.