Read about our 4 favourite new music releases for the months of February, plus the finest pop/alt crossover album of all time from 1989 from a band that is finally touring South Africa. Listen to the tracks at the end of the post or download or stream these songs this month…
Sharon van Etteb
Song: Comeback Kid
From album: Remind Me Tomorrow
After 4 albums of critically acclaimed folk-infused songs, Sharon van Etten returns with latest release Remind Me Tomorrow. Employing the services of St Vincent’s producer, her musical style has dramatically shifted to the point of being almost unrecognizable. The album opens in fairly typical van Etten fashion, but from track 2 onwards things take on a new direction. Out go the plucked acoustics and breathy vocals of before, in come crunchy guitars, synths and a load of beats. What hasn’t changed is van Etten’s lyrics; detailing the minute goings on in her life, particularly romantic failings. She just sings them with more venom. Lead single Comeback Kid compares her current life to a what was anticipated of her as a written-off high school girl. This theme is carried over into second single Seventeen where she offers advice to her former self, only for the tables to be turned when the young van Etten critiques the adult version. The transition is cemented via the Comeback Kid video – van Etten is done with presenting herself as a plain Jane with zero makeup and cropped hair for sure.
(Also download or stream from the album: Seventeen, No One’s Easy To Love, You Shadow)
Song: Death In Midsummer
From album: Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
Bradford Cox heads up two different bands. Atlas Sounds is the place where he puts all his modern playthings. Deerhunter In contrast is home to more of his nostalgic whims. Old style production values, treated vocals and traditional instrumentation. Other than for the lyrics and a smattering of Gary Numan synths, this could be music from any era from 1957 onwards. Even a track called Futurism sounds like the future as imagined in the early 70s. So what about those lyrics? Cox suffers from Marfan Syndrome, a non-life threatening disorder where limbs stretch out, making the sufferer appear much taller and thinner than the norm. This may explain why he spends so much time inside his own thoughts. A fact attested to in the title of album opener and lead single Death In Midsummer, an ode to blue collar workers who toil their whole life only to meet a bleak demise. So, not cheerful stuff then. But, the mood is lifted by the rather jaunty harpsichord/piano backing, with a driving drumbeat and even an old school guitar solo. Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared? is the 8th Deerhunter album since 2005.
(Also download or stream from the album: What Happens To People?, Plains, Futurism)
Toro y Moi
Song: Ordinary Pleasure
From album: Outer Peace
Toro y Moi roughly translates as ‘bull and me’. Partly in Spanish, part French. This multi-lingual, mysterious name hints at the unique, twisting, worldly music that lies within. Chillwave is possibly the closest and best description. Toro y Moi is American Chaz Bear (real name Chazwick Bundick) and Outer Peace is his 6th album. It’s also arguably his most cohesive yet. It’s certainly his most approachable, packed full of singles and pop melodies. Being a Toro y Moi offering it still not all straightforward easy listening of course (see for instance the throat clearing sounds in the verses of Freelance, the odd spoken word chorus of New House, and the arch references to hipster favourites as diverse as LCD Soundsystem and Miles Davis). Outer Peace kicks in with Afro-bongos and a slick jazz bassline until Bears’ sweet voice enters the fray. He has become a more confident singer over the years: sultry and warm, like a male Sade. Elsewhere he’s all disco-imp. Whether played loud for a party, or dialled-back for a dinner, this is bound to bring a smile.
(Also download or stream from the album: Who I Am, Freelance, New House)
The Twilight Sad
Song: I/m Not Here [Missing Face]
From album: It Won/t Be Like This All The Time
It’s odd the way accents get flattened out in rock and pop music. Sure there are some identifiers out there, such as the rougher textures of certain American rock singers and the perfect enunciation and rounded vowels of the Scandinavians. But generally there is a substantial gulf between singers’ spoken and sung tones, rendering everything to a down-the-middle English accent. The Twilight Sad buck this trend. From the first syllable uttered from James Graham’s lips, there is only one place these guys could come from. His delightful Scottish burr powers these 11 tales of despair along. Themes of departure seem to be his chief concern here, whether stealing away like a thief in the night, or leaving in a fit of angst, his characters always seem to heading somewhere undefined. Coupled to a backdrop borrowed from The Cure at their most melancholy, the result is a stunningly moving body of work, punctuation tics aside. (BTW: The Twilight Sad accompanied The Cure on certain segments of their recent world tour – see our ‘in case you missed it’ entry below).
(Also download or stream from the album: VTr, The Arbor, Sunday Day13)
In case you missed it…
From album: Disintegration (from 1989)
In the mid to late 80s a number of post-punk and alternative bands started shifting their attention towards the pop charts. Many achieved some form of success. Only one however managed to do this while also still staying close to their roots and without ‘selling out’.
Robert Smith’s band The Cure came together in late 70s in the UK. Goth was their stock-in-trade until 1983’s mini album, Japanese Whispers, came along, which spawned 3 near-hit singles plus of course the massive and career-changing sense of wonder that was The Lovecats.
4 albums and 6 years later, Disintegration was their masterpiece. A collection of grey-shaded songs where the instrumental patches served to establish the mood just as well as the lyrics did, perhaps even more so. Robert Smith was always a highly gifted composer and multi-instrumentalist, but on Disintegration he stretched himself and his band out to a place they hadn’t been before and indeed a high-point they were never able to reach again. The mood and tone is largely end-of-relationship sombre, but the palette…wow…strings, piano, melodic plucked guitar, woodwind, artful drum patterns. Every note feels agonised over. Many of the songs exceed the 7-minute mark, and with Smith’s vocals only appearing late into each. What sounds exhausting on paper is in fact glorious, a triumph.
You can catch The Cure live in South Africa in March (tickets at Computicket).
(Also download or stream from the album: Pictures Of You, Lullaby, Closedown)
LISTEN TO OUR PLAYLIST
You can listen to previews of each track by clicking on the icons next to the song titles below.
If you have iTunes and an Apple Music account, you can listen to the full songs and add the playlist to your library. Simply click on the grey Apple Music icon.
See more of our music reviews and playlists here.