Good stuff abounds already, so let's get started...
in compiling a list of favorite songs from last year, a close near-miss was Julia Holter's barely-present then suddenly sinister "Try to Make Yourself a Work of Art." That one was tantalizing in a "something's happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?" kind of a way. But it gave no fair warning to what she'd sound like on "Marienbad," the first sample of Ekstasis, a suddenly very anticipated record due out in March. Clear but kaleidoscopic, it sounds in turn like a more succinct Joanna Newsom, a weirdo French pop single that Serge Gainsbourg wrote for some teenager in the 60s, and then, maybe, an unusually immediate Ennio Morricone film-score cut. Wow. Buy stock in Julia Holter, everybody.
Wymond Miles - "Hidden Things Are Asking You to Find Them"
One of my very favorite indie-rock things last year was The Fresh & Onlys' Secret Walls EP, a somber turn that flattered the garage rockers greatly. While the restless band will likely scurry somewhere else on their next LP, guitarist Wymond Miles seems stuck in its luxurious greyscale. This first bit from February's Earth Has Doors EP isn't quite as tidy as something F & Os might make. Instead MIles gives us yearning bigness, tastefully dishevelled.
The last couple of times I've seen San Francisco's Grass Widow play in town, they've had the aura of a band just about to pull it all together. (An impression not just formed by how much I love the perfect version of Wire's "Mannequin" they've been doing.) Listen to their latest, "Disappearing Industries," to be released next month as part of a split-single for M'Lady's Records. Their guitars twang and knot, still, but the song is super-saturated by all of this warm breeze melody, never straining too hard to be counterintuitive. It sounds to me like fresh laundry smells.
Destroyer - "Leave Me Alone" (New Order cover)
A notable line on my favorite record from last year ends "...your first love's new order." But was Dan Bejar's first love New Order? It wasn't nearly the first time Bejar had stashed a stray pop-music history joke inside his lyrics. (2001's Streethawk: A Seduction found him riffing on tortured Joy Division lines, specifically.) But while there's a general hip-priest air about Bejar that makes you assume he'd be a Factory records nerd, into angular dance music and all that, his recorded work gives little evidence of it. Kaputt's epic closer "Bay of Pigs," was widely singled out as a great departure just for dabbling in down-tempo "ambient disco." Tackling "Leave Me Alone," no one's favorite song off of Power, Corruption, and Lies, for one of those Mojo CD compilations that only ever has one song you want to hear on them, Destroyer sounds amazing. It's probably too tangential a thing to take as any kind of harbinger for the next record, but a full LP of elegantly aggrieved dance-pop? Keeping the guitar tone, but heightening the poeticism? A day-dreamy thought.
Also check out: Oneohtrix Point Never's mash note to heart-throb point guard Ricky Rubio, and enthusiasm-stoking first samples of new records from Sleigh Bells and Grimes.