This time, I'm spotlighting new music from three local acts, who will have to wait a second. It'd be disrespectful not to start with a returning old favorite...
Saint Etienne - "Tonight"
There have been plenty of chances for listeners to get acquainted with 90s cult-pop sweethearts Saint Etienne over the past few years, new reissues of their back catalog coming at a regular clip (Foxbase Alpha, So Tough, and Tiger Bay are all pretty great if you are playing Spotify catch-up). But there hasn't been any new material since 2005's well-regarded Tales From Turnpike House. Until yesterday that is, when this featherlight new single blew in the window, landed softly. Saint Etienne have always been an indie pop band, with emphasis on the sonics of the latter rather than the former. So it's no surprise that "Tonight" kind of sounds like a Kylie Minogue single (her producer Tim Powell was involved, even). A great Kylie Minogue single. We thought Sarah Cracknell sounded glamorous and wise in 1994...
The Men - "Open Your Heart"
OK, toughening up considerably after that one, we move to The Men. Surprisingly, though, this first taste of the Brooklyn rockers' forthcoming Open Your Heart is kind of warm and fuzzy in its own way. At their previous warmest they neared early Mission of Burma—passionate, but at a bit of an emotional remove (most of their stuff just sounded loose and vicious). "Open Your Heart" sounds like it's being beamed in from a hip college radio station circa 1986 (though the DJs might just be playing an old Buzzcocks demo). There's a hangdog vulnerability here that's super appealing. It'll still work great in a teeming mosh-pit, but it also houses a creamy nougat center indulging tough guys' secret inner softie.
Chairlift - "I Belong in Your Arms"
"Bruises" is the sort of song that can haunt a band. Studious attempts to recreate the effortless feel of a breezy trifle often end up sounding labored, while getting serious all of a sudden is sort of gives casual fans the cold shoulder. Chairlift's brand-new record Something turns out to be a pretty deft tightrope walk. Take the album's best song, "I Belong in Your Arms", which just cruises by on the fluid ache of Caroline Polachek's voice, but adds a nervous pulse for focus and bursts of weirdo vocal chattering for distraction. IPod commercial lightning won't strike twice, but the band have earned your continued attention.
(Also, speaking out so bluntly against Brooklyn Vegan commenter creeps wins her some hero points.)
New York City dance producer Matthew Dear is found where we left him: in bed. His acclaimed Black City LP had some Prince-ly raunch to it, sex jams for miles. Headcage, four-songs released this week preceding a 2012 full-length, begins sweat-soaked and writhing in sheets, but in a chaste and neurotic sort of a way. Its subject is a prisoner to unkempt thoughts, unable to give in and pass out. The song’s lightly restless tropical rhythm opens up as an invitation emerges: ditch the worries, and sneak out clubbing. The offer’s persuasive, though the track never actually gets around to banging. It’s just chronicles the beginning of a night where fun might eventually be had. (Which, is a perfectly valid point in time to immortalize.)
Also check out: A track from the new Miike Snow album, featuring vocals from Lykke Li, a seriously cruel tease of Belle and Sebastian covering The Primitives' "Crash" (around 1:50 at the link, for a tiny, tiny second), and a whole mess of new material from Azealia Banks.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_klingman