Oh, but wait, we're supposed to be getting this excited about new music? Made this year?? OK, OK, sure, but we're going to need some kind of exquisite half-step to lure our heads out of the late 70s sandpit...
Black Tambourine - "What's Your Game" (Ramones cover)
Perfect! Black Tambourine's promised Ramones EP is actually already in the can, despite my earlier assumptions. The first fruits of the welcome reunion is a take on Leave Home's "What's Your Game" with Pam singing and super-sweet backing vocals from Kristin Gundred ("Dee Dee" of Dum Dum Girls), Linda Smith, Rose Melberg (Tiger Trap, Softies), and Jenny Robbins (Honeymoon Diary). This is one of the gentler cuts from The Ramones' classic run, and despite a persistent high-grade squeal, it's rendered gentler still. Great stuff. Phew, Let's get a few more decades behind us now...
Sonic Youth's still-stinging hiatus has yielded a couple of silver linings already, the first being Lee Ranaldo's dreamy seeming solo record and the second being drummer Steve Shelley's full-time duty on Pre Language, the impending record from Chicago's Disappears. Never a showy drummer exactly, Shelley forcefully anchors the songs' swells and drones, a role which his résumé has probably over-prepared him for. The album's title-track hinges more crucially on contrasting guitar tones. The simultaneous chime and crunch of them (displayed inside the tom-smack frame) lets the song have it both ways at once. It's fairly nuanced compared to the chest-rattling of previously released track "Replicate". Excitement for the album's March 1 release (on Kranky Records) builds on the strength of both.
Santigold - "Disparate Youth"
While "Big Mouth" was sort of a overly busy dud, this even-newer offering from Santigold is more firmly in a zone where the singer excels. All those early M.I.A. comparisons undersold her appeal as low-key pop singer, which, I thought was the whole point of "L.E.S. Artistes"? Yeah? Anyway, especially love the frustrated bursts of guitar noise, which serve as sonic illustration of the "roadblock(s)" in the way of of Santi's aspirations. Her tone is resigned but expectant, waving away the blips and boops around her, eyes fixed on the prize.
Xiu Xiu - "Beauty Towne" (via The FADER)
Jamie Stewart has been doing his Xiu Xiu thing—providing heart-hurt melodies wrapped inside of brain-hurt dissonance—for a decade. Whoa. With "Beauty Towne" he's granted himself a little victory lap, apparently. Structurally and melodically, the song recalls "Clown Towne", one of the greatest hits on Fabulous Muscles (an album that was probably the high-water mark of his acceptance in traditional indie circles). But everything here feels like a celebration of intrinsic Xiu Xiu-ness. There's some classic Stewart America hating in there ("Like Egypt we had it coming all along..."), but then also a charming roll call of band members past and present, delivered during one of those definitive noise bridges. Some Ten in the Swear Jar sax skronk, even! "How little have we learned?" goes the chorus, a typically dour line that becomes sort of funny as you find yourself falling for the umpteenth weirdo Xiu Xiu pop song. (Watch the animated video here.)
Also Check Out:
- The opening song from the upcoming Screaming Females LP, in which you'll notice Marissa Paternoster vocal ululations even more than her usual badass shredding.
- Two new songs by British synth-popper Charli XCX, maker of last year's great single, "Nuclear Seasons." Namely, "I'll Never Know" and the suddenly less-than-current "Valentine", which sounds like a more sedate version of Revl9n. (Does anyone remember that band? They were cool.)
- "Brodermordet", from Iceage front-lad Elias Bender Rønnenfelt's side-project War. More of a sketch of industrial music than a fully formed song, but a curious detour nonetheless.
- The recent indie conversation has revolved around new records from Sleigh Bells and Grimes. If you missed them, you should check out my first listen impressions of the former and more considered take on the latter.
- This new song by MIrroring is real still and pretty.
- And finally, this isn't a new song, but in light of the untimely passing of guitarist Christopher Reimer, founding member of Calgary band Women, go listen to "Black Rice" from 2008 for the first time in a while. R.I.P.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_klingman, maybe?