We'll keep work-shopping options. In the meantime...
St. Vincent - "Krokodil" & "Grot"
We've talked about this song twice in a week already, once in reference to a Coachella-stealing stage dive, and once in anticipation of its RSD release. Now that the 7"s have been sold out and the thing itself is online, it deserves one last mention, because it's one of the best singles we've heard all year. It's brutal, sure. The alternate spelling places its subject matter as being about the cheap, Russian crack-version of heroin that gives you human lizard scales with extended use. But you can almost hear Annie Clark smiling behind that megaphone filter as she thrashes into the chorus. The guitar tone here is a candied pop version of an industrial sound, recalling the sickly pinks and blues on the cover of Pretty Hate Machine. Destined to be a live favorite, greatest hit, what have you.
That song's B-side, "Grot," is even meaner? It teases a loop of sweet, Julianna Barwick-y, abstract gospel for just a second before an absolutely vicious guitar sound turns the fluffy clouds a deep, dark black. Clark sounds pitiless here, informing you that the forces of the universe only even give a shit as long as you provide a little bit of subservient amusement. "Power doesn't care how you feel. As long as you learn how to kneel." That vocal loop remains, though, a twice-removed bit of vestigial hope, a sliver of light that illuminates some pretty unfortunate surroundings.
Laurel Halo - "Light + Space"
Quarantine, the debut full-length from Brooklyn's Laurel Halo, was not on offer at the shops this weekend on any color of ultra-limited vinyl. It still hovers a short ways off in our not-too-distant future, in fact. But first single "Light + Space" is novel enough to intrude into the discussion anyway. Halo has been tough to define to this point. Her first release was all about wrapping electronic elements in grand vocal sweeps of gauzey self-harmonizing. She followed it up with formless ambient techno that was more or less faceless, using her voice only as a minor textures. Her new record does neither of those things. It's vocals-driven, again, but this time she strips her singing of reverb filtering, to just put it upfront, recorded dry and almost uncomfortably bare. Brooklyn's avant-pop scene has come to be characterized by obscuring haze in recent years, but that seems to be shifting across the board, as bands are moving to embrace clarity. Halo's new work suggests that the most forward-looking edge might move beyond even crispness and studio sheen to become disconcertingly open. Even subtly softened edges might become passe. Maybe it's time that no one hides a thing.
Beach House - "Equal Mind"
Beach House's upcoming Bloom leaked a few weeks back. Advance leaks were the predominant mode of music discovery for the past half-decade, but due to a combination of better label security, a crackdown on long-lead promos, and the rising popularity of online streams, it seems like a weird throwback already, yeah? Is the leaked .zip something someone will theoretically be nostalgic for in ten years? "Remember when you could find a record online before everybody knew that you could find it? But you had to be sneaky and look for it, for sometimes up to 15 minutes? Using more than one search term?" Or are we going to stop caring about the distinctness of all these half-step formats already?
There are no answers to be found in "Equal Mind," friends. It's just a non-album b-side to the band's RSD 7". Beach House have been refining their sound in slow motion for so long, that it's almost tough to be floored by how far they've come. Almost. This is really pretty, with a brisk temperature suited to our suddenly cool and drizzly spring reversion. With Beach House on headphones it's sturdy coats all year round.
Also check out:
- There's a new Fiona Apple single that we haven't even had time to process!
- Lower Dens keep releasing excellent cuts from their upcoming record Nootropics. "Lamb," with its slow, slow build waltzing towards some ever-mistier pasture, shows how quietly influential Beach House has become.
- Crackling and sincere, this Beck cover of "I Only Have Eyes For You" is as good as everyone says. Part of me thinks it would be funny if he substituted in "Shh-Beck Shh-Beck...Shh-Beck Shh-Beck." The dumb part.
- This track from Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland, now Hyperdub label mates of Laurel Halo, sounds like a kicking night night out in downtown Madripoor. (Yes, I'm referring to the made-up Southeast Asian future metropolis from 80s X-men comics. And?)
- This Flaming Lips and Ke$ha duet is now definitely a thing that exists and will never not exist, no matter what we do. I will say that it sounds less like an actual harbinger of the apocalyspe, and more like a party favor from it. The best we could have hoped for.
- The Money Store, the punk-aggressive new record from Sacramento hip-hop group Death Grips, deserves more examination than a passing blurb. (It'll get plenty, is not crying from lack of comment.) For now, catch up with a full album stream, and the video for the "I've Seen Footage" single, which is sinister and party rocking, both.
- And as one last bit of Record Store Day porn watch as a square, translucent Dirty Projectors demo spins on Dave Longstreth's home turntable. It's nice enough, but I'm glad it's not actually from the forthcoming record. We're hoping for something much slicker.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_klingman.