Good afternoon dear readers and a very happy Friday to you! We’re creeping ever closer to the moment where The National will release their much-anticipated new album ‘Sleep Well Beast’ – in fact, it’s this time next week! If another seven days is still a bit too long to wait though, don’t worry: they’ve shared a fourth, epic taste of what’s coming from the album, and it’s a stadium-sized beast. Beast, geddit? Nevermind.
Of course, today LCD Soundsystem released their first album in a whopping seven years, ‘American Dream’, but still gave us a stand-alone thirteen minute track to savour alongside of it. That was nice of James Murphy and co. Sløtface also popped up with a surprise new single that celebrated childhood adventures that keep boredom away (in their own riotous style, of course).
Elsewhere, Matthew Dear realised all his pop dreams by teaming up with Tegan and Sara, ALASKALASKA continued to dazzle with their jazz-infused blend of the synthetic and organic, and Yaeji channelled a classic Moloko tune into an existentialist club banger.
The National – Day I Die
As well as they do quiet, piano-based ballads, The National’s greatest weapon has always been their stadium-sized, driving rock songs. With ‘Day I Die’, the latest preview of upcoming seventh LP ‘Sleep Well Beast’, they’ve maybe written their best example of this yet. Bryan Devendorf’s now-signature pummelling drums crash the track into life before a needle-sharp guitar riff hurtles it forwards.
As contemplative and melancholy as ever, Matt Berninger muses on his status upon his dying day with typical grace and thought, and he’s becoming even more thought-provoking as a lyricist, 15 years in. Following the slow, graceful ‘Guilty Party’ and ‘Carin At The Liquor Store’, ‘Day I Die’ is a much-needed adrenaline boost in the lead up to ‘Sleep Well Beast’, and one to inject fire into even the most aching of bones. (Will Richards)
LCD Soundsystem – Pulse (V.1)
Described by James Murphy as a sort-of eulogy to new album ‘American Dream’, ‘pulse (v.1)’ is a thirteen-minute behemoth that ebbs and flows and worms its way through propulsive disco and intricate prods of spiky synths. Intended to be listened to after the full-length record, it’s a brilliantly light and free follow-up to the often dark subject matter of ‘American Dream’. The track splutters to an end, and is, as Murphy described in a Facebook post detailing the track, unfinished, but it’s a brilliant window into the more experimental, impulsive side of LCD Soundsystem, and finishes ‘American Dream’ perfectly. (Will Richards)
Sløtface - Backyard
“I’ve tried for years to get the band to write a “LCD Soundsystem”-rock track, and we finally did it,” Slotface guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad says of ‘Backyard’, the closing track and last preview of the quartet’s upcoming debut ‘Try Not To Freak Out’, and he’s not far off. While a lot of the previews of the record so far are concerned with consequences and anger, ‘Backyard’ is uninhibited and free - it’s the sound of youth running wild, and is all the more intoxicating for it.
Hinged around stabs of Tor-Arne’s guitar and gang-chanted vocals, the track brings the debut album to a close less with a graceful departure, more of a shove out of the door. If you weren’t already tapping your toes with excitement for Slotface’s upcoming LP, ‘Backyard’ should more than do the job. (Will Richards)
Matthew Dear – Bad Ones (ft. Tegan and Sara)
Back in June, Matthew Dear unleashed ‘Modafinil Blues’, a pounding juggernaut named after a “smart drug” that showcased the gothic side of the producer’s craft, all pulsating synths and creeping baritone. But for his second track of the summer, he’s enlisted a little bit of help from none other than Tegan and Sara.
At a quick glance, and especially considering the pretty crushing nature of ‘Modafinil Blues’, that might seem like an odd pairing. But Matthew and the Quins have worked together in the past. In2013, they connected for a remix project, producing a version of Tears For Fears’ new wave number ‘Pale Shelter’, so when he came up with a particular hook, there was only one pair of sisters he wanted to collaborate with. Luckily, Tegan and Sara felt the same, sending back a verse and chorus.
The result of what Matthew calls an “open and free” process is ‘Bad Ones’, a track that, if it wasn’t for his own distinctive vocals, couldn’t be further from ‘Modafinil Blues’. Instead, it’s a bright and bold slice of pop. There’s a shimmering hook and snapping beats, while the tonal contrast between the Quins’ voices and Matthew’s own gives a little bit of added texture. It’s a tune that celebrates embracing the complexities of a loved one; pretty fittingly, it shows the depth and varied intricacy of Matthew’s own work. Despite what they say, this is one of the good ones. (Eugenie Johnson)
ALASKALASKA – Patience
After causing more than a few ripples across the capital, ALASKALASKA burst forth earlier in the year but not one but two singles: ‘Bitter Winter’ and ‘Familiar Ways’. That pair showcased the London six-piece’s ability to balance introspective lyrics and melodies with party-ready vibes, mixing up synthetic and live drums that characterised that balance between warm and icy.
Now, with their debut EP just around the corner, they’ve given a third taste of what to expect. ‘Patience’ builds on the foundation that their previous two tracks built, combining tinny percussive tones and glacial synth with bursts of saxophone, clashing, rolling cymbals and lilting guitar melodies. Vocalist Lucinda’s voice inhabits a pace between organic and alien, her tones becoming warped by effects, sometimes twisting into the void but at others grounded by harmonies.
ALASKALASKA are becoming masters of the juxtaposition, bringing together entirely different tones, feels and genres under their alt-pop banner. And it’s becoming more and more immersive and engaging with every new track. (Eugenie Johnson)
Yaeji – Last Breath
Queens-born South Korean producer Yaeji brought out her eponymously-titled EP on GODMODE earlier in the year, introducing us to her world of chilled house jams with glitchy elements that were club-ready and existential at the same time. For her latest track, both the warped yet danceable nature and their intriguing contemplativeness are ramped up even more. And then some.
The opening breathy vocals that introduce ‘Last Breath’ will no doubt sound familiar; Yaeji’s plucked a small, clipped loop of Roisin Murphy’s voice from Moloko’s hit ‘The Time Is Now’, and taken it away from the strings and chunky bass into a realm of looping, cyclical synths and pulsing, deep-set beats. But considering that Yaeji’s own line is “such a fresh last breath of air”, Murphy’s once-sweet sentiment is warped even further into something more sinister.
Yaeji herself intersperses these moments with her own half-spoken, half-rapped lines in Korean, which her accompanying video riff on popular make-up tutorials translates. She encourages you to “put the unexpected tomorrow on” and that “all your embarrassing memories can be applied naturally right next to the year after next year”. Her lines are mind-bending and sometimes bizarre (“place a little bit of your ego on your fingers and slowly apply it”), but her calm, lilting tone makes it all somehow hypnotic. It might just leave you in a trance. (Eugenie Johnson)