Hello dear readers, and a very happy Friday to you all! You know, it’s been a long time since we got new music from Flying Lotus, isn’t it? It’s been a good couple of years since ‘You’re Dead!’ after all. Well, this week he made up for lost time by dropping a remix of the ‘Twin Peaks’ theme, more new tunes with Thundercat and a brand new, Queen-sampling track. Hurrah!
Elsewhere, we got a brand new, elephant-trunk referencing tune from Marika Hackman, Broken Social Scene let Feist take the lead on the title track to their upcoming album and Amber Arcades teamed up with Bill Ryder-Jones. Elsewhere, Cristobal and the Sea made a global pop melting pot (try saying that five times fast), Francobollo stared some worrying times in the face and Brightonians White Room brought all the riffs to the party.
Flying Lotus – Night Grows Pale
Since unleashing his first feature-length film ‘Kuso’ on to the world, Flying Lotus has been a pretty busy guy. He’s revealed that he’s been working alongside retro-funk maestro Anderson.Paak and he’s had more than a bit of a hand in bringing Thundercat’s ‘Drunk’ to life. In terms of actual new music from FlyLo though, we haven’t heard too much of it. Not until this week anyway.
As well as sharing a remix of Angelo Badalamenti’s ‘Twin Peaks’ theme tune, he’s now released a piece of original music, ‘Night Grows Pale’. Stepping a little away from the frenetic jazz-fusion that punctuated his last album ‘You’re Dead!’ and delving further back into the languid realms of his 2012 album ‘Until The Quiet Comes’, it’s a dreamy, incredibly floaty track. That is, until the sound of Freddie Mercury singing ‘White Queen (As It Began)’ comes in.
On paper, the idea of Freddie’s virtuoso, flexible vocals singing over one of Stephen Ellison’s more chilled tracks might seem a bit odd. Although the vocals are a prominent feature of the track though, FlyLo keeping the soaring, theatrical nature of Freddie’s voice, he dowses the sample in just enough ethereal haze to make everything marry perfectly together. This is literally Freddie Mercury as you’ve never heard him before, and is a truly royal return from FlyLo.
Marika Hackman – Violet
Marika Hackman’s recent singles ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘My Lover Cindy’ have stayed away somewhat from the sound she developed on her debut album ‘We Slept At Last’. Her latest single ‘Violet’ steps back into that territory though, being a bit softer and more stripped back. That only serves to highlight its core concept though: that it’s pretty much about weird sex, complete with a chorus that repeats the line “I love your mouth”.
Marika also sings about bicycle spokes, running around tongues and slack elephant trunks (which is probably a bit of a coded symbol for something else entirely). It does swell at the climax (absolutely no pun intended, get your minds out of the gutter), bringing in a chorus of harmonies and more muscular riffs and percussion. However, the relatively restrained nature of Marika’s lilting, breathy vocals just adds to the sense of intimacy and closeness, just making it all the more intense. You might need too cool down a bit after this one.
Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
When Canadian collective Broken Social Scene unveiled their comeback single ‘Halfway Home’, it was easy to fall back into their sweeping fold and embrace their atmospheric, euphoric alt-rock once again. But founder member and bassist Brendan Canning had hinted that although it was a “very classic sounding” sound, their upcoming album ‘Hug of Thunder’ would contain a few curveballs, something to keep fans from thinking that they were simply sticking to a tried and tested formula.
So for the record’s title track, they’ve stepped far away from that grandiose, breathless rush and into quieter, more contemplative territory. Leslie Feist takes the reins, her vocals cool, calm and pretty soothing despite reflecting on how the past can rear its ugly head in the present, becoming the “oxymoron of our lives”. Each element, from Brendan’s bass to the fiddly guitar riff and dusty percussion, wrap around each other effortlessly, leaving enough space for each little detail to be heard. Eventually, its hushed, contemplative tones swell to become a larger, fuller beast, but never loses its subtle heart. Much like what receiving a ‘Hug of Thunder’ must be like, it feels intimate but also grand, comforting yet also electrifying. Embrace it fully.
Amber Arcades – Wouldn’t Even Know (ft Bill Ryder-Jones)
“This may be the song I’m most proud of so far” says Annelotte de Graaf, better known as Amber Arcades, of her latest track. It’s a pretty bold statement to make, particularly for a musician and songwriter such as herself, especially since the recent tracks she’s previewed for her upcoming EP ‘Cannonball’ – ‘It Changes’ and ‘Can’t Say That We Tried’ – might well be two of her strongest pieces of transcendent dream-pop to date.
So ‘Wouldn’t Even Know’ must be pretty special if Annelotte herself is heaping such praise on it herself. And wouldn’t you know, it is. Taking its time to build up over the course of a minute with faint, atmospheric guitar riffs and hazy, vintage synths, the track soon blossoms into what at first is a lilting, melancholic number but, despite its sentiment surrounding the unknown, the hook might be one of the catchiest, oddly uplifting things she’s written to date (she at first originally imagined as part of “a funky kind of jam”).
Bill Ryder-Jones also lends his vocals to the mix. Although on paper the contrast between his own dusky, brooding voice and Annelotte’s wistfulness might seem like it shouldn’t work, they actually harmonise perfectly, the dynamic between them adding just another layer of depth. Mixing lightness and sincerity, melancholia and positivity, Annelotte is right to be pretty proud of ‘Wouldn’t Even Know’.
Cristobal and the Sea – Goat Flokk
In the 1950s and 60s, a new genre of music emerged called ‘Exotica’, named after Martin Denny’s album of the same name. Denny himself described the genre as being “a combination of the South Pacific and the Orient” but also that it was “pure fantasy”. That fantastical vision of exotic lands became popular with American middle-classes, especially those who grew up during World War II. It was an escape into paradise from the mundanity of everyday life.
Cristobal and the Sea, composed of expatriates from Portugal, Spain, France, Egypt and America but now based in London, are aiming to reclaim the term on their new album ‘Exitoca’. With it, they’re repurposing the term for those who most need it now; the many diasporas that have become scattered across the world, and those displaced by conflict, political strife or environmental issues.
On lead single ‘Goat Flokk’, they fuse together sounds from across the world, much like the melting pot that ‘Exotica’ presented. Here though, alongside the longing lyrics, we’re presented with a heady fusion of alt conventions not unlike Everything Everything, Brazilian tropicalia and, at its climax, an invigorating burst of Syrian pop (the Omar Souleyman vibes are strong with this one, and that’s never a bad thing). Whereas ‘Exotica’ appropriated the sounds of the Pacific and beyond and altered them to make them more accessible to a conservative audience, ‘Goat Flokk’ mixes its elements together with no desire to doctor them, presenting each influence in all its glory. The effect is a track that actively breaks down borders, presenting a truly gloablised vision of contemporary pop music that’s thought-provoking and completely glorious.
Francobollo – Worried Times
When Francobollo aren’t busy forcing tummies to kiss in videos for Marika Hackman, the Sweden-via-London band spend their time making irresistibly charming alt-rock in the vein of Pavement. Now we can expect that charm by the bucket-load, as their debut album ‘Long Live Life’ is being released on 14th July via Square Leg Records. It should be an exciting moment for the band but on the first single from the album, ‘Worried Times’, they’re feeling a bit of trepidation.
Speaking of the track, singer Simon Nilsson explained that: "The song is about claustrophobia, and the fear of being locked down, tied to, held up or forced by something or someone, and about the fine art of committing”. A cursory listen to ‘Worried Times’ wouldn’t immediately give that away though; it’s a track that sounds light and upbeat, even containing a catchy, jaunty “doo doo doo” refrain.
Scratch the surface a bit though, and even beyond Simon’s typically witty, astute lyrics there’s little details that hint at claustrophobia and anxiety. The driving guitar riff is just nagging enough to be a little cagey, while the input of a few wonky synths playfully hint at a sense of nervousness. Towards the end, Simon’s voice is reduced to almost a whisper, crushed into a tiny volume level that just emphasises that sense of claustrophobia. But Francobollo’s raw energy simply can’t be contained, and they soon break free to deliver a storming climax. With belters like this under their belt, these are far from worrying times for Francobollo.
White Room – Take Me Away
Brighton’s White Room are a band who aren’t afraid of treading slightly into the past to appreciate some of the finer points of classic rock. With the likes of ‘Freaking On’, they introduced themselves as a band who could drag the hugest riffs reminiscent of the genre out kicking and screaming of the murky swamp, wipe off the cobwebs and give them a new lease of life. They look at the genre with psych-tinged glasses, adding a touch of fuzz into the mix.
That’s definitely not a bad thing, either. They like a big old riff, and like making them the centrepiece of a whopping tune that sounds like an instant classic while still feeling totally contemporary. In that sense, ‘Take Me Away’ is no different. It’s a driving, propulsive beast, built on a riff that’s as meaty as a prime steak. But it’s just very slightly warped, wrapping itself around the tricky, complex percussion that keeps you on your toes, and is lent a light touch by singer Jacob Newman and bassist Josie McNamara’s backing vocals. Steadily, it all builds towards a swirling, anthemic climax that’ll sweep you off your feet and into the psychedelic vortex; it’s easy to get sucked into their versatile rock.
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