Hello dear readers, and a very happy Friday to you all! Well, it finally happened. After rumours galore Arcade Fire are officially back, back, BACK with a brand new album coming out next month – hurray! As if that wasn’t enough, they’ve also unleashed its title track which sounds like ABBA with added pan pipes. And it’s pretty damn epic.
Ahead of the release of ‘Melodrama’, Lorde also treated us to a new track, another collaboration with Jack Antonoff. Hot off the heels of a tour celebrating a decade since the release of ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’, The Cribs also returned with a brand new track that saw them in very fine feral form indeed.
Elsewhere, TECHNOLOGY + TEAMWORK crafted a warped slow jam, Brooklyn’s Katie Von Schleicher gave us a slice of lo-fi vintage pop, Slow Skies returned with a swooning piece of folk pop and Liverpool’s Loved Ones found alt-pop beauty in a particularly dark place.
Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Is that ABBA we hear? Is that… oh god, a pan flute?
Arcade Fire have defied expectation ever since they took a swift sideward step into disco on 2013’s ‘Reflektor’, and, realistically, comeback single ‘Everything Now’ was never going to be any less unpredictable, was it?
Released via a press release that contained lines like “the new album is Arcade Fire’s first release under its new partnership with the global media and e-commerce platform Everything Now in synergy with the Sony corporation,” the band have never been more tongue in cheek. But alhough ‘Everything Now’ is the most free-flowing and simple Arcade Fire have maybe ever sounded musically - it’s genuinely hard to connect the single to the tight, intense, grief-driven force that wrote ‘Funeral’ over a decade ago - it’s a track that’s lyrically complicated and, at times, a little messy.
Broadening their horizons over the past five years, it’s quite clear that “everything now” - as a statement as well as an album title - is exactly what Arcade Fire want, and though their all-encompassing desire for ubiquity often lead ‘Reflektor’ and this new single to feel like, as Win Butler sings on ‘Everything Now’, “every song that I’ve ever heard is playing at the same time”, it’s hard to fault their ambition. As another step towards reinvention and a rallying cry against a culture of instant gratification, ‘Everything Now’ is a brilliant return that leaves nothing behind - all cards on the table - even if it could be an offcut from the ‘Mamma Mia’ soundtrack. (Will Richards)
Lorde – Perfect Places
The first two tracks to be lifted from Lorde’s second album ‘Melodrama’ introduced entirely different worlds. ‘Green Light’ was her entirely successful graduation into full-on pop euphoria, while ‘Liability’ is a more contemplative cut, blighted by self-loathing. ‘Perfect Places’ sits somewhere in between the two, and more comfortably alongside cuts from debut album ‘Pure Heroine’. It still sees Lorde pushing herself in terms of songwriting though, and is driven by a narrative as clear as day.
Skipping through dimly lit clubs, ‘feeling the party to her bones’, the track gorgeously tracks the ups and downs of a turbulent night out. “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?” she ends, and her willingness to accept the downs that come with the ups makes Lorde truly relatable and ‘Perfect Places’ all the more brilliant. (Will Richards)
The Cribs – In Your Palace
If Wakefield’s favourite brotherly unit The Cribs have always had two sides to them - one that dotes on a melody; the other that wants to dive in a mosh pit - then it seems that the Jarmans are fully indebted to the latter option right now.
Following the visceral thrash of recent, limited edition vinyl-run single ‘Year Of Hate’, ‘In Your Palace’ kicks off with a bombastic riff before descending into stormy, broody verse territory. If the fists-aloft chorus sounds classic Cribs, then bassist Gary’s throat-shredding vocals are left gloriously gritty; in the hands of legendary Nirvana producer Steve Albini, the trio have come closer to capturing the magic of their rough’n’raw live show than ever.
For the last 30 seconds, the brothers just pummel the shit out of their instruments - you can basically see guitarist Ryan whacking his guitar against his amp in an end-of-gig finale with every squall. Gearing up for album seven, don’t expect The Cribs to start mellowing out just yet. (Lisa Wright)
Todd Terje – Maskindans (ft. Det Gylne Triangel)
In February, Todd Terje re-emerged three years after the release of ‘It’s Album Time’ with new music, ‘Jungelknugen’. Instead of just giving us a fresh track though, the Norwegian producer veiled the whole thing in a shroud of mystery by getting Four Tet to rework the tune, leaving the listener to wonder just where Todd ended and his fellow producer began.
Now he’s given us a bit of a less enigmatic taste of what to expect from his upcoming second album, in the form of ‘Maskindans’. Well, it’s actually a cover version of a track by Norwegian new wave duo Det Gylne Triangel, a three minute slice of vintage 80s electro with a post punk, almost industrial sheen. Todd’s recruited their singer to re-record the vocals for his version, thereby retaining a bit of the doom-laden edge that defined the original, but he’s completely reimagined the rest, turning it into an entirely different beast.
This is a nine-minute dancefloor behemoth arpeggiated synths pulses, pitch-shifting blasts of electronica, a dose of slightly funky guitars and a good smattering of slightly tricky percussion that keeps the listener on their toes (in more ways than one). It’s fit to bursting with unbridled energy and is just another truly tantalising glance at what might be included on album ‘Numero Twomero’. (Eugenie Johnson)
TECHNOLOGY + TEAMWORK – K + B
Earlier in the year Sarah Jones, drummer for Hot Chip and NZCA Lines, released her own techno-pop track ‘On Your Way’ under her moniker Pillow Person. Now, she’s teamed up with Anthony Silvester, best known for his work with XX Teens, to form TECHNOLOGY + TEAMWORK and to date, they’ve released a couple of tracks.
‘K + B’ might well be the pair’s most intriguing work to date though. Originally intended to a part of a film score that they’d been asked to write, it soon developed into a slower, more complex beast, with the duo turning to Hot Chip’s Felix Martin for a bit of production help. The end result is an electronic slow jam that’s got some chilled R&B vibes with a bit of an ethereal edge.
Kicking off with ghostly wails, Sarah’s harmonised voice weaves between a creeping electronic melody and some spectral voices lurking underneath. At its climax, things come to a head with slow handclaps and pitch-shifted voices intertwining. It’s deceptively minimal, piecing together sparse elements to create a full, unified whole that sucks you into their captivating version of synth-pop. (Eugenie Johnson)
Katie Von Schleicher – Life’s A Lie
Katie Von Schleicher’s 2015 mini-album was called ‘Bleaksploitation’. It sounds like it would be a pretty gloom-laden affair but, in fact, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter weaved her often dark songs around hazy pop-laden hooks. Fresh off the back of touring the UK with Aldous Harding, Katie’s now gearing up to debut LP proper, ‘Shitty Hits’, on 28th July via Full Time Hobby. The album is set to explore themes of isolation and powerlessness, but boy does Katie sound anything but on ‘Life’s A Lie’.
Wrapped in warmth and the kind of lo-fi, gauzy tone of home recordings (the album was created on a Tascan 488 tape machine in Katie’s childhood home in Maryland), the slightly wonky piano and strident percussion on ‘Life’s A Lie’ brims with a confidence that stands in almost complete contrast to Katie’s lyrics. “I want to hire you and save your place in my hand/ and I’ll take you around then”, she sings. This is but a fleeting dream though, and she almost instantly stops her mind from running away by declaring “but I’m a fraud and I know I can’t do it alone”, racked with nerves.
As Katie herself says: “The narrative is from that unrestrained inner voice, the self-critic, which has the power to isolate you from the good stuff. In practice, this all happens on a subconscious level, that's why I thought it apt to be paired with the most joyful sounding track on the record”. With this juxtaposition, Katie’s created a complex and supremely confident look at the hardships of hidden anxiety. (Eugenie Johnson)
Slow Skies – Dancing
With previous EPs ‘Silhouette’, ‘Keepsake’ and ‘Close’, Slow Skies, better known as Irish musician Karen Sheridan, cast a bewitching spell with brittle yet dark folk-pop. After stints on the road with James Vincent McMorrow, St. Vincent and Cat Power, she’s now finally gearing up to release her debut full-length, written in rural Sweden and helmed by Cork-based producer Ber Quinn (who’s also worked with fellow folk singer Lisa Hannigan).
With the album’s lead single ‘Dancing’, Karen delivers a perfect reintroduction to the bittersweet world of Slow Skies. It’s typically subtle and filled with warmth, kicking off with handclaps and blossoming into a sumptuous slice of alt-folk complete with bursts of joyous brass. Yet underneath it all, there’s a lingering sense of melancholia, first introduced with a small smattering of piano that continually punctuates the track with its misty-eyed twinkling.
Even Karen’s words are tinged with a hint of sadness, almost lamenting that “I can feel you doubting all you know”. In the spirit of seizing the moment though, she encourages her dance partner in the ballet of life to “hold it close, don’t let it pass you by”. Slow Skies know exactly how to shape a captivating tune that captures the twisting complexities of life, and ‘Dancing’ is no different. (Eugenie Johnson)
Loved Ones – Without Face
“I’m ageing, and starting to think about death in an overly dramatic kind of way”, Loves Ones’ lead singer Nik Glover says. The Liverpool quartet recently released their second album, ‘Harness’, a step forward from the lo-fi rock of debut album ‘The Merry Monarch’ into a more diverse and eclectic sphere. After spending time working on soundtracks, it proves they can still put together a sweet pop song, even moving within different parameters, so then why the sense of morbidity on their latest single ‘Without Face’?
On the surface, it’s a fluttering, skittering piece of alt-pop, with Nik’s falsetto gliding over the top, a bit like a less bombastic moment from M83 or a more contemporary version of St Etienne’s glimmering electro-pop. But then, it’s also about Nik’s fear of heart attacks, brought about when his dad had a bypass while he was in college. There’s a silver lining to all of this though. “I can almost appreciate your side of it”, Nik sings, his fear bringing him closer to an understanding of his father’s condition, and that they have more in common than perhaps he once thought.
So on the surface, ‘Without Face’ might well be about death and the transient nature of life. But Loved Ones don’t wallow in morbidity. Instead, they’ve transformed the darkest void into something beautiful and life-affirming. (Eugenie Johnson)
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