Round-up Tracks: St. Vincent, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and more

All the biggest and best tracks of the week, rounded up and reviewed.

A very happy Friday dear readers! Now, as much as we’d like to once again praise The Killers’ latest single ‘The Man’, especially now it has a gun-show of a video to go with it, there’s been a whole host of equally exciting, brand new tracks hitting us this week. First but foremost, there was the little matter of St. Vincent returning with her first new tune since her self-titled album and the announcement of her ‘Fear The Future Tour’. Basically, all the squeals. With ‘Everything Now’ fast approaching, Arcade Fire have also been searching for ‘Signs of Life’, and it’s a spectacular, horn-infused odyssey.

Elsewhere, with the imminent release of ‘Hug of Thunder’, their first album in seven years, Broken Social Scene gifted us with another track, and it neatly sits somewhere between their most euphoric and contemplative moments (difficult one to get right that!) Producer Matthew Dear also returned after his own extended hiatus (under his own name at least) and EMA tackled what the real value of a person is. Last but certainly not least, Warm Digits teamed up with Mia La Metta for a powerhouse new cut from their upcoming album.

And if you’re itching to check out everything else out this week, step this way for DIY’s Listening Hub, and our Essential Playlist.

St. Vincent – New York

A couple of years on from her ace self-titled album, we’ve got a brand new track from Annie Clark in the shape of ‘New York’. For anyone expecting her usual guitar squalls, prepare to be in for a bit of a surprise. It’s led mostly by piano, with the occasionally danceable, pulsating beat lying embedded deep within the mix, sometimes punctuated by strings and choir-like harmonies. Basically, it’s a ballad. Albeit a ballad with the refrain of “you’re the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me”. Even when Annie’s performing a soft (mostly) tender tune, she can still throw in a biting nugget that makes you sit up and take notice. (Eugenie Johnson)

Arcade Fire – Signs of Life

With each new track that’s revealed from Arcade Fire’s forthcoming album, we’re offered a totally different and intriguing glimpse into ‘Everything Now’’s full - and seemingly sizeable - scope. While the record’s title track opened up with a gloriously ABBA-equse piano, before ‘Creature Comforts’ arrived in a haze of robotic synths, their newest effort is deliciously funky from off.

There’s something brilliantly retro about ‘Signs Of Life’, which comes infectiously packed with old school disco beats. Its earworm chorus wouldn’t seem all that strange on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack; in fact, if Win Butler was to start breaking into the full Tony Manero dance routine when the band air it live, no one would really bat an eyelid. ‘Signs Of Life’ may be just another piece of the puzzle that is their new full-length, but it’s a storming one at that. (Sarah Jamieson)

Broken Social Scene – Stay Happy

With the title track of their new album ‘Hug Of Thunder’, Canadian collective Broken Social Scene displayed a softer, more tender side to their euphoric alt-rock. Led by Feist, it contemplated the “oxymoron of our lives”, meditating on the nature of time and how the past can rear its head in the present, even when you least expect it.

Fast forward a little more than a month, and ever closer to the release of their new album, and the super-group are once again in a more reflective mood. On ‘Stay Happy’ though, they find the balance between their grand, soaring highs and more hushed moments. Kicking off with somewhat mournful harmonies, it soon expands into a fuller, more expansive number. In its flighty, skittering electronic melodies that weave in and out of the mix at will, they capture the fleeting nature of happiness, sometimes hard to grasp on to, often even harder to maintain. Father Time doesn’t help. With the crushing, intense breakdown with the repeated, melancholic phrase “the hours, the minutes, the seconds”, the knowledge that the slipping of each passing moment can weigh heavy becomes achingly clear, but it’s a beautiful, swooning revelation.

Sometimes it’s difficult to stay happy in the face of adversity and the slow drip of time. At least Broken Social Scene make that task just a little easier just with their engaging presence. (Eugenie Johnson)

Matthew Dear – Modafinil Blues

It’s been nearly five years since Matthew Dear released his last album ‘Beams’. What has he been up to in that time? Well, he’s done a bit of work under his techno alias, Audion, and apparently he’s been spending quite a bit of time hanging around California. His comeback single ‘Modafinil Blues’ was written in the state’s Topanga Canyon alongside long-time Frank Ocean collaborator Troy Nōka. Does that mean he’s decided to try his hand at a sound similar to ‘Blond’? Unsurprisingly, no.

Named after the cognitive-enhancing “smart drug”, ‘Modafinil Blues’ combines moody electronics, punctuated by intricate, skittering synths and a constantly pulsating heart, with Dear’s own, distinctive and powerful baritone. In that sense, it’s got a hint of Depeche Mode about it (probably unsurprising considering that Dear opened up for the cult legends on their 2013 arena tour).

Behind that pulse lies an existential, thought-provoking heart, one where Dear ponders the idea of being stuck in a rut, unable to move past a roadblock even after reaching the peak of cognitive function. “I run and I run but there’s nowhere left worth running to” he laments, unable to break past the barriers that are keeping him from progressing conceptually. But while in one sense ‘Modafinil Blues’ could possibly be the manifestation of Dear’s time spent between ‘Beams’ and now, it’s also a sign that he’s back, ready to continue making oscillating dance music while also giving a glimpse into his psyche. (Eugenie Johnson)

EMA – Down & Out

“People equate ‘worth’ with money. If you’re not making money, you can end up feeling pretty worthless” says Erika M. Anderson, better known as EMA. It’s a sad fact of the contemporary world that sometimes a person’s earning power or material possessions is the only defining factor of their self-worth. When you’re just scraping by, that means you can feel disposable.

With her new album ‘Exile In The Outer Ring’, out on 26th August via City Slang, Erika’s on a mission to try and look at the resentment that seeps from Middle America and present it in a more empathetic way. On lead single ‘Aryan Nation’ she talked of below told go “go back home below your station” and a cycle of jail, drugs and more that’s often vicious. The poverty that’s often associated with this sub-section of Middle America is explored in even starker detail on her latest track, ‘Down & Out’.

Armed with popping beats and whirring, hushed guitar riffs, it’s far less in-your-face musically than ‘Aryan Nation’ but it doesn’t need to be. Instead, it quietly seethes with resentment at a system that often looks down on the less fortunate, unable to see past their financial worth. “No-one scratches the surface when you’re down and out” she sings, honing in on people stripped of their humanity. She repeatedly asks a singular question: “what are we hoping for?” It’s left open for the listener to answer. EMA doesn’t preach, she simply draws serious attention to deep-set societal issues. When it’s done in such a striking and powerful way, it’s hard not to take notice. (Eugenie Johnson)

Warm Digits – Better Friction (ft. Mia La Metta)

“Our experience of the world and our states of mind are shaped and thrilled by unimaginably exciting leaps in technology”, say Newcastle electronic duo Warm Digits, “and yet that world will only last for a few moments as we fail to find a way to act collectively on rising temperatures, the failures of democracy and the unstoppable hunger for exploitation of the ground under our feet”. And so, their new album ‘Wireless World’, due out on 4th August via Memphis Industries, is their attempt to make something that balances on the increasingly unsteady tightrope between celebration and devastation, chaos and stability.

With technology being a small part of the concept behind the band’s new record – as well as their sound overall – it’s little wonder that their latest track centres on how no piece of tech (or power, for that matter) can come without being mythologised in some way. In some ways, ‘Better Friction’ distils their own band legend into just four minutes. It distils all of their best aspects, from twinkling, vintage electronics and a layer of almost industrial fuzz to driving, krautrock riffs and motorik rhythms. With the vocals of Beards’ Mia La Metta also providing vocals and swooning harmonies that rest somewhere between conversational and deliciously poppy, it becomes even more of an urgent powerhouse.

With a newly-announced run of solo shows and festival slots now in the pipeline, you can probably expect ‘Better Friction’ to be a firm, soaring highlight of their upcoming sets. (Eugenie Johnson)

Tags: Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, St. Vincent, Listen, Features

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