Sometimes it can all be as simple as a guy, a guitar, and an 8-track recorder. UK singer-songwriter Johnny Lloyd, formerly of the band Tribes, wrung some serious beauty out of those ingredients on “Happy Humans,” the title track from his upcoming EP. The song’s content is as simple and beautiful as its form, with a chorus that simply celebrates “happy humans in love.” Have a listen below and consider it a respite from all the violence, hatred, and tragedy in the news lately.
The two sisters in 2:54, the Irish-born and London-based duo, make grandly gloomy windswept rock music, something like the xx if they were more revved-up and shoegazey. They were a Band To Watch in 2011, and they released their self-titled debut in 2012, but they’ve been relatively quiet lately. So here’s their big return. They’ve signed to new label Bella Union, and they’ve got an as-yet-untitled new album coming later this year. First single “Orion” is dark and majestic and synthy, and it sounds more like the Cure than anything they’ve done before. Listen to it below.
Though Phantogram’s new album, Voices, came out this past February, it’s been almost a year since we first heard the highlight “Black Out Days,” and now Future Islands have given it the remix treatment. It’s a good reminder that although Sam Herring remains such an unbelievable frontman, there has always been way more to the Baltimore synth-pop band than just him. That gets emphasized when they are given the chance to play around with a another band’s music, and here they soften Phantogram’s sounds and create something heartfelt and dramatic. Listen to it below.
Last year’s debut from Atlanta’s Places To Hide was a quick, crisp half-hour of sturdy and studied punk. “Nowhere Bound” is the first song from their new EP and you can tell that the band is starting to stretch out and experiment a little bit. It starts off with some soft coos that sound like they could be from a ’60s surf jam before settling into smoky stoner rock, rounded out by mellow boy/girl vocals. Their lack of enunciation is part of their charm — indictments of suburbia are well-trod ground, but Places To Hide sell it because they sound completely over it. Listen and check out some tour dates below.
About a month ago, UK dance duo Basement Jaxx shared the towering disco-house track “Never Say Never,” the third single from their upcoming album Junto. Today, it’s been given a spectacularly insane video thanks to writer/director Saman Kesh. In a world where 72% of humans have stopped dancing, Jaxx Industries sets out to “stimulate the world to dance again” by inventing and perfecting the Bluetooth-enabled, iTunes sync-able TW3RK-BOT, complete with self-lubricating, machine-washable Jaxx Buttocks. Pre-order yours today! You can watch the appropriately dramatic video below. (NSFW-ish, depending on how acceptable robot butts are. There are also a couple of human butts in there, so watch out.)
“Weird Al” Yankovic specializes in broad, silly one-joke songs, whether they’re parodies or not, and he’s been releasing videos for them for the entire past week. With his new album Mandatory Fun out, Yankovic has shared seven videos in the past week, and some of them, “Tacky” in particular, have been great. But on the eighth and final day of the campaign, he’s shared a video for his most layered and pointed song. “Mission Statement” is a Crosby, Stills & Nash pastiche, but the lyrics are made up entirely of buzzword-heavy boardroom corpo-speak. And so the song works on the idea that the change-the-world ideas that the singer-songwriters used to sing about now take the form of tech billionaires figuring out ways to pile up more money. Pretty depressing! The animated clip is mostly a lyric video, made up entirely out of cartoony whiteboard drawings, and you can watch it at The Wall Street Journal, a media outlet that basically exists to bolster the kind of talk that Yankovic lampoons here.
Mandatory Fun is out now on RCA. Stream it here.
Blake Mills is a frequent tourmate and collaborator with Fiona Apple, and Apple shows up on his new single along with another creative partner of hers, Jon Brion. The tune, from Mills’ upcoming Heigh Ho, is called “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me,” and it’s an exceptionally pretty and expertly produced folk-rock tune about the fallout from a big mistake. Apple is relegated to background duties here, and Brion plays tiple, but both of them make their mark. Yet Mills is the star here, as he should be, providing a strong case that he’s more than just an ace sideman. It’s a lovely song, so listen below.
This past weekend, Pitchfork Festival went down in Chicago, and it included a great deal of excellent acts. We sent our photographer Max Herman to capture some behind-the-scenes portraits of artists around the festival. Above you’ll find photos of DIIV, Deafheaven, Giorgio Moroder, and more.