A lot of great music came out this week. We got new albums from Slowdive, At The Drive In, Perfume Genius, Mac DeMarco, the Afghan Whigs, Juana Molina, and many more. We also got a lot of great singles this week from forthcoming releases (some of which *cough* LCD Soundsystem *cough* are highly anticipated), and you can hear the best of the batch below.
Katie Crutchfield has this limitless ability to spin magic from a few basic power chords. When she sets her bright, clear vocals loose against crunching distortion, it always sounds fresh and alive in a way that should not be possible at this stage in rock music history. “Peace And Quiet” pulls it off. “Under A Rock” too. So does “No Curse,” but this time we also get a gleaming lead guitar riff that sounds positively celestial compared to Waxahatchee’s roughshod early recordings. Another benefit of the crisp hi-fi production: Everything underneath those vocals and that guitar lead hits so hard — an actual blaze of glory to go along with the one Crutchfield sardonically evokes to describe the end of a bad romance. It’s all such a marvelously pretty to say “fuck you.” –Chris
Michelle Zauner’s immaculate debut as Japanese Breakfast was an album borne out of the deepest of losses, partially written to make sense of the passing of her mother by sifting through the encroaching darkness in search of materials to forge light. There’s a measured sobriety that hangs over the lightest of indie-pop songs, as if Zauner was inspired to dream again only after looking up from the bottom of the well. “Machinist,” the first single from Psychopomp’s follow-up Soft Sounds From Another Planet, couldn’t be further from such a weighty, devastatingly real origin. Instead, it’s a murmuring, groggy synth-pop song unabashedly selling a fanatical concept of a woman’s unrequited love with a robot. Yet still, like the best material on Psychopomp, it mines an overwhelming rush of brightness out of its tragedy. A fan-favorite closer of many a Japanese Breakfast show, “Machinist” is a glorious electro-romp bop live. But hearing the studio version for the first time — with it’s mournful auto-tune vocals and vulnerably aching whispers of “Do you trust me? Can you feel it?” — gives a completely different experience. Although of a higher concept with a bigger budget, the intimacy of her previous work remains — that intimacy of speaking openly to someone who can never completely hear you. –Pranav
I was never really a Paramore fan. I don’t have anything against Paramore — I like pretty much everything I’ve heard from them — I just mean this to say that I don’t have any preexisting relationship with the band, and I don’t have any real expectations when listening to their new stuff. So sure, say what you will about these new songs being way poppier or not sounding like Paramore or whatever, but the fact remains that “Hard Times” is a fucking jam, and so is “Told You So.” Even when she’s not belting out a chorus like her life depends on it, Hayley Williams is a commanding frontwoman, and on “Told You So,” the rest of the band surrounds her voice with this nervy polyrhythmic spiderweb of guitars and marimbas and little synth squiggles. It’s the kind of pop music that sounds impossibly slick while still retaining real personality, and to these ears, it sounds great. So maybe I am a Paramore fan? –Peter
“You’re waking a monster that will drag you from your orioles of gold.” That’s one of the things that James Murphy sings — well, not really sings, declaims — on “Call The Police,” one of the two new LCD Soundsystem songs that represent the band’s first new work since 2010. I don’t know what it means. I have no fucking idea what it means. Orioles of gold? That can’t be right, can it? That’s what all the lyric sites have, and I can’t hear it as anything else now. But the “waking a monster” thing makes sense. For all the angst that came with the LCD Soundsystem reunion, all the thoughts about goodbyes and legacies and festival ticket prices and band-reunion culture and the uselessness of nostalgia — LCD Soundsystem remain a monster. And here they are, operating as a unit again, taking a big and fat and muscular groove and spending seven minutes piling on all these melodies and flourishes and production tricks, creating yet another gorgeous dance-rock monolith. Did it need to exist? Probably not. But it still sounds nothing less than glorious on a sunny Friday afternoon. –Tom
I want to start an elaborate rumor that “Sportstar” is super secretly a Frank Ocean co-write. (Sandy) Alex G recorded guitar for both Endless and Blonde, and ended up being on two of the latter’s best-liked tracks “White Ferrari” and “Self Control.” “Sportstar” is a gorgeous piece of production that makes you feel like you’re trapped inside someone else’s daydream. It begins with the earthly sounds of a lumbering piano joined by a thudding bass drum, and then, all of a sudden, (Sandy) Alex G’s autotuned voice comes in like a dispatch from another world; crackly and mangled and impossibly warm. This song makes me feel at peace the same way “White Ferrari” makes me feel at peace, and the practically imperceptible line “let me tie your Nikes” is probably not a nod to Frank Ocean, but it definitely sounds like one when you’re a music writer trying to start a rumor.
That aside, it’s worth noting that (Sandy) Alex G isn’t big on lyrics. When I got lunch with him we spent a lot of time talking about how much he hates talking about music. But regardless of how little attention (Sandy) Alex G pays to his lyricism, and regardless of how hard it is to actually understand what he’s singing on this song, “Sportstar” has some good one-liners. “Sportstar, let me wear your jersey/ If you want to hurt me/ Hurt me,” he sings over an electric strum that echoes and reverberates and then fades into the distance. And then there’s the breakdown, when all that celestial production falls away and we hear the repeating lines: “I play how I wanna play/ I say what I wanna say.” My favorite moment, though, comes in at the very end, when (Sandy) Alex G’s narrator proclaims: “I don’t wanna live long, just strong.” In spite of that assertion, I wouldn’t consider “Sportstar” to be a song about resignation. It’s more about being hyper-present and unconcerned. Like you’re miles deep underwater and instead of holding your breath until you can see the surface, you just exhale. –Gabriela