This has been a motherfucker of a week. The upside? It’s over. The other upside? We got some pretty great songs. And man, do we need them.
On their first new song in five years, Now, Now are stuck in the past. “SGL” is a breathless recollection of a relationship where one side won’t commit while the other is ready to fall headfirst in love. That’s a familiar narrative, but the song comes across as more layered than that. It feels like a slow-motion crash of disappointment. KC Dalager runs through her toppling words with poise, but she doesn’t sound urgent. Instead, she’s expressing the kind of letdown you can only have in hindsight, the delayed recognition that a spark was never meant to ignite. That twist of the knife is punctuated by the coda — “Starry eyed/ I was young and undone/ But I could’ve died with you there in the sun” — that emphasizes the rush of an infatuation that never went anywhere. Her deflating narrative is propped up by the band’s characteristically sharp arrangement that makes the song land like a smack. It’s a welcome and mature return for the band, and a promising indication of what’s to come. –James
Up until about a month ago, Hundredth were a melodic hardcore band. But “Youth,” the latest song from their upcoming fourth album RARE, isn’t even remotely hardcore. Instead, it’s a muscular, shoegazey form of post-punk, the kind that takes its cues from the Cure and the Smiths in addition to Hum and Swervedriver. It has some of the intensity you’d expect from a hardcore band, but instead of pummeling you with it, they envelop you. Instead of screaming, frontman Chadwick Johnson lets his vocals tumble out in a narcotized monotone, singing, “When I decide to leave/ Will it be everything I dreamed/ When I swallow before I speak/ Will I hate to see a different side of me?” I don’t know about Johnson, but me? I’m digging this different side. –Peter
What does it take to keep an 11-minute song interesting throughout? It’s not an easy thing to do, but there are ways to do it. You can create an atmosphere and just let that atmosphere envelop whoever’s listening. You can build tension for minutes at a time, all of it building up to a grand and raging climax. You can keep the music static and focus instead on lyrics, on spinning an elaborate narrative. Or you can just smash three or four vaguely-related songs together into one thing. Boston metal overlords Elder don’t do any of those things on “The Falling Veil.” Instead, they fire off in every direction at once. “The Falling Veil” couldn’t be film-score music; it’s too busy. And it doesn’t tell a story. Instead, they mash on the gas and stay in rock mode throughout, all these riffs firing off into different directions and layering themselves on top of each other. Eventually, there’s a melodramatic churn of a keyboard, one that sounds more like a string section, and it only adds new layers. And eventually, it all snaps back into a concussive stomp, but that stomp just feels like one more movement, not like it was the point the whole time. “The Falling Veil” is a fog of kickassery. The deeper in you get, the thicker it becomes. –Tom
Despite their subdued minimalism, every Hundred Waters track is brimming with small details that translate as pure aural delight. Those little touches are all over “Particle,” the first song we heard from their surprise new EP. The track was co-produced by Skrillex, and you can hear him in those muffled screams that recall his recent work with Justin Bieber and Diplo, but the rest is all Hundred Waters’ magnificent handiwork. The way Nicole Miglis’ vocals dart around the skittering beat, the warm piano that threads itself throughout, the dissolving synths that crop up on the back half. It’s a song where the form mirrors the function: She’s singing about someone that keeps them at arm’s length, and “Particle” has hints of that same sort of icy detachment, but it also has Miglis at the center of it all, providing an empathetic voice and understanding and warmth. –James
The rap on the National is that they haven’t switched up their sound since Boxer made them indie rock household names 10 years ago. That’s not exactly true — High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me each had their own distinct palettes — but also, it’s kind of true. They needed to shake things up. Enter “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness,” a song that nudges the National into the future and the past simultaneously. Not since Alligator have they released a song this rangy and ferocious. Not since ever have they resembled an electronics-infused jam band ready to kill on the festival circuit. It’s wild to hear them keep their sad-bastard identity intact while also sounding like a raging party, and it ought to pique your interest about what other surprises Sleep Well Beast might have in store. –Chris