Those of us working out of the New York office this week were treated to a delightful snow day on what was supposedly the very first day of spring. Winter is still coming, people! We took the opportunity to catch up on some new music, and we’re all really stoked on a bunch of forthcoming releases that we… can’t tell you about quite yet. Here’s a hint though: you can get a sneak preview by listening to all of the songs on this list. Do it! Do it now. Discuss in the comments.
Each new song Iceage have released ahead of Beyondless has revealed it’s an album to get excited for, but this one just might be the most intriguing of the bunch. Surrounded by haggard, chain-smoking rockers and arid, brooding slow-burners, “Take It All” instead conjures up the just-left-of-reality experiences of dream states. Iceage have never recorded a song so elusive yet so emotive.
Sure, you can identify and single out the individual facets of “Take It All,” how the militaristic drumbeat keeps the whole thing going while guitars and strings flash in and out of focus. But it’s equally easy to hear all of those as a whole, indistinguishably buzzing together in a simmering, impressionistic cloud. Then, almost imperceptibly as the song unspools, that cloud disperses as if it’s revealing a sunset of blood reds and burnt ambers. It reveals something, and then leaves it up to you to decide whether that vision is one of awe-inspiring beauty or unsettling horror. –Ryan
“Your false authority is dreadfully boring me,” howls Ali Carter, leader of the Philly trio Control Top, her voice dripping with sneery contempt. “Type A” is a part of a proud punk tradition: songs that rip the shit out of acquaintances for being assholes. In this case, the asshole in particular is someone who feel the need to control every possible situation: “Static vision! Cold precision! Manic control! Hands off my soul!” The irony is that “Type A” is a ferociously controlled song. Control Top play fast and hard, and there’s wildness in Carter’s voice, so it’s almost like they’re a runaway train of a band. But there’s no chaos in the way they play. Instead, their sound is tight and crispy and impeccably constructed. It’s tension and release all at once. And to put together a punk song this masterfully, you have to be at least a little bit of a control freak yourself. Right? –Tom
Let’s Eat Grandma is a silly name for a band, but it is the best name for this band. It’s a name that suggests a super youthful, anti-authoritarian, playful approach to songwriting, one that Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingsworth have been crafting for a while now. Their songs are a bit eccentric and defiant, but they are undeniably pop, designed to make you move. The duo’s new offering, “Falling Into Me,” is a many-tiered love song delivered with urgency, suggesting that this is the kind of love that can only really be described with adolescent intensity. Lines like “you left a dent in my homescreen” or “bite my hair as I try to justify” are visceral, and the chorus of “know wherever we go is the best place” is delivered in a lispy, Lorde-core staccato. The production absolutely hums with lust to the point that it’s practically violent; as if falling in love is the ultimate thrill, as reckless as blowing through a traffic light. –Gabriela
Kacey Musgraves is fun. Over three proper albums, she’s proved as much. She’s also smart and sarcastic and sentimental and sappy in equal measure, and she exhibits all those attributes on her most fun song yet, “High Horse,” in which she’s taking down someone that’s decidedly un-fun, someone that wants everyone around them to be un-fun too. “‘Cause everyone knows someone who kills the buzz/ Every time they open up their mouth,” she sings in the pre-chorus. “Everyone knows someone who knows someone/ Who thinks they’re cooler than everybody else.” Musgraves positions herself and her friends as the outsiders, the uncaring kids who just want to have a good time.
“High Horse” indulges in that fantasy, a sparkling Jumbotron of a song that’s cheesy in the best way. It’s the first time Musgraves has so boldly flirted with traditional pop — in this case, a glittery disco comedown — but it makes sense in the context of the song, where she’s poking fun at the old guard. “Oh, I bet you think you’re John Wayne/ Showing up and shooting down everybody,” she sings in its opening lines. “You’re classic in the wrong way/ And we all know the end of the story.” She’s determined not to fall back into that way of thinking, instead choosing to embrace the narrative where the underdogs go on to be the happiest, the most successful, the best they can possibly be, leaving the neigh-sayers in the dust. –James
Whenever a teenager picks up a guitar and writes a song, it sounds as good as “Pristine” in their head. What the outside world receives as amateurish noise always unfolds in splendor within the friendly confines of the author’s imagination. The glory of Snail Mail’s debut album Lush is that the music actually sounds that good: ’90s-leaning indie rock from a musician born circa Y2K, rendered with magnetic charisma and an impeccable modern shine.
“Pristine” immediately registers as a classic in part because band mastermind Lindsey Jordan is a student of the classics; please refer to her new Stereogum interview for a non-exhaustive catalog of her enthusiasms. It lives up to its name in part because Snail Mail upgraded from home recording to producer Jake Aron, a pop-minded pro who’s worked with the likes of Solange, Chairlift, and Grizzly Bear. But what stands out most upon hearing this song is that a young woman gushing with talent has figured her shit out so completely that she’s now overflowing with a corresponding confidence.
That assurance reveals itself in the dynamic way Jordan’s vocals interact with her translucent chords and riffs, exhibiting a champion’s understanding of when to float like a butterfly and when to sting like a bee. It’s also there in her ability to capture an authentically adolescent mixture of emotions — jaded boredom over “the same party every weekend” plus the extreme lovesick yearning that convinces teens they’ll see their high-school crush “in everything for always, tomorrow and all the time” — yet with the wisdom and maturity to present those lines in quick succession, distilling the volatile jumble into a single stanza. When all is said and done “Pristine” has burned through a whole coming-of-age saga in under five minutes, like Greta Gerwig writing Lady Bird in real time rather than waiting a decade-plus for the perspective to kick in. Except in Jordan’s case the story is a song, one that sounds every bit as awesome as she imagines. –Chris