Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s four songs, and in this week’s case, a mixtape, we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
- David Bowie – Stars Are Out Tonight (but if I could find a good link, it would be “If You Can See Me”)
I’m young enough to only have really known David Bowie for a few years now. I was given bits and pieces, and I filled in the blanks as best I could. Because of this, some of those seminal albums like Space Oddity, Ziggy Stardust, The Berlin Trilogy, Scary Monsters, and Earthling all came to me free of context, and therefore I judged them all fairly posthumously (in terms of the albums’ respective shelf lives). That also means that I’m granted the youthful naiveté to claim with unwavering certainty that front to back, The Next Day is one of the most enjoyable Bowie records ever.
Luckily, as of me writing this, it’s streaming for free on iTunes, and it’s up on Spotify. I highly suggest listening to the whole thing. Bowie has found a way to sift through all the random bits of genius from his entire catalog and built upon them to create a rich, diverse album that’s both intellectually and musically satisfying.
It starts off with the casually up-tempo “The Next Day” which finds its way to a growling reintroduction of a chorus; then, it melts into the sultry, murky “Dirty Boys” that’s decorated with funky horns and screeching guitars.
This builds to the second and most recent single off the album, “The Stars Are Out Tonight”. The song boasts a welcomed intensity and obvious focus of purpose. It’s aggressively beautiful and deceptively catchy; a great choice for a single, as its eulogy(/anti-eulogy) of Hollywood seems particularly timely.
If I had the space and you had the attention span, I’d go into more detail about the boozy “Valentine’s Day”, the destined to be misappropriately-sampled “I’d Rather Be High”, the soulfully bluesy “Boss of Me”, or the 1-2 punch of “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” and “Heat” that closes out the album…
But all I want to talk about is “If You Can See Me”, the seventh track on the album and a song that was immediately catapulted onto my Favorite Bowie Songs list. Bowie’s sonic swagger erupts into an LCD-esque dance anthem that springs synths over a funky bass line and a masterfully-percussive beat. Hyperdrived vocals that start out channeling a piercing Dan Deacon transform into a melodic James Murphy by the chorus. The end result is a song that is pretty damn close to being perfect. Just listen to when he decrees, “I am the spirit of greed” at 2:23. Gives me goosebumps.
The album gets a proper release in the US March 12th, and all that’s left to wonder now is if/when/how a supporting tour will happen.
- Kid Cudi – Immortal
From the beginning lines of “Just What I Am” , the first single off Cudi’s upcoming third album, Indicud, Scott Mescudi comes to the table with an isolationist’s confidence that is as originally shocking as it is refreshing. The Man on the Moon seems to have found his niche in the hip-hop world and is confidentially ecstatic about that fact.
His latest single, “Immortal”, only expounds on this theme further, almost reaching the point of hubris at times. His strongest defense, though, is the end result of that hubristic talent. “Immortal”, which features a hard-to-recognize sample of MGMT’s “Congratulations“, is the best of the Indicud singles released so far, and like the others, Cudi was responsible for every detail. He’s quick to confess how simple the production aspect came to him, but the sheer passion, focus, and optimism that surrounds claims like that is what keeps me from labeling him Odyssean; instead, I’m just kind happy that he’s happy after so long.
Indicud is set to be released April 23rd and will feature guest spots by the likes of Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar…awesome.
- The Silver Liners – Shine On
DC is a small town, especially our burgeoning music scene (which I gushed about last week). It’s not that much of a coincidence, then, when friends are in bands or people in bands become friends. But that makes the likelihood of mixing business (which is what I like to call this article, humor me) and pleasure (meaning friendship) sort of high.
So when I heard The Silver Liner’s latest EP, Bliss, I felt weird thinking that “Shine On” would be a great song to write about. I’ve known the band’s lead singer and songwriter Jay Nemeyer for a while now, and it’s just kind of weird to write about people you know sometimes. It’s akin to that awful feeling I get when I start admiring athletes like Kevin Durant and then realize that he’s almost two years younger than me.
Unfortunately for my hesitancy, “Shine On” fulfills a lot of my self-imposed criteria. The Silver Liners are a DC band (huge bonus points), they’ve really matured in their sound (always a fun angle and position to take when writing), and the song is one that I think a lot of people should listen to (kind of the whole point, right?).
While their first EP definitely showed promise, as it was laced with strong hooks and solid songwriting, The Bliss EP finally gives them a distinct sound to latch onto. It seems to pick up where “Without A Face” from their last EP left off, but with more elbow grease rubbed on it. It doesn’t hurt that it was mastered by Joe LaPorta as well, a grammy-nominated engineer whose worked with Solange, The Killers, and Autre Ne Veut (who is about to blow up, I’m calling it).
“Shine On” relies on the new-found synth sound the band has incorporated well with this release, and Jay’s casual vocals contrast well with the digital sound, harkening to some of Stepdad’s less 8-bit pop material.
With these new songs up their sleeves, I’ll be excited to see how their show with Drop Electric and Paperhaus next Friday (the 15th) at Rock and Roll Hotel goes. Support my unintentional but admitted biased subjectivism by grabbing tickets to the show and grabbing the Bliss EP when it’s released this Thursday.
- Cursive – Staying Alive
Sometimes, I feel the need to bend the unwritten rules of the Tunes You Should Fucking Know article, and this week is one of those times. While I usually try to write about new music that you should know in order to sound cool among your judgy elitist friends, I have to reach back a decade real quick.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Cursive’s high-water-mark of an album, The Ugly Organ, and, if only for my own peace of mind, I felt compelled to give it some recognition. The Ugly Organ came out when I was a sophomore in high school; I was mid angsty rebellious phase, and I had just recently gotten my driver’s license which meant a lot of listening to music while driving around in my car. This concept album, which follows a loose narrative centered around “The Ugly Organist”, blew my 16-year-old mind. The post-hardcore song construction mixed with sadly-temporary band member Gretta Cohn’s unexpected cello arrangements had me believing that this was the pinnacle of post-punk creativity (and you could make a case that I was right).
The sonic phrases that repeat throughout the work, the complex lyrics, and Tim Kasher’s expressive vocals build a tense, disturbing musical landscape over the course of 11 tracks that has to be delicately dissipated by the album’s closer, “Staying Alive”.
Clocking in just shy of ten minutes, “Staying Alive” injects an Explosions In The Sky level of crescendoing beauty into the dark world of The Ugly Organ. The defiant, “I’ve decided tonight, I’m staying alive, kicking and screaming” becomes a mantra for the whole song; the guitars, drums, and vocals all proverbially kick and scream their way through the cacophonic mess until there’s nothing but a shimmering guitar, a soothing cello, and calming chorus of angelic vocals to assure us, “the worst is over.”
Cursive never was able to capture lightning in a bottle the same they did with The Ugly Organ, but in the long run, they should be proud to have made one album that is truly excellent and stands the test of time.