Overloaded by all the “new music” options you keep hearing about? We’re here to help. Here’s four songs we think you should fucking know (this week). Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments too.
Crystal Fighters – Wave
“Wave” is the second single off Crystal Fighter’s sophomore album, Cave Rave, which is due out May 27th, and, after becoming a HUGE Crystal Fighter’s fan over the past few months AND getting the chance to hear an advanced copy of the new record, I can breathe a satisfied sigh of relief that this new release fulfills all expectations, even if it doesn’t surpass them often (which is probably my fault for cursing them with the burden of overly-high expectations).
Their previous album found a common, signature sound that was a mix of Basque folk, synth pop, and EDM exploring almost every genre you could imagine (I once compared them to Ellie Goulding, YACHT, and Slipknot all in the same paragraph). While the new album focuses more on taking their distinct Basque influences and placing them over up-tempo, pop-rock as opposed to delving into the heavier, electronic sounds they previously dabbled with, they’ve discovered a more enthralling way of doing that than they ever did before.
A lot of the songs on this album are in the vein of “Plage” from the last album, which was actually my least favorite song by them and something I usually skipped, but on this record, they’ve found a way to turn that bright, sometimes obnoxiously joyous style into something worth listening (and re-listening) to. The songs are more complex, more melodic, and richer than what their past selves and others like them have put out when playing around with that musical style.
However, the tracks that really stands out are those that find themselves out of that genre’s comfort zone. “Bridge Of Bones” is so pleasantly tempered that its the perfect beautiful, slow jam for a beautiful, slow spring day, and even though it’s the most down-tempo and “heavy” song on the record, it actually oozes the most confidence in its execution. Deep cut “Are We One” is the closest they get to their old electro-dance roots and is a great payoff for those listening that far into the record. “Everywhere” is a sweeping album closer that does a great job of Costanzaing (leaving on a high note) and makes me forget how sad I am that there isn’t anything as hard as “I Do This Everyday” or “Xtatic Truth” on here.
Luckily, “Wave”, one of the few songs publicly released, is one of the better tracks on the album. It’s enticingly catchy, and its flooding chorus (pun?) is cathartically grandiose. I’m assuming a few more singles will trickle out in the next few weeks, but circle May 27th on your calendar (and I promise to post “Bridge of Bones” when it’s released).
Frugal Father – Red Headed Hipster
One of the best things about writing for All Things Go is that editors Zack Friendly and Adrian Maseda send us a daily morning email of good new songs we might be interested in checking out. I cannot tell you how much of that I repurpose for this article, and that includes this hidden gem of an act, Frugal Father. After shooting off an email to Frugal Father’s contact address, I found out that them was just a him, a 22-year-old named Mac Welch in fact (I know. We’re old, and the kids are coming up from behind). Raised in a small town called Groveland in northern California near Yosemite National Park, Frugal Father is just a side project of his (he also plays guitar and trombone in a band called StaG that isn’t half bad from the small bit I listened to).
However, it’s taken two years for him to complete the two songs he has released (his other song, “First Trim” is also worth a listen). He admits that he “can’t say it was easy, but it was more organic and relied on [his] instinctual reaction to sounds more than anything else.” Here’s to hoping he keeps following his instincts, as he utilizes the intense earnestness that Casiotone for the Painfully Alone displays so well. He finds a point where Hemingway-esque detachment is so heavily plastered on that it mocks itself, leaving nothing but an honest feeling to latch onto. Lines like “we stayed up late; your roommates eyes were sort of crooked” are the kind of simple, nuanced details that make Frugal Father feel so fleshed out in between such barren bones and sounds.
Mac, I have your email, you’re going to get a copy of this. For the sake of me and the dedicated few who read this far down in my article, don’t make us wait two years for more material. Thank you.
The Flaming Lips & Bon Iver – Ashes In The Air
It takes some serious clout to pull off certain things. Only Kanye can pull off wearing straight-jackets while going on 8-minute freestyles tangents during his shows, only Prince can dress up like a homeless fashionista and still look fly, and only the combined forces of The Flaming Lips and Bon Iver could give the simplistic, “We’re both so fucked up; you’re fucked up in the good way and I’m fucked up in the bad,” the kind of emotional gravitas and heaviness that it finds a way to carry as the opening lyrics of this song.
I’ve never had the time or drugs available to truly get into Flaming Lips but their collaboration with Justin Vernon warps this song into a surprisingly heartfelt Ziggy Stardust march that melts away as it trudges along, and it has me chomping at the bit for The Flaming Lips’ upcoming The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends album, a Record Store Day limited-edition release that also includes collaborations with Edward Sharpe, Jim James, Tame Impala, Nick Cave, Neon Indian, Ke$ha, Biz Markie, and more (just typing that list hurt my brain).
This is just yet another reason to GO CELEBRATE RECORD STORE DAY on 4/20. You’re going to be high anyway, why not enjoy some good music too? If you’re in DC, this means heading to Crooked Beat, Red Onion, Smash!, and Som. If you’re not in DC, check this website for stores near you.
PS: If you can’t get enough Justin Vernon, one of his other many side projects, The Shouting Matches, has their album streaming on NPR here. For anyone that knew him during his DeYarmond Edison days, you’ll probably be very happy with this.
FLUTES – Kilburn
I was introduced to FLUTES via a cover of “What Is Love” that I didn’t even recognize at first because it was so touching. Yeah, that “What Is Love” …(baby don’t hurt me…don’t hurt me…no more). It does as good a job as Johnny Cash did with “Hurt” in finding the compelling core of a song and exposing it to make something incredibly beautiful.
It had me curious enough to poke around their Soundcloud, where I stumbled upon “Kilburn”, the second single off their debut self-titled LP. Lead singer Godfrey McFall wedges his spectacular Scottish croon over a song that gathers emphatic steam as it goes, climaxing in a whitewash of furious sound. All of this, mind you, while using the esoteric imagery of Lord Byron and Robert Burns drinking and hitting on girls together.
Amazing Radio’s Jim Gellaty said that, “it won’t be long before everyone’s calling them the next Frightened Rabbit,” who, coincidentally, recently awarded FLUTES’ other single, “Auld Archie” the track of the day on Clash Magazine’s website.
I’m going to be doing all I can to get my hands on this album and, most likely, their upcoming EP Lost In The Sand which is a collection of demos and remixes from said debut album.
But speaking of Frightened Rabbit…
It’s time for another edition of: NOSTRADAMUS WATCH 2013/BRYCE PATS HIMSELF ON THE BACK!!!
One of my other predictions was that, “Frightened Rabbit’s new album Pedestrian Verse will finally elevate them to a higher echelon of mass popularity and critical acclaim,” and that I was, “excited to see the response to their 9:30 Club show in April…I have a feeling this is the year they really blow up.” Well, after getting glowing reviews from the likes of The A.V. Club and The BBC, and even strangling a 7.6 out of the pretentious Pitchfork, I think it’s safe to say that critical acclaim has been gained.
And after getting to experience their sold-out show at 9:30 Club last week, I promise you, they are every bit as wonderful live as I was hoping they would be. Lead singer Scott Hutchinson is a true showman, and the appreciative crowd reflected an energy that I was proud to be a witness to and part of. Their new songs were tight but approachable; you could feel the harnessed distress in “Oil Slick”, and the strobe-infused breakdown of “Acts of Man” was a moment celebrated by the band as much as the crowd. The old songs were well-delivered and well-received, with “Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms” (which I once wrote was the greatest breakup song of all time) and the set-closer “Loneliness and the Scream” being personal highlights.
I haven’t seen a band own 9:30 Club like that since Modest Mouse a few months ago, and it was electric to feel the applause ebb and flow but never die in between the band’s set and their encore. Better still, the band seemed cognizant and respectful of the special energy in the venue that night and reacted accordingly.
I highly suggest listening to Pedestrian Verse, and every other album by them, but if you’re already a fan, they just released a collaboration with Manchester Orchestra that will be available exclusively as a 12-inch single for Record Store Day (with a bonus collaboration between Manchester Orchestra and Grouplove in there too
So with that less-than-gracious explanabrag, I’m calling it: I’m 2 for 2 on predictions for this year. Nostradamus Watch 2013 continues.