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.
It’s only been a day and a half, but I feel like everyone has already given their two cents about what happened in Boston on Monday. I really wanted to avoid bringing it up, but as someone who spent four years at Boston College (including a few debaucherous summers as well) and a year and a half in a long-distance relationship with someone that lived there after college, I consider Beantown my second home, and I just can’t ignore the events of the past 36 hours.
I don’t know why, but the Boston Marathon bombing has been the first tragedy that has really rocked me to my core. I lived in DC during 9/11 and the sniper attacks, but I was too young to fully understand their magnitude. Even the shootings in Newtown felt distant to me.
But this was my home. This was part of my world literally exploding.
I remember my junior year in college, my best friend Kathryn was running the marathon. BC’s campus is only a few miles from the finish line, so I, like thousands of other students, lined the roads to help cheer the runners along. As she passed, I figured, “What the hell?” and decided to run alongside her for a bit, my flip-flops smacking against Beacon Street and my shorts bunching up as I ran. While I originally only intended to go about 50 yards, the energy and excitement fueled me to keep running with her. When I looked behind me, I saw that a handful of my other friends that were also originally spectators had joined in as well. We settled into a routine; we would run 25 yards ahead and lead the crowd in “Let’s Go Kathryn!” cheers. The next thing you know, we had already made it halfway to the finish line and knew we had to see this through.
But as I paced Kathryn, I noticed my friends cheering along other BC students that they barely knew, grabbing water for them from the sidelines and reminding them how close they were to the end. My friend Noah even helped a struggling stranger make it the last 2 miles thanks to constant, unwavering encouragement, and as she crossed the line, she embraced Noah with a gratitude one doesn’t often get to see.
Kathryn and I crossed the finish line together. We wrapped each other in those silver blankets (I felt the need to get one after my harrowing 5 mile run) and made our way onto the T back to campus. We shared the train car with other runners adorned in spacesuit-like silver as well as their family and friends, all beaming from the accomplishments of the day. There was such a strong sense of community and pride in that tiny metal box, everyone radiant with palpable joy, that I’m fairly sure Kathryn started crying (she’s kind of a crier though). There’s a line in the Boston College fight song, “For Boston”, that declares, “For here all our one,” and I don’t think I have ever felt that manifested as strongly as I did in that moment.
My first thought when hearing about the attack was about all those people that wouldn’t be able to experience that feeling, all those people whose Monday would forever be a day of loss and fear instead of victory and pride; but I was wrong.
In the immediate aftermath and the handful of hours since, the sense of community, resiliency, and outright love that I have seen displayed not only in Boston, but across the country, is enough to have me in tears every time I hear about another act of heroism or kindness shown. Even something as simple as hearing that someone has written messages of hope in chalk on running trails around the city shows the kind of character we as a country have.
Ironically, the ever-cyncial comedian Patton Oswalt seems to have put this into perspective the best. In his words, “When you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.'”
On a lighter note…
“Tongues” is one of those tracks I was lucky enough to come across while meandering through Hype Machine one day earlier this week (thank you Hilly Dilly). While I’m not usually one for such lacquered-up dance pop, the right song can suck me in. Once the vocals kicked in, all I could think was that this was the band I wished that Hot Chip was (I feel SO WEIRD for not loving Hot Chip as much as everyone else I seem to have ever met. Don’t get me wrong, they are a good band, but I think I must be missing something.). The song is chaotic but never cluttered and flaunts a creative precision that successfully flirts with the line between fun and ridiculous.
Then I started poking around and saw that this was from their recently released “mixtape”, 888888, which was a term I didn’t expect to see, as it’s usually associated for hip-hop or EDM artists. However, after downloading it (which you can do here) and listening to the first track, I got it. I don’t know if the mixtape label is intentionally jarring, but this band will make you shed all preconceived notions of genre limitations.
The first track, “All I Want”, is a disco track with one of my favorite sax lines since “Midnight City”. To have that song melt into the spacey introduction of “London” like they do is a ballsy move, but it pays off immensely when the thunder drums kick in and carry the song to an ending that is an erratic, hyper “Everything In Its Right Place”. The lazy beach-pop “Waterbed” that follows would make Vacationer jealous it’s so chill. Needless to say, 4 songs in and I was completely hooked by this band.
So when the familiar “Tongues” popped back up after the possibly/probably political voiceover at the end of “Waterbed”, it was like one of my good friends showing up at a fun party that I never expected them to know about. It really is a pristine bit of celebration pop that sucks me in deeper the more I listen to it.
The rest of the album is just as quality as the first half and had me writing down comparisons to people like George Michael, Rufus Wainwright, and James Murphy. The only thing that has me more excited than this album is the fact that they have a 777777 mixtape, an album called Koda Vista, and a smothering of other singles that I still get to sink my teeth into.
I cannot tell you how many people, probably very much like yourself, think I’m crazy when I say that, if they even know who Harvey Danger is at all. For the affronted reactions, I am quick to begin to explain myself. For the inquisitive reactions, I am forced to start singing, “Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming to get meeee” in order to spark their recognition, only for they too to transform into bemused expressions.
All I can say is give them a chance. They are so much more than a one-hit wonder. Their debut album, Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?, if a few things had gone differently, could easily be one of the defining records of the 90’s, as it’s the perfect blend of witty, angsty lyrics and cheeky indie rock. It has heart, it has intelligence, and it has soul.
If that’s too 90’s for you, listen to their last full-length LP, Little by Little, which the band released for free on the internet before breaking up. The smart piano lines will suck in any one that used to love Ben Folds, but the well-crafted lyrics should attract anyone with a love of wordplay.
I could spend a few thousand more words going into all those reasons, and one day I will write that manifesto, but for now, I just want to bask in the fact that the impossible happened: Sean Nelson, the man/voice/heart behind Harvey Danger has released new music.
With “Make Good Choices”, Sean’s signature snarky sound janks along a singalong of an indie rock jam. I can’t objectively review this song though, as I’m far too happy just to have it in my life; so with that, I’ll just say that his solo album will be out June 4th and that on that day, I will not be able to stop smiling.
Once you’re done listening to “Make Good Choices”, do yourself a favor and check out Harvey Danger’s albums and get to know a band that’s secretly one of the best of all time. No contest.
Mt. Wolf are destined for greatness.
Their debut EP, Life Sized Ghosts, featured a wonderful single of the same name that reminds me of a dream-popped Joni Mitchell (a comparison that’s only further supported by the live acoustic version of “Life Sized Ghosts”. The other tracks on the EP, “Cry Wolf” and “Starliner” delve a little deeper into heavy synth backing, but they only elevate singer Kate Sproule’s voice to loftier heights by comparison.
On their most recent release, the Hypolight EP, they’re even more enchanting. The lead single, “Veins”, is an ethereal, sweeping bit of dream folk (which is apparently now a thing). Vocally there are times when I’m reminded of 90’s feminist icon Ani DeFranco (I blame my ex-girlfriend’s love of “Both Hands” for me recognizing that), but musically the song captures the same quiet intensity of bands like Sigur Ros while still allowing itself to wobble and trip enough to draw comparisons to glitch pop specialists James Blake or Purity Ring.
The rest of Hypolight is just as intriguingly brilliant as “Veins” and stands to be a major milestone in this talented London quartet’s career. I’ll be waiting around for a US tour hopefully this summer? Fingers crossed?
Kid Cudi f. Kendrick Lamar – Solo Dolo Pt 2
Man on the Moon was a revelation for me. It was honest introspection, at times depressing, at times uplifting, but it was always engrossing. Cudi cared so much about the art form of hip-hop that every verse felt urgent. It was like he had to express himself or he would combust. Then there was the somewhat under-appreciated Man on the Moon 2, which is admittedly inferior to his debut but also contains some of his best work. Then, unfortunately, there was WZRD, a bit of experimental roadkill on the path paved with good intentions; I’m the first to admit that it’s an album best forgotten, but even it is evident of one thing:
Scott Mescudi cares about his music. As a longtime fan, I promise you that. Following him on Twitter and reading his interviews, I can guarantee that he almost cares too much. The industry has jaded him and the bullshit that goes along with success has painted a huge apathy streak on him, but when it comes to his music, he CARES.
And Indicud proves it. While not as cohesive or technically proficient as it could be, Cudi finally feels unburdened for the first time in a long time. The intro track uses a creepily inspiring quote from The Good Son delivered by Macaulay Culkin to explain the album’s real thesis: “Once you realize you can do anything, you’re free… You could fly.”
So Cudi does just that. Sonically, he is everywhere on this record. Songs like “Young Lady”, his duet with Father John Misty, and the dark-discoed “Cold Blooded” show off an uninhibited Cudi flexing his muscles while also stretching himself (and I haven’t even brought up that essentially the album closer features Michael Bolton yet).
But it’s tracks like “Burn Baby Burn” and “Solo Dolo Pt. 2” that bring out the most venomous Cudder I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t know if Kendrick’s presence helped Cudi step up his game, but on this track the two completely Godfather the sequel to “Solo Dolo“. While Kendrick and Cudi are both most talented at introspective lamentations, they’re their most fun when they get boastful; they slather bravado on this track, making an aggressively catchy song charmingly enjoyable.
Indicud came out on Tuesday. Check it out.