Catalonian teen quartet Mourn makes a passionate racket on their debut album. Singer Jazz Rodriguez Bueno channels PJ Harvey with her raspy delivery and more cutting lyrics on tracks like “Dark Issues,” or a young Siouxsie, on the way she can play with emotions but still bring a smile to your face, on songs like galloping opener “Your Brain is Made of Candy.” Her band keeps things terse, inspired by the likes of Nirvana and The Ramones, yet their clean guitars and neat grooves on standouts like “Philliphius” and “Otitis” suggest wisdom beyond their years. A handful of tracks read as more juvenile alt-rock exercises, yet Mourn also never loses momentum, bashed out with a live-tracked, Steve Albini feel and the animated precision of off-the-cuff ideas rehearsed and captured in one raw take—Bueno’s wail at the end of bonus track “Boys Are Cunts” feels both visceral and well-timed. It’s an incredibly promising debut that puts our faith back in so-called wasted youth.
Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker the Berry”
A razor-sharp indictment of racism in the United States without sounding heavy-handed, “The Blacker the Berry” is one of the best things we’ve heard yet from Kendrick Lamar, which, given the overwhelming quality of good kid, m.A.A.d city, is saying something. The Compton rapper hasn’t yet announced the details of that album’s follow-up, but having heard this track and “i,” we’re betting it’ll be every bit as remarkable.
The Black Ryder – “Let Me Be Your Light”
Australian shoegaze duo The Black Ryder are now Angelenos and have a new album on the way called The Door Behind the Door, due Feb. 24. If you’ve ever fantasized about a collaboration between Slowdive and The Verve, this is for you. Washy guitars, a post-punk bassline and soothing female vocals combine with angelic synths for a song that sounds like what they play when the Pearly Gates open. Go to the light!
Father John Misty’s fearless second record builds on his folk-rock sound with orchestral touches, genre diversions and direct, conversational lyrics that cut through singer/songwriter clichÃ©s. The title track introduces Beatlesesque melodies and weeping steel guitar to prepare you for the scope of the record. J. Tillman starts going into crooner mode with the spectacular “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” his crushed-velvet vocals singing over a sweeping, country-symphonic arrangement, but his lyrics nicely keep the romanticism from getting too gooey (“I wanna take you in the kitchen/Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in”). “True Affection” takes a sharp turn into MIDI-electro-dream-pop, with some Fleet Foxes-style harmonies keeping things grounded in Tillman’s wheelhouse. “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment” takes another turn, this time into Velvets-third-album twinkling indie pop, while Tillman calls out an airheaded groupie (“She says like, literally, music is the air she breathes,” he sings hilariously). Tillman’s lyrics work so well because of their specificity—you feel like you’re watching him break hearts at a local bar when he sings “Why the long face? Blondie, I’m already taken,” over a sultry Southern sway on “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow.” Such subject matter could read as self-serving, if not for the album’s more self-effacing tracks, like “The Ideal Husband,” in which Tillman admits various wrongdoings, petty or otherwise, over nervy rock ‘n’ roll; or “Bored in the USA,” a piano ballad that seems to mock Tillman’s own first-world problems of alienation and dullness (“Save me, white Jesus!” is an awesomely cutting exclamation). Tillman’s refusal to do anything in a typical way while still keeping the music highly polished helps I Love You, Honeybear to never feel indulgent. Rather, it’s an extraordinarily giving album, as Tillman’s honesty and strength as a songwriter and performer has grown immeasurably. It’s easily one of the best albums of the year thus far.
Love is complicated stuff. You can keep your Love Actuallys and Sleepless in Seattles—these movies don’t sugarcoat relationships and explore them in raw and fantastical ways. Here are 15 we’re into, in no particular order.
Harold & Maude (1971)
“What could be better than a black comedy romance between a suicidal teen and a feisty 79-year-old widow? NOTHING. It’s one of the best stories ever. I never feel like killing myself after seeing this movie!” – Super Cooper
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
What is Purgatory, exactly? Writer/director Goran Dukic imagines it as a slightly shittier version of real life, except no one can smile and your car seat might have a black hole in it. Such is the setting for an unlikely story in which suicide victims seek love in the interim afterlife.
Them Are Us Too – “Us Now”
Cali duo Them Are Us Too call to mind early Cocteau Twins with a more electronic bent, or School of Seven Bells precursor On!Air!Library!, if anyone remembers that cool band. Kennedy Ashlyn’s vocals dance up and down a ladder scale while Cash Askew’s guitar wails around her and little keyboard notes sparkle overheard. The band’s album, Remain, is due March 24 on Dais.
Dunes – “Circles”
Another wonderful dream-pop track comes to us from L.A.’s Dunes. True to its name, “Circles” is somewhat elliptical, starting with cascading, layered vocals and reverbed guitars before moving into silky disco beat and prickly post-punk guitar lines. Dunes’ last album was Noctiluca back in 2012. They’re working on new material now and will play with Roses and Moaning Feb. 16 at Harvard & Stone.