The Twilight Sad are masters of misery, plying heartbreak directly into their guitars on their stunning fourth album. “There’s a Girl in the Corner” is an epic breakup song, with James Graham’s repeating “she’s not coming back,” his Scottish brogue piercing through sheets of minor key noise. “Last January” is propulsive with a perfect layering of synths, displaying at how well The Twilight Sad have folded their recent new-wave leanings into their core noise-pop sound. The band also continue to show an uncanny ability to repurpose familiar influences like R.E.M., Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine and still come out with something fresh and enjoyable on tracks like “It Was Never the Same,” touching on these influences without being beholden to them, or letting Graham’s voice soar over a Suicide-style drum machine on the title track. The band has often been noted more for its atmospherics than hooks, but “Drown So I Can Watch” is one of their catchiest songs yet, with a relatively light, lilting melody that eases some of the downer mood. And they allow for more space on Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave than on previous albums, ending on a pair of spare, beautiful tracks. It’s the best thing they’ve done since their electrifying debut.
Ariel Pink has said some things lately that have made a lot of people mad. But whatever you think about him as a person, his music is pretty great. On “Black Ballerina,” the latest track released form the upcoming pom-pom (out Nov. 17), he’s in a typically raunchy mode, crafting bargain-bin synth-funk with bits of ephemeral dialogue about strip clubs interspersed.
Also, see what’s in Ariel Pink’s bag:
L.A. dreampop duo Tashaki Miyaki have a new Covers EP on the way, produced by Joel Jerome. Here, we find them lending their cloudgazing ways to a classic Prince track. Hear it via Stereogum. Look for them on the road with Allah-Las this fall; they’ll be at S.F.’s Brick & Mortar Dec. 10 and L.A.’s El Rey Dec. 11.
Tough Love finds the singer who made her name in the world of dubstep stretching further into pop environs, with help from the likes of Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), Miguel and Ed Sheeran. The Kate Bush-inspired title track that opens the album is already brighter and warmer than anything she has done before. The radio-ready but cool throbbing beats of “You and I” successfully split the difference between her “indie Sade” past and the pop horizon she now faces. Still, she’s really in her element amid the chilled out synths and digital handclaps of the sumptuous “Cruel.” Ware’s voice is in top form throughout, working wonders on the soulful “Say You Love Me,” amid gospel touches and a skittering beat. Her biggest issue is still somewhat anonymous lyrics, but the music and her voice always seems to make the most of them, driving home lyrics of heartbreak with a nuanced touch, while the tenuously sexy “Kind Of … Sometimes … Maybe” shows off her personality brilliantly, coming off as an update on Janet Jackson’s coy sensuality, filtered through Ware's old soul. Musically, Ware and her collaborators manage to move all over the map and make it seem like they’re travelling a straight line, keeping things rhythmically intriguing on tracks like the sultry “Sweetest Song” and even making room for a throwback disco track like “Want Your Feeling.” If it’s less cohesive than her debut, Devotion, it’s also a lot more fun, and perhaps more consistently rewarding. Tough Love should find Ware expanding her audience beyond the soul, electronica and indie fans who have already discovered her and into the pop realm without losing a shred of her estimable cool.
It’s hard to believe Halloween is just around the corner. Luckily, there are plenty of great new albums and classics for your Halloween party or just to carry you into scaresville.
You might not recognize his name, but Krzysztof Penderecki has soundtracked many a nightmare. The Polish, avant-garde composer was wildly inventive (and controversial) when his compositions first gained notoriety in the late ’50s, and thus his jarring compositions, featuring such innovative techniques as clustering tones, and such foreboding titles as “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima,” came to be used by wildly inventive and controversial film directors, from William Friedkin’s The Exorcist to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and Inland Empire. Meanwhile, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood writes response pieces to both “Therenody” and “Polymorphia,” and his moody, solemn orchestral pieces serve as a terrific foil to Penderecki’s terror-inducing works.
Sego – “Wicket Youth” video
These Utah-via-L.A. Kitsune signees immediately get me for referencing Wicket the ewok from Return of the Jedi. Even if that’s not what they’re referencing, that’s not the point—“Wicket Youth” touches on familiar ’80s influences without really sounding like they’re retreading, instead infusing refreshingly plainspoken lyrics about nostalgia for youth with sparkling synth-pop flourishes. And it’s got a very ’80s, handrawn-style video to match. The Wicket Youth EP is out Oct. 27.
Cool Ghouls – “What a Dream I Had”
Here’s the third track from the forthcoming Cool Ghouls album A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye, out Nov. 11 on Empty Cellar. It’s perhaps the most impressive track they’ve debuted yet, built on a slow, steady jangle and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” harmonies. Cool Ghouls keep the dream of San Francisco alive with songs like “What a Dream I Had.” Stream the track via Wondering Sound, and read my interview with them here.