The Fresh & Onlys continue to move away from the reverb-drenched garage rock of their early records and toward something more grandiose on House of Spirits. From the outset, it’s clear they mean business, with more precise songwriting and cleaner production than ever before. Tim Cohen’s lyrics take a darker turn—he sings like Rosemary’s Baby grown up on the rollicking “Who Let the Devil,” claiming Satan bottle fed him with blood, fitting in nicely with co-singer/songwriter Wymond Miles’ typically gothier songs, such as the country-Cure style “Animal of One.” The band turns in one of their loveliest songs ever with “Bells of Paonia,” a throbbing, fuzzed out shoegaze ballad with a dreamy romanticism that suits the band nicely. Mostly, these updates work for the band. Occasionally you miss the early rock stuff, though they go balls out on “Hummingbird,” and the lack of reverb reveals some weakness to the vocals. Still, I’ll take earnest and scrappy any day over easy or lazy, as the band leaps past the tired garage-rock moniker that has previously tailed the band and lands in exciting new territory.
Matt Kivel – “Insignificance”
Beginning with a sort of Sonic Youth-folk feel, Matt Kivel’s “Insignificance” reveals itself to be a graceful love song dirtied just enough with lo-fi grit. It’s the first thing we’ve heard from Days of Being Wild, the L.A.-based singer-songwriter’s new album, due July 8 on Woodsist. Kivel, who was in the indie-pop band Princeton with his brother, Jesse (also of Kisses), will be at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown Aug. 16 for the Woodsist Festival alongside Woods, Foxygen and …
The Fresh & Onlys – “Who Let the Devil”
…The Fresh & Onlys, who have just released the third track from their upcoming new album, House of Spirits, which is due June 10 on Mexican Summer. The album promises a lot of variety, judging by the minimalist beauty of “Bells of Paonia,” goth country-rock of “Animal of One” and now the rococo Americana of “Who Let the Devil.”
Thee Oh Sees – “Drop” video
So I guess Thee Oh Sees are still breaking up? I feel like I’ll believe it when I see it. But in the meantime, their new album, Drop, is due April 19 , aka Record Store Day (you can preorder it now on LP or CD). The visuals for their new video for the power-poppin’ title track reminds me of Spirograph and origami, except a lot cooler. Here it is, via Spin.
Warpaint – “Disco//Very” and “Keep it Healthy” video
I picture Warpaint a lot shier than they appear in the video for two songs from its recent, self-titled second album. For the darkly danceable “Disco//Very,” we see them cavorting in the streets with a bunch of skaters, coming off a bit like the girl gang from The Craft. Lots of fun hand-dancing. Then, night falls for the chiller “Keep It Healthy,” which sees the ladies’ nocturnal tune soundtrack nighttime skate tricks. Very cool, fun stuff that shows the band doesn’t take itself too seriously. Also Warpaint is one of the best albums of the year so far and you should get it now.
Let’s be honest, all I had to say was “featuring Kevin Shields” and your ears perked up. First, let’s talk about Reitzell. He’s served as the drummer for Air and Redd Kross, so already nice resume there. He has been a Hollywood music supervisor and composer, working with the likes of Sofia Coppola on The Bling Ring and Gus Van Sant on Promised Land, among others. Now the recuslive My Bloody Valentine frontman helps him out on the dreamily decadent “Last Summer,” which does have the feel of something from a Sofia Coppola soundtrack. That all makes sense—Reitzell is the guy who convinced Shields to do a song for her film Lost in Translation. Reitzell made the experimental Auto Music to sound like the drive from his home to his studio in Los Angeles, with all the small changes and evolutions of the journey represented in the music. The album’s out June 3 on Smalltown Supersound.
Worldwide stardom hasn't softened M.I.A. one iota; if anything, it's made her resolve to be the planet's most provocative pop star that much stronger. Following the all-over-the-map Maya, by comparison Matangi is laser-focused, utilizing harsh industrial noise much in the same way Kanye West's Yeezus did, though she fuses it with a worldbeat touch and heavy EDM nods. Most of all, Matangi succeeds because it sounds like an M.I.A. album, even if it's been digitally chopped up and reassembled more so than previous releases. Her opening tracks come on hard, dropping names of wartorn nations in the title track amid a digital grenade of atonal sounds, while "Warriors" drills with a minimalist hip-hop beat. "Come Walk With Me" starts like a love song, quiet with a reggae sway, before jumping off the rails with a hyperactive dancehall-house beat. Though these tracks touch on her typical subject matter of empowering the global masses, she's also having a great time, rapping like a cocky hip-hop star and subverting the formula. And the second half of Matangi is loaded with ass-shakers. "atention's" twisted beat makes it one of her sickest dance songs since "World Town." The previously released "Bad Girls" makes an appearance in all its bhangra-beat glory, and "Bring the Noize" is the album's instant classic, unleashing a brutal beat that makes most EDM sound like kid's music as M.I.A. pulls off sounding disaffected while spouting rhymes at an impressive tick. Matangi is a welcome comeback after a troubling period for M.I.A., proving her once again to be one of the most forward-thinking pop music entities around.