As the world seemingly continues to split at the seams, now’s the time for musicians to step up and create the art that will distract you from the chaos, but hopefully challenge the new world order. Hull’s LIFE are one of many gearing up to put up a fight.
Their new track ‘Euromillions’ couldn’t be better timed, arriving a day before Donald Trump is inaugurated as the President of the Unites States of America – it’s full of visceral anger aimed at the incoming President and his alt-right cronies: “You have the right to bear arms if you’ve got the right coloured arms.” They supported Slaves on their recent UK tour, and you can tell their time with their punk confidantes is rubbing off on them already. Anger not only runs through the lyrics, but through to the thumping drums and crunching guitars with devastating effect. We’re going to need a lot of hope and defiance in the coming years – and LIFE are excelling in the latter.
There’s a sort of mythology about art that comes from isolation: the fable of the artist who, removed from the pressure and commotion of the big city, shuts off distractions and emerges from the woods with a heartbreaking masterpiece. “Frost Burn,” the newest song from Half Waif‘s forthcoming form/a EP, almost fits into this narrative. Nandi Rose Plunkett — the musician and producer behind Half Waif’s experimental electro-pop — wrote the song while on a writing retreat in western Massachusetts. The idyllic setting, she explains in an email to NPR Music, was “what every artist would dream of.”
But instead of leaning on this convention, “Frost Burn” excavates it. The shimmering, moody slice of indie pop reckons with the idea that our geography cannot change our history; we carry our demons with us wherever we go. Despite Plunkett’s retreat from her home in Brooklyn to a more bucolic space, she says, painful memories and self-doubt accompanied her as she wrote. This knowledge is reflected throughout “Frost Burn”: “And on my island,” Plunkett sings in the song’s refrain, “I cannot keep out all the violence.”
The daughter of a refugee and the child of divorced parents, Plunkett says these identities — and the challenges they have wrought — influence her creative process and refract through her music. They’re audible in the Celtic and Indian influences on her songwriting, and in the endlessly exploratory, deeply introspective aspects that make Half Waif’s music so compelling.
Following up their debut EP Soft Animals and the nomination at GRAMMY for Best Dance Recording, SOFI TUKKER are back with their first offering of 2017, Johny. The song is featured in FIFA ’17 soundtrack and now it’s finally available worldwide via the usual suspects (Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music etc…). The track is 100% SOFI TUKKER, you can hear the duo’s trademark sound along all the three minutes that form melody, including the Portuguese-sung vocals that made them famous in Drinkee. The bass line is really strong here and electronic percussions offer a bold conclusion to another hit song.
We’ve known that Jens Lekman has had another beautiful full-length offering in the works since he announced the album was 99% done last fall. Lekman played the new material on a short fall tour, and most recently gave us all a taste of three new tracks during a quick session with NPR.
Now the followup to 2012’s I Know What Love Isn’t officially has a name and release date. It’s called Life Will See You Now, and it’s out shortly after Valentine’s Day (or Single’s Awareness Day, whichever you celebrate). Lekman took his time perfecting this fourth album (fifth if you count the Oh You’re So Silent Jens comp). He’s been fine tuning it since the aforementioned tour, and it certainly shows. He uses his beautiful, delicate songwriting to play with incongruity, creating an unresolved tension between songs with happy subjects and sad aesthetics, and vice versa. Of course, the album also has Lekman’s signature light touch that registers heavy — all while incorporating elements of disco, calypso, samba, and bossa nova among other sounds.
The lead single is the upbeat yet subtly melancholy “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?” It features steel pans sampled from Ralph MacDonald’s 1978 song “The Path,” one of Lekman’s “favorite records ever.” The upbeat mood from the steel pans contrasts with the gloominess of his lyrics wonderfully.
Vancouver, BC-based trio the Courtneys make a bouncy brand of indie rock lacing in ’90s fuzz and feel-good vibes with an understated jagged edge. They’re set to drop their sophomore record, II, early next year. An early taste comes in the form of the catchy “Silver Velvet.” Lead singer Jen Twynn Payne sings of a partner ruling her thoughts despite the physical distance between them, capturing the difficulty of long distance relationships over layers of distorted guitars and intricate clamor on the drums. Payne floats through the earworm hook: “And nothing you say/ And nothing you do / Can stop me from thinking about you.” Good luck getting it out of your head for the rest day