At the end of the decade, the shadow left by Chromatics’ inimitable output feels hard to overstate.
The trio’s widescreen, darkly-lit brand of Italo disco has lingered, influencing everyone from ScHoolboy Q to Cigarettes After Sex, who have been stripping their songs for parts and retrofitting their singular, decades-past dance-noir for big-budget rap and pop.
The first sound on Chromatics’ masterful fifth album, Closer To Grey, is a ticking clock, accelerating by the second and then cutting out, an especially cinematic move for a band chock full of moments like this. They’re no less aware of the passage of time than their captive audience—and the curtain opens with a cover of “The Sound of Silence,” which would, in lesser hands, scan as a joke. Here, it feels apropos, a folk-rock gem lamenting the modern world (from a beloved film, no less) dressed in dark tones but still uncertain of what the future holds.
To be sure, Closer To Grey is not Dear Tommy, the group’s long-gestating follow up to their 2012 breakthrough, Kill For Love. But with the burden of following up an immaculate collection of such dark pop, Chromatics had nowhere else to go but toward the light.
On all accounts, Chromatics gravitates toward shades beside its familiar palette of black and red. Bells and flute lines circle around “Move a Mountain,” an uncanny valley of Carpenters-core soft-rock, haunted by Ruth Radelet’s sighs. “You’re No Good” and the title track, the latter of which was previewed four years ago, are as close to straightforward electo-pop as Chromatics have ever gotten, shiny and sharp as a knife blade.
The 19-year-old is already having a big year, including her Juno win as 2019 Breakthrough Artist of the Year. And now she’s got a new five-song collection to share with the world as she continues to build her legend. Add that to her tour dates from festivals in Germany and the Netherlands to North American dates with Lauv, and there’s no denying that this is quickly becoming bülow’s world and we’re all just living in it.
The EP’s lead single, Boys Will Be Boys is less than a month old and already has more than 1.1 million streams on Spotify and another 70,000+ plays on YouTube.
What we’ve had confirmed for us again on The Contender, is that Megan Bülow is an exceptional songwriter. She takes a real life feeling, gets it all right out into the song, and gets that pop hook and vibe that makes us want to dive in and come back for more. It’s been her calling card since we first heard her a few short years ago. But at just 19, she’s already one to watch for what she continues to do on the writing side of production alone.
From track to track, The Contender takes us where we want to go next. From “you can pay what you want, but you’re never gonna own me” on Own Me off the top to “what the fuck you fall in love for? couldn’t I have been enough for ya?” on Upside Down, there’s no holding back on getting to the point. And if you want to hear the most savage lyric of the fall, start with “I’m going all-white to your funeral, if you think I’m gonna cry you’re delusional” on Boys Will Be Boys.
As we’ve said about other EPs, our only gripe is that we want more. These five songs are each the right length for themselves, but the entire EP clocks in at 14 minutes, and we really really wish there was more. Instead, we’ll just roll these new songs into the tracks we already love from bülow’s early career and listen to them as she prepares whatever she’s got coming next.
Angel Olsen is a natural at writing mantras for jaded souls. Burn your fire for no witness. Unfucktheworld. Some days all you need is one good thought strong in your mind. No one’s gonna hear it the same as it’s said. While her music has evolved from lamp-lit folk to boisterous rock’n’roll and ritzy synth-pop, she has always emphasized the importance of self-conviction. This steadfast philosophy, coupled with how wryly she appears to withstand heavy emotional weather, has made Olsen talismanic to fans. But halfway through the tour for her 2016 album My Woman, a messy fallout from a breakup made Olsen realize how disconnected she had become from herself. She decided to make her next album as she had her earliest releases, working almost alone (in remote Anacortes, Washington) to focus on bare-bones songwriting. It also meant trying to elude the accrued weight of her identity: Olsen has said that she and her friends often “joke about how dumb ‘Angel Olsen’ is.”
In the songs Olsen wrote in Anacortes, love and, consequently, her identity became an illusion. What ended up on her fifth album, All Mirrors, are bemused questions about why she would suppress her needs, why she had to deny what she was going through, why the past must keep repeating. The lyrics are often softer and less certain than on her first four scalpel-sharp records. If there is one mantra among them, it’s in the stoned ambivalence of “Spring”: “I’m beginning to wonder if anything’s real,” she sings. “Guess we’re just at the mercy of the way that we feel.”
Becky Sui Zhen is releasing her third album, Losing, Linda, at the end of the month. She’s shared two songs from it already, “Matsudo City Life” and “Perfect Place,” and today she’s sharing a third, “Being A Woman.” It’s a hypnotic, extended meditation on expectations and composure, a mix of spoken word and lilting declarations of self.
“The threat of losing my mother, the person who birthed and raised me triggered these sentiments. It was just before all the #metoo stuff started coming out and I was feeling sad but empowered as if a veil had lifted – perhaps this is one of the positive impacts of grief,” Sui Zhen said in a statement, continuing:
I recognized the ways in which I had repressed myself and was able to step away from toxic relationships and step closer to projects and people that had my best interests at heart. Perhaps one of the final pieces of this was reconciling with how I identified within myself. Looking back now, I realize I was only fully able to acknowledge my queerness since Mum’s passing. I think there’s a lot of identity baggage that gets tied up in lineage. I’m still unpacking my thoughts around this. The sense of duty, obligation and function that comes with living in a female body is both heavy and powerful. It takes so much strength to live a life as a woman
Tungz are a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, communicated through off piste melody.
The rising Bristol group are impossible to pigeonhole, fusing wonky Talking Heads style rhythms to glossy production and a surreal sense of humour.
Debut EP ‘Okay’ is out now, released to Jamz Supernova’s tastemaker imprint Future Bounce.
A quickfire UK tour has been confirmed for later this month, with Tungz bringing their ultra-infectious live show to a venue near you.
Speaking about the EP, Tungz said:
“Okay’ is probably the word we use most as a band. It can sound meaningless, but to us it’s the opposite. It’s what we say when we’re starting something. ‘Okay – let’s do it.’ That’s how we feel about this EP. There’s a lot of stuff we want to make, and this is the start.”
EP highlight ‘What I Wanted’ has just received the video treatment, and it’s a colour-soaked treat, the differing hues and backgrounds helping to gently adjust the mood.