Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gateway Drugs' Sophomore Album: "Dare Tonight"

I may have only been alive for a few years of the 1980s, but some part of me must fondly remember the neon synth-pop I heard in the crib. Every time I come across those retro sounds, I can't get enough.

Such was the case when I stumbled upon Cape Town electro-pop outfit Gateway Drugs' second album, Dare Tonight, only a few weeks ago. I assumed I was listening to Modern English or The Psychedelic Furs, before realizing the 80s-reminiscent grooves belonged to a young South African crew who were on their way to perform at SXSW for the first time.

Similar to so many of the 80s finest hits, Gateway Drugs' songs aren't particularly genius in instrumentation or vocals - and that's the hook. They're perfectly simple; melodic, glittery and worthy of an eyes-closed sway or two, under the disco ball. Although nostalgic sounding, the band's dreamy ballads could also fall into the chillwave genre - appealing to fans of contemporary acts like Washed Out, St. Lucia or Blood Orange.

Have a listen:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Classic: Van Morrison

I'm about to embark on some of the busiest few days of the year at work, and, chances are I'll be unable to blog as much as I'd normally plan to!

So, after strolling through a dusty record show yesterday - flipping through the classics, remembering lost gems - I'm inspired to leave a timeless tune, from one of my very favourite albums ever, here for your listening pleasure. Hopefully it tides you over the way it always does me.

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is one of the most overplayed albums in my collection. I put it on when I'm feeling pretty much anything: happy, sad, tired, excited, in love, you name it.

So, while my first instinct was to share the title track or my favourite song ever ("Sweet Thing"), I'm going to toss this underrated beauty out there instead.

Have a lovely few days!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Rihanna: "Bitch Better Have My Money"

Yesterday, Rihanna's Instagram hinted that the megastar might be dropping her new record today, titled "Bitch Better Have My Money." Sure enough, it's here and streaming as the second single (following the glorious 'FourFiveSeconds') off her much-anticipated, Kanye West-produced follow-up to 2012's Unapologetic. The so-far-untitled new release will be her eighth album.

Have a listen to #BBHMM below.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Artist to Watch: Tei Shi

Easily one of the most talked about artists this past year, Argentinian-born indie-R&B artist Tei Shi is making even more waves following a strong showing at this year's SXSW and a brand new single to boot.

After bopping around in her adolescent years (including stints in Vancouver and Montreal) Tei Shi, born Valerie Teicher, attended Berklee College of Music before hitting the bright lights of New York City. She's since garnered some major indie spotlight following her debut CMJ performance and EP, Saudade, a cover of Beyoncé's "No Angel," a spot on Glass Animals' "Holiest" single, and of course, several of her own dreamy singles.

An obvious comparison is FKA Twigs, because of those breathy vocals, but I'm not going to go there - since I think Tei Shi is 100 times better and more accessible. Her use of retro synth puts her in the same game as Jessie Ware, SZA, Prinze George and Blood Orange, while those layered, pixie harmonies and glittery melodies are already her own kind of stamp. "Go Slow" might be her strongest bedroom-pop single yet - and I can't wait to spin it on a hot summer night in the city.

Hopefully a debut full-length is in the works, but in the mean time, watch out for Tei Shi on tour with Lapsley and Shy Girls this spring/summer.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Purity Ring Live on Conan

I've been all over Purity Ring's sophomore album, another eternity, since it's release a few weeks ago. In particular, I've had "bodyache" on near repeat, which is why I was excited to learn the blossoming electronic duo performed the track on Conan last night.

Performing on Conan, period, is a big deal - but the way frontwoman Megan James absolutely slayed every single piercing note of the dreamy single, backed by Corin Roddick's keyboard wizardry (and an especially cool set) was something else.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New James Murphy Single : "We Used to Dance"

LCD Soundsystem front man and mastermind, James Murphy, is assembling the soundtrack for While We're Young - the new Noah Baumbach film, which stars Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver and Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock.

Although no longer (sob), LCD Soundsystem is widely revered by critics as one of the greatest musical groups of our generation - behind only three full-length albums, all of which were incredibly influential in the indie-dance world.

Anytime distinctive frontman James Murphy does anything else, I'm all ears - which is why learning of his soundtrack/score curation for what looks like will be a powerful film snagged my immediate attention. Sure enough, the new soundtrack contribution he's shared is profound; spine-tingling and magical start to finish.

With similar retro, melodic ingredients he used heavily during his LCD days, "We Used To Dance" is a gorgeous stretch of twinkling synth that, through sound, seems to totally nail Baumbach's coined exploration of life and aging.

While We're Young hits theatres next Friday, while the soundtrack is due next Tuesday via Milan Records.

Listen to the dreamy single here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Surprise! Kendrick's New Album Dropped Today

Well, if this isn't the best Monday morning of the year, I don't know what is.

Last night, Kendrick Lamar - the (hands down) best rapper of my generation - dropped his highly anticipated new album, To Pimp A Butterfly. The follow-up to 2012's incredibly acclaimed good kid, m.A.A.d city, is available on Spotify and iTunes a week prior to its publicized release date - therefore throwing music media into an excited frenzy when we woke up this morning.

Amid the bustle of my Monday morning routine, I've only made it through one listen, but I can tell you this: this album is history. Well, everything K-dot does is usually history-making - but, To Pimp A Butterfly's soul, grit, emotion and power is unparalleled. Parts of it are not easy, parts of it are smooth like glass - but all of it, every single beat, rhyme, theatric and quirk, is genius.

Do yourself a favour and buy the album now. Support real artists, support hip-hop history.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Best New Track: Modest Mouse's "Of Course We Know"

I heard the newest Modest Mouse track a few weeks back, on a particularly gloomy winter's day, and unknowingly let it play on repeat for half a day. Weeks later, and with a whole lot more sun in tow, the song has still stuck with me. Big time.

Epic isn't a descriptive word I like or use, but... "Of Course We Know" is epic.

It's enticing in every way the best Modest Mouse singles are; it burns deep, it burns slow, and it sticks with you minutes after ending. There's no denying the veteran indie-rockers are back in full force with their highly anticipated forthcoming album (seriously, they made us wait eight years), and dreamy album-closers like this one.

Don't expect "Float On" jubilance or "The World At Large" starry-eyedness on the entire new album - (hopefully we'll see a little of that) - but, judging from this taste, some dark depth and reflectiveness will be doled out by the rock geniuses. Ending on a particularly haunting piano solo, Isaac Brock's shaky repetition of, "Lord, lay down your own damn soul," will leave you chilled.

Strangers to Ourselves is out Tuesday via Glacial Pace.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Best New Track: The Districts' "Young Blood"

When I first checked out the The Districts' debut LP, A Flourish and a Spoil, I felt like I had heard them before - but in a far less rambunctious garage-rock format; in some kind of vintage folk outfit. That's when I remembered I already owned their first EP, a much more lighthearted, youthful effort out of the Pennsylvania childhood friends, that straddled the line between indie rock and easygoing blues.

Needless to say, this LP is a whole other ballgame, and I was a little surprised the deeper I dove into the rawk - yet oh-so-polished - first full-length. How had they made this jump into pretty exceptional, mature rock territory - yet, are all under 21 years old? 

From the melodic, Arctic Monkeys or Strokes-reminscent garage anthems like "4th and Roebling" or "Chlorine" - all the way through to multi-faceted, almost 9-minute long new classic, "Young Blood," this record is magic. Between lead singer Robby Grote's perfect rock growl and the quartet's big, dreamy fuzz-rock jam sessions - each riff hits you like a freight train, sometimes dragging you on, over, under and into territory you couldn't have seen coming.

"Young Blood" has been on constant repeat for me this past month; the track is so far beyond their years, experience and charming beginnings. Swinging in with this soulful, downtempo sound, the tune - and Grote's outstanding croon - rises quickly into a real stomper, before transitioning into a whole other sonic landscape; this twinkling, then gritty, anthem.

If you want to see evidence of their reckless live show and ridiculous talent, check out this live performance. Otherwise, "Young Blood" is begging to be played below.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Best, Most Unconventional Love Song: Father John Misty's "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)"

If you're like me, and my entire office, you've been listening to the new Father John Misty album pretty much non-stop since it's recent release. I Love You, Honeybear is so very FJM - completely weird, anthemic and delectable in every single way.

The former Fleet Foxes drummer, also known as Josh Tillman or J. Tillman, is a hilarious tall drink of water - a sort of tongue-in-cheek folk star born out of this solo moniker he undertook three years ago.

His sophomore release, an even more dynamic and quirky collection of new folk classics, features odes like "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" - probably the most unconventional, yet awesome, love song of the year so far. Although melodically quite pretty, with all of its orchestra-meets-spaghetti western appeal, the entire jangly affair has just got to be based off a bizarre sex dream or inside joke between Father John and his wife, Emma (featured in the iPad-shot video below).  Talk of taking her in the kitchen, lifting up her "wedding dress someone was probably murdered in" and having never met someone who hates the same things as him are only a few of the anti-sweet-nothings the colourful indie prince croons in this lively tune. It's one of the most strangely romantic and addictive songs currently in my rotation.

Oh, and another weird/fun fact? FJM originally wanted the video to feature himself presiding over a kitten wedding, but it was just too difficult to find kitten wranglers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

M83 and HAIM Team Up On "Holes in the Sky"

One of my very favourite bands, M83, has teamed up with indie-pop sister act HAIM for "Holes in the Sky" - their latest soundtrack contribution to the Divergent movie series' forthcoming instalment, Insurgent

The single is unsurprisingly another anthemic gem; a profound type of soundtrack ballad frontman Gonzalez has seemingly mastered at this point. "Holes in the Sky" is built off one of M83's grand orchestral landscapes, which slowly rises alongside HAIM's haunting vocals. I originally thought the HAIM sisters were an interesting (maybe odd) choice for the vocals on this one, but the more I listen, the more I hear how their bellowing harmonies fit the bill perfectly.

In conclusion, the whole thing is beautiful. You can listen to M83's first Divergent soundtrack contribution, with Susanne Sundfør, here. The Insurgent soundtrack is out on March 17, and the soundtrack will also feature SOHN, Zella Day, Lykke Li, Royal Blood and more.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Will Butler's Debut Album "Policy"

Will Butler has made enough noise in his few months promoting his new solo ventures - most recently because he penned a week's worth of songs inspired by Guardian headlines. Although I doubt the intent, I've started to forget his affiliation with his native Arcade Fire and famous big brother, Win.

But, the second his debut solo album, Policy, starts to roll, it's hard to deny that this is a member of the Arcade Fire brood. In the best way possible. You can hear he's a Butler, you can hear similarly quirky arrangements, but that doesn't mean you won't hear Will's own flavour mixed in, too. Pulling in both the rushed punkiness and the slowed melancholy of good ol' rock 'n roll, Butler's own brand is understatedly good.

Personally, I like the lonely piano balladry shade on him best; his simple, almost defeated vocals paired with echoey keys remind me a little of his breathtaking soundtrack contributions to Spike Jonze's Her soundtrack. 

Hopefully we hear more from Butler - solo, in Arcade Fire, on soundtracks and elsewhere, for awhile to come.