Sound Board: The Week’s Best Tracks
Our picks for the best tracks out there for the week of January 18–22, 2015. Headphone-tested, FLOOD-approved.
New music doesn’t stop for holidays. That fact couldn’t be made clearer by listening to some of our favorite gems from this short week, which included tracks from returned rock legends (Iggy Pop, The London Suede), and groove-filled numbers from all over the musical galaxy (Matthew E. White and Natalie Prass, Boulevards, Chimurenga Renaissance, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, Ray LaMontange, and Night Moves)
Check them all out below.
Matthew E. White and Natalie Prass have been pals since both were in high school in Virginia (here is some excellent proof of that fact), and White produced Prass’ self-titled debut at his Richmond, VA, Spacebomb Studios. Today the pair have teamed up for “Cool Out,” a groovy synthetic soul number whose tubular bells make it come across a bit like an optimistic take on Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand.” The song is being billed as a new Matthew E. White single, but whether it’s a harbinger for the followup to last year’s Fresh Blood (our third-favorite album of 2015) is anyone’s guess. The track was produced by DJ Harrison, yet another son of Richmond. While Harrison’s beat is certainly frostier than anything White or Prass have done to date, the click-clack groove and ringing chords are a natural fit for both artists.
Unlike the slow burning guilt and self-doubt of “Real Friends,” “No More Parties in LA” is a rapid-fire onslaught of playful self awareness from both Kanye West (“When did I become A list? I wasn’t even on a list”) and Kendrick Lamar (“She said K Lamar, you kind of dumb to be a poet”). It also tackles very specific issues in West’s life like being paranoid about driving off Mulholland Drive and having his matted-out Maybach wrecked.
“Cold Call” is a particularly slinky take from Boulevards, sashaying as it does around a falling synth line reminiscent of Bowie circa “Let’s Dance” or Prince’s self-titled record. It’s a slight change of pace from the frenetic pace of the EP, whose twelve minutes skirted by even more quickly than their runtime would suggest. Rashad luxuriates in a nest of rhythms and flashing percussion here as he dials up a potential lover, but after he actually gets her on the line for a brief chat (“It’s a beautiful day, right? I’ll bet you look good.”), the song slides into a mournful sax line and that tag—“I’m sorry for the cold call, but you’ve got everything I need, baby”—starts to sound like an actual apology. Looks like our R&B singers need to find a new pickup method.
Tendai Maraire and Hussein Kalonji come by their musical aptitude honestly. Maraire’s father, who moved to the US from Zimbabwe in the 1960s, helped to introduce his native music to the Pacific Northwest, while Kalonji’s father, Raymond “Braynck” Kalonji, was a pioneering Rumba musician. The younger Maraire has developed an all-encompassing afro-futurist aesthetic with his main group, Shabazz Palaces, and the younger Kalonji made something of a name for himself as the rapper H-Bomb, but now the two are pairing up for a new project called Chimurenga Renaissance. The lead single, “Girlz with Gunz,” which you can hear below, concerns everyday African women who were coerced by circumstances into fighting for their lives. Writing of his cousin Grace in a press release, cultural critic Charles Tonderai Mudede says, “Grace, who survived a brutal war but not the spread of AIDS, could clean, assemble, and load an AK-47. She knew when to duck for cover, when to charge, and when to fire her weapon. There were many women like her in the War of Independence, and their sacrifice, dedication, and general brilliance is celebrated in ‘Girlz with Gunz’. This is the spirit of the work.”
Never ones to follow, English alt-rock legends The London Suede (or simply Suede if you’re across the pond) aren’t just preparing to release their highly anticipated seventh album Night Thoughts, they’re also gearing up to release a full-length film of the same name. This morning, the group gave us a taste of both within their dark music video for “No Tomorrow.” The track itself is an excellent reintroduction to the group—especially frontman Brett Anderson’s piercing falsetto and yelps.
Ray LaMontagne, “Hey, No Pressure”
Yesterday, notoriously private singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne announced the details of his sixth full-length album, Ouroboros, and released its lead single “Hey, No Pressure.” The only way to truly describe the track is slinky—with its bluesy guitar riffs, breathy and soulful vocals, and an air of easiness that’s incredibly attractive. It’s as if LaMontagne is talking directly to you, and that’s not such a bad thing.
Night Moves, “Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry”
Earlier this week, Minneapolis’s folk-rock duo Night Moves dropped an incredibly lush song about yearning for true love. Distorted guitar wails and synthy keys set a bright base for pitch-perfect harmonies in “Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry” that have listeners swooning, wishing that they were Denise.
Iggy Pop and Josh Homme appeared on last night’s episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to debut “Gardenia,” the lead single from Pop’s Homme-produced new record Post Pop Depression. While Homme’s signature is certainly present (as it always does, his guitar sounds like the light gleaming off of a knife), “Gardenia”‘s shimmer and shake seems to have more in common with The Idiot‘s “Sister Midnight” than, say, “No One Knows.”