Sound Board: The Week’s Best Tracks
Our picks for the best tracks out there for the week of August 17–21, 2015. Headphone-tested, FLOOD-approved.
As we slide into one of the last weekends of summer 2015, this week, we were greeted with some of the strongest tracks of the season including music from surprise releases (Panda Bear), upcoming LPs (Peaches, Beirut, Steven A. Clark, Deerhunter), and one stand-alone powerhouse (Janelle Monáe / Wondaland Records)
Check them all out below.
“No Mans Land”—the lead single from Panda Bear‘s Crossroads EP—is a funky and playful track that finds Lennox straying from the ethereal sound of Meets The Grim Reaper. With an eclectic beat, a strong vocal melody, and looping flourishes reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “No Mans Land” brings Panda Bear back down from the clouds and places him firmly into the rich sonic soil of the natural earth.
It’s pretty rare for Peaches to not be the most badass person in a particular room, but that’s the risk you take when you enlist Kim Gordon in your song/video. “Close Up” brings both powerful women together to rap and chant over a steady club beat. Synth lines, drum machine quirks, and a hypnotic chorus help “Close Up” wiggle its way into your subconscious for days. The video for the track is a work of beauty as well: the clip pits Peaches against a series of wrestlers, each of whom attempt to take her down by any means necessary while Gordon—Peaches’ trainer—vapes on the sidelines.
We’ve already parsed the triple-negative command of the title track from Beirut‘s new record, No No No. Now the Santa Fe group have shared the video for “Gibraltar,” the album’s second single, which finds the band getting down to business on a particularly stark beach. While the video’s beach is a bit desolate, as a track “Gibraltar” features a bouncy and bright piano melody over a simple bongo beat (complete with hand claps). Zach Condon’s smooth croon floats above the playful track inviting you closer.
Seemingly different enough from the White Fence aesthetic to warrant a whole new moniker, Tim Presley’s latest as W-X will be released on John Dwyer’s safe-haven outlet for the weird, rugged, wild, and (generally) awesome, Castle Face Records. The first track from W-X is “Clean It Glen”—a manic pastiche of textures and ideas pasted together with analog hiss and tape manipulation. Headphones are recommended. Pop expectations are not.
It’s been a couple of years since Deerhunter released their last album, 2013’s Monomania. Now, the Atlanta group are back with Fading Frontier. This week they shared a video for lead single “Snakeskin”—a jangly guitar drenched, groove-filled jam that fills your ears with layers eerie backwards tracks, looped static, and found sounds. By the time frontman Bradford Cox’s vocals leave the song around the third minute, the swirling sounds of “Snakeskin”‘s sonic storm have overpowered you. Don’t fight it.
Janelle Monáe / Wondaland Records “Hell You Talmbout”
Earlier this week, Wondaland Record’s Janelle Monáe, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Deep Cotton, and Roman GianArthur released a powerful collaborative track as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Hell You Talmbout” is nearly seven minutes of the artists shouting the names of lives lost over a repetitive and effective drum line beat. There’s so much passion, power, and pain behind the verses. The result is necessary and unforgettable.
What Steven A. Clark does is difficult to classify. Sure, “Can’t Have,” the lead single from his debut LP The Lonely Roller, skitters along on machine-built drums and is spangled by sparkling synths, and Clark himself croons and ad-libs expertly. But it lacks a certain something, the ineffable, showy confidence that undergirds Drake, say, or The Weeknd, even at their most vulnerable. You don’t get the sense that Clark is playing a character, or that he’s terribly interested in the way he comes across. Calling it R&B seems inaccurate, but calling Clark a singer/songwriter seems reductive; troubadours rarely know their way around an 808.