Friday, April 18, 2014

"Descent"- Fear of Men

Dream-pop trio Fear of Men make relationships sound absolutely torturous. When they're gliding along on the sunny fizzles and fuzzes of "Luna", Janet Weiss hits the E-brake to whisper "I've tried my best to destroy you." Whatever goals the couple once had have deteriorated into a competition fueled by stubborn pride and a profound unwillingness to see the writing on the wall. In writhing slow-number "Outrun Me", unwillingness is transcribed into a refusal to leave behind something wholly familiar. Experiencing love for the first time is a magnificent thing, but having to move on can be agonizing. It's devastating, and only in that wreckage do you realize the cliché "you never forget your first" exists for a reason.

The devastation on display in the Brighton-group's latest effort "Descent", is far more subtle but no less monumental. When Weiss softly exhales "cause I have you" in the sparkling chorus, you think you're hearing of an unshakable friendship that James Taylor and Carole King would approve of. The type of friendship that puts you closest to your actual-self, where there's very little you have to hide. A friend who will pull you out of "nothingness" as Weiss puts it in the jangly intro. It sounds so blissful, something anyone would sign up for in an instant. But few would sign on the dotted line after hearing Weiss recount "spending half my life next to you." All of the time spent is taxing, to the point Weiss can't even finish her thought; she can only offer a disconsolate "oooh." Then you realize a life-long relationship isn't always liberating, it can also be a prison sentence you never come back from. You'll watch the days go by, marking them off in chalk, and pray for anything to take you away.

Fear of Men's debut LP Loom is out April 21 in the UK and April 22 in the U.S. through Kanine Records.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What's New(s)?

Mastodon release "High Road"

It's been two-plus years since prog/sludge-metal band Mastodon dropped their fifth album The Hunter, but soon that will change with the release of Once More Round the Sun. Though details are relatively sparse, the Atlanta-based quartet previewed the upcoming LP today with "High Road". Produced by Nick Raskulinecz, who was at the helm for The Hold Steady's Teeth Dreams, "High Road" is a four minute climb from muddy snarls and churning guitars to ascendant choruses. No word yet if Once More Round the Sun will be a concept record in the vein of Blood Mountain or Leviathan, but "High Road" certainly possesses that same "epic" quality to it.

According to Spin, the record will be out sometime in June on Warner Brothers and include tracks entitled "Ember City" and "Diamonds in the Witch House", which features vocals from Scott Kelly of Neurosis. You can listen to "High Road" here now.

Belle & Sebastian cover "Don't Stop Believin"

I don't think it's any secret that people love to sing along to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin". There are certainly songs that are considered more important musically and are more critically respected, but few if any are performed as frequently as "Don't Stop Believin". Odds are at any given bar in America (on any given night) you'll hear the song sliding out of the speakers. And by the time the chorus hits, at least a few denizens will have set their drinks aside and fully committed to replicating Steve Perry's anthemic vocals. 

But of course the real joy of hearing "Don't Stop Believin" isn't listening to a spot-on replication, but a gloriously sloppy cover. And Belle and Sebastian's take on the tune for Songs For Kids Foundation at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta belongs in that latter category. Stuart Murdoch and company go through an abridged version of the rock classic that sadly excises the signature guitar solo, but replaces it with a cantering acoustic guitar that's hard not to nod along to.

Coldplay announce new tour 

Despite their numerous detractors, Coldplay's live performances are almost unimpeachable. I had the opportunity to see them during their Viva La Vida tour in 2008 and it remains one of the five best shows I've ever seen. And in anticipation of their 6th LP Ghost Stories, the band will hit the road next week for a brief tour run. The six-show stint includes a release day concert at UCLA's Royce Hall, a far-cry from the expansive arenas they often inhabit. You'll find the dates below, along with the stark video for recent single "Magic" featuring Ziyi Zhang of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Tour Dates: 
4/25 Cologne, Germany - E-Werk
5/5 New York, NY - Beacon Theatre 
5/19 Los Angeles, CA - Royce Hall 
5/28 Paris, France - Casino de Paris
6/12 Tokyo, Japan - Dome City Hall
7/1 London, England - Royal Albert Hall

Check back tomorrow for more of the newest in new(s) and follow AllFreshSounds on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

"Ezra's Interlude" ft. Ezra Koenig- Chromeo

I'll admit from the jump that I know next to nothing about Chromeo. Until I posted the artwork from their forthcoming fourth album White Women, I was clueless as to how many members were in the group. If you'd told me 2 or 10, I could've been talked into believing either. I had no idea that the duo of David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel, better known as Dave 1 and P-Thugg, hailed from Montreal or that they'd been going strong since the release of She's In Control in 2004. All I had was this vague conception of Chromeo as some sort of goofy, electronic-tinged act.

So it was somewhat disconcerting for me to see this morning that the latest preview from the White Women LP featured none other than Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig. I haven't exactly been shy about my admiration of the band and while they've been able to loosen up before, "goofy" is not a primary word I would use to describe them. I was worried that Koenig could descend into a garish pit of cheekiness that would be difficult to crawl back out of. However, all of my fears were allayed as soon as I actually heard the track. The reflective piano opening the track as Koenig coolly hums, is distant kin to the gliding keys found in "Hannah Hunt". His realization "I just can't pretend I'm gonna make you mine," is the much-needed eye-opener after the relationship dreaming that marked "Ya Hey". And then, as Koenig bows out, Dave 1 rides in on electronic burbles and reaffirms his sentiment. "I never wanna be the last to know," he calmly protests atop a bed of sonic burbles. What read as disjointed on first glance is in fact united.

White Women is out 5/12 through Big Beat, and if you pre-order the release you instantly receive four songs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's New(s)?

Lykke Li releases new song "Gunshot"

Swedish pop singer Lykke Li's third LP I Never Learn, her follow up to 2011's ruminating Wounded Rhymes, is out next month. Li has previously said the record will conclude a trilogy that began with her debut release Youth Novels in 2008, and that it will be more of a "singer-songwriter record than pop." Li's already released the achingly fragile "No Rest for the Wicked" and the distanced folk-leaning "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone", but her latest effort "Gunshot" might be the most confessional of the three. Over an aquatic drum throb, a reverberated Li chases after a love she knows has Chernobyl levels of toxicity. And still she begs over and over again for that love to come back, if only for a night. If these are kinds of confessions Li's been working on, I Never Learn will be a bitter epilogue to a brilliant trilogy. 

I Never Learn is out May 5 through Lykke Li's LL Recordings imprint. And if that's too long of a wait, "Gunshot" is currently streaming on a specially created site. And if that still isn't enough Li for your liking, the video for "No Rest for the Wicked" is available below.

Hear a recently discovered J Dill track now

Pay Jay, the imprint run by deceased producer J Dilla's family estate, is putting out a new record that rounds up previously unheard efforts from the rap-icon. Entitled Give 'Em What They Want, the EP culls together three separate vocal tracks Dilla laid down in 2001, along with two instrumentals to round out the effort. Today the first of those tracks, the booming title-track, dropped. Co-produced with Supa Dave West, "Give 'Em What They Want" gives a glimpse of a more rugged Dilla than many are used to seeing. But by the end, the brash histrionics shuffle off and a hypnotic, Eastern-tinged instrumental steps in. Proving once again that part of Dilla's appeal is a profound ability to make every permutation of his style a "must-listen."

Give 'Em What They Want drops May 6 and can be purchased through Rap Cats, and tracks from the EP may be featured on the long-lost Dilla album The Diary.

OFF! fight Dave Foley and Brian Posehn played fascists in "Red White and Black"

This has already been an incredible week for music videos. Yesterday not only saw the release of the gut-busting video for Real Estate's "Crime" featuring TV's Andy Daly, but also the Nazi-defying "Red White and Black" by hardcore-punk supergroup OFF! While the song itself moves a million miles faster than Real Estate's loping "Crime", both videos feature a madcap sense of humor. In "Red White and Black", Kids in the Hall star Dave Foley and Mr. Show/Sarah Silverman Show actor Brian Posehn play Nazis nervously preparing for a music gig at a bar. A black biker-gang gets wind of the show and by the end all the Nazi-scum is driven out of the bar. And if brawling black bikers and Nazis portrayed by Foley and Posehn weren't enough, the "Red White and Black" video features cameos from: David Yow (Jesus Lizard), Danny Carey (Tool), Dale Crover (Melvins), and Jack Grisham (TSOL).

Check back tomorrow for more of the newest in new(s) and follow AllFreshSounds on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

"Here"- Pharrell, Johnny Marr, & Hans Zimmer

Orchestral folk-singer isn't exactly a hat you'd expect omnipotent singer/rapper/producer Pharrell to don, but on Amazing Spider-Man 2 track "Here" he wears it extremely well. After manning the boards on faux-disco cut "It's On Again" with Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar, "Here" sees Pharrell working with the far more random duo of Smiths-guitarist Johnny Marr and go-to film-scorer Hans Zimmer. Even knowing ahead of time that the three would be working together on the superhero flick's soundtrack didn't stop me from marveling at the credit list when I first saw it. If I was forced to create a more-random trio to craft a song this year, under penalty of death, I'm not sure if I could.

As I said in the opening though, Pharrell wears the hat of orchestral folk-singer incredibly well and not simply because he looks great in any hat. The collaboration works because no one is stepping on anyone's toes. Hans Zimmer's strings don't have the same massive oomph that marks his other superhero scores. They still glide skyward, but it never feels like an overreach. Likewise, Marr abandons his guitar wizardry for a plaintive acoustic figure that undergirds Pharrell's tender crooning. Lyrically nothing Pharrell is saying is revelatory; he generally sticks to unfettered declarations of love "on all existence." But he's so remarkably self-assured that you buy every word he's saying. By pulling back the curtains, "Here" places the spotlight firmly on Pharrell and he doesn't shy away in the slightest. 

(The Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack is out April 22, but you can hear "Here" on Stereogum now.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What's New(s)?

Listen to a piece of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' Gone Girl score now

Trent Reznor has had a more than fruitful collaboration with musical-pal Atticus Ross and director David Fincher, winning an Academy Award for 2010's The Social Network and capturing a Grammy for 2011's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That mutually beneficial partnership continues with the score for the Fincher-directed Gone Girl, which Reznor and Ross premiered in part today on the website FindAmazingAmy. The site for the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best-selling thriller is designed to resemble local-news coverage of the novel's main-case with clips from the film  and the Reznor/Ross score interspersed throughout.

In addition to the site, the film's first official trailer is now out which can be seen below. In the clip, lead Ben Affleck can be seen arguing with his missing-wife played by Rosamund Pike as Psychedelic Furs' frontman Richard Butler's tender cover of "She" slowly unwinds. It's absolutely gorgeous and fully goes against the grain of the trailer's grim tone.

Gone Girl is out in theaters October 3.


G-Side debut new single "Statue"

Huntsville, Alabama's own G-Side make workmanship seem colossally heroic. From 2007 to 2011 they released five albums of increasingly great music, culminating with the dark vibrancy of 2011's iSLAND. That dark-vibrancy wasn't just an artistic creation and in September of 2012 the duo of ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova parted ways.

In the time since the split, Lettaz and Clova have mended fences and now they're prepping for Gz to Godz, their 6th official release. To hype the LP, they've debuted the booming "Statue" which has all of the stomp you'd expect from the first single for an album. Produced by frequent-collaborators Block Beattaz, "Statue" mutates from calm horn-laden grinding to an almost gothic, Lex Luger-indebted churn without any growing pains. If they hometown ever does get around to building a statute of the duo, efforts like "Statue" will be the reason why.

Gz to Godz is still without a release date, but you can find "Statue" now through Audio Mack. 

TV's Andy Daly "directs" the video for Real Estate's "Crime

I am an unabashed fan of TV's Andy Daly. From his constant guest-work on show's ranging like The Office, Modern Family, and Eastbound & Down to his generally manic output on the stellar Comedy Bang Bang podcast, there are few (if any) comedic efforts Daly has done that I haven't sought out. He blends blind-confidence and barely togetherness in his characters that you know from the outset is going to end miserably, but you laugh anyway.

That disastrous line-towing is on full-display in the Funny or Die music video for Real Estate's loping "Crime" single, directed by WFMU's Tom Scharpling. In the video, Daly portrays a sad-sack version of Scharpling who is directing the effort because of "money trouble" he's currently experiencing. So to make an extra profit, the "auteur" Scharpling auctions off the "Crime" clip to 24-year-old Jared Frenkel's Blood Lords (about a gang of undead X-Gamers), an Iowa City ceramicist named Valerie Anderson, and senior-citizen Fred Dombrowski Sr. who just wants to see a "tribute to yesteryear." And if the revenue-stream weren't wide enough, Scharpling hooks a Thai restaurant and the Westboro Baptist Church. And though Scharpling rakes in the big bucks at the end, nothing quite goes according to plan.

You can watch the video now through Funny or Die.

(Check back tomorrow for more of the newest in new(s) and follow AllFreshSounds on Twitter for updates throughout the day.)

Track Attack- "You and Your Sister (Acoustic Version)" (Chris Bell)

If I was handed a guitar and told I could play one song to win over the woman I loved, I already know what I'd pick. In fact, I've known for several years now. From the first time I heard the carefully plucked guitar of Chris Bell's "You and Your Sister (Acoustic Version)" I knew full well it was a love-song that I could never turn my back on. The kind I could never shake, no matter what. A track often capable of communicating my own feelings better than I could. There have been times that I’ve stammered when I’ve tried to articulate my sweeping feelings of love and affection. I'll go off course and repeat a point I've already made. Or worse yet, I will forget a point entirely. The last is by far and away the worst because it readily translates to regret. If the exchange goes poorly, you can blame your failure on the omission for as long as you'd like.

"You and Your Sister (Acoustic Version)" has no regrets. It's a romantic ballad worthy of being called "economically-precise." Bell keeps the track under three minutes and only allows for acoustic guitar. Within the first 20 seconds of the song, he's reassuring an unnamed subject just how real the incredibly abstract idea of love is for him. The central conceit comes out immediately after the assurance: "all I want to do is to spend some time with you." There's no subtext or ulterior motives. No decoding needs to be done. The wish is as "simple" as Bell's facile whine. And when you boil down your "big speech" to single declaration, regret and disappointment begin to dissipate.

Granted, regret and disappointment were never far from Bell's real life. His "big-break" came as an invaluable member of Memphis power-pop quartet Big Star. Still in the throes of Beatlemania, Bell formed the group in 1971 with Alex Chilton and fellow Icewater members Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens. Less than a year later, the group's debut release #1 Record was out through the influential southern-Soul label Stax. Almost immediately it was hailed in critical circles as a classic, where every song could "be a single" as Billboard decreed. 

Critical praise doesn't always translate to commercial success though and that is bitterly true of#1 Record. The album sold less than 10,000 copies in its initial run, a small-showing largely attributable to the soul-oriented Stax not knowing how to handle the pop-minded band. From all accounts, Bell put more effort into the LP's overall sound than anyone else in Big Star and when #1 Record tanked, he was particularly devastated. Worsening drug and alcohol problems, coupled with lifelong depression and a rumored jealousy of Chilton (whose "Thirteen" is the effort most closely associated with the album) hastened Bell's speedy exit from the group he'd formed.

On his own, Bell quickly began recording demos at Memphis' Ardent Studios without much materializing. The initial version of "You and Your Sister", which served as a B-side to Bell's deeply spiritual "I Am the Cosmos", reunited Bell with Chilton in a "duet" over lithe orchestral strings and sonorous bass. However, the instrumental flourishes aren't all that separates the original from its acoustic counterpart. In the original, Bell and Chilton mordantly croon together "plans fail every day," knowing full-well their own record dreams offer proof. Those failures lead to dark fears which dot "You and Your Sister"'s otherwise pristine landscape. The song's lyrical failures became more literal when Bell issued the single through the small Car Records imprint in 1978 and it failed to land. By this time, Bell was working at his father Vernon's restaurant and wandering through a valley of depression; the single's non-showing was just the latest disappointment.

Not long after, Bell's doubts, disappointments, and regrets left for good when he was involved in a fatal car accident on December 27, 1978 at the age of 27. All he could lay claim to was about a dozen songs he'd managed to cobble together throughout the 70s. None would see official release until 1992 as I Am the Cosmos. There "You and Your Sister (Acoustic Version)" first appeared; serving as a poignant epilogue to Bell's fitful career. Far more than the original, the alternate offering portrays Bell in his best and frankly most honest light. He's not concerned about failed plans or false starts. Worrying is the furthest thing from his mind. Freed from the bass and strings, with only that crystalline acoustic to guide him, Bell’s fully able to articulate his point. All he wants is "a little time." Time to show how ceaselessly he loves, how much he cares. Time to convince a skeptical sister. Time to waste a day lost in the embrace of another. Time he never got in his all-too-brief life.

If you have suggestions for songs you want to see featured in future editions of Track Attack, feel free to leave them in the comment section.