CURRENT: Shamir – “On the Regular”

While “If It Wasn’t True” put Shamir on the map, his first offering as a member of the XL roster, “On the Regular”, puts him on more of a topographic map, revealing more about Shamir as an artist. He raps on the track, showing an assured confidence that is far removed from the twitchy “True”. Sonically, the song falls somewhere between Le1f and Azealia Banks, while lyrically and aesthetically, he appears to operate with a full palette of colors, using humor and aggression to create a fascinating portrait. “Yes, I’m never ending / Call me pi,” goes one memorable couplet near the song’s opening, while the bridge finds Shamir warning, “Don’t try me, I’m not a free sample.” If you want Shamir, you’re going to have to take it all. With “On the Regular,” Shamir draws a line in the sand. Either you’re with me, or you’re not. 

BEST OF … October 2014

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The final quarter of 2014 began with a bang, as Panda Bear and Sleater-Kinney(!!!) announced their respective new albums (due in 2015) with the release of incredible singles. Tinashe made good on the promise of “2 On” with a stunning debut, while Run The Jewels continued to demonstrate their importance to modern day hip-hop. But the month, of course, belonged to Taylor Swift. There hasn’t been a release this publicized since Beyoncé’s secret release a year ago, and like that one, 1989 is pretty great.

BEST TRACKS (October)

1. A$AP Rocky, “Multiply” (feat. Juicy J)

2. Ariel Pink, “Black Ballerina”

3. Caribou, “All I Ever Need”

4. Chvrches, “Get Away”

5. Drake, “How About Now” Continue reading “BEST OF … October 2014”

CURRENT: Panda Bear – “Mr. Noah”

Noah Lennox has already released two remarkable solo LPs (including my personal favorite of 2007, Person Pitch), and since the beginning of 2014, the rumor mill has been building excitement for Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, his third solo LP set for release in early 2015.

Lennox has shared an EP to stem the tide, and the lead track, “Mr. Noah,” sits nicely next to the best moments in his solo discography. After a thirty-second freak-out of an introduction, “Noah” grabs hold of the listener with a fluid, magnetic melody impossible to escape, much like the Grim Reaper’s meeting date with all of us.

Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reapers is out 13 January via Domino. The Mr. Noah EP is out now on iTunes.

CURRENT: Ariel Pink – “Black Ballerina”

Ariel Pink’s timing is curious. After a very public dismissal of Madonna’s work since “Everybody”, along with the ensuing accusations of being a misogynist, releasing a song with the loaded title of “Black Ballerina” would leave any publicist no choice but to start drafting a resignation letter.

Fortunately for Pink, the song is as irreverent as his music has ever been, equally catchy and ridiculous and mesmerizing. Sounding like “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”‘ nerdy cousin, the song sounds like a perfect description of the scene, young Billy being escorted to a strip club by his grandpa. “What goes up, must come down,” he sings, seemingly looking upon the “black ballerina.” “Elevators, manufacturers,” he follows.

Is it Pink’s own odd way of critiquing the ballet’s difficult history on race? More and more though, thinking of Ariel Pink and his music on those terms is more akin to getting angry over Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert getting a news story wrong. There are a lot more important people saying a lot more outrageous things; although “I like your aureolas” takes the top prize.

pom pom is out 18 November through 4AD. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty great.

CURRENT: Viet Cong – “Continental Shelf”

On Viet Cong’s debut cassette EP, the new band, featuring members of cult favorites Women, offered us a glimpse of the potential for some great music from the band. And with “Continental Shelf”, the band meets and exceeds any expectations of them, with an equally grounded and soaring track. As the guitars amp up, creating a massive wall of sound, it would be easy to expect singer Matt Flegel to do his best to match Dylan Baldi’s intensity, but Flegel’s vocal tone is more in line with Spencer Krug of Sunset Rubdown/Wolf Parade fame. Put together, “Continental Shelf” is one of the crowning achievements in indie rock this year.

Viet Cong, the band’s self-titled debut, is set for release on 20 January through Jagjaguwar.

CURRENT: Parkay Quarts – “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth”

Parquet Courts rose to fame on the heels of the unbridled energy of tracks such as “Stoned and Starving”, but with every release since the southern, New York-based band reveal more depth to their music.

Having already released an excellent album in 2014, Sunbathing Animal, the band are set to release another disc, this one under the homophonic Parkay Quarts moniker. The song recalls the downtempo “Instant Disassembly”, but whereas that song relied on a singalong refrain, this one pulls the listener in with a hypnotic guitar riff and singer and lyricist Andrew Savage’s captivating story. And like any great story, the song builds to a thrilling climax, blurring the line between PC/PQ, if there ever was one at all.

Content Nausea is out 11 November through What’s Your Rupture?.

CURRENT: CHVRCHES – “Get Away”

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since the release of Chvrches’ excellent debut The Bones of What You Believe. The band’s been largely quiet since then, no matter how much their music has influenced today’s biggest pop stars.

In what is one of the more curious music-related announcements of the year, BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe has curated an album inspired by, aimed to soundtrack the influential 2011 Nicholas Winding Refn film Drive. While the world might not need another soundtrack (following the official one, as well as the Chromatics’ album Kill For Love, which was intended for use in the film), if you’re going to try to recreate the magic of a soundtrack, it might as well be from one of the decade’s best.

Chvrches use the opportunity to refine their sound further, with Lauren Mayberry sounding more a part of the whole ensemble than apart from it. On their debut, Mayberry’s vocals were front and center, but here, she’s further in the background, but no less stronger.