CURRENT: Small Black – “Boys Life”

I first discovered Small Black through Nicolas Jaar’s Other People imprint, which oversaw the release of Dave Harrington’s remix of the Small Black/Frankie Rose collaboration “Lines of Latitude.” That lush, wispy remix still sounds like a breath of fresh air, and on their latest, “Boys Life,” the group takes essential qualities from that remix and shifts them to fit this track.

“Boys Life” came about after lead singer Josh Kolenik surveyed the damage wreaked by Hurricane Sandy at his father’s home and discovered old photographs taken by/of his father. “Pictures of you / picturing you,” Kolenik wistfully sings as synths glitter behind him. Like the past, Small Black’s music has always lived in a rose-tinted yet unattainable setting. With “Boys Life,” though, we get the best proof yet that the past is present.

Best Blues is out October 16 through Jagjaguwar. “Boys Life” premieres today via T Magazine.

UPDATE “Boys Life” is now available to stream via Soundcloud and Spotify.


CURRENT: Ought – “Beautiful Blue Sky”

Ought’s More Than Any Other Day was one of – if not the most – confident debut LPs of 2014, in large part due to Tim Darcy’s melodic, spoken-word vocal delivery, which falls somewhere in between Stephen Malkmus, Black Francis and David Byrne. For a follow-up, Ought doubles-down on the aesthetic they helped push into view on their 2014 LP, signaling more of an inward growth than outward. They aren’t attempting to change their style or sound with “Beautiful Blue Sky.” Now that the band has found their voice, they seem intent on delivering their message as clear as possible. “I am no longer afraid to die,” Darcy at one point asserts. “Because that’s all I have left,” he finishes. Something tells me that’s not entirely true.

Sun Coming Down finds its way into digital retailers and brick and mortar shops beginning September 18 through Constellation.

CURRENT: Micachu & The Shapes – “Oh Baby”

Micachu & The Shapes founder Mica Levi struck out on her own last year, with her compositions for the 2014 film Under The Skin gaining the rising artist a lot of new fans in the process. For her band’s new LP – their first since 2012’s Never – Levi and keyboardist Raisa Khan and drummer Marc Pell take some elements from the Under The Skin OST and put them into a pop context. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of “Oh Baby” is how the band expertly mixes in the icy instrumental with the warmth of the vocal performance. The song never threatens to climax, rather relying on its steady rhythm to pin the listener down, while these two disparate worlds collide.

Good Sad Happy Bad is out September 11 via Rough Trade.

CURRENT: Helen – “Motorcycle”

If you’re familiar with Grouper’s Liz Harris and her discography, then the first official single from her group Helen will almost certainly throw you for a loop. While guitars shred and drums pound, Harris’s washed out, reverberating vocals rise above the cacophony. While the sound is far removed from the stillness of The Man Who Died In His Boat, “Motorcycle” is still as blurry and faded at the edges as Harris’s work as Grouper. No matter the change in sonic background, on “Motorcycle,” Liz Harris is still in control.

The Original Faces is out September 4 through Kranky.

CURRENT: Beach House – “Sparks”

Not that this week needed anymore great new music (thank you, Miguel and Vince Staples), but we’ll take it! Beach House announced a while back that they have a new album coming out near the end of August, Depression Cherry. Now, the duo has unveiled the first single off the forthcoming disc, “Sparks.” After the glistening Bloom and the hazy Teen Dream, “Sparks” finds Beach House operating with a level of rawness we haven’t seen since their early material. As the guitars chime and create a velvet wall of sound, it becomes apparent that no matter the subtle shifts in sound, there are few contemporary bands so keenly aware of their place and status as Beach House.

CURRENT: Janet Jackson – “No Sleeep”

It’s been a long 7 years since Janet Jackson’s last LP, 2008’s Discipline, but Miss Jackson finally returns with “No Sleeep,” the smoothest of slow jams, produced alongside longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The song features Janet Jackson’s trademarked sensuality, and is refreshingly downbeat for a superstar musical comeback. This is more The Velvet Rope than Discipline. “You missin’ me / I missin’ you,” she sings during the chorus, and all of the sudden those long 7 years were all worth it.

CURRENT: Total Makeover – “Different Shapes”

via Stereogum
via Stereogum

Noah Stitleman’s Neighbors released their debut LP last year, but the Brooklyn singer-songwriter is already returning with a side project, Total Makeover. “Different Shapes” is refreshingly forceful, taking cues from late-00s indie rock and making them sound as vital in 2015. Ultimately, the song succeeds on the back of its assured, forward-thinking delivery, even as “Shapes” comes with many signals of music eras past.

Listen to the premiere of “Different Shapes” over at Stereogum.