Posts tagged Indie
In what has been (for me) a quiet July of new releases, the end of the month brought me something to latch on to and it came from a band that has continued to climb into the category of “my favorite bands” in the past couple years. Wild Beasts released Smother back in May during a period that saw new albums from a lot of good bands (Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Cults, Death Cab, Hooray For Earth, Bon Iver, Man Man, My Morning Jacket, The Antlers, and Son Lux) all come out in a month or so span. So suffice to say, I was overwhelmed with new music.
But Smother shined right through the rest of them (it failed to be….smothered? ahah, jokesss). Smother sees Wild Beasts take a huge step forward in a subtle way. They have refined their sound and continued the progression that their last album, Two Dancers, achieved. Lead singer Hayden Thorpe has matured his vocals into the perfect balance of intensity and grace. He leads the listener gently up and up in his falsetto until his voice breaks and we slide the slippery-slope back into his baritone. Like a sweet reduction in the kitchen, Smother is the boiled down progression of a band that has brilliantly come into their own.
Speaking to NPR about his favorite song off the album, “Loop the Loop” (streaming below), Thorpe describes it as a “crystallization” of what they have “been trying to write for ten years.” He continues, “And there’s lots of ghost notes — by ghost notes I mean almost imaginary parts. Sometimes when you’re recording a song it just hangs together in an effortless way.” “Loop the Loop” is three dimensional in the way only really well crafted songs can be, and it stands as a perfect indicator of the quality of Smother.
Wild Beasts – “Loop the Loop”
Just recently they released the second single off of Smother, ”Bed of Nails” (also a beautiful song) that came with an unreleased B-side titled: “Catherine Wheel”. “Catherine Wheel” was an exciting new track for me because it took a slight step into the past. It’s dark and carnal in a way that wasn’t fully developed on Smother but is a part of how I fell in love with the band in the past. Thorpe’s voice embraces the seductive, sensual, erotic vibe it once exuded and the lyrics match the subject matter that their first album Limbo, Panto was full of (see songs “His Grinning Skull” or “She Purred While I Grrred”).
“Catherine Wheel” is streaming below and Smother is out now on Domino Records. Wild Beasts are touring this fall so catch them if you can, you won’t be disappointed.
Wild Beasts – “Catherine Wheel”
Future Islands, the criminally overlooked and under-appreciated trio from Baltimore/Greenville has been a band that has haunted me for awhile now. Statistically they would be my favorite band, having the most plays on my itunes for their song “Little Dreamer (Jones Remix)” featuring the lovely Victoria Legrand from Beach House (streaming below). But only half of their album Wave Like Home passed the test to make it on my ipod and I can say for sure they aren’t my favorite band. And somehow I missed 2010′s In Evening Air altogether. But how has a band made a song that I so fully subsumed and then not have anything else that sparks any intense interest in me? I have traced the problem to an all too familiar source, in falling so deeply for one song, the rest of their music became peripheral. But finally the time has come to change all of that. Future Islands has grown tired of sitting in my itunes library having only half of their songs check-marked and having “Little Dreamer” stealing the show, they have bestowed “Before the Bridge”.
“Before the Bridge” is the A side to a limited edition 7″ they will be releasing on 7/19. The B side is titled “Find Love”, and the two singles are an attempt to explore “the flip sides of love.” While not an easy task, after listening to “Before the Bridge” one could assume they may have succeeded in their attempt. Samuel T. Herring’s vocals immediately stand out; refined and polished, but also crude and coarse. His voice alone is an answer to the flip sides of love enigma. “Before the Bridge” is beautiful from its genesis, but a deeper inquiry fully develops it as a song to be remembered. The dreamy start quickly snaps into the backbone rhythm. His poetic songwriting beats with the heartbeat of the song and as the pulse picks up in the chorus so does the validity and the thrust of his words, “And if things hadn’t changed/ I would have buried you deep in my heart/ And if things had stayed the same/ I would have carried you as far as the sky”. And as the chorus exhales back into the flow of the song the most poignant and pointed answer to the problem of love that the song grapples with is laid before us, “And what is love is regret/ And what isn’t love is a test”.
With such an important song one can only hope that if a music video is made, it lives up to the song it is built around. But how does one make a video that explains the flip sides of love? Director Abe Sanders answered that question brilliantly. He directed a clip that embodies all the dualities of love. By shooting the main subject in a very impersonal, detached way, he succeeds in presenting the sense that we are watching in first-person the dreams of the singer; dreams that most likely are grounded in memories. This plays wonderfully well off the use of the past in the lyrics (“if things hadn’t changed” “if things had stayed the same”). The video is ambiguous, as love often is. It’s dark and light, sharp and soft, ethereal in part but then dense and extremely earthy. It’s harshly permanent in the way certain memories can be, but as ephemeral and fleeting; just as the sun setting towards the end while the question is asked “do you believe in love?” The last image, as the song regresses back to the dreamy sounds of the opening and the listener recognizes the subtle shift from past to present in the lyrics “Whatever has us now/ I can’t forget somehow/ For to forget a love is to regret”, is a book opening to the first page. The song, the video, the lyrics, and love have all come full circle – the story is waiting to be written.
Future Islands – “Little Dreamer (Jones Remix)” ft. Victoria Legrand
Future Islands – “Before the Bridge”