We’re only a couple months into 2017, but artists are already teasing work that could be Album of the Year material. Here’s what our staff is listening to right now.
Lorde – “Green Light”
By Nora McGreevy
When Lorde hears sound, she sees color. In “Green Light,” a pre-release off of Lorde’s upcoming June 16 album, “Melodrama,” Lorde weaves her unique synesthetic vision into the lyrics of a fast-paced, thumping breakup song: “I’m waiting for it, that green light, I want it – ‘Cause honey I’ll come get my things, but I can’t let go.” The paradoxically joyful mood of the song clashes with brokenhearted and often bitterly humorous, nuanced lyrics. Lorde calls out her ex for pretending to like the ocean, then sings, almost muttering: “Those great whites, they have big teeth / Hope they bite you.”
The song’s accompanying music video might get us as close as possible to understanding how Lorde experiences her own music. The whole video hinges on a kaleidoscope of colors: Lorde’s dress is an arresting dash of magenta as she careens through sea green urban nightscape. In a nightclub, flashes of emerald and cobalt light up either side of her cheekbones. When she’s dancing in a pool of green light in the middle of the floor, her limbs move freely and fiercely, and she calls back to her ex – “Did it frighten you, how we kissed when we danced on the light up floor?” The chorus is loud, all-consuming and cathartic: when you listen to this song, you’ll want to be green with Lorde, too.
QTY – “Dress/Undress”
By Mike Donovan
I don’t mean to offend my fellow indie rock devotees out there, but I think it’s time we set the despair aside for a while. I don’t think it’s very good for our brains. Luckily, aspiring British indie label Dirty Hit recently whipped up a healthy alternative to post-rock despair — a pair of wiley New York rockers who call themselves QTY.
QTY’s latest single, “Dress/Undress,” is (bear with me) partially reminiscent of The Strokes. I know what you’re thinking: Roughly 120 percent of the guitar rock from the past 15 years has been partially reminiscent of The Strokes. I see your point, and you have a right to be skeptical. But, I still think you should give QTY a chance. Unlike The Strokes — who went to Britain to do the British sound on a British label — QTY went to Britain to do the New York sound (think New York Dolls) on a British label. That’s cool, right?
Plus, “Dress/Undress” is upbeat, slightly irreverent, danceable (if you’re a weirdo) and gratuitously pleasant — something to offset all that pointless moping (I’m looking at you, DIIV). So do me a solid, slip the Joy Division record back in its sleeve for a few days, and have a little fun with QTY.
Feist – “Pleasure”
By Erin McAuliffe
Leslie Feist’s last release was in 2011. “Metals” was one of my formative albums, and Feist’s recent single, “Pleasure,” echoes its staccato melodies to provide a warm sense of nostalgia. But the release pushes further: bell slaps, flute-like synths and ethereal guitar plucking prove that Feist is here to compete with the sounds I’ve delved into since, a la tUnE-yArDs, Flock of Dimes and Half Waif.
The track’s lyrics echo my sentiments about the reopening of a sense of self I discovered six years ago (a teenager purchasing the CD from Target after, amazingly, liking every song’s iTunes preview): “An indication of time / Our togetherness / That is how we evolved.” The album is due April 28 and I look forward to being together with a Feist album again, comparing how we’ve both evolved and how we’ve stayed the same. On top of this month’s release by The Shins, teenage me is rejoicing in her bubblegum pink bedroom (we’ll just sweep that Coldplay/The Chainsmokers collaboration under the rug).
Fleet Foxes – “Third of May / Ōdaigahara”
By Adam Ramos
In the midst of promoting his own highly anticipating upcoming album, “Pure Comedy,” Father John Misty took a moment on Twitter recently to admit that the latest single from his former band Fleet Foxes “made me cry honest to god.” FJM’s constant sheen of self-referential irony and cynicism shouldn’t be disregarded, but there seemed to be an element of genuineness in the remark, as if the track affirmed something for him. Grand, beautiful but remarkably warm, “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” is the first single in six years for the seminal indie folk outfit — and their most ambitious work to date.
At almost nine minutes, “Third of May/ Ōdaigahara” is sprawling, retaining the classic Fleet Foxes sound while intricately building in every direction. Pecknold’s booming vocals sound better than ever as he touchingly reflects on his lengthy friendship with Fleet Foxes guitarist Skyler Skjelset in the midst of their shared success. Ebbing and flowing between gorgeous, string-bolstered crescendos and stripped down, intimate moments, “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” proves the Foxes haven’t missed a beat. Fortunately, more is on the way, as the track also ushered in the announcement of a new album, “Crack-Up,” due out June 16 via Nonesuch.
“123” – Girlpool
By Owen Lane
Los Angeles duo Girlpool have returned to the music scene with the loudest lullaby you’ve ever heard. On their new single “123,” Girlpool’s wistful nostalgia for childhood runs over from their debut LP “Before The World Was Big.” “123” starts out slow and dreamy like a distant memory of running around the backyard. Suddenly, the duo’s gorgeous nursery rhyme harmony gives way to a driving rock track. The guitar alternates between low, crunchy power chords and breezy, higher chords that cascade over you like a waterfall.
That being said, Girlpool’s fantastic vocals outshine even the swaying guitar and tight bass line. At times in the past, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s vocals have bordered on grating. “123” works so well because their vocals are forceful, yet always cradled by the gentle power of their instruments. Coming back from spring break, I think we can all relate to “feeling sorry about the load” as Girlpool sings. If you need a sub-two minute break from all the brand-new stresses, throw on “123” and let everything melt away for a few minutes.