Jay Som — “The Bus Song”
By Erin McAuliffe
Jay Som, 22 year-old Melina Duterte, released “The Bus Song” in anticipation of her March 10 album release. Jay Som toured with Mitski and Japanese Breakfast last year, a lineup that must have inspired many emotions and much exultation. “The Bus Song” is rooted in place- and relationship-based nostalgia, a lyricism of specificity mastered by artists like Frankie Cosmos, Courtney Barnett, Pinegrove and Girlpool — and while we’re at it, add Jay Som to that list. Lyrics like “Why don’t we take the bus/You say you don’t like the smell/But I like the bus/I can be whoever I want to be” channel Pinegrove’s Port Authority vibes or Cosmos getting splashed by puddle-crashing buses. After telling her partner to take their time while she takes off their shoes, Duterte’s voice is joined by a choir at lyric “But I like the bus” — emphasizing her opinion as the tone shifts from forgiving to fervently self-affirmative.
Spoon — “Hot Thoughts”
By Adam Ramos
Texas indie fixtures Spoon return once again with one of their most fun and groovy tracks to date: “Hot Thoughts.” The single marks the first release from Spoon’s highly anticipated ninth album of the same name, due out March 17 via Matador. A jangling xylophone welcomes the listener, reflecting the bright colors of the single’s water-color cover art. Quickly, the vibrant kaleidoscope sounds become beautifully juxtaposed with a haunting guitar progression, as frontman Britt Daniel guides the dynamic track via his signature saccharine vocals.
“Took time off from my kingdom, raise up my creatures” Daniel commands in the track’s subdued bridge, offering just about the only respite from the dazzling dance trance. The new direction for the group continues to prove their unwavering commitment to progression, a powerful statement in a genre rife with banality. To kingdom come, my friends.
Jlin — “Nyakinyua Rise”
By Adrian Mark Lore
They call it “footwork” for a reason. Trap music’s experimental sister genre is a mind-bending, body-shaking phenomenon. It forces you to move — if you can catch up to its merciless speed. The genre has enjoyed only brief encounters with the mainstream, often via rare though effective crossovers; since her rise to prominence only a couple of years ago, however, Jlin (Jerrilynn Patton) has given the genre some deserved repute and independence. Her recent single “Nyakinyua Rise” is the logical continuation to the futuristic footwork of her debut album “Dark Energy,” but features an even greater fusion of the modern and the primeval, her signature aesthetic. The inclusion of eclectic percussive elements and tribal calling on this track underscore these themes and play on her strengths as a musician but also feel somewhat familiar. She recently announced that her upcoming record is to be more experimental than the last, yet “Nyakinyua Rise” is more indicative of artistic maturation than of deliberate evolution. One wonders whether her skills will prove to be aligned with her intentions.
Arcade Fire [ft. Mavis Staples] — “I Give You Power”
By Kelly McGarry
In their first release since “Reflektor,” Arcade Fire ventures beyond the dance rock of that 2013 release to a surprising collaboration with the legendary gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples. “I Give You Power” offers proof that the whole is more than the sum of its parts — or at least different. The track sounds neither like an Arcade Fire tune, or anything we’d expect from Mavis Staples.
“I Give You Power” is reminiscent of Alabama Shakes’ 2015 album “Sound and Color” in its ability to be subversive and soulful, yet otherworldly. But the artists proved themselves down-to-earth when they released the track on the eve of inauguration, tweeting, “It’s never been more important that we stick together and take care of each other.” They also revealed that all proceeds from it will go to the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization whose mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
“I give you power, I can take it away,” the track repeats, lyrics perfectly contrived for the occasion. “I Give You Power” is more message than music, but compelling nonetheless.
Real Estate — “Darling”
By Mike Donovan
Martin Courtney lives and dies by the clean guitar. The instrument, run through an amp with cavernous amounts of headroom capped off with a bit of reverb, is the backbone of his three albums with Real Estate and his one solo effort.
Needless to say, Courtney’s signature clean guitar sound returns on Real Estate’s newest single “Darling.” But, for the first time in his tenure with the band, Courtney showcases another melodic driver — the pop synthesizer. With its combination of synthesizer and clean guitar, “Darling” takes on more of a dream-pop vibe similar to that of bands like Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils.
The track’s lyrical revelations don’t exactly provide any profound insights about love or life. It’s just another melancholy song about longing for somebody. The sonic structures, too, stay in well-trodden territory. We shouldn’t expect much more. Real Estate has never been about making innovative music. Their mainstay is musical comfort food, the music we turn to because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. “Darling” has this heartwarming familiarity in spades.