Welcome back to another New(ish) Music Tuesday, where our staff picks the songs they’re currently digging and shares them with you because they (really, really) like you.
This week, we bend our own rules a little to feature a song that was released in 2012, but is in the news for a most unusual reason: the President of the United States picking a relatively unknown group for his summer Spotify playlist and The Young Folks just so happening to have one of that group’s most fervent fans as part of our writing staff. Also featured this week is an unreleased N.E.R.D. song that Pharrell dropped during one of his recent Beats 1 shows, an emotionally-gripping song by a band whose name is a full sentence, and much more:
Low Cut Connie – “Boozophilia”
Last week, President Obama put out a summer playlist, and there was one song that was probably less known than all of the others. Three years before, nearly to the day, I left Minnesota for a few days to meet some friends and see a show in Philadelphia. I later learned that I feature prominently in the music video, and now I contend with the high probability that the most powerful person in the entire world has not only seen my face, but has seen me with my shirt off.
Low Cut Connie’s received a bit of press, including Rolling Stone listing this as one of their favorite songs of 2012, but their sweaty throwback to piano-driven rock and roll is little known to the point where Obama’s endorsement probably represents the highlight of their popularity thus far.
So yeah, spin this if you think there was some sort of magic in Jerry Lee Lewis rocking Hamburg’s Star Club.
The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – “January 10th, 2014”
“Are you Diana the Hunter?”
“Are you afraid of me now?”
“Well, yeah. Shouldn’t I be?”
The real life background of this song is absolutely essential to its impact: in 2013, two bus drivers were murdered in Juarez, Mexico by a vigilante who called herself “Diana the Hunter” in an email she sent to a Spanish language website operating in Texas. Her cause was to avenge the rape, murder and disappearances of hundreds of young women in Juarez. She wrote that for decades, women had been sexually victimized by the bus drivers in Juarez while working night shifts in the factories and that no one else–and least of all the local authorities–was willing to protect them.
This inspired a powerful segment on This American Life, and in turn TWIAP’s “January 10th, 2014,” one of the year’s most emotionally impactful songs. The song’s lyrics, most of which are a dialogue between two characters, paraphrase real quotes from the This American Life story. Its resonance is aided by one of the best performances Connecticut’s terrific The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die has ever committed to tape. The song begins at a low tempo and slowly adds more instruments to mix, building towards its final mission statement: “make evil afraid of evil’s shadow.”
This is not the first time an American rock group has been inspired to write a song about the disappearances and murders in Juarez, notably At The Drive-In’s equally powerful “Invalid Litter Dept.” “January 10th, 2014” cuts as deep as that ATDI song, and if it’s any indicator of the group’s upcoming LP Harmlessless, it’s surely to be one of the year’s best guitar albums.
Battles – “The Yabba”
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from math rock heavyweights Battles, and the first single from their third album La Di Da Di is definitely worth the wait. No longer reliant on even the occasional guest vocalists that popped up on Glass Drop, the trio show their strength as instrumentalists on the album’s opening track “The Yabba,” with its complex rhythm and offbeat signatures. The band has always wowed with their tight musicianship, but it is drummer John Stanier that walks away with the track. In the past, I’ve called Stanier one of best drummers working today, and here he effortlessly shows that he hasn’t lost a step. Battles have seen a lot of changes over their career, but as they always do, they hit it out of the park with this one. I’m really excited to hear where this record takes them.
Girl Band – “Paul”
Earlier this year, the Irish noise rock group Girl Band popped onto my radar with their crunchy, throat-shredding single “De Bom Bom” and accompanying EP The Early Years, both which became instant favorites of mine. “Paul,” the first volley from their debut long-player Holding Hands with Jamie, has much of what impressed about those early releases. The song’s combination of squelching guitar, stream-of-consciousness lyrics (there’s something about corn on the cob in there?), yowling vocals, and motorik drums will likely make it a love-or-hate affair. However, fans of groups like The Fall and early Pavement will adore this track as much as I do and will be hooked long before it blasts itself to pieces just seconds before it hits seven-minute mark.
FKA twigs – “Figure 8”
I was going to write about FKA Twigs radical new EP, “M3LL155X,” but decided to highlight a track from it that is definitely my favorite. Twigs knows how to move; she’s one of the best dancers and stage performers I’ve seen in a long awhile, so it’s not surprising that “Figure 8” is inspired by vogueing. The female energy in this track is fun, empowering, and so uniquely Twigs. Just watch the video above, which is the short film that accompanies the EP.
R. City (feat. Adam Levine) – “Locked Away”
R. City and Adam Levine make a unique yet surprisingly really good duo. R. City’s reggae tone voice blends really well with Adam’s vocal range, which swoons you in the chorus, making this a hit song currently on the radio. It has an upbeat, reggae pop sound. Not only do you want to dance to the song when it plays in your car, but the lyrics holds depth and vulnerability.
If I got locked away
And we lost it all today
Tell me honestly would you still love me the same?
If I showed you my flaws
If I couldn’t be strong
Tell me honestly would you still love me the same?
In relationships, you want to be able to be yourself, flaws and all. But will that person still look at you the same way? The lyrics strike a chord with me, when learning to let your guard down despite what the outcomes may be. So despite the uptempo rhythm, there is some truth and emotion in the track.
Anderson East – “Devil in Me”
Anderson East is probably one of favorite artists right now. His debut album, Delilah, was released on July 10 and contains 10 tracks, one of them being ‘Devil in Me’. It is a nice, bluesy, laid-back tune that you can blast on the weekends. Not only will the piano chords take you away, but so will Anderson’s voice. His husky, deep voice is very soulful and soothing. Though I found his music as I was casually browsing, I do not regret it one bit.
Wavves – “Heavy Metal Detox”
2015 has been a busy year for Nathan Williams. In June, his full-length collaboration album with Cloud Nothings was released. Since then, he has been releasing singles off of his upcoming fifth studio, V, due out October 2nd. “Heavy Metal Detox,” the third single, is full of fuzzy vocals and Wavves’ signature California pop-punk angst that is sure to get stuck in your head.
“I’m not doing anything today, I don’t care what you say. I’m not going out, I’m saying home.”
We are right there with you, Nathan; we don’t want summer to end either.
Jack and Eliza – “Quarter Past the Hour”
Two voices and two guitars played by two childhood friends make up my new favorite indie duo from Manhattan. Their laid-back sound inspired by the 60s and the unique, flexible harmonies remind me of The Beach Boys and The Beatles, two of their biggest inspirations. I could listen to “Quarter Past The Hour,” off their album Gentle Warnings, for hours and never get tired of it. Jack and Eliza are taking off, and they are definitely a group you need to know.
N.E.R.D. – “Locked Away”
Now I’m no stranger to N.E.R.D. or this song. In Search Of… (Electronic) is easily on my top ten favorite albums of all time, so ye,s I’ve heard the track previously in passing, but never as good of quality as this one. You can say it’s new (ish), but only in quality. The funky bass line and upbeat guitar bases work periodically throughout. The instrumental isn’t very epic or interesting, but it’s still that moderately-paced soundtrack track for a something like a more dramatic Undercover Brother. Pharrell’s falsetto is on point and his melody is funkadelic. By no means is it electronic In search of… but more rock In search of… if it’s about quality.
50 Cent – “9 Shots”
Remember those string of singles 50 released that had us dreading the album Street King Immortal? Shit, I was more worried 50 couldn’t sell anymore when he said the album would be very feature heavy. But when you thought your slight gasp of happiness came after the album went into indefinite hiatus, 50 released “9 Shots,” a new track representing what Get Rich or Die Tryin’ gave us. A hustler turned rapper after nine shots had him near death, and a new voice all his own. The track turns in on the shorter side of things, but man oh man is 50 hungry. At 2:13, you aren’t given much. The track is sounds like the companion to “Many Men (Wish Death),” where 50’s subject of choice came as the dominant hustler in Queens NY. “Many Men” is more braggadocio, but with a hook where he asks for forgiveness. “9 Shots” is pure redemption for his acts.