the Bilinda Butchers chase a slice of pop, replete with ebullient guitars and gratuitous high-hat drumming. The result, "The Lovers' Suicide," certainly represents something a bit more dreamy, the vocals relentlessly buried in reverb and lo-fi, but nonetheless grounded in the foot-shuffling realities of the dance floor. Even the breaks, the attitudinal adjustments that slow the arrangement momentarily, hold the promise of the galloping guitars and booming tams to come.
Tournament of Hearts' single, "Shake It Off". It is potentially irritating maneuver - like staring down a stranger who looks like a slightly less attractive version of someone you used to see quite seriously - that instead rings with a more muted but still substantive power. It isn't "Wake Up," - and how could it be? - which along with "Fake Empire" will be one of the songs that will retroactively define the second Bush years as "Teen Spirit" defined the first, but it emerges as big room music, something aimed firmly at the decorative molding between the wall and the ceiling. "Shake It Off" is no think-piece, self-serious synths and guitars with a bit of chunk, a title lyric designed to turn into both chorus and edict.
Blessa return with their second single, "Pale", still firmly lodged in the gauzy sonics that sound like a never-ending loop of the roller coaster scene in Fear. The band builds layers of reverberating guitars and winsome vocals before tipping toward a punctuating chorus, most memorably turning the word "hold" into a three syllable experience. It is love in reverse, memorialized and pretty from far away. The final movement, propulsive and seasick in the best of ways, focuses on the lyric, "it was impossibly easy for you," - which maybe it wasn't but this doesn't seem to matter here - all forgotten in the fires of an arrangement in full self-actualization mode.
Black Light Dinner Party have still found some of the last sparkle at the bottom of the synthesizer barrel. "We Are Golden" mixes form and function, a glittering, buzzing slow-jam. In fact, the pacing is downright methodical for a song that so openly makes a case for self-actualization, a perpetual state of becoming. The little turns of lyrical phrase, "I start a fire with sticks/I put it out with my fist" grant the narrator super-human capabilities that span space and time. "I'll build a home on the sea/We'll swim where ever we please," he sings against the back drop of purple skies, gold in the ground and bright futures ahead. Black Light Dinner Party aren't new to the New York scene, and their sound isn't busting any genre barriers, but "We Are Golden" is proof that it's still cool to be young, insouciant and on fire with the future.
Born Ruffians singer, Luke LaLonde borrows some of the Fleet Foxes chord resolution catalog on the opening movement of lead single, "Needle". Singing crushing lines like "I belong to no one / a song without an album," his soaring, tweaking and crystalline tenor lays over a series of sparse guitar chords. Of course, "Needle" is a love song, and LaLonde concludes, "I belong with no one / you belong with me." Eventually erupting into stomping mid-tempo jam, "Needle" finds the band at their most ambitious yet, full of hooks and a pathos about learning to remember the right things, hay in the pursuit of needles.
Humans. "Possession" emerges as a part dance-floor burner, all wicked angular loops and shout along vocals, and part think-piece, clocking in near five minutes and packing two or three distinct movements. The final twist, the addition of the cowbell and enough shuddering synths to make fans of EDM at least give notice, rings as big and bold, the sign of a band with ambition placed firmly in front of record sales.
WALL crafts a tiny, figure-eight single, "Shoestring". Seemingly in the act of knitting larger the initial limits of the song's geography, WALL, a delicate-voiced UK songstress, builds "Shoestring" into a tidy snow-globe empire. It is an ephemeral capture as she sings, "put me in a cell on my own," aware of the cloister, ending with the escapist, "give me another reason to get going." Her little arrangement, sturdy and weak in the same moment, full of somber keyboards and tinny drums, evaporates almost as she does, all the freedom held outside the confines of the spaces of our own making.
Mt. Wolf, a South London outfit describing themselves as "dream-folk", carve out tiny spaces for their music to grow. This limited geography is the same trick that Polica did so well last year, the same trick the xx performed a few years back: small spaces followed by big impacts. "Hypolight" is all seed and germ, the smallest of things, propeled forward through three distinct movements. Finger-picked guitars erupt into bracingly mixed acoustic guitar strums, nearly two full minutes before they begin to unfold the drums. Vocalist Kate Sproule is a downright revelation, snapping into her head voice on the song's licensing-dream chorus, "Put another light out." The publishing rights of this moment alone should attract major label interest. "Hypolight", like its predecessor, "Life Size Ghosts" represents the brand of life-affirming pop that signals the small moments before the big one.
Youth Lagoon debuts the second song, "Mute" from coming sophomore LP, Wondrous Bughouse. Opening with a spacious guitar line and measured drums, "Mute" is more funeral march than relieved catechism. In keeping with first track, "Dropla", the arrangement spins off into the stratosphere, a sea-sick loop that sounds robbed from a children's carousel. The final movement trends toward cacophony, his biggest guitars to date and a piano line that feels firmly divorced from the admittedly ambitious bedroom creations of his debut album.
Highasakite singer Ingrid Havik, having her hair held back while she vomits. Aggressive to be sure - you can almost hear her mutter, "I'm no role model" - but it is the necessary abrasion that shapes the outline of the neo-feminism contained in single, "Son of a bitch". She isn't waiting for a white knight, in fact, the notion of a white knight, a "grand gesture" she calls it, offends in a rich and meaningful fashion. The chorus tumbles with pretty whiplash, the title lyric wielded with disdain, followed by the rhetorical question, "How many others have you been a so-called hero for?". The rolling tams from the song's opening moments return as the blunted thunder under this darkly polemical architecture, Havik singing, in effect: You can try to save me, but don't assume I needed saving.
CHVRCHES, it certainly isn't obvious, even at this advanced stage of human history where everyone seems to know everything instantly. Channeling the best parts of the Kate Bush experience (read: cold synths, weird flourishes, not dressing like a Wiccan spirit), the band exploded into our collective consciousness last year with the stomping "Mother We Share". "Recover" represents something of a different animal, though vocalist Lauren Mayberry's fragile, resolute soprano still lies at the center of the arrangement. Her breakable, but never broken, vocal allows a certain battering here, and, finally, a bit of strength in the unknown.
Field Mouse single, "Tomorrow Is Yesterday". Lost somewhere between dream pop and shoegaze, vocalist Rachel Browne finds little slices of menace and fecundity in an arrangement that ends up sounding a little like Silversun Pickups and little like early Emily Haines. Browne is the self-same singer who cracked sarcastic barbs from the stage of Glasslands this past summer about being super stoned - which she surely wasn't - with the sort of dry wit and vague hostility that passes for both smarts and flirtation in the female denizens of New York City. "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" rings full of bombast, but Browne and her bandmates are as playful as they are serious, riding a turbulent low-end into the next phase of a very bright young career.
Adam Lempel, the brains of the band, Weekends, spins a bit of solo brilliance on "Echo". Soliciting vocals from Amanda Glasser, here playing the moral-authority-Neko-Case-role, "Echo" spins over a cello-drenched arrangement, engineering the effect of the title lyric, "like an echo, I follow you around". Perhaps comfortable with a modicum of obsession, or maybe with its mutuality as Lempel and Glasser sing to each other in duet down the back stretch, "Echo" rings as dully sweet, not certainly creepy.
Wild Party's "When I Get Older", a perfect slice of post-adolescence. The chorus hits like a relief, an overwrought, "oh", sailing out over the arrangement like a laissez-faire invocation of the good times and faux deep thoughts ahead. Of course, "When I Get Older" takes itself seriously, the kind of straight-faced lyrics that recent college graduates can find themselves thinking, singing and saying, "Maybe there's still hope." Only the post-adolescent could possibly believe they might be out of time. It's enough to make your parents giggle, or throw up. But, these are the crimes of being young, stupidly full of big ideas and a sense that each moment is pregnant with so much meaning. This too, is the power and darkness of pop music, here cast as this buzzing Thin Lizzy-lite, something triumphal and a little ridiculous in the same breath.
Fine Times' latest single, "Hey Judas". The shout-along mid-section issues more than a hint of bombast to the carefree suggestions of their lyrics. "Take all my money," they encourage an imagined other before urging us all to carry on. The keyboards get a voice of their own, singing along in the background like a winsome and spirited chorus, everything newly open-ended and there for the taking.