Milagres :: "Glowing Mouth"

Milagres are coming out the other side of something with chirping, slow-drive single, "Glowing Mouth". Sliding along with a melody completely unacquainted with friction, the chorus emerges with an amazingly subtle falsetto hook, certainly one of the best of the year thus far. Despite its seeming weightlessness, the lyrics in the refrain admonish a reminder of faith in an age of uncertainty, a curious plea for meaning in what they call the "darkness". This all gives "Glowing Mouth" an undeniable sense of previous turbulence, recent even, and this the gliding calm after the uproar. It is Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" but with a fistful of downers headed for the drain. It feels like a recovery, faith and hope in the unseen.


Acid House Kings :: "Would You Say Stop?"

The Acid House Kings told us their forthcoming record, Music Sounds Better With You, is an attempt to define pop music. In this fashion, their fan-selected second single, "Would You Say Stop?", is a perfect slice of summer cheer for anyone who ever thought Belle and Sebastian weren't poppy enough. It features those plaintive, jangly guitars, pulsing strings, castanets and a swinging melody that wouldn't translate poorly to a being sung by an elementary school chorus. Of course, the band is always trafficking in perfect pop to sweeten the dark corners of their lyrics. Moments like, "if anyone ever breaks my heart, I still hope it is you", frame an ongoing struggle to maintain a relationship, one that despite the swelling strings is on the verge of collapse.

Listen :: Acid House Kings - "Would You Stay Stop?"
Listen :: Acid House Kings - "Are We Lovers Or Are We Friends?"


TV On The Radio :: "Will Do"

TV On Radio vocalist Tunde Adebimpe insisted on a sort of apocalyptic, cultural tsunami on 2008's Dear, Science. At his most pessimistic on "DLZ", he cycled through era metaphors, finally settling on, "this is beginning to feel like the bolt busted loose from the lever." In short, our constraints, our moralities, our systems even, will do little to stem this rising tide. On first release, "Will Do" from coming 2011 LP, Nine Types Of Light, Adebimpe opens with the encouraging, "It might be impractical to seek out a new romance/We won't know the actual if we never take the chance." In comparison to the band's earlier thesis statements, this represents a warm and very nearly self-actualizing sentiment. The sound is the sort of well organized cacaphony that colored their previous releases, representing something softer if still familiar. As Tunde finally insists, "My choice of words will bring me back to you," it is a return of sorts, the most anticipated non-Strokes LP of 2011.

TV On The Radio - "Will Do" by Interscope Records


Friends :: "Friend Crush"

Samantha Urbani, singer and force behind Friends, wails, "I wanna ask your advice on the weekdays/I want to plan something nice for the weekend." She outlines the shape of one of those blighted friendship romances, so close to love and so painfully not. Worse, this is not love from afar, the kind of silent sit-behind-you-math class crush. This is close-up, see-you-all-the-time love, slow, obvious and static. Tape fuzz and a stomping snare provide the framework for a melody that would be at home on a Lykke Li record, a certain wistfullness contributing the sonics to this slow disaster. For Urbini, the voice behind this concoction, the "Friend Crush" is the best and worst kind. As for the band, new Lucky Number label-mates with Darwin Deez, they won't be unrequited for long, upgrading your like to outright love.

Listen :: Friends - "Friend Crush"


Acrylics :: "Sparrow Song" [Feat. Caroline Polachek]

Brooklyn-based Acrylics' latest mp3 release, "Sparrow Song" only intensifies the anticipation for debut record, Lives and Treasure, due out on March 1st. Featuring Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, who is rapidly becoming the guest hitman to the indie community that Puff Daddy was to mainstream rap in the late 1990s, the song is a glittering slice of pop that promotes a state of perpetual wakening. As a former Girl Crisis collaborator with current Acrylics vocalist Molly Shea, Polachek does that thing she does so well, offering glossy, dream vocals as the icing on a tune that already feels like it is spinning in a zero-gravity architecture. This is an appropriate sound for a band less than two weeks away from officially lifting off.

Listen :: Acrylics - "Sparrow Song" [Feat. Caroline Polachek]
Listen :: Acrylics - "Molly's Vertigo"
Listen :: Acylics - "Nightwatch"


Middle Brother :: "Middle Brother"

Middle Brother is the combined talents of the front men of Dawes, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit. It's three-parts plaid and three-times the late night whiskey and three times the unfiltered Lucky Strikes that makes them all sound like they've been up for a week, emotionally destroyed over a women on somewhat legitimate grounds. The sound shakes out in the direction of the rootsy-folk that all three parent bands do so well. On their eponymous second single, "Middle Brother", they build a jangly acoustic progression into something bigger, a nearly saloon piano slammer in the final moments. It's about impressing, or at least not disappointing, your parents, making your mark. Maybe the middle brother is easy to forget, they imply. These three, even together, are subordinate to no one.

Listen :: Middle Brother - "Middle Brother"



Multiplicitious pop-smiths, First Rate People released latest single, "FRESH" to their twitter feed on Valentine's Day. Topping 60 degrees in New York City four days later feels like the perfect time to share such swirling, unapologetic pop music, the absolute birth of spring. Swelling strings hold the arrangment like lacing fingers, while nasally, hooky vocals unleash lyrics about love and rebirth, "singing a song/old paint is peeling/this is that fresh, fresh feeling", describing a pop ressurection in the season of human affection. Like the type of crushing, irrational love they describe, you don't have a world of choice here. You will listen to this on repeat partly because you feel strongly about it and partially because you absolutely have to. Love is a little bit of death. How could you ever be reborn if you never let yourself be killed?

Listen :: First Rate People - "FRESH"


Digits :: "Rachel Marie"

Tense and claustrophobic dance music colors the interstices of "Rachel Marie", the latest single from synth-pop architect, Digits. A club track for your interior monologue, the synths are intentionally constricted, arraying themselves in these taut, little rows behind a hushed melody in the spirit, if not the bombast, of Dave Gahan. Digits never reveals much about this "Rachel Marie", another one of those proper noun pop princesses with a song about her, but the long and unrequited call in the chorus gives her all the necessary character depth. As he insists, she is the only one for him, but this is no love story; rather, it is a modern, well-shuttered message in a bottle.

Listen :: Digits - "Rachel Marie"


Wolf Gang :: "Dancing With The Devil"

London's Wolf Gang are preparing to release second single, "Dancing With The Devil," due in the UK on March 21, backing debut heater, "Lions In Their Cages". As is the theme with Max McElligott's compositions, "Dancing" is a glossy and spacious ride, relying on the quality of a soaring and instantly memorable chorus. This was the track he was playing in the middle of his sets during a brief two-gig swing through New York in the fall, only hinting at the quality of the eventual Wolf Gang full length LP due out later this spring. If you wondered, "what the hell is that great song?", now you know. Next time Max is through town, make sure you sing the words.

Wolf Gang - Dancing With The Devil by wolfgang


Kyla La Grange :: "Vampire Smile"

If you don't have a certified crush on Kyla La Grange, you aren't looking hard enough. With a debut 2011 go-for-broke single, "Walk Through Walls," La Grange stunned us with a Kate Bush impression and a chorus designed to not care if it burns up on re-entry. On older, more plaintive "Vampire Smile," La Grange still has her trademark edge with lyrics like "I'm going to get so drunk on you and kill your friends" and the confessional "I want a scar that looks just like you." She is brittle and dangerous at once, building a sprawling middle section from the foundation of a tiny acoustic guitar progression. Though there are streaks of masochism here, assumed and metaphorical pain, La Grange isn't scaring anyone off. It's still her year.

Listen :: Kyla La Grange - "Vampire Smile"


Interview :: The Radio Dept. [2.14.11]

Dream pop band Radio Dept. are only now getting their due, with a singles compilation disk, Passive Aggressive following an excellent 2010 LP, Clinging To A Scheme. Always critically acclaimed in their native Sweden, the band has more recently charmed so many US critics and fans to the tune of glowing reviews and sold out tours. We traded some emails with the band's Martin Larsson about a follow up record, whether they're into telling people off and how not to become an overly politicized idiot. His answers, after the jump.


Dry The River :: "New Ceremony"

With fragile vocals, broken in the same spirit of the epic folk of Mumford and Sons, the UK's Dry The River suppose to create a new orthodoxy built to pull up the cobblestones of the Old Order. Of course, this isn't achingly original and the footnotes are listed at the end of the chapter, but Dry The River may be the next big thing to come out of the UK folk revival. On "New Ceremony", pensive, pulsing melodies engage in a slow build for a 90 seconds before surging strings arise out of nowhere, the chorus becoming an exercise in Icarus as the vocals soar into those falsetto breaks that only Brandon Flowers really nails. Quite simply, if you aren't moved by this and insist on staying in its way, it will level you. So, we add our voice to the chorus, this is going to be very important.

Dry The River - New Ceremony by lucidonline


Forbidden Friends :: "Tiny Hands"

Nimble, nasal vocals dance over a guitar progression that would make John Darnielle at least smile on Forbidden Friends' debut single "Tiny Hands." As a split from Portland power-poppers The Thermals (if this doesn't make you scream, "Now we can see!" you've missed it), Forbidden Friends share the certain candor of the their parent band, each lyric self-consciously confessional and unapologetically so. In moments, the arrangement gives itself over to a certain authoritarian surreality, positing, "How does it feel to rule the world and rule the people/with tiny hands and tiny evil/never knowing if you're real?" A rollicking and unsettled ride, we are left confident of what we hold in our grasp and what we simply never understand.

Listen :: Forbidden Friends - "Tiny Hands"


Work Drugs :: "Rad Racer"

Riding the last crest of the chillwave movement, Work Drugs have a collection of three singles that manage to survive the redundancy of such quickly shifting critical groupings. By next year, everyone will be into something else and, my sense is Work Drugs won't care. On "Rad Racer" they divine their best chorus to date, evoking the material metaphor of driving through some persuasively neon urban nightscape. The vocals are candid and hushed, like this highlighter secret, bright and fuzzy, lost and not terribly upset about it.



Alex Winston :: "Locomotive" and "Sisterwife"

Alex Winston is building a bizarre carnival of pop. Original demos and singles like, "Animal," seemed to indicate that this uber-talented young singer would end up in an Old Navy commercial, but it was hard to see how deep the critical creative pool would run. Not that the Ingrid Michaelson career arc is a bad one, but it is surely limited (see: her second record). Conversely, Winston is an evolution, blowing clear through the cutesy limitations of her first work, erupting with a bigger sound and these freaky, Kate Bush (it is the year of Kate Bush) vocals. On "Locomotive," she is both brutal, "I wish I cared about the things you care about but I don't", while still insisting on these powerful laws of inertia in the chorus. On "Sister Wife," the arrangement is a booming, swaying circus tent with Winston in the middle as ringmaster, tamed animal and trapeze swinger.

Listen :: Alex Winston- "Locomotive"
Listen :: Alex Winston - "Sisterwife"
Listen :: Alex Winston - "Medicine"


Bird of Youth :: "Bombs Away, She Is Here To Stay"

Brooklyn's Bird of Youth build a structure of guitar-driven indie pop that recalls a well-produced early-career Rilo Kiley. Only on this version, Jenny Lewis' vocals are swapped for the candor and unimpressed timbre of Beth Wawerna, something that channels a more optimistic 1991 Liz Phair. Of course, all these comparisons, useful tracking devices they may be, do little to help frame the fun of the chorus where the snare drum steps forward and Wawerna finally lets herself go on the eponymous lyric. Sounding so firmly blase in the first third, she sets herself up as a sympathetic figure - or is it just earnest? - as the song swells around her, these confessions gaining strength with a hint of agony at the edges. Bird of Youth's debut record, Defender, is out May 24th and was produced by Will Sheff of Okkervil River, an influence you can hear if you listen real close and care about what Will Sheff's music sounds like.

Listen :: Bird of Youth - "Bombs Away, She Is Here To Stay"


The Seedy Seeds :: "Verb Noun"

Suckering you in with flourishing strings and a lazy acoustic guitar progression, The Seedy Seeds end up somewhere more ambitious than their cheeky name and aesthetic belie. "Verb Noun" courts this clip-clop electronic beat which the band then lays under a beautiful cacophony of instrument and melody. Like a folk-inspired Moonbabies, the male and female vocals trade off halfway through when the arrangement seems to find a secondary momentum that the initial assessment never have hinted at. The chorus, a repeating and elevating lyric, "I don't want to do just anything," supports murderous lines like, "Is it any less than if I make it with force, than if I was forced to make it?" The hook stays in your head for days, "I don't want to do just anything," a call to higher purpose or greater results or both.  

Listen :: The Seedy Seeds - "Verb Noun"


Mansions :: "Blackest Sky"

Down-stroke guitars and power-pop influence drive Mansions' latest single, "Blackest Sky," a song about what we've lost. At its root it is an alternative rock song from the late 90s, updated with hints of more recent acts like The Thermals. Lyrically, independent rock frequently addresses themes of lost youth but perhaps never so directly. Front man, Chris Browder, howls in the chorus, "My youth was stolen from underneath my nose," while he traffics in self-conscious nostalgia with verses about friends, whiskey, lawn chairs and summers spent under the blackest sky. For most of the rock kids, their youth was something misplaced, lost like keys slipped in between the cushions of the metaphysical couch. For Browder, his youth was robbed, placed down for a minute and disappeared into the great indifference some insidious back pocket.

Listen :: Mansions - "Blackest Sky"


Dreamers of the Ghetto :: "Connection"

We won't offer a mid-apocalyptic eulogy for a rapidly ghettoized American experience. In fact, we assume Bloomington, Indiana's Dreamers of the Ghetto only invoke the term in the general specific, metaphorical, hope-in-the-unseen sort of way. These are small town kids with big dreams, or something similar, tapping the soul of our common experience, you know, back when things were good. On "Connection," yearning vocals search for pathos, a hint of a gravel at the edges, the narration of these post-industrial hymns for an age that maybe never existed and is certainly not coming again. The driving guitars push the edges of the arrangement's real estate while atmospheric synths mope like the search is in vain. Unrequited and lonesome, Dreamers of the Ghetto are coming this year, a vanishing point on the horizon, unreachable and intentionally so.

Connection by Dreamers of the Ghetto