(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February singles

It's time again to sample the new music drifting around the scene. Enjoy!

Keep Shelly in Athens - "Madmen Love" (from their upcoming album on Cascine, due fall 2013)

An ominous throb eases in, raising some hackles with each pulsation. Even on your guard, the reluctant drag beat catches you by surprise. Sarah P's lazy singing taunts you from the shadows. The lazy sway of the song is accented with shiny flecks and hazy shadows. The bridge breakdown flickers as it spirals down into a more insistent beat. The vocals echo like rueful memories and the chillwave jam falls back into its beginnings.

Keep Shelly in Athens have created a moody masterpiece. RΠЯ's production is richly evocative of depressants laced with Adderall: he creates an extremely focused trance like state. After a busy day of distractions, "Madmen Love" just took the edge off for me.

If you can't wait for this fall, you can buy "Madmen Love" here.

Warm Soda - "Waiting For Your Call" (from Someone For You, due March 26)

"Waiting For Your Call" jumps forward like a teenage driver in their first race, dragging us in their wake. Once the verse kicks in, they sound more like a cheery pop band playing a manic cover of "Creep" by Radiohead. Okay, maybe it's only the shared run of chords that evoke that song, because Warm Soda don't have time to mope. Instead, they lay down an infectious retro pop groove that has just the right amount of choppy post punk to give it some edge.

Honestly, it's fluff, but it's prime quality fluff. And I can't get it out of my head. They'll be making the rounds at SXSW this year, so I'll have to key an eye out for them.

Friend Slash Lover – “As Seen On TV” (from The Grey Area)

There’s a wispy wash of backmasked notes and then “As Seen On TV” elbows it aside. The driving guitars blend with a retro synth-pop vibe and Friend Slash Lover packs the song with all the overwrought tension they can fit. Josh Mintz’s vocals are full of emo angst, but the dynamic range lets him shift between strangled repression and theatrical suffering. Last year’s The Grey Area was shrouded in darkness and the impotent frustration and “As Seen On TV” fit well as the opening track.

Mintz’s iPhone music video has a DIY appeal, although the cartoon violence is overdone. But the track would be more at home behind a scene of betrayal, ideally ending when the bitter truth becomes clear.

Jim James - "A New Life" (from Regions of Light and Sound of God)

Nostalgia is in the air. Just as My Morning Jacket seemed to reach back to their roots on their last album, Circuital (2011), front man Jim James takes that even further on "A New Life". Circuital's "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" turns out to be a harbinger of the simplicity that James embraces on his new single. Like that MMJ track, "A New Life" relies on simple, folky chords and James' rich tenor. The track doesn't just channel the sound of retro rock, every reverbed note turns the clock back.

When the song picks up its pace, it evokes a brief second of Johnny Cash, but Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison are the true inspiration. James strips himself of irony and just sings. It's rare to find purity in a showy vibrato, but it shines.

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