Deadshirt Is Listening…Bringing you a rundown of our staff and guest contributors’ favorite new tracks released in the past week after they’ve had the weekend to blast them in their cars, in a club, alone in their rooms, etc.
Sam Paxton is shake, rattle, and rolling to…
“Take My Side”
It’s kind of surprising how long it’s taken for indie rock giant Arcade Fire to spawn a side project, considering how many people are in the band (seven official members, plus five or so touring members). Frankly, I would have pegged either lead singer Win Butler or Régine Chassagne to be the first to split from the group for a solo effort, but Merge Records announced last week that Will Butler, Win’s younger brother, had an upcoming record in the pipeline called Policy. “Take My Side,” the first single from Policy, dropped this week, and to be honest, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. The song is a ramshackle, lo-fi blues/rock number, calling to mind the jittery, frenetic energy that typified Arcade Fire’s early music. In fact, “Take My Side” wouldn’t sound out of place slotted into the tracklisting of Funeral or Neon Bible–with echoey vocals and twangy guitar, the song is fun and energetic and has me unexpectedly excited to hear what else Butler has in store.
Julian Ames is getting baptized to …
Pieta/Sparrow RSD 10”
I’d say Sam is probably the bigger St. Vincent fan out of all of us here at Deadshirt, but I got the chance to pick up her (Annie Clarke’s) Black Friday Record Store Day 10” and I liked what I heard. The A-side of the record is the song “Pieta,” which is a reference to the subject in Christian art of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus in her arms. This song, however, is about birth and beginnings; in the lyrics she talks about being “baptized in the shallow end of a Holiday Inn” and compares the scene to “an inverse Pieta.” Again, I’m a bit of a St. Vincent neophyte so I don’t really know how often she goes biblical with her lyrics, but she really leans into it in this song. The lyrics at the chorus are: “Mother Nature cried, ‘You are Leviathan my child, you are Leviathan inside.’”
Musically, St. Vincent is on the more experimental side of things. It always takes me a couple listens before I fully get what’s going on in her songs. “Pieta” has a very sparse arrangement: most of the time Clarke’s vocals are backed by little more than percussion and bass. Rhythm is the key in this song. The percussion includes polyrhythms by bongos and something else that I can’t pick out, but there’s still a four-on-the-floor beat behind them to keep the song oriented. The chorus adds some angelic synths, which are appropriate considering the song’s subject, but for the most part the melody is all in the vocals.
The B-side of the record, “Sparrow,” is totally different and meant to be a counterpoint to “Pieta,” so I recommend checking out the Pieta/Sparrow RSD 10” to get the whole experience if you can find a store that still has it in stock.
Dominic Griffin is Waiting Patiently to…
The way modern, beloved artists choose to release new music is often characteristic of their overall aesthetic. Frank Ocean likes to randomly post two-minute song fragments on his personal Tumblr, typically with a screenshot of lyrics typed into a note file. This new track mostly fits the bill, an over-before-it’s-begun wisp of a tune that calls to mind Headphone Masterpiece-era Cody ChesnuTT with its bedroom demo earthiness. That cassette tape loop feel and the hazy, washed out aura feels more akin to Nostalgia Ultra than the more polished pop of channel ORANGE, but at this stage of the wait for a new album the thirst is real enough that Frank could have dropped an a capella cover of “Blank Space” recorded in a Chik-Fil-A bathroom and it still would have had Twitter timelines poppin’. (Admittedly, that pithy fiction sounds really good right now.)
Nonetheless, Frank hits the mark here with the platonic ideal of a “Frank Ocean song:” smart, evocative lyricism delivered in an honest, pained voice that dips into a breathy falsetto. In film terms, it’s the Force Awakens teaser trailer of hotly-anticipated pop music. Hopefully we won’t have to wait a year for the next album.