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 driving all night to…
“Show Me Islands”
Between recording rad Drake covers and releasing one of the low-key best albums of last year, Portland-based Wild Ones are charting a slow-burning ascent to sure stardom. A winning combination of dance-worthy beats, brilliant pop songwriting, and dreamy vocal harmonies are what originally endeared me to their debut LP, Keep It Safe, and the band seems to be refining that sound into something leaner and meaner on their upcoming Heatwave EP. A month ago, the band released “Dim the Lights,” the first taste of their darker and more aggressive sound, and this week they followed up with the excellent and addictive “Show Me Islands.”
The track comes out swinging with punchy, shimmering guitar chords and a hi-hat-heavy beat, a dance club by way of tropical lounge. By the time we get to the second verse, the song has leaned hard into that disco territory, with funky strumming and seventies-era pad strings. “Oh I’ve got a demon/ you know the word but you don’t know the meaning/ I follow streetlights/ over the edge, the fire flickers in my eyes,” sings Danielle Sullivan, her keening, otherworldly voice conjuring visions of flying through the neon backstreets of Los Angeles in a convertible at midnight. Take me with you, please.
From a purely technical standpoint, the first cut from Beach House’s fifth LP is a pretty fascinating piece of music. Over the course of a more than ten-year career, the Baltimore-based dream pop duo has cultivated a very specific sound comprised of dime store drum loops, Alex Scally’s arpeggiated guitar chords, a thick layer of reverb, and lead singer Victoria Legrand’s haunting vocals. With that in mind, the first half of “Sparks” reads as a deliberate fake out from the band. The track opens with a clipped, unintelligible vocal loop and acid-washed guitar distortion before the drums kick in, followed by two separate, discordant keyboard parts, one in each ear. The result is disorienting and straddles the line between unpleasant and beautiful—think My Bloody Valentine on Paxil.
But then something shifts almost imperceptibly, and the track comes into focus, like two transparent Polaroids aligning. To be honest, I’ve listened to “Sparks” upwards of twenty times and I still can’t pinpoint the exact moment where it happens, but recognizing the bait and switch is a transcendental feeling. All I know is that the keyboard parts grind against each other until they suddenly don’t, at which point the song triumphantly surges forward. It’s a brilliant bit of songwriting and an interesting recalibration for the band, who has intimated that they’re taking a back-to-basics approach to this album after the relatively grandiose scope of 2012’s Bloom. “Sparks” is an excellent indication that the duo knows how to keep their sound fresh, and my anticipation for Depression Cherry, which drops August 28th, is reaching a fever pitch.
Dominic Griffin is guiltily stunting to…
“Jump Out The Face (Featuring Future)”
Dreams Worth More Than Money
Though hotly anticipated by many, the sophomore release from Mr. Onika Maraj was pretty far from my radar. The Philly-based MC has charisma to spare, but his tendency to yell so goddamn much is really off putting. Add to that, his on-wax personality is easily sublimated by his collaborators. It’s disappointing to hear artists continue to release full length albums that feel like a trade paperback collection of Marvel Team-Up issues. On Dreams Worth More Than Money, the Drake feature (“R.I.C.O.”) sounds like a Drake song. The Weeknd feature (“Pulling Up”) sounds like a Weeknd song. Meek, despite being criminally high in the mix and shouting his lungs out, Meek just gets lost behind his more distinctive guests. This is also the case on the Future-assisted “Jump Out The Face,” but as with all things blessed by #FutureVandross, the result is something special.
Meek’s new LP is supposed to be about how money and fame are overrated and other allegedly revelatory suppositions from his recent incarceration, but few of the album’s tracks explore this as palatably as “Jump Out The Face.” Over a punch drunk instrumental from Metro Boomin & Southside, Meek makes pained boasts about trend hopping and the relative ease wealth brings. Sandwiched between a sullen, Actavis-soaked bridge from Future (“pour a eighth of Kobe Bryant, mix the purple with the yellow”), Meek enumerating the brands he’s been up on and the women he’s tricked off sounds less like bragging and more like confession. The song sounds like a hangover punctuated by brief, hyped moments of excitable denial. Instead of putting your broke ass in your place for not being on their level, it sounds like they’re trying to convince themselves that the perks of this hollow lifestyle outweigh the the emptiness.
Dylan Roth is regenerating to…
“Broken Into Better Shape”
Good Old War
Broken Into Better Shape
I love lyrical subtlety as much as the next guy, but sometimes you just need a song that says, flat out, “hey, kid, you’re gonna be alright.” Philadelphia indie rock outfit Good Old War is particularly good at this theme, and just about any side of any of their LPs has a solid rescue inhaler of a track on it. Their latest album, out last week, has a handful of feel-good fight songs, but my favorite is the title track, “Broken Into Better Shape.”
Admittedly, there’s some cliché at work here in “Better Shape;” they’re hardly the first act to tell a depressed person that “anything is possible, [they] can walk upon the moon, yada yada,” but Keith Goodwin and Dan Schwartz always manage to sell sugary-sweet ideas with such sincerity. More than anything, I’m fixated on the imagery of that title, and the idea that any moment you feel broken is an opportunity to rebuild yourself better. So, yeah, it’s not song of the year, it’s not breaking any new ground, but sometimes what you need is a soft, reassuring voice.