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.
Julian Ames is miming emphatically along to…
Twin Shadow is no stranger to cinematic songs; on his last album, Confess, he blended Springsteen-ian anthems with slick new wave sounds and modern beats. Now, on his forthcoming third album, Eclipse, it seems Twin Shadow is doubling down on the bombast—all four of the tracks that have been released have had huge, stadium-filling choruses. “I’m Ready” is the newest of the tracks and is Twin Shadow at his most visual. It opens by setting the scene: “There’s a boy in a car at the top of a hill looking down at LA, he’s so close to the stars and the fires that start but he feels far away,” and then shows that boy contemplating love, switching to his internal monologue in the pre-chorus. The next verse also paints a vivid picture of Los Angeles: “Then his eyes pull away from the glow of the city at night, from this place you can see through the fog to the beach and The Heights.”
Aside from the striking descriptions of the atmosphere and geography of LA, “I’m Ready” has some very expressive music. The song is an anthem about love, and the music reflects the power and volatility of that emotion. The verses are just barely more than a beat, synth bass and a looped guitar pattern, the pre-chorus brings it down even further as all the instruments drop out except for the piano, and then the chorus explodes with more synths, guitar, and background shouts. Twin Shadow’s trademark cool croon gets a workout too, going from a whisper in the beginning to a rallying cry later on in the song; you can really feel it when he sings “I’m right here, I’m ready, I need this love.” (Check out our reviews of “Turn Me Up,” and “To The Top,” also off, Eclipse, which drops on March 17th.)
Sam Paxton is feeling optimistic about…
“Lifted Up (1985)” / “Where The Sky Hangs”
Frankly, I’ve never been sure that there would even be another album from Passion Pit. Shortly before the release of their second album Gossamer in 2012, the band cancelled all of their upcoming tour dates so that lead singer Michael Angelakos could enter treatment for severe bipolar disorder and depression. In Pitchfork’s fascinating profile of the troubled singer, he admitted that because of his illness, he’s “told people that I don’t see myself living very long.” Since then, he seems to have evened out, but Angelakos’ brand of genius coupled with his sickness does not career longevity make.
But the Passion Pit Twitter and Instagram accounts had recently been posting cryptic hints of new music on the horizon, and this week the band dropped not one, but two new tracks from an upcoming album called Kindred. Slated to release in April of this year, it appears to build on the lush, ecstatic, sensory overload-style of music Angelakos has been cultivating since the Chunk of Change EP that he wrote for his college girlfriend in 2008. The first single, “Lifted Up (1989)” is a glittery, thumping dance track featuring fluttering synths and Angelakos’ signature sugary falsetto. The second, “Where The Sky Hangs,” has a hint of smooth R&B, and restrained, emotive vocals, in the vein of “Constant Conversations” or “To Kingdom Come.” Considering Gossamer, an extremely raw, emotional LP, has over time cemented itself as one of my favorite cover-to-cover albums, I’m beyond excited to see what new beauty Angelakos has wrought from his struggles with mental illness.
“No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”
Carrie & Lowell
I have to say, despite being a huge fan of Sufjan Stevens, I wasn’t particularly fond of his last album, 2010’s The Age of Adz, which saw Stevens largely abandoning his baroque pop and folk roots for experimental electronic noise. The divisiveness of the record among his fans, combined with his nearly five-year hiatus, had me feeling fairly certain that Sufjan’s finger-pickin’ days were over.
Luckily, the first single from Sufjan’s upcoming album Carrie & Lowell allays that fear. Gentle and moving, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” finds Stevens returning to the well of his conflicted relationship with both his faith and his estranged mother Carrie, who left his family when he was very young. Simple guitar, Sufjan’s wavering voice, and the subtle background hum of his Brooklyn apartment’s air conditioner combine to make the listener feel as though they’re in the room with him. If this is the general direction Carrie & Lowell is going in, it bodes well for fans of Sufjan’s contemplative works like Seven Swans or Michigan.
Mike Duquette is nodding (but only in the back of the club) to…
Not unlike her surprise decision to enter blockbuster territory as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson has made a lot of unconventional decisions as a sometime musician. There was an album of Tom Waits covers in 2008, and a Serge Gainsbourg-esque collaboration with Pete Yorn the following year—particularly strange considering that Zooey Deschanel has released three She & Him albums with M. Ward.
ScarJo’s latest musical journey is indeed a left-field one: a new “super-pop” collective, The Singles, produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek and featuring a troupe of modestly recognized musicians (singer-songwriters Holly Miranda, Kendra Morris, Julia Haltigan), with a cameo from HAIM bassist Este Haim on drums. Unfortunately, lead single “Candy,” is a pretty slight affair, not nearly the kind of easy home run pop songs about sugary confections have been attaining for decades.
Maybe it doesn’t help that Johansson compared the track in a statement to two far hookier bands, The Go-Go’s and The Bangles, and suggested “Candy” was “ultra-pop but also a little ironic” in an age where we can just do away with “ironic” appreciations of pop music, please and thanks. But if this is a taste of what’s to come from The Singles, I’m just going to hold out for Scarlett’s next collaboration in The Avengers.