discothèque du cœur
For anyone still riding the wave of emotion that ebbs and flows all year long and crests on Valentine’s Day (whether for better or for worse) here are 12 brand new songs on the subject of love.
Featuring musical elements from the past 30 years, these songs demonstrate the timelessness of the love song.
Don’t like remixes? Chances are you don’t see any reason for making a worse version of an original. If there were an artist that could sway your opinion of remixes, it would likely be Remix Artist Collective (RAC). Despite a memorable vocal melody, the original loses all momentum at the chorus in a failed effort to spotlight that melody. Enter RAC, who thrives on funk and disco’s inherent simplicity, the quality that has enabled that sound to endure for so long across so many continents.
Haim has been aptly compared to Stevie Nicks but I also hear a three-headed, less meditative Bonnie Raitt and Ann Wilson (Heart). Like these massive figures in rock music, the three sisters command a listener’s attention with excellent musicianship unencumbered by unnecessary production frills. The breadth of their influences is apparent from their ready embrace of sentimental synths and touches of stadium-sized percussion in a sound that is as much Queen and Bowie as it is Haim.
Unquestionably female and yet totally unencumbered by questions of gender, Haim is a simply a “slave to the sound” looking to establish itself in the landscape of great bands for no other reason than that.
2012 was huge for now ubiquitous names in hip-hop (A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar) but taking stock of everything released begs the question – where is J Cole? Like Drake, from whom he borrows a line in “Power Trip” (“f*ck it / I’m on one"), Top 40 lyrics belie a red-hot flow and seriously emotional subject matter.
In this meditation on the endlessly shifting dynamics within a relationship, and the inevitable “Power Trip” that one or both persons gets caught up in, J. Cole is at a crossroads exemplified by the aggressive backbeat and the disarming tenderness of Miguel’s hook.
Disclosure is back at it again, giving us another UK garage-funk bass monster of a dance track. Here, the duo borrows the hypnotic vocals of AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis, who delivers a playful but definitively independent performance of equally wary lyrics. Graceful yet forceful, Francis has no time for the deception of being treated delicately: “If you wanna get tough / then let’s play rough” with an ulterior motive “you just wanna keep me on repeat and hear me crying.”
Disclosure’s mesmerizing lead melody captures the lyrical figure of a record spinning endlessly, but affirms that there’s no helplessness and instead total self-sufficiency: “I don’t need you … just gonna get my back.”
For fans eager for Kavinsky’s upcoming LP Outrun, the first single “ProtoVision,” with its heavy-handed use of an electric guitar solo, was a bit of a disappointment. Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) has plenty of songwriting and production credits to his name, and this remix makes it clear why he’s at he’s best working behind the scenes. Building upon a vocal not in the original to lead up to a climactic finish with the aforementioned solo guitar line, the radical reworking of the original structure leaves Hynes’ tune sounding more like Kavinksy than the original.
Despite it’s frenetically looped “You” sample, Gold Panda’s heartfelt original could be described as an “electronic ballad,” a definite deviation from the usual instrumentation of a Charli XCX tune. Dramatic, echoing percussion and dark synthesizer fills are absent until the chorus and second verse, replaced by still Gold Panda’s organic but robotically precise production.
Even for usually dramatic singer, the song is more forbidding than usual, and appropriately so for the song’s central observation/ Cynical but unfortunately true: “You, you lied / Ha Ha Ha Ha / I was right.”
From Kitsune’s Parisien III compilation (described as a “detailed snapshot of the actual Parisian scene”) “Wolf” showcases the sound made famous by Parisian acts such as Danger, Redial, and most famously Daft Punk. In fact, “Wolf” might as well have been from the Tron soundtrack, with a sophisticated, intricate production and brilliantly developed musical theme.
The open, resonant soundstage of Toys’ “T-O-M” seems to invite the multitude of styles the Parisian duo uses. Soulful disco guitar, shimmering synths, and a mid-song break that could have come from Dark Side of the Moon all provide the backdrop to patient, intimately hushed vocals that capture the security of feeling like “we can do whatever the hell we want” because of another’s company.
Kilo Kish recruits well known UK producer Star Slinger, who cites hip hop as a major influence in his work. Unlike the missed connections narrative in Kish’s lyrics, the song’s production and rapping bordering on singing are in seamless harmony. The deep bass envelops the listener in a “Goldmine” of warmth that Kish has found in the counterpart she tells “I’ve been thinking that the only one / for you is me.”
The London duo combines sounds and production techniques that span 50 plus years into “Skyscraper,” a dreamy expression of the vertigo inducing emotional vulnerability that accompanies the feeling that you can “scrape the skies,” but also makes you ask for that support (“Skyscraper, save me as I scrape the skies”).
James Blake has championed the pensive, emotionally charged origins of dubstep, but his music goes far beyond the cold and often forbidding darkness of that sound. Though Blake’s tunes are defined by bass frequencies that seem to massage your heart’s beat into the song’s rhythm, his idiosyncratic sampling and melodic brilliance allow him to create singular compositions.
Blake’s most impressive instrument, however, is his voice. In “Retrograde,” it soars and then strains, trying anything it can to repair the torn fabric that once united two lovers and keeps them together even in separation. He starts “I’ll wait, so show me why you’re strong,” but patience gives way to urgency. “Show me where you fit,” he pleads.
As the single chorus suggests, this urgency is frustrated and disintegrates with a wordless realization that their disconnect is irreparable.
This touching duet tells a beautiful story, but since I’m still not certain how it ends I’ll leave the conclusions to you.
On the mix, off the mix:
My Bloody Valentine – “New You” (essential listening)
Archie Pelago – “Carmen on Gold St.” (essential listening)
Pond – “Giant Tortoise” (This band is obsessed with having animal titles for songs.) It’s like a psychedelic encyclopedia of prog rock lore.
So much new music is released every day that unless you’re as obsessed as I am, it’s difficult to keep up with it. Not to worry! I’ll spend every week compiling the best new sounds to bring them here for you every Monday. Be sure to comment and submit your own favorites for the coming week's post.