COURTESY OF EPITAPH RECORDS

Joyce Manor — “Fake I.D.”

Before getting to “Fake I.D.,” let’s lay down some background on Joyce Manor. The California four-piece works in a grey area between emo and punk. Their lyrics skew far more often towards crypticness than the melodrama in their emo and pop-punk contemporaries’ work. Their songs are complicated, throbbing with raw energy and short: their four LPs all clock in at fewer than 20 minutes. The band’s 2011 self-titled debut posed a commitment to bile and pettiness that continued throughout their later releases.

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Spinning Singles: Mitski, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alicia Keys, Steve Gunn

CORRECTION APPENDED

“Happy” — Mitski

“Happy came to visit me, he brought cookies on the way.” Mitski softly spills out the words in a ghostly, vibrating mumble, over a quick, blasting automatic weapon-esque drum machine pulse on her single “Happy” — the second pre-released track from her forthcoming, sophomore sum, Puberty 2. The track is a beautiful mystery: a queer, sad, riddle of a song. The track recounts the memory of a visit from Happiness (who goes by male pronouns) who laid her down, told her it would all be okay, then vanishes while she’s in the bathroom, leaving a mess and reminders of the visit in his wake for the singer to clean up. In the song’s three brief verses, Mitski crystallizes the intoxication of happiness — the everythingness of small moments, the sun-filled room, cookies and tea with a lover — and the violent hangover of the come-down, the desperation to get it back. However, the most haunting emotion on the track, is Mitski’s apathy about the whole affair: that she is not heartbroken, screaming or crying: just a little bit sad, as she quietly cleans up the debris: “And I turned around to see/All the cookie wrappers/And the empty cups of tea/Well I signed and mumbled to myself/Again I have to clean.”

As it turns out, ambivalence about heartbreak is much sadder than heartbreak by itself.

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Spinning Singles: Blink-182, “Bored To Death”

As the number of members in a given band decreases, the worries of a “Ship of Theseus” transformation increase if band members join on or drop out. As such, Blink-182’s decision to slot in Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba in place of former vocalist and guitarist Tom DeLonge 14 years into their career must have elicited trepidation amongst many long-time fans. In “Bored To Death,” the first single off of Blink-182’s California, which is slated for a July 1 release, fans get a glimpse of Skiba’s contributions to the trio. The new collaborators have seemingly decided to pass on delving into radically new material in their first public debut, instead offering up a song that could easily slot into any of Blink-182’s most middle-of-the-road, polished releases (Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket). “Bored To Death,” however, evidences the darker, more mature tone that Blink-182 has started moving towards as its band members near their mid-40s.

COURTESY OF JOYFUL NOISE

Spinning Singles: Beyoncé, Yoni & Geti, Brian Eno

Yoni & Geti — “Wassup (Uh Huh)”
Every indie geek whose taste has ever skewed eclectic and depressive should consider it a true-blue blessing that Yoni Wolf (WHY?, Clouddead) and David Cohn aka Serengeti transformed their friendship into musical collaboration. True, Serengeti’s 2011 Family & Friends saw Wolf take the production reigns, and his influence could be heard on Serengeti tracks like “Goddamnit” that channel his kitsch-as-loneliness approach. A nagging feeling, however, remained that Serengeti and Wolf still hadn’t truly pushed their collaboration into exciting territory that maximized each wordsmith’s staggering potential. The time has come. The duo has a match-matchy name (Yoni & Geti), an album title (Testarossa) and a release date (May 6).

COURTESY OF REPUBLIC RECORDS

Spinning Singles: Ariana Grande, “Dangerous Woman”

Okay.  A lot of me really likes Ariana Grande’s music.  Well, her newer music.  You were probably listening to it Saturday night in the basement of (insert frat name here); “Problem,” “One Last Time,” “Bang Bang,” “Break Free.”  Yeah, the songs are contrived and sustained purely by endless repetitions of 2 eight-counts of whichever instrument is being showcased and the high-flying cascades that Grande pulls off with her voice, but they’ll get you to sing along, or dance, or both.  If you take yourself seriously, maybe don’t watch any of the videos — either they’re filled with camp or I’m just not understanding the artistic message she’s sending out — but there’s no danger in enjoying a little bubblegum now and then between your really profound “Indie Discover Relax Golden” playlist you’ve homegrown on Spotify.

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Spinning Singles: DMX, Nick Jonas

 

“Moe Wings ft. Big Moeses and Joe Young” — DMX

Despite almost dying in February, DMX came back in March with “Moe Wings,” his first single in almost three years. The track finds X continuing his career-long tradition of sounding like an enraged pit bull, gnashing its teeth and growling at you from behind some sorry-ass chain-link fence. Rapping over a low-chord string arrangement and crashing drum-kit beat, he spends the first verse bringing down other rappers by asserting his masculinity over theirs, and the chorus declaring himself to be “hot like moe wings.” Such belligerence is certainly what gives DMX his appeal, but as he gets older, his bark makes him sound more and more like an angry old man yelling at you to get off of his lawn. Nevertheless, “Moe Wings” has vital signs.

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Spinning Singles: ZAYN, “BeFoUr”

Zayn Malik is using his post-One Direction life for two important things: creative capitalization and tender, R&B-inspired slow jams. Tossing aside the saccharine sound he shared with Styles & Co., Zayn (needlessly stylized as ZAYN) has embraced his standing as “the mysterious one,” as described by Harriet Gibsone in The Guardian. With this self-directed intrigue comes such heartthrob-y tunes as last week’s “BeFoUr.”
“So say what you wanna say,” Zayn croons. Say what you wanna say about One Direction’s cheesiness, their accessibility or their major label camp. “BeFoUr” reminds us why Simon Cowell assembled 1D in the first place — they’re damn talented. Zayn’s infectious vocals float delicately over the single’s sparse electronic instrumentals, wistful and distant until he takes full tonal control over the bridge.

Spinning Singles: M83, “Solitude”

Listening to M83’s latest single is how I spent the most needlessly melodramatic six minutes of my day. “Solitude” is a slow, woozy ballad layered with heavy, gummy orchestral instrumentation on top of the French duo’s signature echoey vocal chorus. It’s an awkwardly cinematic and self-serious piece of music, like the final scene in a low-budget action movie: just as you can no longer take it seriously, the hero yells “nooo” in slo-motion and pushes the villain into a volcano — except, like, as a piece of ambient pop. Maybe this sounds promising to you, but unfortunately the track seems to be peculiar for the sake of peculiarity, which ends up being predictably boring. After their bopping, Vampire Weekend-ishly charming and buzzy, “Do It, Try It,” “Solitude” is a tedious disappointment.

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Spinning Singles: Lana Del Rey, “Freak”

In the self-directed music video for “Freak,” from her album Honeymoon, Lana Del Rey invites you into her oversaturated, trippy vision of California. Featuring Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), the video is supposedly inspired by his experience dropping acid at a Taylor Swift concert. “Freak” opens with Tillman and Del Rey walking in the desert before she presses a tab of acid on Tillman’s tongue, cuing the hushed chorus “Baby if you wanna leave /Come to California/ Be a freak like me too.”

Sun-drenched and hazy, the rest of the track unfolds lazily like a dream with shots of Tillman surrounded by young women in white and a surreal close-up of Kool Aid gushing down Del Rey’s chin as she drinks. A sequence of the couple slow dancing in a thick fog marks the end of the song “Freak.” The dance continues in silence for a few seconds before switching to an underwater shot and the opening notes of Debussy’s “Claire de lune.” In the rest of the 11-minute track, Del Rey, Tillman, and the young women glide in this glittering underwater place, in a continuation of a scene from her previous video for “Music To Watch Boys To.”

Those who complain about her inauthenticity forget that Lana Del Rey is a purposeful, carefully created persona that produces pop music too weird for the mainstream. Her goal is aesthetic pleasure, and in her self-aware, at times self-mocking art, she achieves it.

Spinning Singles: James Blake, “Modern Soul”

What has remained constant throughout James Blake’s career — from his basically instrumental, sample-heavy, early E.P.s, to the steady turn toward full-scale R&B documented by his two studio albums — is that he has always seemed to be an artist in the process of evolving. For this reason, I was surprised when I turned on “Modern Soul,” a song Blake debuted on BBC1 last week. A possible selection from his forthcoming studio album Radio Silence, the song would have seemed right at home on Blake’s more recent L.P., 2013’s Overgrown. Like so much of Overgrown, “Modern Soul” is piano based and melodic, but also features electronic instrumentation and distortion. All is set to the background by Blake’s soulful baritone, sounding great, but pretty much the same as ever.