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Spinning Singles: Joyce Manor, “Last You Heard Of Me”

Nine days remain until Joyce Manor release their fourth LP, Cody. In the six years since their 2010 Split with Summer Vacation, the pop-punk/emo quartet has matured in a familiar trajectory. The group toned down the blunt twenty-something angst of their 2011 self-titled debut, added in power-pop motifs and continued putting out unpretentious vignettes through 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired and 2014’s Never Hungover Again. “Fake I.D.,” the first single off of Cody (slated for an October 7 release), resembled the Brit pop-inspired “Heated Swimming Pool” far more than any of the group’s latchkey SoCal musings. I freaked a little when I first heard it, to be honest.

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TEST SPIN: Mac Miller — The Divine Feminine

This year has made it apparent that Mac Miller is trying to distance himself from Donald Trump in more ways than one. The combination of the chant he uses to get the crowd going when he performs —one of his old mainstays at concerts (“Fuck Donald Trump”) — and his new album’s tone — which is decidedly more Al Green than Beastie Boys — draws a line that he has been trying to mark out for years. Each of his albums has represented a drastic musical shift from those preceding it, and The Divine Feminine is no exception to that trend. The album opens with “Congratulations,” which features both Mac and Bilal singing. If you haven’t heard Mac sing before, you should.

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TEST SPIN: Nick Cave — Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, a “post-punk super group,” plays the kind of music that makes you want to be a roadie, a groupie, a super fan. They sound like an older, alternative Adele: refreshingly soulful.  Skeleton Tree, their new album released on September 9, carries the weight of a universal conscience. Nick Cave patches together old lyrics in a new way that resonates in your ear drums, makes its way into your cerebrum and sends a cascade of interneurons down toward your heart.  Skeleton Tree is irresistible from its first echoing electric chord.

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TEST SPIN: Glass Animals — How To Be A Human Being

Glass Animals’ sophomore album, How To Be A Human Being, presents a bold expansion from the intimate and smooth vibes in 2014’s ZABA. The band has had a distinctive sound since they released their first EP, Leaflings, in 2012. That sound has carried with them through their second self-titled EP and first album. Unlike the cryptic lyrics on ZABA that better communicated feelings than messages, each track on this album tells a story inspired by hundreds of recorded conversations with real people that the band met on tour. These conversations were distilled into the 11 fictional characters featured on the album artwork.

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TEST SPIN: Frank Ocean — Blonde

I have a difficult time describing Frank Ocean’s music. Perhaps it’s a surreal introspection of the most morose and neurotic reactions to something tragic, like the loss of love and the painful journey that follows it. Maybe it’s a conceptual project of youthful hope and fervor in a world that is far less than ideal. Maybe it’s just sad. Regardless, Ocean’s new album Blonde is brilliant.

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Spinning Singles: PWR BTTM, NAO

“New Hampshire” — PWR BTTM 

PWR BTTM is a pretty unilateral band. A great and unashamedly unilateral band, but one-sided all the same. Frankly, there are only so many types of sounds a guitar-drum rock duo can concoct, and it’s not like PWR BTTM, even at their best, have been bounding through any boundaries, sonically. Ugly Cherries was remarkable more for what it was (a thrashing, vulnerable paean to queerness and what it can mean in all its iterations) than for how it sounded (pwr chords and pwr vocals that both, in turn, skidded from blared to whimpered with the click of a distortion pedal). As I heard it, their last album’s noises were auxiliary, secondary to and supporting the inescapable choruses, bleeding confessionals and brash, almost gaudy humor that stood at the top of the soundpile.

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TEST SPIN: Death Grips — Bottomless Pit

I’m no Death Grips stan (à la Anthony Fantano), but I am someone who has genuinely liked all the music they’ve put out. After every release, though, there’s a little voice in the back of my head that wonders if MC Ride, Zach Hill and Andy Morin are fucking with us. Do they really believe their abrasive industrial x noise x hip-hop hodgepodge is good music, art or both? Or are they sitting in Sacramento, laughing at their legions of hyperdedicated fans for falling for their joke? Either way, they’re smarter than all of us.

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

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“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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TEST SPIN: Teen Suicide — It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot

Is Teen Suicide’s It’s the Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot a long album? Its 26 tracks boost it to a nearly half-hour longer duration than that of the Maryland band’s 2012 i will be my own hell because there is a devil inside my body. And even though many clock in at two minutes or shorter, the pure number of songs on the release can seem intimidating. Or, if you switch your mindset, welcoming. It’s the Big Joyous Celebration does not pack neatly into a succinct metaphor.

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.