Iceage — “Forever”
Danish outfit Iceage is synonymous with chaotic, noisy, anarchistic punk that borders on overt sloppiness. Lead vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt historically wailed and moaned with reckless abandon over slightly off beat, rapid-fire guitars and bass. “Forever,” a single from Iceage’s upcoming Plowing Through a Field of Love LP, adds a sludgy bass riff and meandering guitars, lending an extra dose of darkness to the band’s already heavy sound. The slower pace gives Rønnenfelt’s raw vocals a new sincerity and passion that was absent from Iceage’s more speedy work. While before they could have best been described as angry and riotous, the vocals on this single instead drip with emotional exhaustion. This lamentation builds to a head with the help of off-kilter strings and horns, a first for the formerly guitar-centric group. Still affably sloppy but significantly more complex, “Forever” continues the trend started by Iceage’s last single, “The Lord’s Favorite,” toward ‘80s-influenced post-punk approached with somber creativity.
— Michael Sosnick
Karen O – “Day Go By”
The music press is often too quick to label artists “indie darlings.” Karen O, however, seems to fit that moniker in every way imaginable. Her band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, has churned out consistently lauded releases since 2003’s Fever To Tell; she has earned an Oscar nod for “The Moon Song,” which was featured in last year’s Her, and her single “Day Go By,” off of the upcoming album Crush Songs, tries hard to encompass everything that Karen O has become. At its bare bones, this song is a seven year-old tune that laments time away from a lover, as well as the struggle to keep oneself together in the aftermath of love lost. Her voice crackles and grows nasally as the song progresses, the guitar pulsates solemnly and boringly and her lyrics feign poeticism that indie love songs are accustomed to nowadays (“Tearing me apart, I wear it on my heart, I do”). With every listen, it seems more and more disingenuous, almost like she’s intending for this song to further build her credibility as an indie staple. Hell, she’s even gone so far as to replace the word “heart” in her handwritten lyrics to this song with an actual heart.
— Brendan Murphy
Cobra Starship ft. Icona Pop — “Never Been In Love”
Cobra Starship is back, and they’ve traded in their night shades for something a little more retro. Three years after their pop anthem “You Make Me Feel…” invaded summer radio waves, Cobra Starship has come out of hiatus and united with DJ duo Icona Pop for the first sample of their new sound. “Never Been In Love” takes its cues from the early days of pop, delivering foot-tapping drum beats, infectious piano melodies and plenty of opportunities to chant along. A feel-good party anthem that celebrates love at first sight, “Never Been In Love” delivers a refreshing throwback pop-rock sound. The chorus is simple and repetitive and leads into a series of “na-nas” and “ooh-oohs,” so good luck keeping it out of your head. Frontman Gabe Saporta’s vocals shine (especially on the pre-chorus build) and the feature delivers the fun that Icona Pop has become known for. Though their next album won’t be seeing the light of day anytime soon (late 2015 seems to be the magic date), “Never Been In Love” is a punchy and successful re-entrance to the music scene for the revamped band.
— Tyler Breitfeller
Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar — “Never Catch Me”
Two titans of West Coast music come together for a song on the upcoming You’re Dead! release. One is Flying Lotus, whose 2008 album Cosmogramma changed the instrumental hip hop world in the same vein as DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… and J Dilla’s Donuts. The other is Kendrick Lamar, who released good kid, mA.A.d city, has exposed the mainstream to finely constructed and narrative hip-hop in the same way Snoop Dogg and Nas did. Do they change the world of hip-hop again? Not particularly. But do they spit fire? Without a doubt. Kendrick loses himself as he raps about contemplations of life and death, looking back to his younger years and the prospect of his corporeal demise. He’s vulnerable in his lyrics, reminding himself “They say that Heaven’s real / Analyze my demise I say I’m super anxious.” And Flying Lotus compliments the heavy and unanswerable subject matter with a beat based in otherworldly funk and a Thundercat baseline line that no mortal can replicate. It all comes together cohesively, though Kendrick’s part feels all too brief, to garner excitement for You’re Dead! And judging by the guest list of this record, like jazz funk legend Herbie Hancock and frequent collaborator Niki Randa, it ought to be a good one.
— Brendan Murphy
Calvin Harris — “Blame”
“Can’t be sleeping / Keep on waking / Is that the woman next to me? / Guilt is burning / Inside I’m hurting / This ain’t a feeling I can keep / So blame it on the night / Don’t blame it on me.” The message? Act irresponsibly and don’t take the blame. Good one.
Following the success of his classic hit “Summer,” Calvin Harris just released “Blame,” his latest house studio recording set to appear in his untitled fourth album alongside “Summer.” With John Newman, a rising British soul singer, on vocals, “Blame” starts off slowly and gradually crescendos into a throbbing, head-bobbing EDM beat — the perfect accompaniment to John’s powerful voice. The pounding beat is short-lived, however, so it’s hard to tell how well this single will do on the dance floor.
The bottom line: “Blame” has a catchy beat, is easy to jam to, and is expected to top the charts with its relatable (but repetitive) lyrics. “Summer” is a hard act to follow, but this new single has all of Calvin Harris’s synth bass drop moves and brings everyone to their feet.
— Amy Lin