Welcome to Shuffled Selections, your weekly mini-mixtape of whatever I’m listening to this week! Because I adore nothing more than exploring all the music and sharing it with every person I can, this is my way to cover as much ground as possible in between life and bigger reviews. Enjoy!
Dirty Projectors – “Cool Your Heart (ft. D∆WN)”
This song is just too freakin’ cool. And, coming from a considerably dense and angular indie rock icon, this is kind of surprising. Then again, since their last proper release in 2012, lead songwriter David Longstreth has spent time writing with the likes of Kanye West and Solange (who once brilliantly covered the DP song “Stillness is the Move”). Much like fellow avant-folk artist Bon Iver, it seems that running in these circles has the effect of really pushing song writing to some interesting and all together new heights. Actually co-written with Solange, this song both sounds immediately familiar to fans (those disjointed harmonies, tho) and yet wholly unlike anything they’ve done before. Hell, it seems like it’s made less for a coffee shop and more for a club with an indomitable dubby beat and an infectious hook.
The record itself both continues this fascinating exploration of new territory and, yet, is still very recognizably Longstreth through and through. Unlike Bon Iver who drowned out his tender folk sensibilities in a haze of atmospheric noise with each subsequent released, this self-titled album is more akin to St. Vincent’s most record LP in terms of musical evolution. All the markers of the Projectors are still there – the random spoken word blurts, the meandering melodies and the sharp shifts between them, the lushly layered vocal tricks – only now it’s bolstered by an electronic undercurrent and a striking sense of confidence. Essentially an album of great heart break that wrestles with failed promises and the insecurities left in their wake, it feels like Longstreth working out his demons through sheer creativity and, if you’re a fan of their previous work, you will be mightily rewarded by his toil. Although this one track might be the only song that could truly play in a club, this record is nonetheless filled with some stellar electronic exploration and, in their own unique way, have created quite the danceable album.
Conor Oberst – “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out”
As a longtime fan, I will be honest that I was a bit let down by Conor Oberst’s latest record Ruminations. All the elements, however, seemed like a dream come true – Conor, stripped down to the essentials, writing harmonica laden acoustic or piano driven tunes to soundtrack a winter spent alone. Although his lyrics were, per usual, top notch, something about the whole thing just didn’t quite come together for me. It felt either too bare or, at times, too forced maybe? This isn’t meant to be an insult, really – it’s only that the album felt like a demo tape that Oberst had to get out of his system. But, with time and a little breathing room, he’s revisiting the songs with an upcoming companion piece entitled Salutations, bringing a whole band of friends along to flesh out the album and give it new life (side note: I absolutely adore when bands do this, such as the incredible Manchester Orchestra one-two punch of Cope/Hope). From the sound of it all so far, it appears this expansion is exactly what the record needed. As my favorite track on the previous iteration, “St. Dymphna” really comes to alive here with some subtle flourishes of orchestration that really bring out the “last call” sing along vibe. I stand by the ‘demo’ description – I really think Salutations will feel like a fully realized Oberst album and I cannot wait to hear what the rest of the songs sound like.
At The Drive-In – “Incurably Innocent”
Let me get this out of the way first: At The Drive-In were monumentally important to the evolution of my musical palate. It’s a story for another time but I viscerally recall the exact moment I first spun Relationship of Command and it has reverberated through my life ever since. So it’s pretty safe to say that I am kind of freaking out that we are getting a new ATDI record this year. I also think it’s safe to say we should all be grateful for the stepping stone that was Antemasque for helping Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López to get back into the ATDI mindset. Whereas the other members have been involved in various heavy metal or post-rock outfits over the years, the brothers Volta have been a long strange trip since helping define an entire genre decades ago (ugh, weird). But, now, with two singles released from the upcoming album in • ter a • li • a, it seems they are all picking up rather seamlessly from where they left off back in 2001. With ravenous energy to spare, this second single rips into a tale of sexual abuse with Bixler-Zavala’s patented angular poetry and hisses with that tried and true ATDI bite as if no time has passed at all. Honestly, if these two songs are any indication, this album is shaping up to be the reunion record that other bands could only dream of. It really helps that the members have all kept up working but to hear them so seamlessly back together is simply a dream come true.
Electric Guest – “Bound To Lose”
When Electric Guest came on the scene with the incredibly catchy earworm “This Head I Hold” (with a video that you absolutely must watch), they didn’t really click with me. Sure, that song was great, but for one reason or another, I never dove too deeply into their work. That has all changed with their long awaited sophomore album, however, because it has me hooked through and through. An electronic dance-pop record in the vein of Passion Pit or the glossier side of Miike Snow, Electric Guest are a delightful champion of the genre that has been dominating the radio and festival circuit for a few years now (maybe millennials just love shiny things? That should be one of our stereotypes). The album itself is filled to the brim with bright hooks and infectious choruses and, if they really did scrap an entire album in the process of making this, it sounds like it was the right thing to do. This track in particular has such a satisfyingly hazy chorus that it will lull you into a dreamy peace instantly, guaranteed. Although most of the album really gets into a groove, it’s moments like this one that assure it will be a springtime treasure.
Mr. Twin Sister – “Poor Relations”
This recommendation is both for the fierceness of the groove and the timeliness of the message. Long Island dream-pop-disco outfit Mr. Twin Sister released this song as a single months ago as a way to support the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their fight for clean water and respect of the land. With the encampment now all but destroyed, it remains incredibly important for all of us to stay focused on the fight. Per the band’s message concerning this effort: “We believe in compassion, empathy, and tolerance, and hope that you will join us in speaking out against the erosion of their importance in our world.” Regardless of what side (of anything) you are on, we have to recognize that these virtues are indeed at stake in today’s climate and the callousness with which those at Standing Rock have been met is a terrible example of this. I would highly recommend this band in general, even without such a message as this, as they produce some truly mighty jams that will have even the hardest heart feeling the beat. And, if there’s anything we need more of these days, it’s the sort of art that moves our feet and moves us forward – God willing, together.