Ezra Furman – Teddy I’m Ready (Bella Union)
Last year Chicago rocker Ezra Furman released his breakout album, Perpetual Motion People, which showcased his wide range of eclectic influences and impressive lyrical ability. This year he is releasing, Big Fugitive Life, due in August via Bella Union. The EP is half acoustic and the other half, which this track comes from, is rock and roll. This song begins bare and building, a punk rock hymn lead by Furman’s vocals and crunchy guitar. The lyrics set the scene of Furman in a situation where he feels like an outsider and wants to flee. In the chorus he references Little Richard with the lyrics, “Teddy I’m Ready to Rock and Roll.” The song blooms in the second verse with a genre-hopping composition of Beach Boys-esque harpsicord, Saxaphone solos reminiscent of Clarence Clemons, and a sauntering doo-wop drum beat. In this verse a love story unfolds between Ezra and a girl, but “the truth” gets in the way. Perhaps this truth refers to Furman’s bisexuality or his feeling of being an outcast, either way the lyrics are heartbreaking and empowering as he sings, “…they don’t allow no crying in the cold straight world of men, so I build my little fortress ’til I can get even.” This song captures the feeling of having intense pain and frustration coupled with excitement and hope for the future. Furman describes it as, “Wanting to go somewhere you’ve never been, knowing you’re on your way.” Furman is a master of singing songs for the undervalued and disregarded, and this track does just that, inspiring like-minded listeners to, “Make a big noise to the sky.”
Twist – Can’t Wait (Buzz Records)
Songwriter Laura Hermiston has joined forces with Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt to make Twist, and the band’s second single released is full of surprises. This song has the bones of a catchy dream-pop song, but these two add in some surprising elements that make the track really stand out. In the verse, an off note or a jarring sounds will pop in occasionally, giving the otherwise straightforward melody some character. Then, they rock out in the chorus with crash cymbals and crunchy electric guitar complimented by lush treble twangs. Finally, building to an instrumental crescendo outfitted with feedback and Hermiston’s echoing howls. Their debut album will be released later this summer on Buzz Records and this song’s title captures how I feel about it: Can’t Wait.
Carnage feat. Lil Yachty – Mase In ’97
In 1997, rap legend Mase was featured on Notorius B.I.G’s posthumous hit Mo Money, Mo Problems and his debut album Harlem World, went multi-platinum. This year rising rap star Lil Yachty released his debut mixtape and appeared on one of the biggest rap albums of the year (Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book). 1997 was Mase’s year. 2016 is Yachty’s year. That is essentially the point of this song, it is the obligatory bragadocious, money-lovin, bitch-gettin rap cliche’s, but done creatively and amusingly. Carnage cuts up a couple trumpet samples to make an infectious, minimal beat, on which Lil Yachty furiously spits the fastest, most impressive rhymes we’ve heard from him yet. No word on a new album from either of these guys, but hopefully we’ll see more tracks like this in the future.
Happy Diving – Holy Ground (Topshelf Records)
San Fransisco garage rock outfit, Happy Diving deliver this brash, melodic rock song, on which singer Matt Berry passionately belts over fuzzed out guitars that sound like they’re blowing out your speakers. If ever there was a song that captured the sound of turning it up to 11, this song does that, with catchy hooks cloaked in noise. Much like the last song this track is very short, but it is bursting with energy from start to finish. Their second album Electric Soul Unity is out August 26th via Topshelf Records.
Pixies – Um Chugga Lugga (Pixiesmusic/PIAS Recordings)
This year has seen a resurgence of music from beloved 90’s bands with releases from Garbage, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and now Pixies have announced their new album, Head Carrier, out this fall via PIAS and the band’s own website, their first album with new bassist Paz Lenchantin. The title perfectly describes how this raw rock song chugs along building to a chaotic crescendo with gang vocal speak-singing, reminiscent of White Stripes, repeating, “Um Chugga Lugga on the side of the road.” This track indicates that, despite the change in members, this new album will give us the classic Pixies sound we know and love.
Maggie Rogers – Alaska
Maggie Rogers will go down in show business history as another amazing discovery story. Much like Adele’s support boosted Tobias Jesso Jr.’s career, in a master class at NYU this month, Pharrell was awestruck and inspired by this song. After telling the superstar singer how she used to play folk music, took a couple years off to travel, then had a “spiritual experience” with dance music in France, she played him her “unfinished” song and the college student became a rising star. This song begins with an airy synth-marimba sound and primitive percussion, adding in subtle piano trills, electronic drum beats, and a synth-flute sound reminiscent of Justin Bieber’s What Do You Mean. With this song Rogers established herself not only as a strong composer but as a powerful pop vocalist. With lyrics inspired by her nature hikes, she paints a picture of gorgeous landscapes, and wars with another version of herself as she tries to bask in the glory of the moment, “Leave me be, I’m exhaling. You and I, there’s air in between.” Her combined influences of Folk and French dance music, create an innovative pop sound that is earthy yet synthetic. Maggie’s success is so new that she isn’t even signed to any label yet, but we will no doubt be hearing more from her in the near future.