Picture yourself for a moment in a large public demonstration.
Throngs of people, iPods and iPhones and sundry other listening devices to their ears, all shouting with one accord (and of out tune and sync because let’s face it they can’t hear a thing with all that music playing):
“What do we want?! NO MUSICAL RUTS!”
“When do we want them? NOW! (Or as soon as our crappy wi-fi will download the new music)”
Sounds like an awful lot of effort and a waste of a perfectly good Friday afternoon right?
So why not simply listen to these five brilliant songs from five impressive artists and leave the streets to frantic traffic, crowded outdoor cafe seating and rubbish?
“Morning After Morning” by Tiger Dare
Playing music often referred to as “dream pop”, Tiger Dare play with a languid, elegant simplicity that is as charming as it is sparse.
From the first haunting slow guitar strums, and the gentle sweep of Henry Freedland’s tremulous vocals, you’re drawn into a world where time seems to slow right down, where contemplation is possible, and life seems caught in some sort of endless, delightful limbo.
With so many things competing for attention in our ceaseless digital world, it’s heartening to find artists like Brooklyn-based Tiger Dare (Mike Zorrilla, Henry Freedland, Michael Kirby and Pete Hilton) who appreciate music that possesses intimacy, warmth and the ability to just rise and fall with what feels like the rhythms of an uncluttered, simple life.
Songs like “Morning After Morning” and “Good Times”, both from Tiger Dare’s march 25-released EP Wires Over, Wires In, are ideally suited for the sort of contemplation no one really gets to indulge in anymore.
Slowing down, and plugging in some of this band’s entrancing eulogies to a more bucolic past could be just the thing for your tired soul.
“Let Go” by Like Swimming
If you’re still not convinced that the road more mellow is the one you need to take, then perhaps it’s time to let Like Swimming try to convince you.
Made up of Claes Carlström, Ida Hedene, and Petter Wesslander, a Swedish trio who have been writing together for almost a decade (in former five-piece band You Say France & I Whistle) even if they have only been actively recording together for two of those years, Like Swimming possess an ability to transport you to a place of introspection and shimmering beauty in just the space of the few opening bars of their song “Let Go”.
Soaked in gentle guitar work and light, wafting harmonised vocals redolent with subtlety-expressed emotion, the intent of the song is exactly what you might think to be – an invocation to take some weight off your shoulders, and set your feet a spell as they told Pop Matters:
“… with ‘Let Go’, we’ve tried to find a blend of danceable electro sounds and a comforting acoustic feel, since we feel in between those two worlds in our daily life. The song about slowing down, standing still, not moving. So please listen to it while waiting for the next bus, while sitting down, or while sleeping on the job. It’s a series of still life paintings, but without the apples and pears.”
It’s all that and more, a paean to simpler times when sitting still and watching the world by was considered a virtue and not the sign of an unengaged mind letting life go to waste.
Like Swimming provide a sophisticated pop soundtrack for the quieter, unhurried moments in life and you’d be wise to make as much use of them and those chilled breaks from the rat race pace of the modern world.
“Goddess” by Banks
Listening to the beginning of Los Angeles-based Banks’ song “Goddess”, with its hushed, otherworldly atmospheric vocals, is almost akin to sitting in a church taking in a decidedly modern riff on Gregorian chants.
There is an understated beauty and quietness to this track which soon reveals itself to be mixed in with simmering fury as Banks, a practitioner of what’s termed “dark R&B” who cites Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill as influences, addresses a former lover who didn’t understand just how good he had it with the woman he has obviously spurned.
Her vocals barely rising above a determined whisper, and her heart very much open, bruised and on her sleeve, Banks makes it abundantly clear that “You should’ve crowned her, cause she’s a goddess, you never got this.”
And now this foolish man is alone, mistaking the goddess in front of him for someone he could treat poorly without repercussions.
The truth is, Banks reminds him, that poor decisions come with consequences but rather than some loud, banging accusatory Alanis Morrisette rant – don’t get me wrong I love her music and those screaming songs of vengeance have their place; just not always – Banks serves up fury wrapped in beauty, a song that sounds like a thousand kinds of velvet gorgeous but with an iron fist very much enclosed within.
“Skylight” by Elin Lanto
Back to Sweden, Enköping in fact, and the soulful sounds of one Elin Lanto, whose voice cracks with quavering emotion with every word she sings.
“Skylight” is awash in some of the most emotive, achingly sad vocals you’ve likely heard in some time, accompanied by an electro-influenced melody so powerful and luscious that you’ll find yourself as swept up as contemplatively cast down.
She is the very embodiment of the Swedish ability to package the highs and lows of life together in one mesmerisingly beautiful package, and “Skylight” makes good use of the production team behind Loreen, SeventyEight, who know how to bring all the emotion possible out of haunting, heart-stirring ballads.
It’s a brilliant way to return to the music scene after four years away, proof that her voice and its ability to move you deeply are very much intact, and that there is real talent at play as she moves away from the more exuberant pop of past releases and invests in what Scandipop have termed the “Nordic electro siren” trend.
I have a feeling though that with this much talent coursing through her veins that Lanto will outlive any and all trends as she finds her musical feet again.
“Love Stories” by Little Daylight
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, a three piece band called Little Daylight (Nikki Taylor, Eric Zeiler and Matt Lewkowicz) are doing their level best to subvert catchy, upbeat pop.
Mixing electronic dance sounds in with more introspective influences, they are what Radio refers to as “an intimate dance band”, not the sort of grouping of descriptive words you normally see sharing the same biography (which by the way once described the band as a grouping of musically-inclined French existentialists, their piss-take on the standard industry bio).
But somehow it works, and works beautifully, lending songs like “Love Stories” with its peppy synth melodies, pounding drum beats, Taylor’s airy, emotive vocals, and stinging lines like “I miss you like we never met”, a reminder that not all tales of love true love end in happily ever after.
They’re currently readying themslves for the release of their first full-length album Hello Memory on July 15, following the very well-received EP Tunnel Vision, with no sign they’ll be needing to return to production duties for other bands any time just yet (they have previously provided official remixes for bands like Passion Pit, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Freelance Whales).
Which songs will you adding to your playlist?