Slowing things does a lot of good for the soul.
It allows you time to think, to ponder … to feel.
And to listen to music by fine, thoughtful artists who know it’s not enough to simply sound wonderful, though they do, but that you also need to speak with truth and authenticity to the human condition.
Engage the soul and the mind with these five amazingly talented artists who know that it’s possible to be meaningful and catchy all at once.
“These Words” by The Lemon Twigs
Proof that everything old is new again in the best possible way is the song “These Words” from The Lemon Twigs, two brothers from Long Island, New York (neither is over 20), Brian and Michael D’Addario, who have managed that rare feat of taking a distinctly retro vibe and making it wholly and gloriously their own (as The Guardian points out, some may disagree).
The song, which begins, ends and sustains itself with vintage synth accoutrements, and summons the sort of jaunty happy spirit that suggests everyone from The Monkees to The Partridge Band and yes The Beatles.
Adding to the yesteryear aesthetic is a glam rock sensibility that means the visuals perfectly match the sound of these talented brothers, who play a host of instruments between them – they’re aided and abetted by Danny Ayala (keyboard) and Megan Zeankowski (bass) – and are well on their way to making a real name for themselves.
It’s seductively happy, lo fi fabulous pop that will make your day a happier, retro-chic place.
“10 Pounds” by Mwansa
Building on his 2014 success, when the Australian artist famously released “Burn This House”, a single he wrote, produced and recorded on the smell of an oily rag and which garnered him plenty of attention worldwide, Mwansa has released another immersively-stellar track.
It is one of those songs that utterly stops you in your tracks.
Fuelled by Mwansa’s deeply resonant voice, and a meaningfulness that comes from the artist’s quest to invest his music with a thoughtful presence – he got into creating and playing music as a way to deal with the death of his brother – “10 Pounds” is an airy yet gravelly intense exploration of living astride two different worlds, something the immigrant from Africa knows a great deal about.
“I’ve now spent nearly half of my life in two vastly different societies, and the song is as much about the similarities of the two, as it is about the differences.” (quote via EDM Tunes)
It’s a heady piece of music that delves deep into rich and complex emotions, all backed by stripped back but melodically accessible music that can help but move you profoundly.
“Char” by Crystal Castles
I have long loved the airy, minimal music of Crystal Castles who made a big splash in 2008 with their debut album which contained arresting singles like “Untrust Us”.
Essentially a solo project of Canadian singer/songwriter Ethan Kath – he first teamed with Alice Glass who was replaced by Edith Frances in 2014 – the band has always been about making music that is distinctive and possibly to some a little discordant and offputting.
But as Kath noted when questioned about his “grating” music that was always the intention:
“To weed out the wimps, to annoy the posers. We are saying, “We are not for you.”
I never found it repellent in any way with new single “Char” demonstrating why the music of Crystal Castles work so well.
Sure its sparse in one sense but it’s always been richly melodic, heartfelt and suffused with vocal stylings – Kath chooses his talented collaborators well – and different from pretty much everything else.
And surely as an artist that’s what you want.
“Lipstick Coffee” by LEAGUES
They sure know to groove in Nashville.
Well Nashville-based duo LEAGUES (vocalist and songwriter Thad Cockrell and producer/programmer/drummer Jeremy Lutito) do anyway, injecting all the hip swagger and gloriously cool attitude you could want into “Lipstick Coffee” which simmers and sashays with pulsating guitar-augmented synth beats and suitably remote but always present vocals.
It consumes you with its lush production and melodic momentum which is all raw and polished all at once, a song made all the more impressive by the fact that it and its 12 album mates on Alone Together (out 9 September) was the band’s second go at making a big, initial splash:
“It’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of that process,” says Cockrell, “but I think we both had this growing feeling that we weren’t saying everything we wanted to say and weren’t pushing each musically to do all we could do. So we had to wipe the slate clean and start over.” (Northern Transmissions)
Brave move, and a sign of the real artistry and commitment to excellence that underpins this most amazing of songs and debut from a duo who are destined to go far.
“Edge of Town” by Middle Kids
Australia, long a hotbed of supremely interesting, innovative and emotionally-meaningful music, has done it again with Sydney-based Middle Kids, who grant us in “Edge of Town” a song that delivers up atmosphere, message and the kind of airplay and pub friendly music that will garner it a lot of attention.
Anchored by the vocals of Hannah Joy, whose vocals sound deceptively light ’til you realise how much depth and passion curls around every note she strikes, this bright, breezy and sunny song kicks it up a gear towards the end, finishing off with the kind of power and presence and authentic life experience that can’t help but touch you.
This is a rewarding listening experience sure but there’s so much lyrical substance behind the percolating, bubbly sheen that you connect on an intellectual level as much as an intangible emotional level.
Middle Kids have delivered up brilliantly complex, pleasing music that is sure to go the distance in a world craving music that actually means something.
NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
The Muppets can really rock as Laughing Squid noted when Dr Teeth & the Electric Mayhem performed two songs, “Can You Picture That” and “With a Little Help From My Friends”, during a live set at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival.
It was, as you might expect, suitably epic.
And sticking with the live music theme, Michael J. Fox recently joined Coldplay onstage in New Jersey, according to Hey U Guys, to play “Earth Angel” by The Penguins and “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry in honour of Back to the Future which turned 30 in 2015 …
Oh yeah and wanna see Joseph Gordon Levitt playing drums on a train platform?
You got it, courtesy of EW!