Songs, songs and more songs #68: Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Maggie Rogers, Betty Who, MUNA + new ABBA lyric video for “SOS”

(via Shutterstock)

It’s been a rough two years and an even rougher few weeks and I honestly I need some upbeat, effervescent pop joy in my life.

Thankfully songs like the five in this post, which have come to my attention via YouTube, music blogs and Shazam-ing TV shows, means that the musical escapism I crave is right at my fingertips, and with some brilliantly insightful lyrics into the bargain.

Do I want to be authentically, unapologetically me? Well, there’s a song for that and a damn good one! Do I want to vicariously the thrill of new love or epic defiance? Yes, a thousands times yes – thankfully, there are songs for that too.

In fact, listen long enough and there are songs for just about every moment in your life; we can’t fit them all there so what not start with these five and see where they take you?

“Alpha Zulu” by Phoenix

(courtesy official Phoenix Facebook page)

It’s been two years since Phoenix, a French indie pop made up of consisting of Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz sent a single out into the great wide world, a time period which isn’t that long really but thanks to the timey-wimey twistiness of the pandemic, feels like a musical eternity.

But behold they now have a new song, “Alpha Zulu”, inspired by, according to Pitchfork, frontman Thomas Mars [hearing the phrase repeated by] a pilot repeat during a turbulent flight in a storm”.

It’s classic Phoenix all punchy electro beats, emotively wafty vocals with creative bite, and a melody so sweetly seductive and evocative it feels like it’s enveloping you.

There’s a sonic lushness to their output and “Alpha Zulu” has it in spades, sporting a jaunty and hugely danceable vibe that makes it a prime candidate for repeated listens and more than a few trips to the dancefloor.

It’s the calling for their first album – the most recent was Ti Amo in 2017 – on which they’re currently working with no released scheduled just yet.

“Spitting off the Edge of the World” (feta. Perfume Genius) by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

(courtesy official Yeah Yeah Yeahs Facebook page)

Speaking of a long time between musical drinks, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, an indie rock band who hail from the bright lights, big sounds of New York City, have popped up with a new single, “Spitting Off the Edge of the World”, nine years after their 2013 album Mosquito with frontperson Karen O addressing the near-decade long interregnum this way:

“To all who have waited, our dear fans, thank you, our fever to tell has returned, and writing these songs came with its fair share of chills, tears, and euphoria when the pain lifts and truth is revealed. Don’t have to tell you how much we’ve been going through in the last nine years since our last record, because you’ve been going through it too, and we love you and we see you, and we hope you feel the feels from the music we’ve made. No shying away from the feels, or backing down from what’s been gripping all of us these days. So yes we’ve taken our time, happy to report when it’s ready it really does just flow out.” (Pitchfork)

“Spitting Off the Edge of the World” is well worth the wait.

Classic Yeah Yeah Yeahs in its big, dark, atmospherically epic sound, “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” is a rich slice of driving rock that resonates with the emotionally evocative thrills of O’s voice which has lost none of its ability to affect mood or sensbility.

This is music that makes you feel something, and feel it deeply, and after a thousand years of numbing pandemic, we all need songs that bring you alive again.

“Want Want” by Maggie Powers

(courtesy official Maggie Rogers Facebook page)

Maggie Rogers is one of those gloriously arresting music artists who wears her heart well and truly on her sleeve, which has always made, and continues to make for pop music that really means something.

Her latest single, “Want Want”, drawn from sophomore album, Surrender, due 29 July, is all bristling energy, captivatingly intense but richly melodic beats and vocals that bring urgency and life to the idea of finally admitting to yourself that you want to pursue a relationship with someone.

Having flirted with the idea of getting closer to the person, and then pulling away and then closer again, Rogers is ready to dive in (“And I want you”) and every last note and lyric reverberates like a heartfelt echo chamber with the sudden impelling need to get close to his person and you suspect never let go.

It’s addictively alive and all-in with every last atom of the song pulsing with hope, possibility and music that greets the need and want with fervour, embracing them and offering a song that captures the euphoria of giving into the happily inevitable, delivering up in the process one of those pop gems that captures your soul and then some.

“Blow Out My Candle” by Betty Who

(courtesy official Betty Who Facebook page)

All of us have had a hell of a lot on our plate these last few pandemic years – or is that a few thousand? It’s honestly hard to know – and yet somehow the trolls and bullies of the world have still found a way to make their execrable presence felt.

Well, lowlifes of the world, Betty Who, an Australian-American singer and songwriter who grew up in Oz but now calls the US home, is having none of your soul-sapping crap, and is making it plainly obvious in new song “Blow Out Your Candle” (from forthcoming album Big) which Rolling Stone describes as “an Eighties-inspired anthem about being persistent and not letting people get you down (‘You can blow out my candle/But you’ll never put out my fire,’ she sings)”.

Sporting her characteristically melodic pop style and vocals that sound like they’re living and breathing every lyric, “Blow Out Your Candle” is a fiercely inspiring comeback to those who seek to “put out her fire”.

You either have a choice to lie down and take it, not a palatable response however you square it, or to fight back and Betty Who arms you to do just that with a song that speaks of power, passion, tenacity and a joyously invigorating willingness to stand up for yourself, an encouraging call that we all need to heed and which Who is materially helping to make happen by donating half the proceeds from the song to GLAAD.

“What I Want” by MUNA

(courtesy official MUNA Facebook page)

We get told an awful lot what we should want and when we should want it.

But at the end of the day, these so-called moral arbiters are not the holders of all truth (news to them no doubt!), and quite apart from the obvious like treating people well and not letting your freedom of expression or action hurt others, there is a liberative joy in owning who you are and going hard for what you authentically want.

MUNA know that, and the American indie pop band (Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson) declare their embrace of this truth to the world in “What I Want”, a vibrantly upbeat slice of forward-propellant pop that NPR notes possesses “a Moroder-worthy disco beat” and which says without apology, and nor should there ever be one, “I’m gonna take it, I’m just gonna grab it”.

It’s spectacularly upbeat, an energising shot in the arm for anyone, queer folk especially, who have spent their lives apologising for their very existence, and simply want to be themselves, regardless of what the dour naysayers say.

It’s a soundtrack for freedom, for life and for being yourself and it’s worth dancing in the middle of a gay bar for as long as you damn well please.

SONGS, SONGS AND MORE SONGS EXTRA EXTRA!

ABBA have released another brand-new lyric video, part of an ongoing series that coincides with the release of the Voyage album and the launch of the hugely successful Voyage show in London.

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