Canada’s Del Bel are known for their downtempo pop-noir that owes more than a small debt to trip-hop. The group’s new album III will release April 7th via Missed Connection Records and Del Bel has a fresh new single in “Only Breathing” to whet your appetite for the full-length. This is subtle, layered, complex music that rewards multiple listens given that it’s nearly orchestral in its scope. Frontwoman Lisa Conway was combating some writer’s block in finishing up the record, and like many artists, she began to question herself and her work. That’s what “Only Breathing” is about, but you wouldn’t ever surmise from the music that Conway struggled with the song as it’s a moody and masterful display of her mesmerizing voice and all of the glorious musical parts that fill in the tune.
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Andrew Paschal: Lorde’s triumphant return is a subtle shapeshifter of a pop song. What starts off as a stern rebuke suddenly ascends into an irresistible piano line, like something snatched from a lost house or disco anthem. In this relatively spare context, it emits a quiet confidence, assembling its broken remains to stare you right in the eye. It strikes me as rare to hear the piano used so artfully and prominently in a pop song that isn’t a ballad. Lorde never dispatches entirely with her ambivalence, but even so “Green Light” sounds totally cathartic by the time it has swelled to its complete proportions. Some of the lyrics could have been honed a little more carefully: “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar” is pretty inane, for instance. Is lying about the beach really the most damning piece of evidence Lorde could churn up about her ex? But such details matter little, because as a whole “Green Light” is the kind of song that will be remembered. [9/10]
Charlottesville, Virginia indie folk duo Lowland Hum practice a sort of minimalism in their music. Focusing on soft and light tones, their songs possess an organic and fragile sensibility with spare instrumentation, right-on-the-money harmonies, and evocative lyrics. It’s a potent combination that has helped their fanbase grow quickly and passionately. On their latest video for the lovely “Folded Flowers”, the married Daniel and Lauren Goans, take a pastoral day in the woods where music fits the scenery as naturally as birdsong.
Andrew Paschal: ANOHNI’s inimitable vocals are like a fixed quantity in her music, ensuring that most anything she sings retains an element of pained, graceful beauty no matter how harrowing or grisly the topic. “Paradise”, another collaboration with Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never following last year’s HOPELESSNESS, pushes this principle to its limit. The track is a tortured dirge barely disguised as bass-heavy synthpop, a veil disintegrating at the seams. ANOHNI sings as one caught between global concerns and her own personal, particular pain, lamenting the solipsistic confines of being but a single “point of consciousness”. Perhaps the paradise she evokes, a “world without end”, is one where the boundaries of the self are dissolved altogether, opening the way for empathy. And yet any clear vision of that utopia is clouded amid the wailing electronics, making it clear that we’ll have to contend with our own kaleidoscopes of pain for some time to come. [8/10]
Paul Carr: Even after nine albums, Spoon manage the remarkable feat of releasing a song that sounds nothing like anything in their remarkable canon. Whilst every album has seen them experiment with their sound in some way, “Can I Sit Next to You” sees the band move in a funky dance pop direction. It sounds supremely confident with the strut and the swagger of a band who have full faith in what they are doing. A welcome return that shows that Spoon are still capable of pulling off a few surprises. [7/10]
// Notes from the Road
"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.READ the article