A song by Porcelain Raft, “Unless You Speak From Your Heart”, was “Today’s Top Tune” on KCRW the other day and I was instantly captivated. Its wavering synth intro led into the fuzzed out musical landscape of dream pop, until female vocals entered with symphonic percussion similar to Beach House. This tune is the selected single off is the new release, Strange Weekend, and rightly so. The catchy melody drifts over the tightly-wound song structure, creating a worthy listen. Behind the scenes is composer Mauro Remiddi, an Italian ex-pat who is now based in New York City. He’s on tour with Youth Lagoon, M83 and the Smith Westerns—certainly good company to be around. The video for the song is an arty black and white shoot of the band gamely trading places in front of a stark white background. They’re not exactly playing any instruments, but it’s nice to at least get a visual sense of the group. Many bands are opting out of this vehicle of communication, so this video did not disappoint an eager new fan.
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The eagerly awaited new Grimes album, Visions, releases next week. Look for our review then, but in the meantime, you can sample a few MP3s and even listen to the whole record over at NPR.
Wade Ryff was disillusioned with music, holed up in his parent’s house, writing tunes in the bathroom. This economy has been tough on 20somethings and Ryff’s malaise seems part of a larger cultural phenomenon. Indeed, he wound up teaming with a group of fellow 20somethings who felt much in the same boat—Breanna Wood, Garth Herberg, Lucas Ventura, Devon Lee and Oliver Hild—to form RACES. Together they recorded the upcoming album Year of the Witch, which felt like a catharsis, bringing new found optimism to the musicians.
The name RACES is emblematic of the members’ overall mindset as well. As Ryff explains, “I relate to the name in the sense that it seems like there is always something to be up against, and strong desire to overcome whatever it is.” The band’s psych-influenced indie pop will be on full display when Year of the Witch releases on 27 March. In the meantime, check out today’s premiere of a new remix for album track “Living Cruel & Rude”. Fellow Californian DJ Vyxor brings a slick, electro sheen to the folk-poppy “Living Cruel & Rude”, bathing the tune in gentle blips and warm waves of synths, while managing to bring out more of the pure pop aesthetic of the song.
Shannon Stephens began her musical career at a Christian art school called Hope College, where she comprised one-fourth of indie, folk-rockers Marzuki. It was there, while playing guitar and lending her vocals, that Stephens met bandmate Sufjan Stevens. After the dissolution of Marzuki, Stephens released her first solo album in 1999, before putting her pursuit of fame on pause, opting instead for a quiet life in Seattle with her husband. After nine years out of the business, Stephens resurfaced with 2009’s The Breadwinner, produced by Sufjan Stevens’ label, Asthmatic Kitty.
Now returning with her third album, backed again by Asthmatic Kitty, and produced by Grammy-winner Kory Kruckenberg, Stephens brings us Pull It Together, out May 22nd of this year. In this upcoming album fans will detect a new confidence in both Stephens’ lyrics and her vocals, the sign of an artist truly coming into her own. The buoyant single “What Love Looks Like”, debuting here on PopMatters, is clearly the product of a life-learned maturity. Fittingly making its premiere on Valentine’s Day, the song is a portrait of modern-day love, set to an upbeat and melodious tune. Much like all the songs on this album, “What Love Looks Like” allow Stephens to share her opinions as a lover, an artist, a mother, and a citizen of the world, balancing cynicism, optimism, and ear-catching vocals along the way.
Performances at this year’s Grammy awards weren’t about gimmicks, special effects, or surprise appearances. Instead, the show became a celebration of the music and musicians that unite seemingly different people. Fittingly, in a year where so many important musicians passed away, the night was also about people using their talents to bid a fond farewell to those whom we will all miss. It was a night where legends were honored, rock stars danced to country music, and an auditorium full of stars bowed their heads in prayer.
1. Jennifer Hudson - “I Will Always Love You”
The world only learned of the sad death of Whitney Houston the night before, leaving organizers less than 24 hours to put together a meaningful tribute. Despite this, I can’t imagine a better way to pay respect to someone than what was planned. There are far too few female singers of today who are capable of singing Whitney’s greatest hit with similar vocal ability, but Jennifer Hudson is one of those singers. Her heartfelt rendition also served as a befitting ending to a video “in memoriam” tribute to all the talented people who left us last year.