Chris Ingalls: National treasure Yo-Yo Ma teams up once again with the Silk Road Ensemble and adds vocalist and banjo player Abigail Washburn to the mix to create an absolutely exquisite blend of styles and cultures. Part bluegrass, part traditional Chinese, part Celtic—the mixture sounds mind-boggling and overly busy on paper, but it translates to sheer beauty thanks to the wealth of talent involved. The song takes its time through a variety of instrumentation and vocals (all nicely separated in the mix), and the unhurried approach allows everything to breathe magnificently. I could listen to this all day. [10/10]
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Tallinn, Estonia’s I Wear* Experiment play a shimmering, sometimes funky, brand of glistening synthpop just made for dancefloors. This is highly melodic music rich in texture that provokes the imagination with its cinematic flairs and delightful polyrhythmic drums. The band had a hit in Estonia with their first single, “Patience”, and the song we’re premiering today, “Deepfreeze”, is only their second single. But already the band has been tapped by Hurts to open their shows in the Baltics and they are currently working towards putting out their debut album.
Cardiff’s Tibet plays a uniquely British brand of indie pop that draws from ‘90s Britpop, but isn’t defined by that now often derided genre. Tibet honors the past while moving into the future, keeping the flame of melodic guitar rock alive and vibrant. The group springs from the fertile Cardiff music scene and Rat Trap Recordings, which began its life as a club night drawing bands together at various venues around town. Tibet releases a new EP, Above the Moon, on May 23rd and we have the lead single for you today. “I’ll Put You in My Pocket” is a stomping rock tune with great harmonies and hard-charging guitars. It’s pretty irresistible.
Pryor Stroud: Alongside Gang of Four, the Jam, and, to a lesser extent, the Sex Pistols, the Clash were punk’s proud, leftist poet-intellectuals, equally interested in cultivating their own political identity as they were in capturing rock’s unbridled ferocity. “London Calling”, the lead single from 1979’s album of the same name, demonstrates this dual sense of purpose—intellectualism yoked to barbarism, ideology to fury—with one of the band’s most thunderous and affecting songscapes. The dour-reggae bass presages a post-apocalyptic London drowned in the Thames, and the guitar figure that counters it—an insistent, locomotive rally cry—doesn’t resist this future of desolation, but taunts it, urging it to inch closer to the present if it dares. It’s a song, in theory, about the Clash’s fear that militarism, capitalism, and authoritarianism would domino into each other and plunge England into an Orwellian nightmare. In practice, it’s a thrash punk nightmare with some of the most incendiary guitar work on record. Joe Strummer’s final chorus declaration—“Cause London is drowning / And I live by the river”—is delivered with such abandon, such verve and venom, that it’s hard not to succumb to the reality it enforces: Joe, Mick, and their bandmates are watching the destructive “Revolution” that the Beatles counted themselves out of, and it’s gone completely out of control, leading the British government to use nuclear weaponry against its own populace. The song, then, in this formulation, is the first light of a detonated bomb. [10/10]
Emmanuel Elone: Ever since “Call Me Maybe”, Carly Rae Jepsen has been fighting to be more than a one hit wonder, and “Boy Problems” is certainly helping her in the fight. In fact, I would say that this song is one of the best pop songs that I’ve heard in the last few months. The synthetic groove is clearly ‘80s inspired, but Jepsen’s light-hearted yet powerful vocals make this song much more than an ode to the decade that inspired it. The lyrics are decent as well, and the hook is sure to grab the ear of many a listener on the radio. “Boy Problems” isn’t reinventing the pop song, but it’s pop music done well, putting Carly Rae Jepsen leagues ahead of her contemporaries in that regard. [7/10]