The best thing about Summer is that new music season is in full swing. Each week we’re greeted with a slew of amazing tracks and albums from old and new favorites. Because we listen to so much new music on a constant basis, we decided that each month we’ll bring you our recommendations of the best new indie + alternative music that we can’t stop listening to. Put this playlist on Re:Play > and enjoy the best songs this month has to offer.
Read on below to find out why we chose some of our favorites tracks.
Josh’s Pick: St. Vincent – New York
It’s no surprise that the new single from the incomparable Annie Clark tops my list for recommendations this month. Upon first listen, “New York” sounds like quintessential St. Vincent, reminiscent of her Actor era songwriting in how its sincerity and unobstructed vocals deliver TRUTH with simultaneous delicateness and fierce wittiness. Interestingly though there’s a lot working in the track’s subtle underlayer. You don’t immediately notice the absence of guitars, but when it clicks, you realize that you’re getting a new view of Annie’s artistry, delving into her vulnerabilities sans the guitar as her shield and tool.
The change from producer John Congleton to Jack Antonoff becomes apparent in a subdued dance beat hidden behind piano and string swells. All the signature Antonoff touches are there: dynamic arcs, synth pulses, and his devotion to pairing ornamentation with what highlights the artist’s vocals best. Even with Antonoff’s polish, we somehow get a rawer and unbound sound here. The allegories and archetypes we come to expect from Clark’s songwriting become more personal and visceral. I mean who can’t instantly relate to the genius of the puncturing line, “you’re the only motherfucker in the city who [can handle; can stand; forgives] me.” Just as New York can be, it’s both familiar and new territory for St. Vincent fans and Annie feels even more my hero and friend with this new track.
Enrique’s Pick: Future Islands – Shadows
3 years have passed since I first heard about Future Islands. Like many other people, it was thanks to that intense and passionate first appearance on Letterman that quickly went viral. This guy singing with his heart in his hand, hitting his chest, roaring, dancing with all that he’s got like a modern age gloomy James Brown–it was just inspiring. I remember staring at the screen trying to process what I just saw, then watching again 3 times more. It is no surprise that after that everyone just went and listened to their Singles album, because of course, it had to be good. And it was. The rest is history.
And here we are now, 3 years later, a new album.
It was a long way for Sam Herring and Future Islands to become a widely-known band, and even a heavier journey to get to this new album, their sixth. After touring around the world non-stop with the energy that made them famous, this new album feels like a contemplative pause, they have reached the top and now they stand there, staring at the view, wondering what’s next. It seems natural that this album sounds like a quieter, more reserved version of them. But the honesty is still there, and the soulful lyrics are now covered in a delicate sorrow that shines through all the bass lines and sparkling keys.
Among all this we find ‘Shadows’. A song that ironically shines like a gem featuring the voice of Debbie Harry. Maybe it’s a way to pay homage to an era that influenced most of Future Islands’ sound, maybe it was just a lucky guess, we can’t really be sure, but I can say it was a tasteful choice. The dialogue between Debbie Harry and Sam Herring throughout the song is heartbreaking and confirms Herring’s inner struggle to find sense and meaning at this new stage in his life.
“The light setting, in the corner of my room
Isn’t enough, but is it for you?
A melody that trails and falls, yet never fully blooms
Plays like an old song
That’s just out of tune”
Can’t avoid being moved by these words, as Debbie Harry plays Herring’s most sensate, inner voice, confronting and inviting him to think over things: What to do now that you got what you wanted, are things the way you expected them to be? Are you satisfied or still feeling empty? Is this really what you wanted? Future Islands shows us that even at the top there are still the same doubts, fears and emotions. These are all questions we can relate to.
Fun fact: Debbie Harry recorded her parts in New York, so she never really met the band. They did exchange a few emails though.
Best of IndieBeat Featured Artists
It’s quite fitting that a look at the post-talent age is done through a very thoughtful, layered, and charmingly talented method of metacommentary from an independent artist. … Whereas Love Songs was raw and blunt, Mescalifornia is embracing with an evolved production quality, having a warmer tint in it’s exquisite instrumentals.
Soon I find myself lost in my thoughts, almost like I’m daydreaming as the music I hear is really soothing. However, the lyrics and the feeling coming from the silky, sweet falsetto voice of Berkman reveals something deeper—grievous in some way—like we’re invited to experience a slow, painful catharsis. … Maybe this is what he’s trying to tell us; amongst the confusion and the feeling lost, there is this knowing we’re going to a dark place that is not easy to escape, as he says “so easy to get in, so hard to get out.”
It’s grandeur lies with the unexpected combination of instrument lines, building and weaving together, sounding like you’re walking down the hallway of a conservatory where the sounds of practice rooms so perfectly meld together to form an encapsulating and cinematically yearning aural experience.
While the ambience he creates may seem a bit dark, there’s always some intentional flashes of light that results in a balanced album, combining introspective and intimate moods with beats worthy of an underground club in an alternate cyberpunk reality. … This album is the perfect example of what a talented artist can accomplish in our digital era.
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