An artisanal batch of recent tracks that deserve to be heard. This 2nd hand-picked playlist features new tunes by alternative pop/rock band Garbage, nightmare dream-rock band Bloody Knives, ethereal synth-pop trio Chelan, and electronic pop duo Highland Kites. Enjoy!
Curated by Jen Dan
Garbage – “Empty”
Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker return after a seemingly long absence as Garbage with studio album #6, Strange Little Birds, alighting June 10th on the band’s own record label, StunVolume. They sonically and lyrically pick up where they left off, discovering shining treasures in the trash of emotional isolation and self-doubt, all-consuming passion, and fragile and failed relationships.
Peppy and driving dance-rock lead track “Empty” sweeps along on a wave of light, upbeat synth buzz, rubbery bass line, a continual, syncopated drum beat, and occasional stormy guitar distortion. A longing Manson smoothly swoops through her vulnerably dispiriting lyrics with her distinctively ripe and rich tone, revealing, “…I feel like a fake / I lie awake believin’ that somehow I keep failing / I reel and I ache…”
Bloody Knives – “Poison Halo”
Texas-based, extreme post-punk/post-rock band Bloody Knives annihilates the headspace (in a good way!) on I Will Cut Out Your Heart For This, its sophomore album that was released April 15th on Saint Marie Records.
The cut “Poison Halo” goes deep, crushing the senses with an exhilaratingly overwhelming whirlwind of densely textured, relentlessly paced sound. Turbo-charged, sheering blasts of distorted guitar excoriation, heavy bass line grind, and pounded drumbeat propulsion ceaselessly drive “Poison Halo” off the cliff’s edge as lead singer Preston Maddox dispassionately intones amid the turbulence the malignant lyrics, “Blood drips from your lips / and falls to the ground.”
Chelan – “Beams”
Joshua Tree, California-residing indie pop trio Chelan (pronounced sh-lan) formed in 2007 and has 4 albums to its name, with its 5th, Vultures, landing August 26th on Something in Stereo. Chelan was formerly a duo with classical music teacher Jennifer Grady and film/TV music composer Justin Hosford at its core. In early 2015 drummer Chad Austinson came on board and the new iteration decided to go big, sonics-wise, and incorporated a densely textured ‘wall of sound’ aesthetic to its synth-pop tracks.
Chelan flies high on first single “Beams” which shines brightly with a rich, mysterious atmosphere of dreamy sizzling analog synths, flat-smacked drums, and floating layers of Grady’s ethereal, but operatically soaring vocals. Listeners would do well to circle around Vultures when it touches down.
Highland Kites – “This War Inside”
L.A.-based indie electronic pop duo Highland Kites consists of Marissa Lamar (vocals, keyboards) and Neil Briggs (drums). Lamar started out as a solo artist, focusing on music when she was ill with Lyme disease in her 20s. Music was a life-saving and -changing outlet for her where she could release her dark and restless thoughts through uplifting songs. In 2014 Briggs joined Lamar as Highland Kites and they released their debut EP, So Vicious, that same year. In 2015 the duo delivered debut album All We Left Behind to critical and listener acclaim.
Highland Kites latest output is 2nd EP Let Me Run, due on July 23rd. Lead single “The War Inside” contrasts Lamar’s bleaker to empowering lyrics and shadowy, echoed vocals with an upbeat and propulsive rhythm driven by a pronounced and kinetic drum beat. Buzzing synths, reflective keyboard notes, and light guitar chime support Lamar as she sing-talks in a hushed tone, whispering urgently, “I needed darkness to see the light / I’ll find myself tonight.” The future only looks bright for Highland Kites!