Three indie-rock heavy-hitters dominate our lineup of the week’s new songs, as well as two up-and-comers and a dance music producer indie-rock types tend to appreciate.
Four Tet – “Only Human”
Producer Kieran Hebden tinkers with a high-stepping U.K. garage beat so it doesn’t just build with a momentum that’s already made this track a dancefloor favorite, but also with a rhythmic logic shut-ins like me can hear and feel now that it’s streamable at home. (I playlisted the radio edit below, but you won’t regret immersing yourself in the full seven-minute version here.) When the vocal elements of Nelly Furtado’s 2006 track “Afraid” emerge, the chanted “You’re so afraid of what people might say/But that’s okay ’cause you’re only human” sounds less like a pop star’s inspirational patter and more like a throng of joyous townspeople flooding the street during a climactic production number. Need something to make you feel better? Hell, this might even make you feel good.
The National – “You Had Your Soul With You”
If you’re still open to hearing dour white men struggle and fail to become better human beings, well, you’ll always have Matt Berninger. Nobody sulks with more honorable purpose. Yes, the title (and opening line) is a lot bordering on too much, but Berninger can still turn a simple sentiment like “I had only one thing to do/And I couldn't do it yet” into a regretful epiphany, the sound of a man instantaneously stripped of every carefully preserved illusion about himself. The spindled and restitched guitar that serves as an austerity-busting overture, interlaced in later manifestations with strings and only god and Aaron Dessner know what else, makes this the busiest, densest National track in their catalog. When the drums cut out mid-song, Gail Ann Dorsey’s voice emerges like clouds parting on an overcast day—and like direct sunlight afflicting your hungover squint.
Mountain Goats – “Cadaver Sniffing Dog”
Two tense, twitchy verses of uncommonly straightforward reportage from John Darnielle as he grimly limns a crime scene first and then a war zone, leading into a minimalist chorus that dips low rather than soaring with relief, built solely around one line: “Bring in the cadaver sniffing dog.”
Vampire Weekend ft. Steve Lacy – “Sunflower”
Pavement, Sonic Youth, the National—every generation’s indie-rock standard-bearers eventually acknowledge their Grateful Dead fandom, and it gets harder to pretend I’m shocked each time. Ezra Koenig’s Jerryphilia surfaced earlier this year on “Harmony Hall,” and here, in collaboration with the ever-ingenious Steve Lacy, linchpin of the brilliant R&B band the Internet, Koenig smooths this jam into something Phishy if not fusiony that also canters with the frilliness of British folk-rock. Goddamn, well I declare.
Pip Blom – “Daddy Issues”
Released back in January, just caught up to by me now, not to be confused with the equally nifty Nashville band Daddy Issues, who do not, to my knowledge, have a song called “Pip Blom.” (Yet.) This Dutch rocker was IDing as lo-fi less than two years ago on cuts like the amazingly titled “Babies Are a Lie,” which asks “Don’t you wanna get it on?” Now she’s got a fully smelted alt-riff to match her attitude, and some new inquiries: “Whatchoo wanna do?” and “Whatchoo gotta do?” She is very good with the rock and roll questions, this Blom.
Control Top – “Chain Reaction”
Postpunks don’t get any less fussy than this Philly trio, who make good on the promise of last year’s “Type A” with this jagged yet efficient rotary saw of a screed against our contemporary moment of tech-enabled communication breakdown. Heard from just the right angle, Ali Carter sounds like the B-52s’ Kate Pierson pulling a knife on you, or maybe Pierson filling in on vocals for Pylon, with the knife still in her boot but within reach. They’re opening for Laura Jane Grace at the Turf Club next month.
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2019 playlist.