Today’s new music cocktails are a bit darker and moodier than usual. These five artists offer something refreshing that will take your breath away. Let’s get things started with some vintage-inspired New Wave from an unlikely place.
Black Arcade – “Severed Lies” (Lexington, KY USA)
RIYL: New Order, The Cure, Editors
New Wave nostalgia has never felt fresher or more relevant than in this new single from emerging indie darkwave/synthpop band Black Arcade. Plenty of bands cite Joy Division and New Order as influences, so the synth-heavy throwback vibe is nothing new. What makes this band’s debut so spectacular is its authenticity. Look, I was there in the ‘80s when black-clad genre masters like New Order, The Cure, and Depeche Mode cemented the foundation of synthpop. You can hear their influence in modern bands (Arcade Fire, Editors, The Twilight Sad) who embrace the darker side of minor key misery. But no band in recent memory has produced such legitimate New Wave perfection like Black Arcade. What’s even more surprising is that this group isn’t from Berlin or Manchester. Despite having perfected the dark European sound, Black Arcade are actually from Lexington, Kentucky. Surprises abound with this band. Somewhere, Ian Curtis is smiling proudly from the great beyond.
The 10-song LP, Transhuman, releases September 30 with pre-orders from their Bandcamp page.
The Album Leaf – “Never Far” (San Diego, USA)
RIYL: Sigur Rós, Radiohead
Another group that fully embraces the vintage synth sound is San Diego’s The Album Leaf. The last full album of original material from them came six years ago with the release of the luscious A Chorus of Storytellers, mixed by Sigur Rós. Since then, frontman Jimmy LaValle has released an EP and some collaborative works (with Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon), while longtime fans have waited for a new LP. The wait is over now that the band’s sixth studio album, Between Waves, is due out next month.
The shimmering first single, “Never Far”, features layers of swirling, distorted vocals over an electronic bed. Imagine if Sigur Rós, Radiohead, and Pet Shop Boys had an absinthe-fueled jam session, and this would be the result. It’s a heady concoction remixed by electronic artist Dntel (Jimmy Tamborello of The Postal Service) that delights the senses without being overwhelming.
The Album Leaf are: Jimmy LaValle (piano, synths, guitar, vocals), Matt Resovich (violin, synths, vocals), Brad Lee (bass, guiar, keys, trumpet), and David LeBleu (drums, synths, keys).
Ocoeur – “Timeless” (Bordeaux, France)
RIYL: Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Brian Eno
Some tracks are best heard in the still hours of the night when distractions are minimal and your mind is most receptive. “Timeless” has a sleek, mysterious vibe that demands your full attention and rewards you with an aural experience beyond compare. With its long, slow intro (you don’t really hear much for the first fifteen seconds) and minimalist electronic flourishes, this song from French composer Franck Zaragoza (aka Ocoeur) transports you to another dimension of ambient bliss. So just close your eyes and become immersed in its downtempo magic. This song is a sensuous treat for le cœur and l’esprit and will appeal to fans of electronic and classical music.
Emma Ruth Rundle – “Marked For Death” (Los Angeles)
RIYL: PJ Harvey, Cat Power, Concrete Blonde
Do you remember the last time you were haunted by a new artist’s sound? For me, it was about four minutes ago after hearing this new single from Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Randle. Between her hushed delivery of the verses and the chorus accentuated by a mournful cello, we’re completely entranced. “Marked For Death” is a gorgeous downtempo ballad with sweeping layers of melancholy lyrics: “Who else is gonna be with you when you breathe your last breath?” Breathtaking doesn’t begin to describe how gorgeous this song is. It’s the first track from her upcoming album of the same name. We can’t wait to hear the rest.
BOYS – “Nice Guys” (London, England)
RIYL: Beach House, Wild Nothing, Real Estate
Six months from now when our bodies are bundled in multiple fuzzy layers, we’ll look back longingly on these carefree summer days. This single from London quartet BOYS provides the perfect soundtrack to our sun-soaked memories. It’s as though they’re giving us a gift-wrapped present now that will be especially useful in a few months’ time. “Nice Guys” is heavenly dream pop, warm and pleasing as an ocean breeze, with echoes of Yuck’s “Swirling” (which is appropriate since Yuck’s Max Bloom produced BOYS’ forthcoming debut.) Their blend of shoegaze elements with indie pop makes “Nice Guys” an ideal song to enjoy now, even if you’re not lounging surfside with your toes in the sand. It’s from their forthcoming EP, American Dream, due out next month. We’ll be sure to share more from this talented band once the full album is released.
BOYS are: Ross Pearce, Mike Stothard, Daniel Heffernon, and Kane Butler.
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