It’s April Fool’s Day, but there aren’t any jokes on this playlist. Instead, the Saturday Sampler April 1st edition reflects the bounty of new music that is blooming in our sonic garden. We have nine fresh tunes for your listening pleasure, ranging from euphoric pop numbers, wind-swept synth-pop, charming indie pop, and hypnotic benders. These songs are the work of artists from Denmark, England, France, Scotland, and the USA.
Arbitraire – “Youreality” (Denmark)
RIYL: Pumarosa, Maribou State, Mt. Wolf
As excited we have been and are about the return of Slowdive, another band that has us in a jubilant mood is the return of Arbitraire. The genre-bending trio from Denmark have long enticed us with their intoxicating mix of electronic, jazz, rock, trip-hop, garage, ambient, and the cinematic. Last fall, they quietly released a sensual EP called Bias. Their newest song, though, sees them transforming into something beautifully complex.
“Youreality” is a dark and hypnotic gem. Like staring at The Hope Diamond, you cannot escape the brilliance of Arbitraire’s latest creation. The production and programming of Adrian & Genji are stellar, akin to the deliberate and suspenseful pacing of Maribou State. Meanwhile, frontwoman Andrea’s vocals have an icy sultriness to them that every word she sings leaves you paralyzed. Add these elements together,r and the trio have created something breathtakingly ravishing.
“Youreality” is the start of something big for the Danish trio. Music this good cannot stay hidden forever.
Bloodboy – “Important To The World” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Pink, Karen O, Angel Olsen (non-indie rock / folk-rock version), Bec Sandridge
Last fall, Lexie Papilion released her debut EP under the moniker Bloodboy, and Best of Bloodboy was an expansive, ambitious, and rewarding record. It blew us away and made us lifelong fans. We were expecting the Los Angeles-based artist to take some time off, but we should have known that the former competitive swimmer and part-time school teacher is the restless type. She makes her return with another hit just in time for spring.
“Important To The World” sees Papilion channel her inner Pink to deliver (and we don’t say this very often) the perfect pop anthem. It is an uplifting number that champions the greatness in all of us. The song is incredibly contagious and full of zeal, yet it doesn’t enter the cheesy zones that so many pop songs do. Instead, Papilion adds just the right amount of grit and swagger to keep the sound grounded and to give the sense that she’s the one in control. That we are in control of our destinies.
If Papilion continues to create such seismic pop songs, she’ll eventually become too big for us to cover.
Dama Scout – “Paper Boy” (Glasgow, Scotland & London, England)
RIYL: Mitski, Jay Som, The Cure
In an interview with SPIN, Melina Duterte – a.k.a. Jay Som – reflected on the importance of her tour with fellow Asian-American artists Mitski and Japanese Breakfast.
I think it’s incredible that for this bill, all three are Asian-American women. I think it’s the first time in history. The impact that has on us and the audience in general is so important. I was talking to Michelle from Japanese Breakfast about this the other day. The fact that there are little girls of color at the shows. I didn’t have that when I was younger. If I saw this bill, I would have thought that was insane. It’s so important that there’s this representation out there, right now, at this time.
The impact of these three gifted artists has had is already being felt, but it’s not just limited to the United States. Over in the UK, a little trio is making huge waves. Dama Scout first introduced themselves last fall with the endearing rock ballad, “Forget It’s Good,” and they quickly followed that up with the shoegaze gem, “All In Too.” Their first single of 2017 veers away from the introspective and goes in a playful, witty direction.
Akin to Jay Som’s efforts, “Paper Boy” is a swirling and delirious melodic rocker. The reverb-drenched guitars and slacker-rock beginnings lull you into a hazy stupor before the song reaches its gnarly finale, at which point all the instruments and vocals free fall into oblivion. The lyrics are also clever, telling the tale of a man (or maybe a dream stealer?) who has ridiculed people his entire life and has yet to grow up. “Are we nineteen, stealing roses from her TV dreams?”, the song cleverly begins. Here’s a young band going places, so don’t be surprised if Dama Scout open for Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, and Jay Som in the very near future.
The song will officially be released on April 14th via RIP Records.
Joy Downer – “Stranger Places” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: The Divinyls, Camera Obscura, Sylvan Esso
Earlier this year, Joy Downer took us on a worldwind trip with her single, “Caught In Your Spell.” This catchy pop tune was like a geography lesson, as she took us from New Zealand and Australia to Mexico and America in her search for love. For her new single, she gives a lesson in pop-culture.
“Stranger Places” is another fun, sugary pop tune that is right out of the early- and mid-’90s. The melody is shoulder shimmering, and Downer’s vocals have an innocent seductiveness that will put you immediately under her spell. This combination is perfect for this song about a jealous partner (or ex-partner?) and a woman trying to ease his nerves.
The lyrics are a little quirky, but that gives “Stranger Places” its personality and infectious quality. The song will capture the hearts of literature and pop-culture geeks, as Downer makes references to a few popular books, films, and television shows. As massive fans of The Lord of the Rings, she’s enticed us so much that we would go to Mordor and back with her. And we wouldn’t be that jealous person. Really, who has time for such emotions when evading the Nazgûl, Uruk-hai, and Winged Beasts? (Sorry, Downer drew out the geek in us.)
Modern Pleasure – “Bliss Up” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: Local Natives, Cold War Kids, Gang of Youths
It’s been just under a year since emerging British indie band Modern Pleasure arrived on the scene with an electrifying sound. Their first two singles (“Messina” and “White Heels”) made critics and fans take notice. They don’t overproduce or go for proven, radio-friendly gimmicks of “ooooh-aaaahs” on every chorus. Instead they chose to dive into the deep end with substantive pop-rock tunes, and it’s paid off. Their new single, “Bliss Up,” continues that tradition.
But where “White Heels” is more of a shimmering anthem, this single shows the band flexing their creative muscles. The soundscape they create here still features the sonic depth fans have come to love, but “Bliss Up” dives deeper into unchartered waters. You’ll want to listen to this with good headphones to fully appreciate the details. It’s the difference between seeing a few fish while snorkeling versus donning full scuba gear and observing abundant life below the surface. That’s what Modern Pleasure offer here. The scope of the music and depth of production (the work of Bryan Wilson, who’s worked with Wolf Alice and Florence + The Machine) makes this debut album, Messina, a gem waiting to be discovered.
Modern Pleasure are: Scott Johnson (vocals, lead guitar), Giuseppe DeLuca (vocals, guitar), Sean Goodchild (guitar), Adam Taylor (bass), and Graham Robson (drums).
O+S – “Remember When (The Backroads)” (Omaha/Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Azure Ray, Maria Taylor,
Years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, two longtime friends began work on an album that would linger, unfinished, for nearly a decade. Life kept getting in the way, as it often does. But now the O+S album You Were Once the Sun, Now You’re the Moon is ready to be shared. This is the only the second LP from the duo who released their self-titled debut in 2009. This new album is one of reflection and remembrance, a tribute to lost loved ones (both human and canine). It’s a labor of love that begins with the endearing “Remember When (The Backroads) lead single.
On this song, Nebraska-based Orenda Fink (Azure Ray, Closeness) serenades listeners with her honeyed vocals while Los Angeles artist Cedric LeMoyne (Remy Zero, Scalpelist) adds warmth and depth. Individually, Fink and LeMoyne have played in other bands with a bolder sound, so this may surprise fans expecting energized indie rock. This song has energy, but it’s a vibrant vitality instead of pulse-quickening riffs. Their chemistry as artists and friends enhances the mellowness of this folk-rooted indie pop. Singing about a departed friend is difficult, whether it was a dear bandmate or, in Orenda’s case, her beloved dog. We can all relate to the lyrics about running out of time; if you live long enough, you’re going to experience the ache of loss. But what makes “Remember When (The Backgrounds)” so special is its tenderness. It reminds us that beautiful memories emerge from even the darkest days. If you believe that laughter through tears is the best medicine, this new single from O+S is the emotional hug you need.
Oh Wonder – “Ultralife” (London, England)
RIYL: Of Monsters and Men, Broods, Chairlift
The new “Ultralife” single from London indie pop duo Oh Wonder is a dose of pure radiant sunshine. The calendar may say April 1st, but this tune is already a contender for Song of the Summer. Its synth-driven uptempo vibe will invigorate you and leave you soaring. In fact, the chorus is so infectious that you’ll be singing “I’m living ultralife” after just one spin.
At the start, “Ultralife” echoes the sun-kissed, feel-good pop that put Of Monsters and Men on the map. The harmonies of Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht share the dynamic richness of The XX and Broods, however, “Ultralife” is far brighter. The unbridled energy of this song is so irresistible that you may find it difficult to sit still while you listen. There’s a swell of strings just before the chorus kicks in that signals something bold about to explode. That moment comes when they sing “I’m young forever in the sun / Ever since you came / I’m living ultralife.” You don’t have to be in the early stages of love to appreciate this song, but if you’re not, this insanely catchy single will transport you back to when you were. You’ll recall that rush of endorphins and butterflies while you sing along. And chances are, you’ll hit repeat several times to prolong that feeling.
Victoria Celestine – “Carrying On” (Texas, USA & France)
RIYL: early Austra, Electric Youth, Young Galaxy
This next song of the Sampler falls in the category of an accidental find, and these tunes are our favorites because they are the ultimate surprise. Generally what happens is a playlist is spinning in the background, but one or two songs just pique your interest. Such is the case with “Carrying On”, the new single by Victoria Celestine.
Celestine has been involved in music pretty much her entire life. She was trained as a pianist at a young age, and her adult life has been spent mostly in studios working as a sound engineer. It has only been since the start of the decade she began to dabble in songwriting, although she didn’t release much her material. That was until two weeks ago when she released “Carrying On”. It only takes one listen to ask, “Why hasn’t she shared more music?” The song radiates of the uplifting, smile-inducing synth-pop of early Austra and Electric Youth. The wind-swept synths are vibrant and breathtaking, creating the feeling that we are driving along a coastal road with no destination in mind. Celestine’s vocals are perfectly delicate and sweet, and she guides us on this journey of redemption, discovery, and second chances. Let’s hope that Celestine has found what she’s looking for and will again unveil the singer-songwriter.
WHITE – “One Night Stand Forever” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Muse
The first ten seconds of “One Night Stand Forever” from Scottish indie synth rockers WHITE set the tone for a jubilant anthem. Indeed, this title track from their forthcoming debut LP will be a crowd-pleaser during the summer festival season. The fierce beats of the first verse sizzle with the same fire of genre leaders (Arctic Monkeys, Muse, The Killers), but that’s just the beginning. The Queen-esque bass line that ripples under the repeated chorus mantra of “Wake up, look around / love yourself, touch yourself” will have audiences pumping their fists and dancing with wild abandon.
Of course, WHITE are no strangers to whipping their audiences into a dancing frenzy. Their effortless fusion of old-school disco, funk, and pop from the ’70s and ’80s makes WHITE one of the most talked-about bands to come out of Scotland since Franz Ferdinand. Frontman Leo Condie brings powerhouse vocals that will leave you slack-jawed, while Kirstin Lynn’s fierce drumming is the driving force behind this buzzworthy five-piece. That buzz started last year when the band released their debut EP, Cuts That Don’t Heal. Those tunes won them a solid fan base, but the release of their debut full-length should launch them into the music stratosphere.
WHITE are: Leo Condie (vocals), Hamish Fingland (guitar), Chris Potter (guitar), Lewis Andrew (bass), and Kirstin Lynn (drums).
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