For the most part, the Saturday Sampler September 9th edition has some upbeat and infectious earworms. There are, of course, also a couple of dark, throbbing tunes, but we think you’ll be completely engrossed by them, too. Be forewarned, these songs will cause plenty of head noodling and even some dancing, so warm up your appendages! Happy weekend, everyone!
ANTIPOLE – “Shadow Lover” (feat. Paris Alexander) (Norway)
RIYL: Joy Division, The Cure, Bauhaus
While we originally planned to share just upbeat songs to help kick the weekend into overdrive, this newest single from Norwegian melodic post-punk duo, ANTIPOLE, was too good to pass up. Now if you’re one loves dark thrills and want something foreboding after watching the remake of Stephen King’s IT, then this song is for you.
“Shadow Lover” is a hypnotic, haunting, and mesmerizing number. It is absolutely spectacular. The bass line, in particular, is incredible and unforgettable, and it will leave chills down your spine. The production work is dense and gritty, throbbing in the background to add to the song’s dark delirium. Guest vocalist Paris Alexander’s chilling voice is like a whisper coming from far away, yet we have no idea from where they’re originating. “I still want you. Yes I want you”, he callously sings as if he is Pennywise the Clown. Now that’s a scary thought.
The song is taken from ANTIPOLE’s forthcoming debut album, Northern Flux. It arrives in October via Unknown Pleasures Records.
Bardo Martinez & The Soul Investigators – “Bad Education” (Los Angeles, USA & Helsinki, Finland)
RIYL: Chicano Batman, Antibalas, Joe Bataan and Ray Barretto
You could call The Soul Investigators the Finnish counterparts to Sharon Jones’ The Dap Kings; there are more than enough similarities to warrant that comparison. In fact, they made a few albums with a female soul singer (American-born, Helsinki-based soul singer Nicole Willis) a decade ago. But their newest collaboration features Chicano Batman’s Bardo Martinez on lead vocals, and the lead single is a red hot delight.
“Bad Education” is a delirium-inducing slice of tropical, psychedelic, Afro/latin funk/soul. Once this groove hits your headspace, your body will be impacted immediately. You’ll be compelled to dance and sway and groove, but the effects don’t stop there. The super groovy flute action provided by Ernie Hawks and the electrifying horns will infiltrate your brain. Meanwhile, you’ll find it impossible to resist the old-school soul crooning from Bardo Martinez, who sounds like he is channeling Gil Scott-Heron on this track. You’ll have these lyrics stuck in your head for the rest of the month:
“The truth is inside of us and around you
you don’t need a school to teach the Golden Rule
the truth is inside of us and around us”
Beck – “Up All Night” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, The Weeknd
We usually focus on emerging indie artists, but Beck still has indie appeal even though he’s now on a major label and his music gets plenty of mainstream radio airplay. His newest single, “Up All Night”, has all the markings of a massive radio hit, with much of the commercial appeal of Daft Punk or LCD Soundsystem. But it’s still Beck, so the song features more musical dexterity than glossy production. In short, “Up All Night” has the same danceable energy of the more recent singles (“Dreams” and “Wow”) from Beck’s upcoming 13th album, Colors.
The vibrant polish on this song is a stark contrast to his Grammy-winning 2014 album, Morning Phase. Where that album was mellow and introspective, songs like “Up All Night” find Beck embracing his inner party animal. The high energy, the hand claps, and the soaring vocals are all classic Beck trademarks. But the chorus refrain (“I just wanna stay up all night with you”) bears more similarities to The Weeknd’s massive “Feel My Face” hit. Nobody will fault Beck for wanting to have fun, especially during these trying times. So crank this one and escape the mayhem of the world, at least for three minutes.
Freedom Fry – “Party Down” (Los Angeles, USA & Paris, France)
RIYL: Oh Wonder, DAFT PUNK, Sylvan Esso
After releasing several singles over the year, Marie Seyrat and Bruce Driscoll – a.k.a. Freedom Fry – have finally released a new EP, Strange Attraction, which came out yesterday. Of the record’s four songs, they had already shared the catchy title track and then last week shared, “Party Down”, which is another sugary earworm.
Taking a page out of fellow Parisiens DAFT PUNK, Freedom Fry deliver a funky disco-pop tune. The beats and rhythms are fantastic, and they give the song a groovy vibe a la the late ’70s. Seyrat and Driscoll, meanwhile, alternate on lead vocals, telling the story of two free-spirits who won’t allow anything to stop them to enjoy a night out. Images of John Travolta decked out in his powder white suit and strutting down the streets of New York City may pop in your head. Heck, this song would be great on a sequel to Saturday Night Fever, and hopefully we’ll hear Freedom Fry’s music on a soundtrack one day.
Kagoule – “Monsieur Automaton” (Nottingham, England)
RIYL: Blaenavon, The Hunna, INHEAVEN
Before The Hunna, Black Honey, and INHEAVEN arrived, there was Kagoule. Formed when they were still in secondary school, the band’s debut album, 2015’s Urth, was a critical darling. It was also one of the early records that helped re-launch the UK indie-rock scene. Now in their fifth year as a band, the Nottingham trio have finished their A-levels and enter a new chapter in their career. Where will they go is still a mystery, but they offer a clue with their surprise new single, “Monsieur Automaton”.
This song number is part post-punk and part blistering indie-rock. Lucy Hatter’s throbbing bass line gives the song its sinister feel, casting a darkness across the song. The slow, growling ebb of Cai Burns’ guitar is the lightning, brightening up the song in flashes. Meanwhile, Lawrence English’s pounding percussion acts as the thunder within the blackness. Together, they’ve created a quiet menace that will permanently plant itself inside your mind. The lyrics and deadpan vocals further accentuate the eeriness, as Burns and Hatter recount how much of the world has become governed by technology. “Is it progression or de-evolution”, Burns asks almost rhetorically. If Marshall McLuhan was alive today, he would be totally digging this song.
Mr. Max – “Brunchin’ Yuppies” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: The Bee Gees meet Tame Impala
“Brunchin’ Yuppies” is the funkiest thing you’ll hear this weekend. That’s a statement we’re willing to bet good money on, because we’re 99.7% sure we’d win. Just spin this super-fresh, super-groovy tune from Mr. Max once, and within the first few seconds you’ll be hooked. Don’t worry about the details of who this guy is or where he laid down this track. We can come back to the details. For now, just CRANK THIS and bask in the hypnotic bass line. Lose yourself in the soaring vocals that channel both The Bee Gees and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. That’s it: keep nodding your head and tapping that foot. You might want to clear a few hours off your schedule, because the only thing you’ll be doing now is hitting play over and over until you get your fill of this song.
OK, here’s the skinny on Mr. Max: it’s the project of Max Cohen of LA-based indie band Atomic Walrus. This multi-instrumentalist did it all on this song except play drums; for those he recruited his Atomic Walrus bandmate Nivedan Nayak. According to the band’s Instagram, “Brunchin’ Yuppies” is the lead single from his forthcoming album, Intimacy v. Isolation. We don’t have details on a release date, but from what we’ve heard on this song, that album needs to drop ASAP. This tune is the most addictive thing we’ve heard in ages, and seventeen consecutive plays later, it’s still pure fire. You can stream it on Soundcloud until Mr. Max releases either more tunes or album details. We will be waiting anxiously for both.
Me Not You – “These Streets” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: No Doubt, Gwen Stefani, Yonaka
Back in the ’90s, some band named No Doubt burst on the scene with their terrific blend of grunge, rock, and pop. We really miss the Gwen Stefani-fronted band, but helping to ease our sorrows are Me Not You, the New York City-based duo comprised of Nikki Taylor and Eric Zeiler. They’ve been around for a couple of years, but they took off this year when their song “Bulletproof” became an unexpected hit. They have another hit on their hands with “These Streets”.
“These Streets” possesses the some power and intensity of No Doubt in their early days. The guitar work on the track is fantastic, searing throughout to give the song its ’90s grunge edge. The synths and electronic work, though, counter the grit by giving the song a catchy dance-punk vibe. Not to be lost in all of this is the pop-rock vibe in the chorus, which actually sounds like something from The Go Go’s. During this moment, Taylor’s sweet but strong vocals, which are very Stefani-like, take over, as she sings a love letter to her hometown.
“There’s still love
In these streets
Right here in a city that bleeds.
Said it’s enough
Just to be
Right here in a city that dreams.
I don’t know
how I could ever let go.”
Now we need to get on a plane and head to the city that never sleeps.
Red Lama – “Post Optimism” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: Black Mountain, Thee Oh Sees, Porcupine Tree
Brace yourself: there is a hurricane blowing across the Atlantic, but it isn’t named Irma or Juan. No, the latest single from Danish indie psych rockers Red Lama offers gale-force riffs that will blow you away. “Post Optimism” is equal parts head-spinning rock and sultry vocals. It’s the perfect musical storm from a band we are grateful to have discovered.
Red Lama are a seven-piece outfit from Copenhagen who have been creating their brand of lush, mesmerizing psych rock since 2014. Their 2016 debut EP, Dreams Are Free, is full of vivid soundscapes born of dense guitars and intricate percussion. Fans who fell in love with the tones on that album will be pleased to hear that cohesion on “Post Optimism” since it finds the band at their very best. The opening drum strikes produce a chill down your spine. That feeling continues when frontman Johannes Linnet sings lyrics that express how we all feel lately:
“I can’t take more sadness / tell me some other news / please no more madness”
If you are feeling exasperated by life and its constant barrage of negativity, then turn to Red Lama for a release. “Post Optimism” is the cure for your angst and Weltschmerz. You might not think you can find calm in the middle of a storm, but Red Lama prove otherwise. This song is the eye of a hurricane, with tranquil vocals surrounded by a wall of snarling instrumentation.
Red Lama are: Johannes Linnet (vocals), Oliver Fick (guitar), Jonas Rahbek (guitar), Frederik Randrup (bass), Morten Kaas (organ), Niklas Sjøbeck (percussion), and Marius Linnet (drums).
TUSKA – “Suck On Your Mind” (London, England)
RIYL: Tame Impala, Pond, The Byrds
With so many albums and EPs released these past few days, it’s easy for a new-ish band to get lost in the pile. Such is the case for TUSKA, the psychedelic duo comprised of Richard Sturges and Rob Weaver who released their debut EP, S.E.P, just on Labor Day Monday. It’s only three songs long, so it’s not a long commitment to hear this terrific record.
One of the tracks, “Brother”, was shared back in August, and it reminded us of Mac DeMarco teaming up with Tame Impala. “Space Dreaming” is another Tame Impala like, psychedelic disco tune. And the last song, “Suck On Your Mind”, is a bit grittier, groovier, and just a blast. It’s arguably the highlight of the EP, which is why we’re sharing it today.
Like a mix of Kevin Parker’s outfit, Pond, and The Byrds and even splashes of Temples, this song is a carnival. The synths and guitars are wonderfully hazy and delirious, the bass is fun-kee, and the drums are flat-out head-noodling awesome. The vocals, meanwhile, are immensely trippy, as if they’re calling us through the rabbit hole and enticing us to jump in. Sturges’ storyline is also a bit far out, as he tells the tale of a monster who has to come suck on our minds. But is this monster a fantasy or someone actually real? We think we know who the antagonist is in this song, and you probably do as well.
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