Best New Indie Rock Songs & Albums, Feb. 2014 Vol. II – Beck, St. Vincent, Natural Child, Lost in Trees, Sun Kil Moon, Disco Doom
This time around, we’re going to start with the most recent week – week of February 25th – first, and work backwards to the week of February 11th releases. The last week of releases for February was probably the most epic of all weeks so far this year, considering the quantity and quality of releases, and from some of the best musicians and bands of the indie/alternative rock world, including Beck, Major Lazor, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Natural Child, St. Vincent, Withered Hands, The Notwist, among many others.
the first album from Beck in six years, so that was, and continues to be, a nice treat for long-time Beck fans, and for young folks who are just starting to learn about, and seek out, great musicians of the past 20 years – Beck definitely fits into that category. Perhaps most widely known for songs like “Two Turntables and a Microphone” and “Loser” (I’m a loser, baby/so why don’t you kill me), Beck’s discography goes so much deeper, and broader, than his early, quasi-revolutionary (in as far as shaking up the music culture – he definitely did that back in the mid 90s). On his latest album, Morning Phase, Beck crafts an impressive collection of beautiful acoustic folk pop songs touched with a blend of hazy vocals, low-key harmonies and piano and tambourine parts. The lead single, “Waking Light,” is only a sampling of the magnificent music that awaits the listener on Morning Phase. If you enjoyed Beck’s 2002, Sea Change, one of his best albums, you’ll likely love Morning Phase.
* Note: See our ‘sidebar’ story at the end of the post about a hilarious moment at a Beck concert in 1995 at Stanford University. We had to include it while we’re being reacquainted with Beck.
“Waking Light” – Beck from Morning Phase on Capitol
Hot New Singles and Albums from St. Vincent, Major Lazer, Natural Child, Wild Beasts, and Others
One of the big draws at South By Southwest this week was St. Vincent, and attendees were treated to hearing new songs from her freshly released self-titled album, containing hit singles like “Digital Witness.”
Next, the popularity of Major Lazer only continues to grow as time goes on, and now they’ve paired up with Pharrell Williams on the new beat-driven single, “Aerosol Can.” Plus, listen to fresh singles from new albums by Natural Child, New Madrid, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and Wild Beasts, whose official video for “Wanderlust” has received over a half million views in just nine weeks.
“Digital Witness” – St. Vincent from St. Vincent on Loma Vista
“Aerosol Can” – Major Lazer and Pharrell Williams from Apocalypse Soon EP on Secretly Canadian/Mad Decent
“Out in the Country” – Natural Child from Dancin’ With Wolves via Burger Records
“Horseshoe” – Withered Hand from New Gods via Slumberland
“Manners” – New Madrid from Sunswimmer via Normaltown
“Wanderlust” – Wild Beasts from Present Tense via Domino
Notwist’s New ‘Kong’ Video and Album Close to the Glass
The band Notwist’s new music video for the single, “Kong,” tells a touching story of a great flood and how Kong saved the day. The story is told with cut-out style graphics and illustrations – very much oriented to the kid inside of you who still can appreciate the simple beauty of escaping this world for a few minutes and entering the world of a colorful cartoon that just so happens to have an excellent, upbeat, driving pop melody that is sure to get some people up and dancing. We think the video definitely enhances the song, and vice versa. Of course the musicianship of the song itself reinforces the talent and experience of a band that has been dropping sweet tracks for some two decades now. It’s also just another example of Sub Pop‘s uncanny abilities to pick and foster amazing artists and bands.
“Kong” – The Notwist from Close to the Glass via Sub Pop
Top Rock, Pop, Electro and Folk Singles
The other top singles for the week, broken down into sub-genres and featuring terrific songs from new albums by D. Charles Speer and the Helix, Casper & The Cookies, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Damaged Bug, River Run North and She Sir, among others.
“Wallwalker” – D. Charles Speer and the Helix from Doubled Exposure via Thrill Jockey
“Dingbats” – Casper & the Cookies from Dingbats via Wild Kindness Records
“Peace Sign” – We Were Promised Jetpacks from E Rey: Live in Philadelphia via FatCat
“These Plains” – Vertical Scratchers from Daughter of Everything via Merge
“Eggs At Night” – Damaged Bug from Hubba Bubba via Castle Face
“Look Away” – Lo-Fang from Blue Film via 4AD
“Fight to Keep” – Run River North from Run River North via Nettwerk
Folk and Pop
“Bitter Bazaar” – She Sir from Go Guitars via Shelflife
“I Got Skills” – Mozes & the Firstborn from Mozes & the Firstborn via Burger Records
“Mercury Dime” – Death Vessel from Island Intervals via Sub Pop
Week of February 18th Releases Featuring Phantogram, Bear Hands, NO, Guided By Voices, Lost in Trees and More
The week of February 18th included a good number of releases, but only a handful of which, largely based on the lead singles, made it into this next section of the playlist highlighting the singles of the week from new albums, some of which we’ve heard all the way through. A lead single is often a calling card of an album, enticing the music lover to listen to the entire album, which is easy to do nowadays with services like Spotify. The top releases, in our book, include new singles and albums from Phantogram, Bear Hands, NO, Guided By Voices, Lost in Trees, Shocking Pinks, among others. Rather than write much – so we can catch up quickly with March and the tons of great DIY music that’s on it’s way – we’ll just let the music speak for itself. As with all of IRC’s playlists, you can click through the songs to stream them, or let them stream automatically (with no commercial breaks!) from top to bottom while you do other things, and you can also save the MP3s to listen to later on your favorite MP3 player, as well as share with friends.
There’s plenty of sweet tunes for you to stream and download, Like and share, Tweet and vote for, and anything else you want. Share great music with friends and family using the various social media networks buttons at the top and bottom of this post, especially if you really dig this playlist, or any playlist or post on IRC. In order to catch up with floods of new releases over recent weeks from unsigned and DIY, plus small label and under-the-radar artists and bands, as well as the latest from popular and well-known indie artists (which this post playlist covers), we’ve put together three weeks of releases for February in one big post and playlist.
So let’s get started on the releases for the week of February 18th. Don’t miss Phantogram‘s official video for their single, “Fall In Love,” which has been one of the most viewed indie rock videos over the past month. In fact, since the video was released on February 10th, it has received well over a half of a million views altogether, approaching 140,000 views a week, or nearly 20,000 views a day. That’s a hot rate for any music video.
“Fall In Love” – Phantogram from Voices via Republic
“Giants” – Bear Hands from Distraction via Cantora Records
“Leave The Door Wide Open” – NO from El Prado via Arts & Crafts
“Not Gambling” – Shocking Pinks from Guilt Mirrors via Stars & Mirrors
“Littlest League Possible” – Guided By Voices from Motivational Jumpsuit via Fire
“Traces” – Solids from Blame Confusion via Fat Possum
“Black Bough” – New Bums from Voices in a Rented Room via Drag City
“Rites” – Lost in the Trees from Past Life via Anti-
“All Love’s Legal” – Planningtorock from All Love’s Legal via Human Level Recordings
Top Releases from Deleted Scenes, Temples, Disco Doom, Fanfarlo and Sun Kil Moon
The second week of releases for February, covering February 11th to February 17th, was not as blockbuster as the week of February 25th, or even the week of February 18th, but there were still plenty of fine singles and new albums from a variety of artists and bands, including Temples, Thumpers, Disco Doom, Fanfarlo, The Casket Girls, Sun Kil Moon, Neil Finn and others. There are plenty of terrific bands with new music out right now.
Such is the case with the Deleted Scenes.
The new single, “Stutter” from Deleted Scenes is a hands-down standout track, and why it is placed at the top of this week’s playlist. Another one of the very best singles from new albums dropped this week is Modern Baseball‘s wonderful pop track, “Rock Bottom,” followed by indie psych rock band Temples‘ newest single “Mesmerize.” There is also a bit of a change in the style and sound of the popular indie pop-rock band Fanfarlo‘s latest single, “Myth of Myself.” It’s the kind of song that will grow on you, or not; the same can be said for the album, Let’s Go Extinct , as well – It’s not as convincingly magnificent as Fanfarlo’s earlier albums, but ultimately, the band’s loyal fans around the world will embrace it.
“Stutter” – Deleted Scenes from Lithium Burn via Park the Van/Nevado
“Rock Bottom” – Modern Baseball from You’re Gonna Miss It All via Run for Cover
“Mesmerise” – Temples from Sun Structures via Fat Possum
“Myth of Myself (A Ruse to Exploit Our Weaknesses)” – Fanfarlo from Let’s Go Extinct via Blue Horizon
Mark Kozelek’s Sun Kil Moon; Neil Finn’s First LP in XX Years and Stoner Tuneage from Disco Doom
The prolific, wordsmith and artistic musician, Mark Kozelek, (Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters), is one of our favorite indie rock singer/songwriters of all time. His heartfelt lyrics, words of wisdom; magnificent, often poignant, story-telling, together with his wonderful musical compositions and unmistakably velvety smooth, yet touchingly melancholic, vocals, all come together on each and every track, are the hallmarks of a gifted songwriter, musician and vocalist. But Kozelek does much more than check off the boxes, he gets into your bone marrow, your soul and your heart, evoking emotions and triggering deep thoughts. Now he’s back with Sun Kil Moon and special guests, Will Oldham and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, with a spectacular new album, Benji, on Caldo Verde Records.
“Michelin” – Sun Kil Moon from Benji via Caldo Verde Records
Neil Finn released his sixth studio album, Dizzy Heights, in February, and the fantastic song, “Divebomber.” It’d be great track (even in slices) on a movie soundtrack or anyone who enjoys great songwriting and musicianship. Next, “Rice & Bone,” by Disco Doom is a drawn out mellow rocker with mean guitar riffs intertwined throughout – very much a stoner track which is so obviously influenced by Sonic Youth, but in a respectable way; so they deserve props for that – after all, if you’re going to emulate a rock band, Sonic Youth is up high on the list of suitable mentors by no stretch of the imagination. Keeping with the mellow feel are noteworthy new singles from The Casket Girls and Thumpers.
“Divebomber” – Neil Finn from Dizzy Heights via Lester Records
“Rice & Bones” – Disco Doom from Numerals via Exploding in Sound
“Same Side” – The Casket Girls from True Love Kills the Fairy Tale via Graveface
“Unkinder (A Tougher Love)” – Thumpers from Galore via Sub Pop
Rising Hard Rockers, The Glitch Mob, Drop New LP; Plus, Creepy Rock by Solvent
The breakout hard rock band, Glitch Mob, grind out heavy, dark and fuzz-filled power chords on guitar, bass and synths, creating an intensely powerful sonic rage that sounds like a gigantic robotic demon trashing through a city, destroying everything in its path and leaving behind a post-apocalyptic landscape of desolation, death and ruin.
The Glitch Mob crossed our radar in mid-2013, and there new LP, Love Death Immortality, is chock full of hard rock synth tracks, and a must-have for fans of the multiple sub-genres that the band qualifies for. The band’s name is similar to another alternative rock band we really dig, Glitch Mouth. Because their band names are so much alike, there will be people that confuse one for the other.
Following The Glitch Mob is Solvent‘s latest single, “Burn The Tables,” from the band’s new LP, New Ways. The lead track is menacing, bold and even creepy; it’d make a good track for a Halloween mixtape.
“Can’t Kill Us” – The Glitch Mob from Love Death Immortality via Glass Air
“Burn the Tables” – Solvent from New Ways via Suction
“Codeine and Marshmallows” – Let’s Wrestle from Let’s Wrestle via Fortuna Pop
Space Synth Pop and Electronica
During the past few weeks, we’ve noticed a number of trends while sorting through and listening to hundreds of songs (in order to pick the best for IRC playlists). One of these trends includes an increasing number of singles and albums that fall under the categories of ‘space rock’ or ‘space pop,’ or even ‘ambient rock,’ among other descriptors – like the rising band, Wax Fang, whose new album, Astronaut, was featured in the top singles for the week of February 4th. Now, the new single, “Beelitz Heilstatten pt6,” from the band Hands, sounds like it came out of 2001: A Space Odyssey (originally released in 1969 by director Stanley Kubrick), or more recently, the film, Gravity. Another unavoidable characteristic of such songs is that they generally run from six, up to 13 or more, minutes. Also, enjoy the grooves of the title track from the latest album from Illum Sphere.
“Beelitz-Heilstätten pt6″ – Hands from The Soul Is Quick via Ecstatic
“The Ghosts of Then and Now” – Illum Sphere from The Ghosts of Then and Now via Ninja Tune
After 15-Year Hiatus, Cibo Matto Returns With Fresh Tracks
After 15 years of essentially dropping off the map and releasing no new material during that time, it was a bit of a surprise to see New York City indie cult duo, Cibo Matto, return this week with a brand new album of original music. The album’s first single, “MFN,” featuring musician and comedian Reggie Watts, is average and OK; nothing that would standout, especially when you consider that after a nearly 15-year hiatus, expectations – for better or for worse – are understandably high. But, in our estimation, the expectation was not met; in fact, even a more humbled and forgiving review bets against this track ending up in the Top 10 Songs playlists; but maybe you guys will prove us wrong. Cibo Matto are the latest in IRC’s on-going series Way Back Now that spotlights new releases from artists and bands who haven’t released an album of original new material l in 10 or more years.
“MFN” – Cibo Matto with Reggie Watts from Hotel Valentine via Chimera
Sidebar: The Incident at Beck’s 1995 Stanford University Performance
A friend in Brazil will of course never forget the time that we saw Beck live at Stanford University during his explosive popularity, circa 1995, when the new break-out musician everyone was talking about, and who made the cover of Rolling Stone, and many other magazines (back when magazines were still something you saw people reading on the subway or the bus). Aside from his astonishing live perform, just about every person there that night will remember the opening band, Los Fuegos something or other, and the bass player, who in reaction to a very unwelcoming set of boos and people throwing ice cubes, decided to go backstage, undress completely with the exception of his cowboy hat and cowboy poke boots, and came back out on the stage with a fully erect, donkey-sized schlong, clearly visible to everyone in the audience, and the boos turned to hysterical laughter, disbelief, applause and confusion. An elderly male campus police officer in the front of the stage, turned around to see what the people in front of him were reacting to and pointing at, saw what everyone else saw, and turned back around to face the audience, possibly hoping that no one saw him see what he saw so that he wouldn’t have to confront the tall ranchero musician with the giant schlong, a bass guitar and cowboy hat and boots. We’ll we saw him and he turned beat red. Not only that, our sweet friend from Brazil, almost automatically put his hand over the eyes of the horrified 12 or 13 year old girl sitting next to him (he had two sisters around the same age at the time; big brother’s natural reaction). For whatever reason, no authorities at all tried to stop the performance, and we never found out if the guy was arrested or cited by the police of Stanford University or of the city of Palo Alto, California, located about 40 miles south of San Francisco on the northern edge of the Silicon Valley. True story.