And the long holiday weekend continues with our second mixtape in as many days. Catching up with our Monthly Backtracks today by looking back at May which was a month highlighted by some fierce post punk, dark industrial, and some catchy dance pop. And that was just part of the month.
May 2013 Backtracks
1. The National, “Demons”: It’s still a bit odd to me just how big The National has gotten. I still remember seeing them play small venues. Surprisingly, they were a band I started listening to because of a girl. Not surprisingly they’ve managed to outlast her mainly due to their brooding build-ups and Matt Berninger’s baritone. The band’s latest album, Trouble Will Find Me may not outdo their last two efforts but it’s still a strong collection of songs that fool me into thinking I sound just like Mr. Berninger. “Demons” happens to sport what could be a contender for my favorite lyric of the year (“I can’t fight it anymore, I’m going through an awkward phase.”)
2. French Films, “Ridin’ On”: It doesn’t take much to get me interested in checking out a band. Usually key words like “fuzz” and “post-punk” will do the trick. It doesn’t hurt to namedrop The Jesus and Mary Chain in there as well. In the case of Finland’s French Films, that Mary Chain comparison may not be an exact fit, but they make up for the mismatch with White Orchid, a great collection of upbeat indie pop that falls somewhere between The Vaccines and The Drums. “Ridin’ On” is a quick burst of jangly sunny guitar pop.
3. Savages, “No Face”: It didn’t take long for London’s Savages to attract some hype. Their debut full-length, Silence Yourself is an intense collection of sneering post-punk that leaves the listener gasping for air. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year. “No Face” is Savages at their fiercest sounding like an agitated Joy Division headed by Siouxsie Sioux.
4. Vår, “The World Fell”: Vår is comprised of members of Danish punks, Iceage and Lower. Originally recording as War, the band made abrasive, lo-fi electronic dirges. So it was a bit of a surprise to hear “The World Fell,” the lead single off of No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers. It’s a sleek mix of goth-tinged post-punk with more than a helpful serving of EBM. Naturally, I became obsessed with this song. The rest of No One Dances was an even bigger surprise as the members of Vår are unafraid to experiment with their music. It makes for a compelling listen. Still, “The World Fell” is the band at their most accessible.
5. Skinny Puppy, “illisiT”: After basically imploding during the recording of their album, The Process, the fact that Skinny Puppy even exists today is nothing short of a miracle. Core members, Nivek Ogre and cEvin Key have successfully resuscitated Puppy and have continued the adventurous spirit of this pioneering industrial act. But now on the fourth album since their comeback, Key and Ogre have come up with Weapon, an album that stands as one of Skinny Puppy’s finest work sounding classic while remaining forward-thinking. “IllisiT” is one of Weapon’s many highlights with its stabbing beats and Ogre’s signature processed vocal droning. It’s the kind of song that proves why I love industrial music in the first place.
6. ADULT., “Heartbreak”: A more surprising comeback, Detroit’s ADULT. was once a favorite coming out of the electro-pop revival in the early Aughts. Now having survived electroclash their sound fits perfectly with the resurging coldwave movement that mixes 80’s-inspired minimalism with a touch of EBM and a dash of punk. But don’t get me wrong, “Heartbreak” still comes across like a robot love song but these days, that’s a good thing.
7. Kate Boy, “The Way We Are”: Still shrouded in a bit of mystery, Sweden’s Kate Boy follow up their great first single from earlier this year “In Your Eyes” with the equally stellar “The Way We Are.” This time out the beats punch a bit harder and the synths are a little darker but the chorus is still as infectious as what’s already come to be expected from Kate Boy. Here’s to hoping a debut album is forthcoming.
8. Little Boots, “Beat Beat”: For someone who is barely 30 years old, Victoria Hesketh (a.k.a. Little Boots) knows her way around electro-pop. Nocturnes may sound like it will be a dark affair but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These are the types of songs you’d hear filling up dancefloors. “Beat Beat” is the best disco-pop song that Kylie Minogue didn’t write. Sparkling and sounding like it’s lit up by a mirror ball.
9. Willy Moon, “My Girl”: Unlike most, I wasn’t introduced to Willy Moon’s music via an iPod commercial. Instead I caught him doing said iPod commercial song on Later…with Jools Holland. His performance was electric as if he couldn’t be contained on a television screen. Short and insanely catchy pop songs are what makes up his debut, Here’s Willy Moon and “My Girl” is a total standout with its sugary, sing-along chorus.
* Not included on the Spotify playlist *10. Ghost Box Orchestra, “Rhythm Of The Hills”: Easily one of my favorite Boston bands, Ghost Box Orchestra’s latest album, Vanished is a fuzzy, psych rock masterpiece on its own. But put this band in a live setting and they are downright mind-melting. If I can go through life seeing them perform “Rhythm Of The Hills” on a weekly basis my life would be made.
And there you go. Tomorrow we get back on track and post our June 2013 Backtracks which will feature two returning acts. Until then, listen loud and become immersed.