Music Features

The Singles Blog: February 2013

Another month, another Bowie single. 2013 is looking pretty good from where we're sitting.

26 February 2013

David Bowie - “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” (from “The Next Day”, released 8th March 2013 via Columbia)

I'm honestly frightened to hear the rest of David Bowie's latest album. And I really don't mean that in a critical way, as if I wont 'like' the album -- I mean that in a genuinely fearful way. Just as there was something immediately off-putting about the two-headed video for the dreary Where Are We Now, Bowie's latest single, The Stars (Are Out Tonight), fills me with a similar unease. Maybe its the song's groaning guitars and ethereal keyboard sounds, which chime in every now and then like intermittent communications from some off-world location. Or maybe its Bowie's accusations that whoever is sending these communications “Know just what we do” and that “They are
waiting to make their moves on us.” I certainly hope they don't, I simply wont be able to handle it. Andrew Ciraulo

25 February 2013

Shellshag - “Face to Face” (from "Shellshag Forever", released April 16th on Don Giovanni Records)

Let's face it, what middle-aged rockers Shellshag do isn't anything near revelatory, but damn is it catchy! On their latest single Face to Face, the band explores a very familiar chord progression, but with a vigor that is completely infectious. The vocals are laid back and snot-nosed, the guitar is gritty, almost '90s punk-sounding, and the drum kit moves steadily in tandem with drummer Jen Shag's arsenal of sleigh bells. Nothing totally outstanding or bizarre, but there's something instantly relatable (and likewise enjoyable) about the sincere honesty found in their production. Nothing is hidden; not a single sour note is masked, the drums even miss their cue at one point! You just get the feeling that these guys are road-dogs, they've probably been through the wringer, and at this point, they're not afraid to sound like a real, live band, even on record. Andrew Ciraulo

18 February 2013

Kurt Vile - "Walkin on a Pretty Day" (from "Walkin on a Pretty Daze", released April 9th on Matador)

In 2011, Kurt Vile successfully soundtracked my entire miserable spring semester of college. His jangly guitar, sincere lyricism, and twangy, slacker-y vocals followed my every move as I traversed from building to building, bland class after bland class. I rarely spoke to anyone, with maybe the exception of fellow writer Peter Quinton, without some sort of snarl or dirty-look. I was petty, pessimistic, and pissed-off. At that time, Smoke Ring For My Halo was one of the few albums that could really bring me to any semblance of balance. Now, in my final semester, it looks as though Vile is looking to do it all over again. On his most recent track, Walkin on a Pretty Day, we find Vile preserving many of the same qualities that defined his previous album, while expanding upon and enhancing others. Most notably, the electric-guitar work has taken a massive step forward here. Towards the end of the track’s sprawling 9 minutes, Vile and co. create layer after layer of textured, squishy guitar solos that seemingly go on forever. Even when the song finally fades out, I can’t help but feel that those solos are still lingering somewhere in the outer-cosmos. Yeah, I must say, I’m very excited to see how the Childish Prodigy himself follows this one up. Andrew Ciraulo 

6 February 2013

Mikal Cronin - "Shout It Out" (from "MCII", released May 2013 on Merge Records)

Mikal Cronin is probably best known for his collaboration work with California fuzz-rocker Ty Segall, but his latest single, Shout It Out, is a far cry from the dirty, raucous riffs of Slaughterhouse. Yes, Cronin is shedding those Sabbath-esque guitar solos, throwing away his broken Arbiter fuzz pedal, and transforming his yelping vocals into an echo chamber of sugary “ooohs.” The guitars jangle, the melodies pop, and the chorus is about as dense as a Phil Spector production. Cronin has gone complete bubblegum pop-rock and itʼs absolutely awesome. In the chorus, Cronin begs the question, “Do I shout it out? Do I let it go?” Well Mr. Cronin, go ahead, shout to your heartʼs content. Iʼm listening. Andrew Ciraulo

5 February 2013

Colin Stetson - "High Above a Grey Green Sea" (from "New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light", released 30th April on Constellation)

On the previous volume of his "New History Warfare" trilogy, barrel-chested bass saxophonist Colin Stetson insisted that his compositions were all recorded in single takes, with no loops or overdubs, and had us in utter disbelief. On High Above a Grey Green Sea he pushes that disbelief even further. He rumbles thuggishly into the picture, with Philip Glass-inspired blurry arpeggios and the muscly tapping of fingers on sax-keys - and then, as if out of nowhere, ghostly sighs begin to emerge from his breathing, seemingly a ghostly melodic projection of the subtle vibrations inside his saxophone. The thing is, although the uniqueness of his approach may make him seem like a one-trick-pony, the effect is profoundly emotionally resonant, full of turbulent melancholy - an aesthetic refinement from his previous record. Stephen Wragg

Screaming Females - "Poison Arrow" (from "Chalk Tape", released 10th February on Don Giovanni)

While on a brief hiatus from touring, New Jersey punks Screaming Females have put together a new, cassette/digital-only EP of demo-recordings for the concept driven Chalk Tape. On their latest single, Poison Arrow, we find the band in a much different place than on last yearʼs Ugly. Marissa Paternoster's normally shrieking vocals are certainly toned-down on this track, almost sounding subdued and beaten down. Even the guitar work seems to have been downplayed. Gone are the guitar-acrobatics of yesteryear, now replaced by a catchy, laid-back riff seamlessly woven between King Mike's punctuated bass lines. While everything here may seem a bit sonically exhausted, which is no surprise considering Paternosterʼs recent health issues, the band's spirit is far from broken. There's an underlying energy here -- almost like someone coming out of the inertia of a long sleep, blindly grabbing for a cup of coffee, and readying themselves for a busy day. Contrived metaphors aside, this short, follow-up EP may prove very interesting. Andrew Ciraulo