The Singles Blog

Welcome to The Singles Blog, No Ripcord's rolling guide to what's fresh and new out there in the seemingly endless world of music. From sunshine pop to extreme metal, from the glitchiest electro to the smoothest R&B, if it's grabbing our ears and pushing our buttons, we'll be sharing it with you here. Dive in and enjoy.

7 May 2013

Deafheaven – "Dream House" (from "Sunbather", released 11 June 2013 on Deafheaven/Deathwish)

Before you even press play on Dream House, the latest track from San Francisco black metal act Deafheaven, you can clearly tell something’s not right. The album cover for their new album, Sunbather, is a bright, rosy pink – easily the least black metal color available – and the track’s title sounds more fitting for a Cocteau Twins song than a metal band. But it’s the track’s uplifting, bright sound that truly dismantles any and all black metal conventions. The basic elements are still there – crusty, tremolo picked guitar leads; shrieking, hell-spawn vocals; semiquaver drum assaults – but while most bands in the genre use these elements to conjure a nihilistic void, the escalating riffs of Dream House create purely triumphant bombast that launches you into the stratosphere rather than drag you down into murky depths. After a nearly six minute barrage, the band breaks things down and suspends their riffs in mid-air. It’s something you would expect at the end of a GY!BE or Explosions In The Sky crescendo, only in this case, the entire track acts as one enormous, bracing climax. Peter Quinton

1 May 2013

Sonny & The Sunsets - "Green Blood" (from "Antenna To The Afterworld", released 10 June 2013 on Polyvinyl Records)

San Francisco garage trio Sonny & The Sunsets have always been a frolicsome, trippy bunch whose records hold a reputation for being wry, weird excursions in bizarre pop. Their latest, Antenna To The Afterworld, isn’t any different – it was inspired after main songwriter Sonny Smith had a paranormal encounter with a deceased friend after visiting a psychic, which brought upon the idea of breathing new life into the “spaceling visiting Earth” concept straight out of 1972. The closing track, Green Blood, bounces a conversation back and forth in the form of question and answer over a sustained note, in which a space explorer with a Dylan drawl falls in love with a sad and lonely cyborg. In the tradition of spoken-word songs, the melody is like a blank canvas, almost incidental to the story  – it lingers around a tuneful, lo-fi sway that dips its toes with some of that cramped White Light/White Heat fuzz after the smog has cleared. But it’s all in the fine points that make this their best song yet – how the female insists, “no, you don’t” after he says, “now, I don’t have to tell you how great she was”, or how a choral of oooohs adorns their bittersweet separation with a cinematic flair. It’ll make you feel a little strange, not to mention surprised when you finally realize that a song so self-consciously kooky can actually make you feel so warm inside. Juan Edgardo Rodriguez

19 April 2013

Daft Punk - "Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell)" (from "Random Access Memories", released 21st May 2013 on Columbia Records)

I know by now some of you are absolutely sick of Daft Punk, and I really can’t blame you. Between the huge marketing blitz, the daily updates on such miniscule details as track lengths, and the constant barrage of false leaks and ‘fake’ singles, some fans are likely to be over the hype..... hell, who am I kidding? I’M TOTALLY STOKED FOR THIS ALBUM! As promised, Daft Punk dropped the first single off Random Access Memories, Get Lucky, at 12:01 am (US EST). It’s now 12:45 here in New Jersey as I type up this little piece of pure fandom, I’m on my thirteenth listen, and there is no end in sight. As it seems, Daft Punk are totally gettin’ down with the funk on this track, which comes as no surprise to those of us who have literally quadruple clicked every shred of digital “news” surrounding the making of this album. Collaborator and disco legend Nile Rodgers grooves his way around every rhythmic pocket imaginable, as the Parisian house wunderkids provide an airy layer of textured back-up synths and stuttering, staccato melodies. Perhaps even more impressive are the soaring vocals provided by Pharrell Williams. Admittedly, I’m not much of a fan of Williams’ solo material, but he really does elevate this tune to a whole new level of pop craftsmanship. Media hype aside, if this single is at all representative of what’s to come, I’m sure even Daft Punk’s harshest detractors and cynics will be compelled to tap their feet and bob their heads in tandem with Random Access Memories’ infectious, disco beats. Andrew Ciraulo

31 March 2013

Mount Kimbie - "Made To Stray" (from "Cold Spring Fault Less Youth", released 27th May 2013 on Warp Records)

Preceding the James Blake “post-dubstep” (ugh) watershed by a year or so, Mount Kimbie’s debut, Crooks and Lovers, was full of nuanced and delicious pieces of ear candy – but Made To Stray exceeds the expectations built up by the guys who made tracks like the beautiful Before I Move Off. So many strands are thrown into this that it ought to feel like watching two screens at once, but so natural is Mount Kimbie’s invention that it really never does. They don’t introduce the vocal hook until two-thirds of the way through; they’re having too much fun taking those threads of sonic exploration into new places, weaving them in and out of each other – and when that hook does turn up, it could have been the centre of a ten minute deep house groove. But Mount Kimbie are never that indulgent, keeping a neat lid on their brimming ideas. Stephen Wragg

Majical Cloudz - "Childhood's End" (from "Impersonator", released 21st May 2013 on Matador Records)

Majical Cloudz are a production collaboration between songwriter Devon Welsh and producer Matthew Otto. Hailing from the much lauded Montreal music scene which gave us Grimes, Doldrums, Blue Hawaii and Mac DeMarco, Majical Cloudz present a minimalist approach to electro-pop that stands apart for its understated nature. Speaking of his musical inclinations, Welsh said: “It was to make music that barely existed and felt like stillness more than movement.” This subtle grace crystallises on Childhood’s End into a painfully beautiful refrain of grief. With a clear appreciation for pop melody against a dark undercurrent of synth, the track has a mesmerising appeal in both sound and lyrical content. Matt Bevington

Savages - "She Will" (from "Silence Yourself", released 7th May 2013 on Matador Records/Pop Noire)

Savages have no doubt opened themselves up to a slew of Joy Division comparisons with their gloomy, stripped down take on post-punk. In live performances, frontwoman Jehnny Beth, with her jittery movements and vacant stare, even seems reminiscent of Ian Curtis on stage (though nowhere near as uncomfortably terrifying). But She Will, the group’s first single of their debut full-length, doesn’t just take on these influences, it brings out a whole new freshness and body to the sound that most bands following the cult of Curtis wish they could pull off. Though not the kinetic firestorm of their debut single, Husbands, She Will nevertheless contains all of the moody, nervous energy, infectious hooks, and sense of immediate confrontation that has allowed the group to demand the attention they’ve received. During the song’s bridge, Beth repeats the title in a panicked frenzy beside slashing guitars. I don’t know what it is she will do, but I certainly hope she’s not holding a knife while doing it. Peter Quinton

Kurt Vile - "Never Run Away" (from "Walkin' On A Pretty Daze", released 9th April 2013 via Matador Records)

It’s funny to think of Kurt Vile, the Childish Prodigy himself, as a responsible, family man type, but that’s exactly what he is. In his latest infomercial for Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze, Vile sits amongst stacks of vinyl records, CDs and synthesizer equipment listening to his latest single, Never Run Away, as his cute-as-a-button daughter frantically runs around with a pair of wax lips. It’s probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. Heartwarming video aside, the song itself is very much in the spirit of any other Vile song, but still retains its own unique character. Somewhere amongst those staggered “eh eh eh”s, wandering synth lines, and cheap, jangly acoustic guitars is something undefinable; something warm and genuine, yet still unplaceable. Or maybe that’s just the lingering side-effects of that amazingly lovable advertisement... Andrew Ciraulo

21 March 2013

Ghost - "Year Zero" (from "Infestissumam", released 9th April 2013 via Loma Vista Records)

Swedish metal outfit Ghost are an enigma wrapped in a satanic shroud of Turin, wedged inside a box of your creepy uncle’s favorite records. However, when you set aside the mystery surrounding the identities of the robed, corpse-painted band members and their dubious claims that every note, arrangement, and lyric were communicated by Satan himself, you’ll find that their music is actually heavy metal déjà vu -- encompassing everything awesome about cock-rocking classic metal, while still integrating aspects of modern black metal, doom metal, and sometimes even pop-rock. The band’s latest single, Year Zero, is no exception to this -- providing a solid dose of metallic bombast and supernatural lyricism, but with even more bloodthirsty, satanic fervor (if that’s even possible). "Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub! Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer!” Yup, those are the actual words to the song’s verse, which is chanted by a choir of demonic, Swedish misanthropes. But don’t mistake, these lyrics aren’t just in there for shock value, they’re actually pretty damn catchy! Seriously, within my first listen, I found myself fanatically singing along with the diabolical, doom-bringing servants of Lucifer. But I’m willing to bet that underneath all of that ghoulish make-up and fiendish, sacrificial brouhaha are a group of the world’s softest sweethearts crying out for a great, big hug. Andrew Ciraulo

The track can be streamed here after placing a vote to elect lead singer Papa Emeritus II to the esteemed position of ‘Supreme Pontiff’. No, really.

16 March 2013

Thee Oh Sees - "Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster" (from "Floating Coffin", released 16th April 2013 via Castle Face Records)

Leave it to Thee Oh Sees to produce a track so kaleidoscopically psychedelic as to leave me sprawled out across my bedroom floor in a dazed stupor. Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster drones and stomps, echoes and squeals, beckons you in with sweet falsetto voices only to slam you onto the ground with bombastic riffing. Iʼm dead serious. After about a half-hour of staring at the mass of stray lint, bits of torn paper, and stale Cheerios embedded in my carpet, I finally worked my way over to my computer and haphazardly typed a few miscellaneous words before totally losing consciousness. They were as follows: “INSECTICIDE... NOMENCLATURE OF THE SCHIZOPHRENIC BEYOND... WITH A SIDE OF APPLE SLICES... AND EXPIRED PEANUT BUTTER...” Iʼm really not sure of the exact meaning behind those words, and perhaps there is none. In any case, listen to Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster with a certain level of caution. Andrew Ciraulo

13 March 2013

AlunaGeorge - "Attracting Flies" (from "Body Music", released 1st July 2013 on Island Records)

In the past three months, Katy B and Jessie Ware have released a track called Aaliyah, Destiny's Child have reformed for the Superbowl half-time show, and Justin Timberlake has made a comeback. Basically, the stars have aligned perfectly to propel AlunaGeorge's brand of early 21st Century-themed future-pop to further success, especially now they've been near the top of the charts with their appearance on Disclosure's White Noise. Attracting Flies is the first single proper to be taken from their forthcoming debut album and, first and foremost, demonstrates how there's arguably no-one around who can write pop choruses like AlunaGeorge right now. Attracting Flies has the requisite bleeps and bloops we've come to expect to ensure their music is never dull and acts as yet another interest-generator for that album, which is eagerly anticipated, very eagerly anticipated... and still ages away. I'm starting to doubt whether I can wait another three and a half months. Joe Rivers

Big Black Delta - "Side Of The Road" (from "Big Black Delta", released 8th April 2013 on Republic Of Music)

Jonathan Bates certainly gets around a bit – following a stint with alt-rock act Mellowdrone, he’s popped up supporting the likes of Jane’s Addiction and The Joy Formidable, remixed tracks by Daft Punk and Rob Zombie, featured on the solo album of 65daysofstatic’s Paul Wolinski, and continues to play a part in M83’s band. And, as you might expect, you can hear traces of such a diverse career in Side Of The Road, the latest taster for his forthcoming debut under the guise of Big Black Delta. In a sense, Side Of The Road is a big, dumb (in the best sense of the term), catchy bit of indietronica. Yet while the pulsing synth line and rave-y pads that drive the track provide an inviting hook, the (tastefully applied) swathes of clattering, squealing noise add a sense of tension, which Bates’ vocals heighten with their slipping between vocoder-tinkering and David Byrne-style grandiose gestures. In short, it more than lives up to the promise of last year’s IFUCKINGLOVEYOU, and suggests great things for the album. Mark Davison

The Knife - "A Tooth For An Eye" (from "Shaking The Habitual", released 8th April 2013 on Mute)

I think it’s The Knife’s mission to never come off as sounding friendly. Though they first turned people’s heads seven years ago with their icy, grotesque breakthrough Silent Shout, the Swedish duo could have easily just revamped themselves for a modern audience that would have them fit right in along the buzz bands and witch-house projects that have since commandeered their sound. But, as their new album’s title suggests, The Knife refuse to be predictable, and their latest single offers startling proof of this. Though not as confrontational as their first single, Full Of Fire, the track is still miles away from anything they’ve done before, trading in the frozen caverns of Silent Shout for a lush, mysterious wilderness. The rhythms are tribal and hypnotic, and the track has a freeform vibe that makes it feel like it could take the listener anywhere. The only thing consistent about the track is the demonic vocals of Karin Dreijer Andersson, which are as jarring and unsettling as ever. Peter Quinton

11 March 2013

Fucked Up - “21st Century Cling-Ons” (from “The Sugar Daddy Splits” via Amphetamine Reptile Records)
Stream via Pitchfork

Fucked Up and The Melvins? Together? On a split 12” record? Count me in! Oh wait, the record is already sold out? Well I can understand why, Fucked Up is definitely changing things up quite a bit on 21st Century Cling-Ons. Instead of the intricate, euphoric sound collages and high-energy, pop-punk riffing of 2011‘s David Comes To Life, Damian Abraham and co. are sort of rockin’ a soulful, yet distinctly sludgy tune -- dare I say in the vein of The Melvins themselves? Yeah, yeah I do. That isn’t to say Abraham’s guttural screams don’t substantially ground this track in signature Fucked Up-form, but it’s just nice to see the band as a whole try something fresh..... or rotten, depends on how you look at things really.... Andrew Ciraulo

The Flaming Lips – Look…The Sun is Rising (from The Terror, out 2nd April via Warner Bros.)
Stream via NPR

After listening to Look…The Sun is Rising, our first official taste of The Terror, I’m honestly a bit worried about what will happen to The Lips’ legendary live shows. Confetti cannons, giant balloons, lasers, and people in Wizard of Oz costumes – it’s hard to imagine all of these elements fitting alongside the melancholic dirge that is their latest single. Wayne Coyne said their latest would be both “bleak and disturbing,” and after hearing their Super Bowl extravaganza Sun Comes Out Today, it almost seemed like they were having us for a ruse. But after five minutes of Look, with its dreary synth lines, distant vocals, and noisy sound bursts that sound like the devil is hissing in your ear, I think it’s safe to say that The Flaming Lips are planning to make good on their promise. The Lips might be promising us the Sun time and time again, but for The Terror, it looks like they plan on closing the shades. Peter Quinton

7 March 2013

Kylesa - "Unspoken" (from "Ultraviolet" released 28th May 2013 via Seasons Of Mist)

On 2010’s Spiral Shadow, Kylesa made a markedly unexpected transition from thick, Savannah sludge-metal to ‘90s alt-rock. To some metal purists that may have come off as a “sell-out” move, and I’d be inclined to agree with them had the album sucked..... but it didn’t. In fact, it was probably one of my favorite hard-rock/metal albums to come out that year. It’s hard to say that “optimistic” would be an accurate word to describe Spiral Shadow, but there was definitely a spirit of wide-eyed adventure that contributed heavily to its overall vibe. However, on their latest single, Unspoken, we find the band venturing into cold, bleak, and isolated territories with a tune that’s much more reminiscent of stoner-death rock, than of last album’s Pixies-meets-Mastodon sound. Amidst the track’s thick riffing, faint vocals, and ominous chants, I began to worry if the light at the end of the tunnel had suddenly vanished -- that the rest of this album might not have any of Spiral Shadow’s shout-to-the-heavens anthems. Well, maybe it wont, but why should it matter? This is awesome. In any case, Kylesa certainly has my attention. Andrew Ciraulo

Vanessa Paradis - "Love Song" (released 4th March 2013 via Barclay/Universal)

Despite sporadic chart success with Joe Le Taxi and the classic girl group sound of Be My Baby, Gallic chanteuse Vanessa Paradis is perhaps best known overseas for her modelling work and for being the former flame of Jonny Depp. That may be set to change with the release of her rippling new single, Love Song, which should pull in pop fans with its chunky, Trevor Horn-channelling production and Anglo-French lyrics. French pop is sometimes so concerned with looking back that it fails to move forward - often buckling under the weight of tradition - but being retro seems to work in Love Song's favour by framing the simple pop melody with the reggae-funk lilt of vintage Grace Jones. Effortless and stylish adult-pop, this is a must-hear addition to the chanson tradition. Gary McGinley


Previously, in the Singles Blog:
February 2013
January 2013