This week on Tracking, a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year, you can listen to additions from Beach House, Bruce Springsteen, Bear in Heaven, Chairlift and The Men.
BEACH HOUSE – “Myth”
If romance is still alive you probably need to thank Beach House, who have made three swooningly romantic albums to date – yes, swooningly romantic, but never corny. Beach House make songs that are so pure, so brilliantly crystal-clear; dream-pop that’s languid but not lazy, sweet but not saccharine, melancholic at times but still driving. On “Myth,” the first single from their upcoming record Bloom, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally do what they do best – almost lull you into hypnosis with Scally’s glowing guitar riff and Legrand’s layered, confessional voice, and then explode midway through into a sweeping chamber pop jam. We can’t wait to hear how the rest of this record blossoms (pun intended). Bloom is out May 15th.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – “Land of Hope and Dreams”
Since The Rising, Bruce Springsteen has attempted to replicate the particular rock ‘n’ roll alchemy that marked his artistic peak, with varying degrees of partial-success and failure. He finally nails it with “Land of Hope and Dreams,” a staple of his live set since 1999. It is the rare and wonderful latter-day E-Street gem that can stand beside marquee numbers such as “The Promised Land,” “Rosalita,” and even “Born to Run.” “This train,” the song’s central conceit, is of course America, but also the E-Street Band. Steel wheels are ready to carry all who choose to ride, the “saints and sinners” and the “whores and gamblers,” away from misery to prosperity, material and spiritual. More than a generic hymn to inclusiveness, “Hope and Dreams” is about that supremely uncool 19th century ideal few care to sing about nowadays. Among its many riches, “Hope and Dreams” also includes a typically magnificent Clarence Clemons sax solo, one of his last, which rents the song’s dense sonic tapestry and delivers the familiar, unadulterated catharsis that Bruce used to casually toss off.
BEAR IN HEAVEN – “Sinful Nature”
Probably the smartest thing Bear in Heaven have done in their fantastic promotion cycle for I Love You, It’s Cool is release “Sinful Nature.” It’s a truly fantastic, utterly massive track, keeping the shimmering day-drunk, dizzying, scuzzy electro-pop phased synths of “Reflection of You” and the record’s other singles front and center but exploring a kind of dark, expansive psych-rock territory too, with an infectious underlying guitar riff and decidedly melancholic lyrics. And it demands headphones – deep listening reveals complex, masterful layers of guitar and effects work. We knew Bear in Heaven could make great electro-pop cuts, but “Sinful Nature” shows off a breathtakingly hypnotic side we’d love to hear more from. I Love You, It’s Cool is out April 3rd.
CHAIRLIFT – “I Belong In Your Arms”
Chairlift’s new record Something is their most cohesive release yet, in that it’s cohesively stocked full of electro-pop bangers to last us all summer – after weeks on repeat, one rises above the rest, “I Belong In Your Arms.” This one’s so good because it sounds at times like a discarded demo for some Top 40 chanteuse and at other times like a Cranberries song, but it’s always electrifying and catchy, in a glossy, ‘80s-inspired, New Wave-y way. Patrick Wimberly’s synths are so polished they seem to twinkle like glass; Caroline Polachek’s vocal calisthenics are elastic and energetic. If “I Belong In Your Arms” is Chairlift’s statement of self, they’ve got big things coming – this is truly smart, hyper-accessible pop songwriting.
THE MEN – “Candy”
I picture a reverent swindling Gram Parsons on the oh-so-bitter-sweet “Candy”. “When I hear the radio play/I don’t care that it’s not me/Remember the days I shouted and begged for you to see me/Now when I sing my voice issss…” If Hemingway still roamed the Caribbean, like the poet sailor he was, this song would be humming from down below while he handed you a mojito and told you “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong in the broken places.” Strong melody, strong whiskey and bad karma ultimately define the defiant under currents of this hidden gem. The Men’s Open Your Heart is out now.