This week on Tracking – a regular series in which we discuss our current favorite songs – you can listen to additions from The National, Disclosure, CHVRCHES, David Lynch, Lykke Li and Fuck Buttons.
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The National - "Graceless"
At this point, The National are very aware of their strengths. Their albums are now relentlessly consistent and where High Violet had one obvious peak of adrenaline (“Bloodbuzz Ohio”) Trouble Will Find Me has as many as five. “Graceless” is maybe the most satisfying peak, as each of the band's elements is firing on all cylinders.
Bryan Devendorf rips through a swirl of a rhythm that stays pointedly grounded but lends itself to rapid variations; Scott Devendorf's bass line anchors the melody in a more noticeable and satisfying way than on much of the album; the Dessner brothers craft guitar and piano lines that, while simple, are perfectly suited to the contours of the song; and Berninger spouts a collection of wry lyrics that sound like both complete bullshit and earnest introspection.
It's a song that is easy to get swept up in. The indie rock bands that are now able to fill an arena (which The National did recently on their home turf in Brooklyn) excel at making a song feel momentous in an authentic rather than melodramatic way. Their songs can often flirt with the latter, but a tune like “Graceless,” with its epic moments derived from simple elements, is atmospheric in all the right places. You might listen to the song a hundred times, but it would still be tough to not crack a smile when Berninger sings “God loves everybody, don't remind me.” — Drew Malmuth
Disclosure - "When A Fire Starts To Burn"
Settle. When you think about it, it’s an odd name for gods-of-dance Disclosure’s debut record that — kapow! — kickstarts into action with this killer track.
Allow yourself to be lured in by its mystic beginnings: a mesmerising, repetitive rasp of a vocal that ever increases in its urgency over a tight drum, punching the speakers. This preacher-style heckle is aped in the fiery accompanying video - ‘how do you feel your momentum? How do you get into your zone?’.
How do you? You listen to this, that’s how. And then the song drops, and then you’re away: immersed in relentlessly driving beats (that metallic chink will embed itself into your subconscious) and the scudding organ that clambers up and down like fairy lights on a carnival rollercoaster. The Lawrence brothers widen their dancefloor-dominating repertoire with this track: more intense and heavier than, say, the sparky "White Noise," it still retains that spicy garage-esque buzz that Disclosure do the best.
Think halcyon summer nights on rooftops and sweaty dance-fests in scuzzy bars. It’s the soundtrack of your summer. It’s hot stuff. Obviously. — Miranda Thompson
CHVRCHES - "Gun"
Glaswegian electropop trio, CHVRCHES has done it again. “Recover” was more than enough to establish their place in the synth-pop pantheon, but in the pursuit of perfection, the group has dropped a follow-up in the form of the equally threatening and thrilling single “Gun.”
Where “Recover” saw lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry in a more passive, coalescent position with lyrics such as “If I recover, will you be my comfort?” “Gun” establishes her dominance. Beneath the glossy veneer of synthesizers, lies a vendetta bursting in candy-coated menace. Mayberry calls the shots on this one, proclaiming “Hide, hide / I have burned your bridges” with a deranged glee, pursuing her target under the convenient cover of an electropop ditty. However, Mayberry is not without her morals, encouraging some unnamed individual to “Take a good swing at me, and everything is even.” The ambiguity begs the question, is the song is an open warning to anyone intending to knock CHVRCHES from their position at the forefront of electronic music? Not likely, especially with this supernova under their belt. And why would anyone want to? Judging from this track, Mayberry would be one hell of an opponent.
One thing is certain though, impending danger has never sounded so cheerful. CHVRCHES worked their magic again, this time taking the theme of revenge, fashioning it into a weapon, and aiming it directly at the dance floor. — Jean-Luc Marsh
David Lynch & Lykke Li - "I'm Waiting Here"
In the film industry, David Lynch has carved out a niche for himself as a purveyor of surreal violence, often leaving audiences mystified, disturbed, offended, or any combination of the three. So distinctive is his style, that the adjective “Lynchian” has been coined in his honor.
The very notion of this Lynchian design is what makes “I’m Waiting Here” so unusual. It hits none of the emotional targets Lynch typically aims for with his work. Instead, with the help of Lykke Li, the Swedish indie starlet equally renowned for her startling persona and penchant for the strange, Lynch has crafted something relatively tranquil. “I’m Waiting Here” has none of the hallmarks of Lynch’s work such as criminal violence or the glorification of industry, forgoing those motifs for a gentle, dreamlike atmosphere.
Lykke Li walks the fine line between drone and lullaby, her earthy croon and celestial soprano intertwining and tangling around a sparse rhythm of drums, faded guitar, and synthesizers like softly cascading glitter. “Make a wish every time I leave / So we can love until infinity” she drawls, lengthening each syllable to its breaking point, before leaving the Earth to fill the air with an angelic humming. The finished product is a constant dance between soil and sky, slowed down to the cadence of five minutes of golden music. Lynch and Li never left their elements. “I’m Waiting Here” is surreal and striking, not for the violent crash and bang it lacks, but for the restraint and finesse it does, and the fact that it so easily submerges the listener in the dreamy lagoon that exists in their minds. — Jean-Luc Marsh
Fuck Buttons - "The Red Wing (Edit)"
Fuck Buttons songs are not very edit friendly. Especially in the case of “The Red Wing,” the first song we are hearing from the duo in over four years, fans will be itching for an all encompassing build that uses every bit of ten minutes to tease bliss out of churning synths.
Instead, the first glimpse of Slow Focus is a three minute snippet that is surprising and immediately gratifying. The throbbing, unpredictable sense of direction that pervades Fuck Buttons tracks is still there, but “The Red Wing” is built from elements that are not common territory for the band. For one thing, the track shows a lot of its hand from the outset: a splashy drum pattern that could've laced an El-P beat, buzzing synths that are as fierce as they approachable, and a smattering of Casio bleeps and reverb laden sax.
More interestingly, the song starts to reveal itself in a different way than a lot of their work. A song like “Olympians” feels like a camera zooming out from something small to reveal a sprawling, complex environment. “The Red Wing” is scattered from the beginning and rather than become more aggressive it builds into a clearer, more purposeful climax.
It's a stunning track and a small window into an album that should be well worth the wait. — Drew Malmuth