This week on Tracking––a regular series in which we discuss our current favorite songs––you can listen to additions from The Knife, Local Natives, My Bloody Valentine, Alpine and FIDLAR.
(Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)
The Knife - "Full of Fire"(1 of5)
While MBV may take the cake for this weeks most long-awaited release (22 years Kevin Shields? Really?), new material from The Knife is nothing to sneeze at. After 2006's stunning Silent Shout the swedish duo once again subverted expectations by falling off the map (at least under the moniker of The Knife). Their isolationist tendencies may be frustrating for their fans but it arguably makes their releases, when they finally do come, all the more triumphant. “Full of Fire” is everything one could have hoped for in a new track from The Knife, along with some added layers of grinding unease.
The elements that made Silent Shout so haunting are resurrected meticulously: the layered rhythms that pound intricately on top of one another; the icy, rich synth lines reminiscent of European techno; Karen Dreijer's detached and snarling vocals. However, “Full of Fire” takes these foundations and adds a rough, industrial atmosphere, formed through vicious synth attacks and distorted vocal manipulations. Its nine minutes are filled with an almost constant onslaught of dense arrangements. As opposed to the crystal-clear synth lines of their earlier work, which evoked a cold yet solemn serenity, these sounds conjure up images of tanks rolling down streets and smoke grenades being thrown into crowds. Marit Ostberg's accompanying visuals reinforce the sense of social unrest that fills the song. Dreijer sings, “when your full of fire, what's the object of your desire?” Ostberg's video touches on all of the frustration, anger, and sexual ambiguity contained in that line.
Dreijer has mentioned that her and her brother needed the presence of love before they could start their new album. That's an odd statement in light of “Full of Fire.” However, love can often make us more adventurous, and this track is indeed one of the most ambitious, emotionally-charged songs that The Knife have released to date. –– Drew Malmuth
Local Natives - "Heavy Feet"(2 of5)
No track is a greater testament to Local Natives’ transition from sunshine-tinged to introverted alternative rock than “Heavy Feet.” The second single off their bewitching sophomore effort, Hummingbird; the track takes a gloomier turn than most of Local Natives’ previous material.
All of the hallmarks of a Local Natives song are present. Guitars, drums, and harmonies that climb the register and sublime into diaphanous sprays of sound all abound throughout the track’s four minute run. It is the lyrics on “Heavy Feet” that imbue the otherwise optimistic melody with a sense of loneliness. Amidst pounding guitars, drums, and claps, lead vocalist Kelcey Ayer wails “After everything, after everything / Left in the sun, shivering / After everything.”
In the period of time since Gorilla Manor, Local Natives has matured, plunging into emotions more complex and cavernous than the simple elation of a summer sunburst. The group has moved on to colder territory, exploring a heart in perpetual winter, left behind to shiver and shatter in the frigid remnants of what was. “Heavy Feet” is not the darkest track on Hummingbird, but it certainly is the most emblematic of Local Natives’ new direction. After four minutes of lush instrumentation and soaring harmonies, “Heavy Feet” leaves the listener deserted at its denouement, holding on to the memory of what was, feeling the emotions that gave rise to the song in the first place. –– Jean-Luc Marsh
My Bloody Valentine - "only tomorrow"(3 of5)
My roommate’s boyfriend waited patiently from Kevin Shields’ 2008 quasi-confirmation of an in-the-works My Bloody Valentine record until this Saturday night to listen to mbv, the band’s first album released since 1991’s now-classic pillar of the shoegaze genre, Loveless. Through a friend who managed to get through the next-to-impossible download interface, he had his hands on the record by the time I got home to find him absolutely freaking the fuck out. I’m not an MBV fan of his caliber, but I listened to “only tomorrow” and understood where he was coming from – Bilinda Butcher’s otherworldly vocals like a transmission from a distant galaxy, like something ripped from the golden record; you see her like a kind of ethereal ritual priestess a la Kate Bush in the white dress version of “Wuthering Heights,” and then the haze, the haze, the haze, the distortion, the burnt-out guitar chords, that woozy, whammy-heavy riff Shields drops out of nowhere with two minutes to go that you wish would go on forever and maybe is going on forever in whatever separate universe it came out of – if you think I’m exaggerating, if you think I’m tapping too heartily into my roommate’s boyfriend’s stokedness, please just turn “only tomorrow” up so loud and close your eyes. –– Genevieve Oliver
Alpine - "Gasoline"(4 of5)
“There’s gasoline in your heart / there’s fire in mine.” This intriguing metaphor of destructive passion delivered in a playful half-whisper forms the first phrases of “Gasoline” by rising Australian sextet Alpine. Dual vocalists Phoebe Baker and Lou James sing circles around each other, lacing an intricate lyrical landscape onto a vivid backbone of crystalline guitar riffs and buzzing synthesizers. The result is an electronic candy land, whimsical and rhythmic; three and a half minutes of pure synthetic joy. It is hard not to get swept up in the magnetic charm of “Gasoline” as it expands from spare guitar riffs into something bigger, replete with vibrant drumbeats, breathy syllables in the background, and infectious “heys.”
Much like the real thing, “Gasoline” is dangerously combustible. A fire erupts from the potent fuel of a catchy guitar and a pair of enchanting voices, spawning a track that grows into an anthemic blaze, engulfing the listener in its energy and charm. However, before it extinguishes itself with its own fumes, “Gasoline” ends, taking with it the beguiling sonic wonderland encapsulated in its pulsating synths. There lies the key to the appeal of “Gasoline.” The sudden withdrawal causes a craving for another listen of that warm, sun-splashed sound, and before you know it, “Gasoline” is playing again. –– Jean-Luc Marsh
FIDLAR - "Wait For The Man"(5 of5)
We wouldn’t really forgive you for shrugging off LA punks FIDLAR’s self-titled debut as a slacker paean to all things debaucherous, because it’d mean you clearly didn’t give penultimate track / jam of all jams “Wait for the Man” the attention it deserves. Have you been looking for the catchiest imaginable riff? Have you been looking for the shortest and sweetest guitar solo? The tightest rollicking drums? The easiest and most effective singalong? Here it is. Here is the two-minute pop-punk banger you’ve been searching for as the fist-pumping end-of-the-night closer at the house show of your dreams, the soundtrack to your fantasy skate video when you actually learn how to do anything. –– Genevieve Oliver