This week on Tracking, a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year, you can listen to additions from Niki & the Dove, Santigold, Lower Dens, St. Vincent and Purity Ring. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)
Niki & the Dove - "Tomorrow" (1of5)
"Tomorrow," the latest in the brief oeuvre by the unstoppable Niki & the Dove is a textbook example of the different heights a song can plunge and climb to. Lured in by the haunting, electrifying vocal that floating above a jumpy electric line, it’s all so quiet - and then crash! bang! wallop! the chorus bursts into a kaleidoscope of sound which builds as the song progresses while Malin Dahlström's vocal spirals away. With the accompaniment of the spacey, sci-fi video, the overall effect is gloriously euphoric. A truly exhilarating listen and one for festival audiences this summer. Niki & the Dove'sInstict is out May 14.
Santigold - "Disparate Youth" (2of5)
Shrugging off a crippling writers’ block, Santigold shows a return to form with the instantly-replayable "Disparate Youth." It slips into its stride with the gentle rain-drops that recall the initial dance of Enya’s "Orinoco Flow" - yes, we went there - but eases into a rolling carousel with a dancehall wriggle and sass to it. And the vocal is just a little Grimes-esque: Santigold has shed the foot-stomping aggression in favour of something sweeter and soulful, though the rapid guitar riffs undercut any lean towards the saccharine. At this rate, Master of My Make-Believe––our May 1st––looks set to be one of the hottest records of 2012's summer.
Lower Dens - "Brains" (3of5)
Lower Dens’ 2010 record Twin Hand Movement was beautiful in a hazy, dreamy way – with echoed guitar riffs, simple drums, and calming female vocals courtesy head songwriter Jana Hunter, Twin Hand Movement sounded at times like the work of fellow Baltimoreans Beach House. It also possessed Beach House’s soporific, hypnotic power: songs like “Tea Lights” are so pretty and repetitive that you might find yourself nodding off.
Enter 2012, Nootropics, its first single and standout track “Brains,” and a Lower Dens intent on hypnotizing you in a different – and, we think, more interesting – way. “Brains” has a pulsing, motorik, underwater groove, layered and distorted guitars that bite out of the mist like circling sharks, Hunter murmurs and mumbles and then shouts cryptic phrases that sound like secret passwords, and the end product is completely mesmerizing in its subdued, seething energy. “Don’t be afraid, everything will change while you’re asleep,” Hunter sings, and it’s hard to believe her – that’s what makes “Brains” so good.
St. Vincent - "Krokodil" (4of5)
When is Annie Clark going to make a punk album? First she dramatically covers Big Black’s “Kerosene,” then she starts stage-diving while stretching out Marry Me highlight “Your Lips Are Red” into a ten-minute jam complete with at least three deconstructed guitar solos, then she records a sub-three-minute absolute punk banger called “Krokodil” for obscure Record Store Day 7” release, and it turns out to be one of the best songs she’s ever written. High-octane guitars and double bass make up a motorik groove onto which Clark lays down bucketloads of distortion – her limber voice fuzzed almost out of recognition, classically lithe, speedy guitar riffs reverbed out of control. That is to say, it’s truly fucking awesome.
Purity Ring - "Obedear" (5of5)
Remember when "Ungirthed," that strangely addictive track by the then-mysterious Purity Ring, surfaced last year? And how you probably listened to it on repeat for a good chunk of your day? "Odebear," off of Purity Ring's forthcoming debut LP, Shine, is no exception. Now with a more focused sound, the group creates a more complex track than their earlier work. Working in countermelodies and a more detailed soundscape that still incorporates the same haunting harmonies against a sharp beat, Purity Ring has only matured in the best way for their full-length debut.