“Can I Sit Next To You” by Spoon

Spoon’s latest single from their upcoming album Hot Thoughts is another interesting release showing the evolution of the band. While the song begins with the drum-led minimalism one expects from the Austin-based group, it quickly spreads its wings into something else altogether– featuring an array of horns, strings, and increasingly layered vocals. The video is a bit more abstract than you’d expect from Spoon, too. Hot Thoughts is out on March 17 via Matador.

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Friday Five: The Shins, Ryan Adams, Jens Lekman, Macy Gray, Lupe Fiasco

“Mildenhall” by The Shins

The Shins’ latest single from their upcoming release Heartworms is a low-key, country-folk affair– a stark contrast from their last single “Name For You.” Still, it’s pacing and sparse guitar work and drums are a surprisingly good match for frontman James Mercer’s tenor vocals. Heartworms will be released on March 10 via Columbia.

“Doomsday” by Ryan Adams

A true return to form, Ryan Adams’ latest release Prisoner, out today via PAX-AM, is a brilliant and stirring album. Heartbreak may be at the center of the album, but musically it features some of the most grounded and focused work that Adams has released. Throughout the 12 tracks, Adams successfully melds his many influences in a way that he hasn’t done in ages.

 

“Evening Prayer” (feat. Loulou Lamotte) by Jens Lekman

Also out today via Secretly Canadian is Jens Lekman’s astounding album Life Will See You Now. A largely saccharine indie-pop affair, in the best way possible, the Swedish musician carries the torch of Belle & Sebastian to a great degree of success on his latest release, even outdoing his earlier, acclaimed projects.

 

“White Man” by Macy Gray

“I Try” may feel like a lifetime ago, but while Gray has never achieved that level of critical or mass appeal since, she has still carried on a notable, albeit musically safe, career. With “White Man,” a song that wonderfully characterizes today’s heated racial climate, Gray channels less Billie Holiday and more Nina Simone (there seems to be a definite rhythmic nod to “Sinnerman,” too)– and she could not sound any better or more inspired. One can only hope this is the sign of things to come from Gray.

 

“Jump” (feat. Grizzle) by Lupe Fiasco

Lupe’s tumultuous relationship with fans, other rappers, record labels, and the press has been well documented, and consequentially it’s hard to ever get a good read on Fiasco’s music– he’s truly reached love-him-or-hate-him status across the board. With his latest album, DROGAS Light,  released last week via 1st & 15, it’s the largely mixed bag that has become the norm from Lupe Fiasco, but when it works, it really works well. This track, in particular, is the highlight, with insane lyricism over an infectious beat.

“Friend Zone” by Thundercat

Happy Valentine’s Day! Thankfully, Thundercat has used this as an opportunity to release his second single, “Friend Zone,” which is a pretty self-explanatory title and the perfect song for those that are a tad more cynical when it comes to their Valentine’s Day festivities.

As you’d expect, “Friend Zone” is noteworthy not just for its wit (the chorus leads with “You stuck me in the friend zone/That’s that bullshit,” for example) but the insane amount of funk from Thundercat and producer Mono/Poly. Thundercat’s new album, Drunk, can’t come here soon enough but we’ll still have to wait until February 24.

“My Old Man” by Mac Demarco

Demarco’s made a successful career with his stripped-down approach to songwriting– it’s breezy and easy to digest but has just enough diversity to keep the audience on its toes. With his latest single, “My Old Man,” Demarco has added some delicate synths and a drum machine to give his signature sound additional texture that has always been insinuated but never explicitly stated. Frankly, the results are gorgeous and it’s a welcome change, indeed. This Old Dog will be available starting May 5 via Captured Tracks.

 

“Marquee Moon” by Television

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Marquee Moon, the classic post-punk debut by Television. The album received critical acclaim upon release but more importantly has influenced generations of artists– largely credited as leading to the birth of indie rock in addition to current bands such as Wilco and The Strokes. Listening to the title track below, you can hear the similarities almost immediately, between the jazz-influenced rhythms and the interplay between lead and rhythm guitar. Although the band would only release one other album before splitting up and attempting a brief comeback nearly fifteen years later, Television still remains one of the most influential bands in rock history.

“Beautiful Blue Sky” by Ought

A compelling, Montreal-based band, Ought came on to the scene with their stellar debut, More Than Any Other Day in 2014. Their success continued on their follow-up album Sun Coming Down, which features this brilliant track- a highlight that speaks to the monotony of adulthood with the same level of apathy as the opening of Fight Club. It’s a winding, grandiose exercise in Talking Heads-influenced rock that demands repeated listens.

 

“All About Me” by Syd

Vocalist for the grammy nominated band The Internet, Syd has been seriously underselling this album going into it, going as far as to say “This album is not that deep” when interviewed with The Fader. Yes, Fin is far more straightforward pop than anything she has done with The Internet, but damn is it good. There’s an introspective quality to each of the tracks that give Fin the personality that often is lacking on recent R&B albums– it has a soul, depth, and vibrancy that is not often seen. If this is indeed a throwaway, the next album from The Internet should be a stunner.

“On + Off” by Maggie Rogers

 

After getting a ringing endorsement from Pharrell in a viral YouTube video, Maggie Rogers finds herself on the radar of artists to break out this year. Between the first single, “Alaska” and “On + Off,” featured here, it looks as though Pharrell’s instinct on Rogers being a singular artist may be completely spot on. In an age where artists, especially vocalists, have hidden behind a twitchy production and a complex facade of sound to make their music sound deeper or more intricate than it really is, everything Rogers does flows naturally in a way that hasn’t been done before. Look for Rogers’ debut EP, Now That The Light is Fading, on February 16 via Capitol Records.

“Ran” by Future Islands

Future Islands enjoyed a bit of a breakthrough on their 2014 release Singles, thanks in large part to their single “Waiting on You.” For a band that previously abstracted their sound, it was refreshing to see them embrace a more energetic and hook-laden take– a premise that appears to be the basis for their latest album, The Far Field. With energetic drums from Michael Lowry, there’s a pulse to “Ran” that is perfectly adept to the urgent vocals of Samuel T. Herring.  The Far Field will be available beginning April 7 via 4AD.