10 songs you need to hear right now: The Oh Sees, Wilco, Diners, Fergie, Drake, AlunaGeorge, Clams Casino
Musician John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees performs onstage during day 3 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 14, 2013 in Indio, California.(Photo: Karl Walter /Getty Images for Coachella)
July will more than likely be remembered in the mainstream as the month that gave us Fergie and her girlfriends romping through the most MILF-centric music video since “Stacy’s Mom.”
But by the halfway point, the month had also given us new music from Thee Oh Sees, Wilco, Clams Casino and AlunaGeorge, to name just a few of the artists you’ll find on our playlist of 10 songs you need to hear right now. We’ve also featured local sounds from Diners and WOLFZiE with Dadadoh.
40 best songs of 2016 (so far): FKA Twigs, Angel Olsen, Bat for Lashes, Selena Gomez, Radiohead, Rihanna
Thee Oh Sees, “The Axis”
This is the third track they’ve shared from “A Weird Exits,” due Aug. 10. And if the songs we’ve heard so far are any indication, which I’m pretty sure they’d have to be, that new release should effortlessly live up to the psychedelic splendor of their previous recordings. This atmospheric, organ-driven ballad is the album’s final track, creeping along at a very trippy snail’s pace for more than six minutes, the final minute and 41 seconds of which are given over to an epic, explosive guitar lead that brings what started as a haunted psychedelic soul song to a speaker-shredding climax. Is the title a tip of the hat to the Jimi Hendrix Experience album, “Axis: Bold As Love?” It sure does feel that way. And the lyrics are just as inspired, setting the tone with a withering shrug of “Don’t you know how much I don’t love you? / Don’t you know how much I don’t care? / And can’t you see how much I don’t need you? / Just like you were never really there.”
This single was surprise-released to celebrate the anniversary of “Star Wars,” the album they surprise-released last summer not long after playing a concert at Salt River Fields, where this could easily have slipped into the set list. It’s the sound of classic Nels Cline-era Wilco, setting the tone with a groove that could pass for a roomful of jazz students channeling “Walk on the Wild Side” and following through with a majestic foray into mesmerizing psychedelic pop before bringing the clatter like a “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” outtake (in a good way). It’s available for free at wilcoworld.net in exchange for your email address, allowing locator to find you.
Jamila Woods feat. Chance the Rapper, “LSD”
Chance the Rapper fans will recognize Jamila Woods as the gospel-flavored vocalist who did so much to shape the sound of “Sunday Candy” and “Blessings.” Now, Chance is returning the favor with a guest rap on this deeply soulful slow jam that plays directly to the strength that made their previous collaborations what they were. “LSD” does NOT refer to sheets of acid here. It stands for Lake Shore Drive. Hence the chorus of “You gotta love me like I love the Lake / You wanna love me? Better love the Lake.” Woods has issued a statement explaining the single. “When I was a kid, getting on Lake Shore Drive from the south side to go downtown was magical. I lived on the east coast for a few years and people would laugh when I told them we have beaches and a lake we can swim in. I always wanted to write about that…. LSD is an ode to Chicago, a song for the complicated love I have for my city.”
Yohuna is Brooklyn synth-pop artist Johanne Swanson, who slips into the darkness here after setting the tone with a comparatively breezy introduction whose melodic sensibilities had me thinking she was heading somewhere much closer to ‘70s pop. The darker textures suit the brooding nature of the lyrics, though, as Swanson paints a melancholy portrait of two lovers drifting apart. This song first made the rounds in demo form three years ago on the “Le Sigh Vol. 1” compilation. But Swanson went back in and re-recorded it with Owen Pallett for a long-awaited debut album that’s been five years in the making, aptly titled “Patientness.”
Diners, “Fifteen on a Skateboard”
In which Tyler Blue Broderick waxes nostalgic for the days of being 15 on a skateboard, moving through the neighborhood. Those memories are triggered, as so often happens, by a song, one “so familiar I was long gone.” The sound is breezy easy-listening with lush orchestration and soothing harmonies to underscore the dreamy chorus hook, setting the tone with the sound of a skateboard in action followed by the harp-like chiming of an Omnichord. There are definite echoes of bachelor pad music, Burt Bacharach and maybe the sort of vibe Brian Wilson was chasing on “Let’s Go Away For Awhile.” But in the end, it sounds like Diners. And that key change on the second instrumental break is classic.
It’s been a couple weeks now and I still can’t wrap my head around the thought that it’s taken this long for the woman who gave the world “My Humps” to get around to recording a song titled “M.I.L.F. $.” But it was definitely worth the wait. There’s no shortage of songs about how the good the singer is in bed on Billboard’s Hot 100 countdown but this one undercuts the bragging with a playful sense of humor while “empowering moms to have fun,” as the singer told Billboard. “Being a mom and having a career, taking care of yourself and still being able to be flirty and fun and a little naughty sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with that,” she said. “Society tries to tell moms what they should and shouldn’t be, and it’s just a little freeing to have fun with pushing those limits a bit. I might do it a little bit more than others, but that’s just who I am.”
Drake, “Too Good”
This is the next Drake single so you might as well get used to it because his singles have a way of blowing. See “One Dance,” in its eighth week at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. Revisiting the Caribbean dancehall rhythms of their previous hit, Rihanna’s “Work,” the Canadian rapper and his greatest female duet partner trade off verses in a richly detailed he-said/she-said portrait of what may be going through the other person’s head while you’re busy convincing yourself that you’re the only person putting any effort into this relationship. By the second chorus, they’re both singing, “I’m too good to you / I’m way too good to you / You take my love for granted / I just don’t understand it.” It’s a brilliant device, but the quintessential Drake moment here is a line they take turns singing: “Last night, I got high as the expectations.”
AlunaGeorge, “Mean What I Mean”
The U.K. synth-pop duo of Aluna Francis (alluringly soulful vocals) and George Reid (production and instrumentation) are back with yet another taste of “I Remember,” a new album due in September. And this time, they brought reinforcements — MCs Dreezy and Leikeli47, who came up with fiery raps to underscore Francis’ lyrics, written in response to a person whose sexual advances she declined only to find him accusing her of playing hard to get. “I mean what I mean when I say so,” Francis sings. “Don’t try to be mean when I say ‘No.’” As Dreezy shrugs the advances of her would-be one-night stand, “I touch down, now he think he in the end zone / Called him little bird and put him back up in the friend zone.”
Clams Casino feat. Samuel T. Herring, “Ghost in a Kiss”
Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands tops a haunting hip-hop soundscape with a brooding monologue, his raspy baritone a perfect complement to the production. It’s dramatic stuff, especially when Clams Casino strips the music down to almost nothing for Herring to intone, “And you were always a ghost in my hand” and later, when he pitch-shift Herring’s vocals down to ominous extremes for “By the time we walk away along the grove again / We will have turned towards the door / A million times or more.” He sounds more like a devil than a ghost on that part, but it’s chilling nonetheless.
WOLFZiE and Dadadoh, “What I Got”
WOLFZiE sets the mood with ambient hip-hop soundscape and Dadadoh makes the most of it, offering a shout-out to his grandma (for “looking out for me”) and boasting about his rap skills on his to a chorus that’s more about counting his blessings. “I got the music, I’ll never lose it,” he raps. “I got my family, they always understand me / I got some groceries…hopefully / I got my homies, they never leave me lonely.” His delivery of “I got some groceries… hopefully” is flawless and the song’s prevailing tone is heartfelt and reflective but I’m pretty my favorite lyric is a tossed-off punchline: “Without a cell, ya still phony.”
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Twitter.com/EdMasley