Here we are, to start off the summer, and what a way to start – a whole slew of female-led bands, or singers to serenade us into the dead heat of July. We’ve got the newest from HAIM, Broken Social Scene, and three new tracks – a surprise from Kesha, and the latest from Wolf Alice and Cults!
HAIM – Something to Tell You
Four years ago, HAIM blew us away with their sensitive yet confident romance, their whimsical ’80s inspired pop telling us exactly what to expect: earnest yet endearing earworms for the forseeable future. In their second full-length album, the trio of sisters (their last name is the namesake) showcases their range, bringing several catchy tunes. In “You Never Knew” it appears that they branch out in to Fleetwood Mac standards, forcing a bit of a folk sound. They lyrics are at once both simplistic and complex, offering a vocabulary that belies their repetetive choruses. The true standout here is, and always has been, the girls’ vocals – Danielle leads the ship, while Este and Alana blend together like a Greek chorus of encouragement. While Danielle addresses the audience directly, her sisters are there to offer support when we fall off course, like sirens that mean to save us all.
Key Tracks: Right Now / Ready for You / Want You Back
Wolf Alice – “Don’t Delete the Kisses”
In a sort of understated version of HAIM, this mumblecore girl power group burst onto the scene around the same time, albeit in England. Several of their singles gained popularity across the pond on national public radio, where I managed to get my first wind of them. Since then, I’ve been eagerly anticipating a follow-up, one that can vault the band into a higher stratosphere. With “Don’t Delete the Kisses”, Wolf Alice has produced one of their sharpest songs yet, with a chorus that stabs you in the back, and then continues slicing its way through your insides. Singer Ellie Rowsell’s voice breaks as she, whispering, laments “And then I remember and I’m shy / That gossip’s eye will look too soon / And then I’m trapped, overthinking”. If HAIM is the subtly cheery answer to power pop, then Wolf Alice is their Negaduck.
Kesha – “Praying”
The past decade or so has been harrowing for Kesha Sebert, much more than many of us will ever realize. For the most part, the cherry on the sundae of her ordeals has been that the judge hearing her contract case ignored the fact that she wanted out of the deal with RCA because her producer Dr. Luke had also continually raped her. Just the idea that a victim would love to not be forced back together with such a monster was too much for the judge to comprehend, and thus we were helpless to watch one of our favorite artists stuck in a nightmare situation. Well, turning lemons into gold, Kesha has returned with one of her best songs to date.
Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
Like a number of bands this year, it’s been a time of reunion. After seven years away from the Canadian pop world, the gang has returned to bestow upon us some more soothing protest pop. This time around, I think they’re the most fine-tuned I’ve heard an album. In the past, I feel some of their work was a tad disjointed, and I often found myself cherry picking different songs and placing them in various playlists, rather than listen the whole way here. Instead, after a majestic sunrise of an opening song in “Sol Luna”, the production in Hug of Thunder continues throughout, starting with with of the peppiest songs I’ve heard from Kevin Drew before, “Halfway Home”. There are certainly downtime songs, ones to chill out too, but there is an undercurrent of rage beneath the smooth tidings. Whether there’s something affecting them from south of the border or whether it’s just that age-old aging problem, this is definitively the most mature album from BSS, which is the most surprising thing of all after this much time.
Key Tracks: Stay Happy / Protest Song / Halfway Home
Cults – “Offering”
One of my favorite bands of the past decade, I spent the latter part of 2011 heavily enamored with several tracks from Cults’ debut album, including “Go Outside”, “You Know What I Mean” and “Never Heal Myself”. Two years later, the duo debuted Static, which by any means would not be a sophomore slump (though critically it appeared so, and even by my high standards, it was not oft repeated). That underrated album deserves another listen, of course, and especially now that the band is preparing to send us another Offering. The title track is the first to be heard, and while it bares several hallmarks of that latter album, it’s always a good thing to see a band grow. “Offering” is fairly slow, but it illuminates singer Madeline Follin’s eerily soothing vocals. Rest assured, there will undoubtedly be more uptempo instrumentals to come, but I bet the pair just wanted to ease us back into their welcome arms.
Well, that’s all for now, folks. Looking ahead to next week, I may be taking another hiatus – as Cory and I will be traveling to the nordic wonderland that is Iceland. We’ll likely be at least slipping in a podcast this weekend before we go, but with only really one semi-interesting release this Friday (Coldplay’s Kaleidoscope EP) I plan on pushing Music to Your Ears back a week. That will find us with new releases from Lana Del Rey, Foster the People, and some likely surprises!