8 Tracks to Get You Through Winter [SotW June/July]
Winter gets a bad rap. Its critics malign it, somewhat unfairly, for its brooding, dark depravity. They focus on our glum faces, the dark coats we adorn, the crumpled, phlegm-infused tissues in our pockets, the leaden manner in which we walk. They argue that winter submerges us into a stupor, or is at best a temptress teasing us with hints of spring-like warmth. Yet what they fail to understand is that even the gloomiest winter’s day can also be spectral and serene. This music roundup installment is split as such, to celebrate winter…its tempest and its wonderment.
June: sombre ascent
Frankie Cosmos – Fool
Greta Kline, aka Frankie Cosmos, is an indie Brooklynite darling complete with hipster relationship, celebrity parents and favorable Pitchfork reviews. But her strength is leaving all that behind, in her ability to render these aspects insignificant. Instead, what shines through in her music is a delicate young woman traversing a fine line between confidence and anxiety. This is bedroom pop as it should be, with real heart and emotion.
The Sonics – Have Love Will Travel
1965. A little known band from the northwestern part of the US release their debut album Here Are the Sonics. Its blend of original material and energetic covers of 1950s icons like Little Richard proves successful.
Within a couple of years, The Sonics had disbanded (although various incarnations of The Sonics continued for decades, even without any of the founding members) but the legacy of these garage rock pioneers endured with bands from Nirvana to LCD Soundsystem, Iggy Pop to The Fall among those influenced.
In 2007, with their street cred as popular as ever, The Sonics reformed. Greeted with a positive reaction, the group is currently touring Australia. They’re playing at Max Watts Melbourne on September 24.
Little Dragon – Pretty Girls
Little Dragon has been on my radar ever since I heard “Ritual Union”, a silky, sultry track that remains my personal favorite. Their alt-electro (in the same vein as Polica or Chairlift or Metronomy) still feels current but I have yet to be wowed by any of their four albums. Having said that, each album has a few standouts, including this track off their latest outing, 2014’s Nabuma Rubberband.
Grateful Dead – Ripple
I’d always written off the Grateful Dead as being a jam band, all heady improv. How mistaken I was, at least where American Beauty (1970) – their most accessible and popular album – is concerned.
I was reminded about it from Freaks and Geeks (the TV show known as much for its quality as its short life; it got canceled before the end of its first season). American Beauty is used prominently in the season finale; the album actually has a transformative effect on the show’s protagonist. I’m not nearly at that level yet, but this a good track.
July: anticipatory descent
Belle & Sebastian – I’m a Cuckoo
How do they manage to sound so damn happy all the time? Like The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian have that gorgeous knack of being able to disguise bleak lyrics inside jangly, summery melodies.
Listen to how lyrics like, “I see a wilderness for you and me/Punctuated by philosophy/And a wondering how things could’ve been,” or the chorus’ crescendo, “There’s something wrong with me, I’m a cuckoo” hide covertly beneath the twee outer surface.
Francis & the Lights (w/ Kanye West & Bon Iver) – Friends
Friends is one of the more poppy inclusions in the SotW series but it’s a good, catchy song. Francis and the Lights certainly has friends, some pretty damn powerful ones if Kanye West and Bon Iver are anything to go by. Over jittery synths, Francis and Justin Vernon harmonize well together, and Kanye seems content to just chill in the background, soaking it all in.
Rostam – Gravity Don’t Pull Me
Roster Batmanglij, often referred to as half the creative force behind Vampire Weekend, is the son of Iranian immigrants who grew up in Washington DC before moving to New York to study at Columbia.
Skip ahead a few years and Vampire Weekend have released three successful albums, toured the world, won all manner of awards. That’s why Rostam’s decision to leave – to pursue a solo career – caused some shock on the web.
It couldn’t have been easy. I’m sure he’s questioned his decision at times. But if this track is anything to go by, I’m sure he’ll do just fine.
Father John Misty – Real Love Baby
The final week in July brought this gem from the ever-enigmatic Father John Misty. Between taking (not stealing) a magical crystal from a smoothie bar, ranting against battleships, injustice and entertainment for most of his XPN festival set and appearing as a steamy cult leader in Lana Del Rey “Freak” music video, he’s been happy to do his own thing. Whatever you make of his antics, his music remains undeniably consistent.