Sleater-Kinney and Panda Bear are back! There’s some new female R&B-pop that’s worth your time! Another old-school diva covered a new-school pop song we all love! Let’s go!
Sleater-Kinney — “Bury Our Friends”
There’s something slightly restrained and mature about Sleater-Kinney’s big comeback track, “Bury Our Friends.” The ferocity of the lyrics — particularly the chorus, “Exhume our idols! Bury our friends! We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in!” — is met by a Carrie Brownstein guitar riff that flirts with funk as much as punk. “Bury Our Friends” is classic S-K, leaning more towards their Dig Me Out era than anything else. But mostly it represents a new era of the seminal band, one in which they’re shouting but not any louder than they have to in order to make themselves crystal clear.
Panda Bear — “Mr. Noah”
Back in May, I caught Panda Bear’s Red Bull Music Academy set in Brooklyn, where the Animal Collective leader premiered new solo material. It has proven to be a show that stayed with me in a hazy way, often fueling my excitement for Noah Lennox’s next batch of new tunes. This week, first single “Mr. Noah” arrived, along with the announcement of Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (out January 13 on Domino). It’s like tripping through an old house with terribly slanted floors on psychotropics. This is a compliment.
Låpsley — “Falling Short”
XL’s newest signee, Liverpudlian Holly Fletcher (working under the moniker Låpsley), seems like a smart middle ground for the “indie major” label. Given the recent string of left-field female R&B singers, Fletcher’s aesthetic certainly seems on trend — but there’s also a certain je ne sais quoi that that sets her apart from the pack. Maybe the vocal manipulation here on “Falling Short” leads me to believe that Fletcher doesn’t mind abandoning “pretty” or “sensual” vocals, but there’s something that feels a little more earnestly emotional than some of Fletcher’s peers. Her Understudy EP is out January 5.
Jessie Ware — “Keep On Lying”
Ware’s solid and wide-ranging sophomore album, Tough Love, is out this week, which means the world can finally hear “Keep On Lying,” the LP’s accessibly odd highlight. If chintzy pre-programmed keyboard beats and stunningly tasteful gospel choirs aren’t the portrait of highbrow meets lowbrow in modern pop, I genuinely don’t know what is.
Pharmakon — “Bestial Burden”
Do you like Halloween, Wolf Eyes, or gruesome yet prurient horror movies? If you said yes to two out of three, this may be the sort of thing that speaks specifically, worrisomely to you.
Bette Midler — “Waterfalls” (TLC cover)
I like this more in principle than in execution, but for the shock factor, Bette Midler elegantly covering TLC’s “Waterfalls” makes the cut this week. When this video first started making headlines, I thought, “Why’s everyone freaking out about Bette Midler covering Paul McCartney’s ‘Waterfalls’? That’s an underrated ballad… and it’s so Bette Midler.” Anyway, this is good too — much better than Aretha covering Adele.