Five new songs to funk up your April
With South By Southwest in the rear-view window, 2015 is chugging along full-steam in the new music sector. Here are five tracks your iPhone didn’t know it needed.
Eskimeaux — “Broken Necks”
Lately, when new indie-pop bands show up incorporating stuff like prerecorded drums and synthesizers — bands like Chvrches and Purity Ring — they skew a little bit louder and more dramatic. Nothing wrong with that, but the end result tends to be something a little colder and more robotic, more distant. So maybe that’s why this new song from Eskimeaux, the solo recording project of Brooklyn’s Gabrielle Smith, feels fresh to me.
“Broken Necks,” like the best Postal Service songs, pulls just the right subtle touch of electronica into a very simple, pop arrangement. No vocal fireworks. No gargantuan drops in the beat. Just a bunch of thoughtful words that tell a story you’ll remember tomorrow.
Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars — “Uptown Funk (Trinidad James Remix)”
Part of why Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” has proven to be one of this year’s biggest hits is probably because it borrows its songwriting from loads of other funk, soul and hip-hop hits from over the years. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of a track, composed of catchy chunks from a lot of other songs you know, including but not limited to Sugarhill Gang’s “Jump On it,” James Brown’s “Super Bad,” and who knows how many songs where Parliament Funkadelic made liberal use of the phrase “funk you up.”
So it’s kinda fitting that one of the track’s official remixes would feature Trinidad James, whose 2012 hit “All Gold Everything” provided the line “don’t believe me just watch,” which proved so instrumental to “Uptown Funk” that James actually got a songwriting credit. Well here — perhaps in exchange? — he gets to strut around the intro, delivering the sonic equivalent of an empowering selfie.
Shamir — “Call It Off”
I didn’t get to go to South By Southwest this year, but I gathered from my Twitter and Instagram feeds that 20-year-old singer Shamir Bailey was one of the festival’s more sought-after artists. Perhaps banking on a strong South By showing, Shamir’s released his second single, titled “Call It Off,” in the festival’s wake, and it’s the catchiest thing I’ve heard in a minute, all neon synthesizers and disco melodies, sold by his sassy attitude.
Most impressive though is Shamir’s flair for economical pop songwriting: everything is catchy here, the scant verses, the chorus, even the bridge and cowbell-only breakdown. “Call It Off” comes off as effortlessly conversational and instantly relatable, the kind of song that lasts all summer long on the radio because it’s a welcome surprise in your car. Shamir's my pick to make the jump from unknown to the Billboard chart in the next couple of months.
Courtney Barnett — “Depreston”
House-hunting isn’t exactly up there with love and death among subjects that yield great, poignant songwriting but that’s exactly what Courtney Barrett finds in a new song titled “Depreston,” where the Australian narrates a relatively tedious drive around a Melbourne suburb. But the level of detail in Barnett’s observations tell a much larger story, one of mutual dependence, class anxiety and even economics and history, as a realtor shows her around the home of a woman who, apparently, recently passed.
“Depreston” is a beautiful song. I love to hear a young talent like Barnett taking such a risk on what will be her debut record, out later this month. It doesn’t immediately grab your attention or make you stop what you’re doing to listen: “Depreston” is the warm, comforting middle-of-the-record ballad that you have to find for yourself, the kind that’ll keep you coming back to an album years after it came out.
Tame Impala — “’Cause I’m a Man”
Australia’s Kevin Parker has reached another level. Tame Impala’s central figure announced his psych-rock band’s third LP, titled “Currents,” over Easter weekend, by releasing its second single, a tender sliver of R&B called “’Cause I’m a Man.” Read out loud, the title sounds like a boast, but if you listen to Parker’s incredible falsetto delivery on the chorus, it seems more like he’s apologizing to someone he loves than bragging about his gender. It’s galaxies different from the record’s dance festival-ready first single “Let It Happen,” its tempo slowed way down to highlight Parker’s vocals, which suggest what it would’ve sound like if John Lennon ever tried singing more like Marvin Gaye.
Between “’Cause I’m a Man” and “Let It Happen,” Currents is shaping up to be a big, omnivorous change in sound from Tame Impala’s first two records “Lonerism” and “Innerspeaker,” which drew from the very English, guitar-heavy rock and roll of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. By expanding his palette from rock to electronica and R&B, Kevin Parker could become something new entirely: a mainstream pop star.