It's March, which means that we all need great music to get us through these last stretches of winter. And the earth is dying, so we also need songs to help us deal with that. Here are five new tracks released in the last week or so, each presenting a sonic escape from these uncertain times.
- Johnny Marr — Armatopia
With "Armatopia," the ex-Smiths songwriter and guitarist has created a new genre—which he calls "eco-disco," aka songs meant for dancing in the face of ecological destruction. "Armatopia," with its wailing anthemic synths, is upbeat enough to get you smiling and swaying on even the most delayed subway ride. Its lyrics, however, are filled with panic about the earth's destruction. The video leans into this theme, featuring a bunch of depressed misfits leaving the isolation of their technology-consumed lives and finding love and communion at a dance party.
Johnny Marr - Armatopia (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
"Johnny and I wanted to work with the idea that even when the future of a person seems bleak and uncertain, they can still choose to pursue pleasure and self-indulgence," said the video's director, Kris Rimmer. "We chose the derelict tower block to contrast their eccentricities and followed them on a journey to 'the last place on earth left open. There seems to be something quite significant about finding romance in the last days of existence." Gospel for the modern era, indeed.
2. Big Thief — UFOF
The Brooklyn quartet, fronted by Adrienne Lenker—who is possibly the closest thing we've got to Leonard Cohen today—takes on aliens with their new single, off their forthcoming album of the same title. It's an interesting choice of subject matter, as Big Thief's last album, Capacity, was a decidedly earthbound journey through family memories and trauma. UFOF pits Lenker's whispered voice-over layers of plucked guitar, telling the story of an alien friend who appears, only to leave "like a seed in the wind / taking up root in the sky." Lenker continues, "The seasons will bend / there will soon be proof / that there is no alien / just a system of truth and lies / the reason, the language / and the law of attraction." Despite its extraterrestrial overtones, it's an intricate reflection on life on earth.
Big Thief - UFOF (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
3. The Tallest Man on Earth — The Running Styles of New York
Kristian Matsson is only five foot seven, but he's made a name for himself as The Tallest Man on Earth. His newest single, "The Running Styles of New York," pits his gravelly voiceover rhythmic strumming and glossy strings that rise and fall, creating a soundscape that would fit well with a dramatic departure at the end of a film, preferably involving a train, fields of corn, and a sunset. "We're moving on, into the days of our grace returning," he sings. By the end of this song you almost believe him.
The Tallest Man On Earth: "The Running Styles Of New York" | I Love You. It's A Fever Dream. [Audio] www.youtube.com
4. Lord Felix — Love Is Fleeting, I Promise
"Love Is Fleeting, I Promise" is an entrancing invitation to Lord Felix's debut album, In Bloom, Forever. Glossed over with reverb-soaked electric guitars set atop a slow-moving beat, this is a grainy, nostalgic dream of a song that marks the arrival of a promising new voice in emo-rap. Other highlights from the album include "Him" and "Spring / Summer '99," both songs that seem perfect for stoned recollections of hazy summers past.
Love Is Fleeting, I Promise www.youtube.com
5. Helado Negro — Running / Pais Nublado
"Running" is a delicate, hypnotic fusion of jazz and R&B. Its running piano motif sweetens up Helado Negro's smooth, vicious voice, and it all winds together to create an expansive lullaby. The song is a promising taste of the artist's forthcoming new album; This Is How You Smile. The other new single, "Pais Nublado," is an evocative patchwork of such transportive beauty, it makes the whole world fall away.
Helado Negro - Running www.youtube.com
Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @edenarielmusic.