MUSIC

Release Radar: New Music to Ring In Taurus Season

New singles, EPs, and albums to welcome in the energy of Taurus season.

Now that the dust from the chaotic energy of Aries season has settled, it's time to tap into a steadier rhythm and ease our way into Taurus season—a period marked by restoring structure, welcoming new changes, and embracing earthy bliss.

It's a gentle prod towards the spring months, a time to slow things down a bit and tap into your feelings, and what better way to breathe new life into your routine than listening to new music? This week has brought highly-anticipated returns from the likes of FKA twigs and the Black Keys, in addition to exciting drops from Kevin Abstract and Rico Nasty + Kenny Beats. Plus, a whole slew of new gems from artists like Lucy Dacus, Mannequin Pussy, and Jackie Mendoza.

Singles

1. FKA twigs — "Cellophane"

"Didn't I do it for you? Why don't I do it for you? Why won't you do it for me? When all I do is for you?" asks FKA Twigs in her latest single "Cellophane." On it, twigs' voice moves unvarnished over a sparse piano pattern, her words stretched out and raw, sporadically punctuated by little ripples of synth. The accompanying video features FKA Twigs entering the metaphysical world as she contorts and lifts her body through an elaborate pole dancing routine, climbing towards the sky. Once she ascends, twigs meets a robotic, mythic creature and before she can bask in being high up, she plummets through a murky green limbo and lands in the depths of a terracotta cavern.


2. The Black Keys — "Eagle Birds"

The Black Keys are gearing up to release their new album, Let's Rock, later in June, and this week they've shared a new song called "Eagle Birds." The song isn't as rough around the edges as the tracks on Brothers, but it's still got the same blues-infused riff-heavy guitar work that made their sound so infectious in the first place. It's the kind of straightforward rock song that will make you romanticize the idea of keeping one hand tucked in your jeans pocket and the other wrapped around a whiskey as you stomp your foot along to the chorus in a dive bar. Let's Rock is out 6/28 via Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records.

3. Lucy Dacus — "My Mother & I"

In her latest song, "My Mother & I" Lucy Dacus grapples with body image, and the complexities inherent to a mother/daughter relationship. In quintessential Taurus fashion, Dacus finds herself as an observer, remaining patient and understanding despite the painful subject matter she's excavating. Singing in a soft lilt over acoustic fingerpicking, Dacus searches for meaning in her shared astrological sign with her mother: "The stars have a lot to say/About babies born in the month of May." She draws from her experience growing up adopted, and tries to untangle which parts of herself are inherited from her biological mother, and which parts have been learned. Dacus ends on a note of resolve "All she has given/ All I have taken / All is forgiven / All is forsaken."


4. Connan Mockasin and Andrew VanWyngarden — "Bad Boys"

Connan Mockasin and MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden have teamed up to create a surrealist trip of a song called "Bad Boys." The new composition was written for the collaborative film Self Discovery for Social Survival, from record label Mexican Summer and surf brand Pilgrim Surf + Supply. In nearly seven minutes, they wade through ebbs and flows of experimental instrumentation while repeating the central conceit, "Bad Boys," over and over again until it morphs into something alien-sounding. Self Discovery For Social Survival is out 6/14.

5. Mannequin Pussy — "Drunk II"

Mannequin Pussy is back, thank god. The Philly-based punk band reign supreme when it comes to crafting brutal, gut-wrenching songs that tackle the emotional tangles of a relationship. The band's getting ready to release their third LP and Epitaph debut, Patience, and this week they've shared a new single called "Drunk II." This is their first release since 2016's LP, Romantic. On "Drunk II," the band departs from their volatile tendencies in favor of a sound that's a little more toned down, while still keeping their raucous energy intact. There's no vocalist quite like Marisa Dabice when it comes to cutting through the noise and singing lyrics that shoot an arrow right to your core, like when she declares "I still love you, you stupid f**k" and later confesses "And everyone says to me 'Missy, you're so strong' / But what if I don't want to be?" before sinking into the bittersweet realization "I drink to drown / I am alone." "Drunk II" is agonizing and messy, exciting and urgent––like falling in and out of love. You can pre-order Patience here.

6. Gringo Star — "Get Closer"

Atlanta garage/psych band, Gringo Star, are celebrating ten years since their debut album All Y'all came out by releasing a new live album entitled Controlled Burn (Live in Atlanta) via Baby Robot Records. Today, they're back with a new song. The live version of "Get Closer" finds Gringo Star at their maximum, reverb-drenched potential, hitting the sweet spot between sounding heavy and easygoing, with a hooky chorus to match. You can pre-order the album here.

EPs

7. Jackie Mendoza — LuzHz

Inspired by Latin pop and folk textures, Jackie Mendoza crafts enchanting compositions that reimagine what electronica/synthpop can sound like. The San Diego native started off melding ukelele pop songs with electronica on entrancing songs like "La Luz," before venturing deeper into the experimental realm. Mendoza often slips between Spanish and English as her songs delve into dream-pop territory. After putting out two singles, "Seahorse" and "Mucho Mas," earlier this year, she's now sharing her debut EP, LuvHz, via Luminelle Records.


8. Thin Lips — Carrot Milk

Philadelphia rock trio, Thin Lips, are back with a new EP titled "Carrot Milk," out via Lame-O Records, that's currently available on Bandcamp for a pay-what-you-wish price. The band put out the three-track release after they ran into issues when their van broke down in the midst of touring with Camp Cope. The EP is meant to help raise funds for the repairs. Written and recorded by Chrissy Tashjian, "Carrot Milk" is a collection of songs that reflect on feelings of grief and alienation. The EP is made up of three riff-y tracks, "Butterfield Road," "Dear Beautiful," and "Laugh At Me," that upholds their sensitive, punk sound.


LPs

9. Kevin Abstract — ARIZONA baby

After a piece-meal rollout, Kevin Abstract's new solo album, ARIZONA BABY, is finally here and it's seriously exceeding all expectations. While some of the songs were initially released in 3-track EPs, it's a completely different listening experience to hear them all together from start to finish. Co-produced by pop aficionado, Jack Antonoff, and Brockhampton member, Romil Hemnani, ARIZONA BABY blends jazz, experimental rap, and R&B and tops it off with a pop sheen. Abstract plays with new soundscapes, from the marching band horns on "Joyride" to the spacey breakdown on "Baby Boy" to the samples and field recordings used on "Use Me," it's one of the most diverse pallets from the pop rapper who's prided himself on defying genre.


10. Rico Nasty + Kenny Beats — Anger Management

Rico Nasty is pissed. She brings the heat on her collab with producer Kenny Beats in a new album called "Anger Management." Nasty doesn't hold anything back; as soon as the album starts, she lets her rapid-fire verses loose in bursts of unbridled, genre-bending fury. It's a cathartic listen that feels like you're vicariously exploding with anger that's been building in the pit of your stomach. Helped along by Beats' production, Nasty speeds through her raps and fills every corner of the mix with her clever but vitriolic turns of phrase. Whether you're working out or pregaming, this album is sure to be your next hype up playlist.


Sara is a Brooklyn-based music and culture writer. Her work has previously appeared in PAPER magazine and Stereogum.


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MUSIC

Reborn in Psych-Pop: MGMT's 'Little Dark Age' is a New Start for the Band

MGMT's Little Dark Age is out to win some fans back.

'Little Dark Age'

Andrew VanWyngarden is tired of liking your selfies.

MGMT's fanbase often credits 2007's Oracular Spectacular as the band's magnum opus, the height of their pop-psych excellence, which is a backhanded compliment or an ironic summation of their pop-infused psychedelia, depending on how you view MGMT's discography. Either way, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser are jokesters who know better. At least three of their music videos depict a phallic object being inserted into some type of allegorical flesh-machine during a dinner party. (Don't believe me, click and behold.)

With their latest release Little Dark Age, the boys have grown up a bit: MGMT's 1960s British prog sensibilities are still at the forefront, but this time more refined and subtle, showcasing VanWyngarden's boyish voice with melodies and hooks that ponder why smartphones are the decline of civilization as we know it.

MGMTLittle Dark Age

Gone are the pseudo-intellectual lyrics pulled from a journal entry written on shrooms; VanWyngarden's smart-ass cadences are now countered with digestible hooks that are more so general grievances of millennial angst than they are self-help platitudes. Yes, this album is still about how dark and empty everything is and how we're all going to die, but it's served hot and fresh with pop charisma. This time, the rotting corpse is wearing a sequin dress and neon pink lipstick.

MGMT's maturation was perhaps the only thing that could safely land VanWyngarden and Goldwasser, two college kids who got rich singing about drugs and the acquisition of replaceable, model wives. (Let us not forget the duo performing at a garage frat party as VanWyngarden attempts his best jock, sex-voice while crooning, "Said it's cool, you're touching my hand / Yeah it's cool, it's cool, where we riding to?") Part of the band's schtick is their unwavering cynicism, their we-only-care-slightly attitude, and the looming feeling that most of their earlier work was made with the intention of being inscrutable just for fun.

Little Dark Age is still up to their antics but the production is some of MGMT's best—backed by Chairlift's Patrick Wimberly and Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips)—and even more impressive is their ability to pair their psychedelic flair with gothic pop, an admirable blend of everything MGMT are good at doing: writing catchy songs about contemporary anxieties laced in peculiar (and sometimes farcical) instrumentation. Everything's still bemusing, of course, but MGMT has finally equipped listeners with a manual to their elaborate machine on Little Dark Age. The album's opener "She Works Out Too Much" nails VanWyngarden's signature, sardonic tone—you even get the feeling that MGMT are finally settled in their pop strengths, no longer opposing the sonic qualities that made "Time to Pretend" and "Electric Feel" so popular. Their eccentricities are peppered onto tracks like "Days That Got Away," and "TSLAMP. " On "One Thing Left To Try," VanWyngarden faintly sounds like Luke Steele's younger brother battling nasal congestion; the resemblance is uncanny.

And of the tracks that do utilize MGMT's more sinister side (singles "When You Die" and "Little Dark Age"), there's a sense of restraint holding everything together. On "Me and Michael," MGMT give their best rendition of '80s pop (where's Molly Ringwald's cameo in the music video?). There's also a chillwave vibe throughout: Think Neon Indian meets Toro y Moi and you've got the basic formula for a quarter of the album. One of the album's best tracks "James"—an airy chillwave track where VanWyngarden, again, channels Steele—sounds like it could've played in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation had it been released in 2003. The album's closer "Hand it Over" echoes a similar sentiment to 2010's Congratulations' closing track (of the same name), a smug denunciation of fame, and the melancholy of finally giving your art to the masses.

This album, like many MGMT projects, has moments of pop-psych bliss, and that's not sarcasm. For what it's worth, the boys are no longer trying to outwit alternative rock as a genre, while winking at the legends that came before them. No, they're still not as good as The Rolling Stones, but that was never their league to begin with. MGMT are finally in their own sound.


Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.


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