New Music Monday is moving in a new direction. Today and next Monday we’ll be looking back through 2014 at some of our favorite tunes of the year, and the week after that, we will discuss the most anticipated records of 2015.
This week we focus on our five favorite tracks from New Music Monday artists.
5. PHOX – “Slow Motion” from PHOX (Partisan Records)
The list begins with “Slow Motion,” the breezy lead single from PHOX’s self-titled debut record. The septet plays an appealing brand of indie pop that features tinges of folk, Americana, and even Caribbean music. The standout element on both “Slow Motion” and PHOX, however, is lead singer Monica Martin’s voice. Even with myriad instruments (including the less-than-common flugelhorn and banjo), Martin’s voice shines through gorgeously.
4. Wye Oak – “The Tower” from Shriek (Merge Records)
Shriek, Wye Oak’s fourth full-length, sees the band moving in a new sonic direction. After two years of constant touring in support of the band’s previous record Civilian, Jenn Wasner found herself exhausted by the guitar. For songwriting purposes, Wasner exchanged her guitar for an electric bass, and the new album introduces synthesizers to the mix. “The Tower” is the track that first introduced Wye Oak’s new sound and for good reason. The song’s mood holds true to the music Wye Oak perfected on Civilian while introducing not only synthesizers but elements of synth pop.
3. Field Report – “Home (Leave the Lights On)” from Marigolden (Partisan Records)
Wye Oak aren’t the only band on our list to add synths to expand their sound. Field Report’s sophomore record, Marigolden, finds the band’s sound growing even as its members shrink from seven to four. The album runs the musical gamut, from the Traveling Wilburys-esque pop of “Home,” to the Neil Young-inspired piano ballad “Ambrosia,” to the electronic sonic landscape of “Wings.”
2. Sondre Lerche – “Lucifer” from Please (Mona Records)
Please finds Sondre Lerche’s songwriting and lyrics in fine form. Though much of the record was written beforehand, the album centers on Lerche’s divorce from his wife of eight years. “Lucifer” features some of Please‘s strongest lyrics and arrives at its center. Despite the song’s title it does not fall into accusations or recriminations, but rather finds Lerche examining himself and his dark side, or as he sings “indulg[ing] the dusk.”
1. Cold Specks – “A Formal Invitation” from Neuroplasticity (Mute Records)
After her Polaris Prize-nominated debut, I Predict a Graceful Explosion, Al Spx had the opportunity to work with artists like Moby, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Swans. She even made a guest appearance at Joni Mitchell’s 70th birthday party alongside Herbie Hancock. Those collaborations are reflected on Spx’s sophomore album, Neuroplasticity, which ranks among the best releases of 2014. Michael Gira of Swans makes appearances on “Exit Plan” and “A Season of Doubt,” which Akinmusire appears on as well, but it is “A Formal Invitation” that is the record’s strongest track. Aptly called an “apocalyptic, goth-folk epic” by AllMusic, “A Formal Invitation” burns slow and strong for four and a half minutes before ending with the ominous line, “Smother you with silence until you choke on dead air.”