The month’s best pop updates, tour whispers, electro remixes, must-view performances, and everything in between…
Racking up danceable firepower jams, maintaining a veil of ageless cool, keeping a finger on the mystery pulse: These things are valuable. For enthusiasts, a personal soundtrack is a life force rivaling extreme sports or extended bubble baths. It maintains a certain momentum in the constant rotation of real life, offering an opportuuunity to make whatever a little bit better. Everyday minutia performed to just-the-right notes feels sort of cinematic, at times even foggy and backlit in floofy neon pinks and electric blues. Swirly synths or buzzy riffs can shift even the most melancholy pout into a pumped-up need to mirror the feeling and just make something cool and new, too.
Here, a month of fresh possibilities delivered in the form of musically focused news you can use:
Like that cinematic promise come alive, Chromatics just released “Time Rider” with a band-directed video starring lead singer Ruth Radelet in soft motion. Layered cuts of swirling inks, burning candles, lightning bolts and a motorcycle ride that represents “an inter-dimensional bridge between the future and the past” all await, plus the announcement that the Italians Do It Better team will tour this spring for the first time in five years. Desire’s Megan Louise, whose Italo Disco-laced dreampop joins the tour along with In Mirrors, broke the good news a few months ago during her interview and playlist collab for FP. Sets will offer a live mix of feature films by Johnny Jewel to further smudge the line between stage and screen, a visual bonus that’s become their trademark.
In Montreal, Moonshine is the new party series creating a high fashion platform for African dance music. Friends since high school, Congolese-Canadian musician Pierre Kwenders and streetwear designer Hervé Kalongo threw the original soiree four years ago to kick off Kwender’s tour and Kalongo’s clothing line. After more than 200 guests showed up to support, they continued reigning over the afterhours scene with Saturday events following every full moon. “In Congo, we have this thing called La Sape,” Kwenders tells Vogue.com’s Rachel Hahn of the style scene. “It’s all about looking good and feeling good.” Aside from silky trenches and XXL puffers, their signature merch emblazoned with SMS for location is also a key to the gates — loyalists text the Moonshine number to find out the address ahead of the date.
This June, Swedish pop star Robyn will turn 40, and over the course of eight albums (the most recent Honey released last year) she’s created a body of work that skips seamlessly from club to tub. A supernatural ratio for delivering all-weather songs — as appropriate for dancing as lounging, talking or crying — has become her personal brand. As Eve Barlow writes about the singer’s “emotional catharsis,” she hits on this ability to find the extraordinary in everyday reality. “Music doesn’t change the world,” Robyn told NPR. “But I think music gives people a break, where they can recharge and then maybe change themselves.”
Channeling similar language for a low-fi masterpiece, Laura Stavropoulos writes “Either/Or comforts like a sonic blanket for when you want to tunnel into your own emotions with cathartic contentment,” of Elliot Smith’s basement recordings released on February 25th, 1997. The bruising delivery of “2:45” and soft, shoegazing movements in “Rose Parade” still hold power in their whisper-soft vocals brimming with sometimes personal, sometimes universal secrets. “His lyrics are parables and observations,” said creative collaborator Larry Crane. “It’s his own life, but it’s a lot of allegory.”
After the past few years of creepy scams and corporate takeovers, it’s rare for a music festival to elicit more than a feeling of mild dread — but Just Like Heaven sounds a lot like its name. Coming to Long Beach in May, a late-noughties lineup of bands like Peter Bjorn and John, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, Neon Indian, Grizzly Bear, and Shiny Toy Guns promises showgoers the long-awaited chance to dig up their deepest V-necks as a tribute to the hits first heard blasting on Beauty Bar’s sound systems.
Wes Anderson’s films like Isle of Dogs and Fantastic Mr. Fox ushered a new era of meticulous stop-motion animation into theaters, but OG fans first caught wind of the Texas-born writer and director for his ability to dramatically match a song to a scene. Twenty years after its release, Rushmore’s soundtrack is a perfect example of those original instincts laid out over Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman’s angsty prep school performances. This deep dive into the meaning of tracks from The Who, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh gives insight into the process — including a tidbit about how “Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl” may have slipped under the radar had Anderson gone with his original idea to have The Kinks accompany the whole thing.
“I think it was like a six-inch speaker… It was quite small, in a very small amp, and it had a couple of inputs, and it had treble, bass and volume controls. I didn’t like the way it sounded, so I thought I’d jazz it up by cutting the speaker with a razor blade,” remembers The Kinks guitarist Dave Davies of the effect he created for the band’s second version of “You Really Got Me.” Not totally convinced it would work after the first version sounded “too clean,” the distorted effect that Davies pioneered for their breakthrough single is now lovingly referred to as “fuzz.”
Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and Billboard’s favorite boy band knows it. BTS showed up at the Grammy’s in their ice-cream-colored bowl cuts and tuxes to respectfully present the award for best R&B album, while their nomination for Best Recording Package was a first for the K-Pop genre. Member Jungkook allegedly and adorably teared up at the sight of Dolly before the country queen posted a video of the entire outfit singing along to her “Jolene” performance.
There’s something kind of comforting about this clip of The Smashing Pumpkins lead Billy Corgan in the studio. As he plays riffs from their debut studio album Gish, Corgan tells the story of his stolen guitar. Used for the original recording, a “roadie friend” watched someone carry it off into the night after a 1992 show in Detroit. Even with a $20K reward offered, it disappeared without a trace until Corgan got a phone call from a nice lady that returned it to him (free of charge) a couple of weeks ago. “I always felt the guitar would come back to me, I can’t say why it felt that way,” says Corgan, reunited after 27 years with the mustard yellow instrument that “certainly didn’t go with my goth rock look.”
Kate Bush’s four-disc collection of covers and rarities The Other Sides is due out on March 22nd, rounding out the final package of her reissued catalog. The five 12-inch mixes on Disc 1 include hits like “Running Up That Hill” and “Cloudbusting,” while Disc 4 features a cover of Marvin Gaye’s 808-inspired track “Sexual Healing.” In the meantime, videos of the English singer-songwriter performing “Rocket Man”, “Under The Ivy”, and “The Man I Love” are already available to stream for the first time since their original TV broadcasts.
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Lead image courtesy of The Chromatics.