Last week's Music Report grappled with the return of a few important indie bands (Grizzly Bear and LCD Soundsystem) along with reckoning with the return of the column itself. This week we keep the return-motif burning with the National and Fleet Foxes, long dormant blog stars whose new tracks are must-hears, along with my favorite electronic song in awhile, featuring the young icon in the making Jehnny Beth of Savages. Dig in...
The National - "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness"
Kings of Brooklyn's bookish indie-dad realm, the National are back with a song even deeper in syncopated swagger and bookish baritone than usual. The title "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness" scans as a political statement, an interesting mirror of the Washington Post's new tagline for the Trump era ("Democracy Dies In Darkness"). For a band that's always built to coiled climaxes, right from the triumphant debut LP Alligator (try "Mr. November," if you need a starting point), "The System" drops the needle right in the throes of their patented existential brooding. Bless this band, they are back, and ready for the new age.
Fleet Foxes - "Fool's Errand"
Robin Pecknold has taken his sweet time crafting the followup to Fleet Foxes's tremendous second LP Helplessness Blues, and so much has happened since then: the sun-dapped psychedelic pastoral folk his band honed to near perfection is no longer the go-to style for the trend-chasing blogstars of tomorrow, his old drummer Josh Tillman has become a Saturday Night Live headlining force in his own right as Father John Misty, and he received an advanced degree from Columbia University. Into this fresh landscape Fleet Foxes have announced Crack-Up, their long-awaited third LP, and its nine-minute lead single "Third Of May/Odaigahara" is an epic triumph. The second track to come from the LP, "Fool's Errand," bites off much less in terms of scope (it's just five minutes, y'all), but hits an even sweeter space with its chorus. "It was a fool's errand, but I can make it through / I was thinking I saw life in you." Tap along to the piano and open-chord guitar that opens this track, and lift off into the hook of "Errand." It's a bittersweet croon and swoon, and so far this new album is two-for-two. Hear it at Apple Music.
Demdike Stare - "Savage Distort"
The cavernous, punching darkness of Manchester electronic duo Demdike Stare's collaboration with Jehnny Beth of the coiled London art-punk outfit Savages is a like of requiem for crisis of faith. "This is a prayer to the unknown, if I don’t get an answer it means I’m alone," she sings, while chains rattle, winds hum, and Aphex Twin like digitalisms ricochet ominously overhead. This track is a dark vibe, and a salve for those suspicious of easy answers or hostile to easy music. It's tense, polyrhythmic, smart, emotional, philosophical, and glorious. Why aren't you listening to it already.