Written by Tori Elliott
Summer may be winding down, but this week proves that the best is yet to come. New singles from Muse, Lana Del Rey, and the xx offer an exciting taste of this fall's musical palette, while Minus the Bear and Yeasayer make for a perfect conclusion to the summer. No matter what your fancy, Stereo IQ is here to help you explore the best of these recent releases.
5."And when I look back at the crazy fights we had/Like some kind of madness was taking control, yeah" -- Muse, "Madness" Lyrics
Muse's forthcoming album, The 2nd Law, will not be released until October, but their new single "Madness" gives a taste of what's to come. The song, which frontman Bellamy wrote after a fight with girlfriend Kate Hudson, is a familiar story in any relationship. "Madness" describes a fight spiraled out of control and the ensuing silence and reflection that follows in the other person's absence. The track contrasts dubstep-like bass wobbles with Bellamy's own smooth vocals and the softer rock that Muse has made its signature, creating a feeling of both stillness and confusion.
4. "Your claws are shining bright in the dark/Lifting up my little red skirt" -- Lana Del Rey, "Big Bad Wolf" Lyrics
Leave it to Lana Del Rey, with her aristocratically bored vocal styling, to turn the already sexual undertones of the Little Red Riding Hood trope into a racy tale of chasing the wrong man. Even though she knows that the "big, bad, naughty" wolf she desires promises nothing more than momentary pleasure, she willingly seeks out his "shining" claws and late night romps -- even when they leave her in the "dirt." This previously unreleased track, which may find its way onto the October deluxe release of Del Rey's Born to Die, features a sound that is more raw and unpolished than one is used to hearing from Del Rey, which only adds to the song's overall sexiness.
3. "It's like the sunset in your eyes and never wanted to rise/And what have you done with the one I love?" -- The xx, "Sunset" Lyrics
The soft melancholy of "Sunset," with its heartbeat-like dance undertones, manages to perfectly capture the dull, throbbing ache of love lost, but well-remembered. Singer Romy Madley Croft describes seeing the man she loved after their relationship ended, searching for the light and warmth she used to know in someone who now feels like a "stranger." The song's vocals alternate between Madley Croft and singer/bassist Oliver Sim, as they both internally monologue about their past closeness and their struggle to be friends. Perhaps most heartbreakingly, the two vocalists are experiencing the same sadness but are unable to share it with each other.
2. "I don't believe in much/I know that it might hurt you/Like being home on time" -- Yeasayer, "Demon Road" Lyrics
Like Animal Collective, Yeasayer has made a reputation for pushing the limits of its own genre. The album incorporates a wide variety of sounds, shirking conventional flow and musicality in favor of songs that seem to evolve of their own accord. Despite the song's musical chaos, which is woven around the steady, thumping bassline, "Demon Road" has an addictive quality in its hooks. Otherworldly, yet somehow entrancingly familiar, the song is a reflection on personal dark sides. Even in acknowledging his own personal failings, the singer does nothing to change them. Instead, he waits for the inevitable fallout, when all hell "breaks loose," to see where he is "really into."
1. "Try to read your life from a memory/Perspective trickery" -- Minus the Bear, "Toska" Lyrics
There is no direct English translation for the Russian word "toska," which loosely means "sadness" or "melancholia." Author Vladimir Nobokov described "toska" as ranging from "great spiritual anguish" to "the dull ache of the soul" to "vague restlessness" sometimes connected to nostalgia or love-sickness. Singer Jake Snider captures both of these emotions, expressing the longing for love while acknowledging the painful "trickery" of memory and nostalgia. "Toska" drifts between the realities of love and the lies we tell, to ourselves and each other, that create such profound longing.