Arcade Fire, “Reflecktor” 41-second promo
My biggest pet peeve as an official Professional Music Writer Person is the drumbeat of fake news involving album covers, track lists, commercials plugging the future existence of other commercials, etc. Releasing the name of Track 8 on your unreleased album isn’t news, it’s a press release, OK? And yet, here I am, plugging an ad for the release of the new Arcade Fire single coming Monday. I have no idea if this tone poem composed of synths, bongos, and self-conscious “mystery” is an introductory prelude to the song or merely incidental music for a promotional campaign. I sense that there’s a choir of severe-looking Canadians about to explode at roughly the 50-second mark, but that’s purely conjecture. Either way (damn it) they totally got me with this.
Ryan Adams, “When Pigs Fly” (Sandra Boynton collaboration)
It’s late summer/early autumn, so naturally I’ve been jamming hard on Ryan Adams bootlegs lately. (I’m team Darkbreaker, though Sad Dracula is superior driving music.) I’ve also been reading a ton of Sandra Boynton books, because I’m a stay-at-home dad, and every day is a Sandra Boynton day at my house. (I’m team Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs!, though Pajama Time is superior bedtime reading material.) Fortunately, some genius (in the interest of efficiency I’m sure) decided to combine these interests into a single package: Frog Trouble is a new country record featuring lyrics by Boynton and music by Brad Paisley, Dwight Yoakam, Kacey Musgraves, Ben Folds, Fountains of Wayne, Mark Lanegan (!), and Adams, whose "When Pigs Fly" is pure Heartbreaker-style loveliness.
Promised Land Sound, “Fading Fast”
Now that summer is over, and the conversation about “summer jams” can mercifully be put to bed, the search begins for the song of the autumn. I nominate “Fading Fast” by Nashville classicist rock outfit Promised Land Sound. “All the leaves on the ground / there’s no warmth to be found,” singer Sean Thompson says, with a little too much truth.
John Wizards, “Lusaka by Night”
Ladysmith Black Mambazo for the Clams Casino generation, John Wizards is an invigorating electro-Afro-pop band spearheaded by 25-year-old Cape Town commercial jingle writer John Withers and 39-year-old Rwandan refugee Emmanuel Nzaramba. John Wizards’ self-titled debut is composed of short, catchy, and evocative snatches of music framing Nzaramba’s enigmatic vocals. It sounds fun and inscrutable, like the distant din of a fitfully remembered party that (for now) only exists in the imagination.
Avenged Sevenfold, “Doing Time”
Since we’re long past the point of Axl Rose ever sounding this sleazy again, I’ll take my “It’s So Easy” rips where I can get them.
Power Trip, “Heretic’s Fork”
Now that we’re slightly past the midpoint of this list, it’s time for your heavy metal smoke break.
Holy Ghost!, “Okay”
In the battle of ’10s-era indie New York City–based synth duos, I prefer Tanlines to Holy Ghost!, though that might change with the upcoming Dynamics (out Sept. 10). As is the case with all releases that come out of the dance music label and production house DFA, every sound on “Okay” is impeccable. It’s practically keyboard porn.
J. Roddy Walston and the Business, “Heavy Bells”
The 2010 self-titled debut by these barnstorming Cleveland rockers was like a thinking man’s Andrew W.K. record — all pounding pianos and screaming glam choruses and a heavy party-till-you-puke vibe. The new Essential Tremors (out Sept. 10) takes J. Roddy in a somewhat more commercial direction, with the single “Heavy Bells” attempting a Kings of Leon–like swing. But what made the first record so appealing — the feral energy and indestructible hooks — is on full display on Tremors, and the extra coat of polish will hopefully help these hard-working road warriors reach a bigger audience.
North Mississippi Allstars, “Meet Me in the City”
Combining blues-rock influences with hip-hop production and jam-band chops, North Mississippi Allstars have never really fit in with any particular scene. The new World Boogie Is Coming is the straightest blues album they’ve made in years — there are covers of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and “My Babe,” and Luther Dickinson doesn’t skimp on the Elmore James slide-guitar riffs. Thankfully, the Allstars don’t trip themselves up by being overly reverent to their predecessors. World Boogie Is Coming is loose and laid-back like prime J.J. Cale, as evidenced by the casually soulful “Meet Me in the City.”
Bob Dylan, “Pretty Saro”
“Pretty Saro” is an early 18th-century English ballad that was revived by Greenwich Village folkies in the ’60s, recorded by Bob Dylan in 1970, thrown away for 43 years, and now revived as part of the recent Another Self Portrait two-disc set. (Which is excellent by the way, and at least 12 times better than the original Self Portrait.) I’d say it sounds no worse for all that wear.