The stars have somehow aligned to make this summer the summer of incredible brand-spankin’-new music. Over the course of the next few months, an impressive roster of great artists will be releasing much-anticipated albums. And that means that right now we’re in prime season to sample the singles that these artists are releasing in anticipation of their full records.
I’m happy to unveil #MonthlyMusic with the first of what will hopefully be many monthly mini-playlists (replacing the old #MusicMonday feature on this site), and I see no better way to kick it off than by highlighting a few of these new tunes from the forthcoming albums I’m particularly excited about.
1. The War on Drugs, “Holding On”
Indie-rockers The War on Drugs aren’t set to release their new album A Deeper Understanding until the end of next month. But in the meantime, they’ve blessed us with a couple singles off the new record that are positively tantalizing. There’s something dreamy and ethereal about their sound, and I think the upbeat “Holding On” represents it perfectly. Combine that with this unassumingly poignant video that so effectively meshes with the tune and the lyrics, and you’re left with six wonderful minutes of multi-sensory delight. If this song is any indication, the new album should be a real treat.
2. Iron & Wine, “Call It Dreaming”
I’ve often thought of Iron & Wine as the musical equivalent of an open, grassy meadow bathed in the fading light of the setting summer sun. So I find it rather fitting that the opening shot of the music video for the new single “Call It Dreaming” from the forthcoming Beast Epic is almost identical to this imaginary scene I’ve long had in my head. While I can find much to like about the whole breadth of Sam Beam’s discography, I’m particularly excited that this song seems to hearken back to his earlier work. I love the simple beauty of it. And the way that Beam’s lyrics wrestle with the transience of life and the permanence of love? I’m a huge fan. So take a few moments to hop in the back of a driver-less pick-up truck and enjoy this calm ride with a little vintage Iron & Wine to accompany you.
3. Noah Gundersen, “The Sound”
Anyone who asks me about my favorite music will more than likely have to endure a long, rambling dissertation about my love for Noah Gundersen. I make no secret of it. As comically absurd as it may sound, I feel like we’ve grown up together. I first started listening when he was early in his career and virtually unknown, and I continued to listen as he expanded his musical horizons and grew his fan base. Now that he’s released the first taste of his new album due out in September, it’s looking like he’s taken yet another step forward in his artistic evolution. And I find myself taking it with him. The same existential lyrics are still there, but the sound is new and exciting. In “The Sound, ” the terse and economical verses gently drive you along with their pulsating bass line, while the chorus comes out of nowhere to wash over you like a cascading waterfall. It’s a far cry from the sparse, acoustic sound I first fell in love with. But I’m more than okay with that.
4. The Killers, “The Man”
A few weeks ago I came across an article from NPR Music about the enduring popularity of “Mr. Brightside,” the iconic song from The Killers that still manages to be relevant some 13 years after its release. It’s a rare feat for a song to have such a long shelf-life, and it speaks to something deeper going on than a catchy melody. The Killers have a way of connecting with us at a surprisingly personal level, and I think they’ve done so again with their latest track, “The Man.” On the surface, it’s ripe and ready for plenty of toe-tapping airtime on pop radio. But upon closer inspection, it’s way more than a flash-in-the-pan radio hit. It’s a powerfully complex exploration of the sort of youthful hubris and masculine cockiness that only serves to precariously hide a deeply broken and flawed interior. The slow unraveling of the characters in the music video underscores the emptiness of the song’s brash overconfidence. What naive, strong-willed, independent young man can’t relate to that? Don’t be surprised if “The Man” is still be ringing true 13 years from now.
5. The National, “Guilty Party”
Every album from The National should come with a complimentary box of tissues. Even their happy songs pack a melancholy punch that you leave your eyes a bit misty. And their sad songs? Forget it. Your tear ducts are going to get a workout whether they want to or not. Knowing this, I suppose I should have been prepared when I first listened to “Guilty Party,” one of the new singles off the upcoming Sleep Well Beast. But still, the bleakness and despondency oozing from this song caught me off-guard. It simply doesn’t get much more depressing than this: “It’s nobody’s fault / No guilty party / I just got nothing / Nothing left to say.” And yet is there a more powerful way to convey the heart-numbing, slow demise of a relationship? All I know is that “Guilty Party” leaves me awash in gratitude that I haven’t had to relate to such hopelessness (and steadfastly resolute to make sure that I’ll never have to).