If you read music blogs pretty often, let’s say daily, there’s a chance you’ve made the same 2012 resolution I have: to get familiar with new music right away instead of consigning free download after choose-your-own-price album to certainly-not-illicit rips alike into the Downloads folder, only to unearth them sometime in 2013 after long having forgotten where it even came from. Or maybe you’re a little less obsessive, a little less caught up with the release schedule, and your 2012 resolution is to change that. Or maybe you just like great new tracks. Either way, there’s plenty to like about the tracks below, both from artists with albums out sometime this year. Listen, remember names, etc. as you will.
SLEIGH BELLS, “COMEBACK KID”
It’s easy to understand why loud and Popdust-endorsed duo Sleigh Bells are appealing; it’s all about the contrast between Alexis Krauss’s sweet voice and Derek Miller’s onslaught of sound, like spotting a flower sprout in industrially-scorched earth. Now imagine that taken to its farthest extremes–give the vocals the consistency of cotton candy, and provoke and amplify the backing track to distorted–and you’re almost there.
That’ll help you imagine “Comeback Kid,” anyway, with a track that sounds like a robot pummeling a punching bag and vocals like bell tones, but there’s something else. Part of Sleigh Bells’ appeal (at least for me) is hearing how Alexis Krauss’s past (as part of teenpop group and beneficiary of “they play instruments too!” hype Rubyblue) reveals itself in vocal inflections, toned-down melisma or other flourishes. The group’s described “Comeback Kid”‘s melodies as essentially R&B, and indeed, they sound a little like something Mya’d do back in the day. It can’t hurt its reception, either, that its chorus is mixed right in front, clear and compelling: “gotta try a little harder, you’re the comeback kid.” Comeback, indeed.
AZEALIA BANKS, “NEEDSUMLUV”
Azealia Banks is playing the game and doing it masterfully. Breakout single “212″ appeared and was hyped as quickly by the same places as anyone derisively called a blog band, and her follow-up singles and interviews were parceled out equally deliberately. She may or may not be signed yet; she’s hinted both ways. And she (rightly) called people out on wanting her to be a “grungy hipster” type, then today calls new track “NEEDSUMLUV” a “hella progressive” R&B track that not only samples underground fave Aaliyah‘s “One in a Million” but does so on her birthday, then makes it a variation of Robyn’s much-adored “Call Your Girlfriend.” If you get hype by pushing bloggers’ buttons, this is like the freaking Konami Code.
Of course, nobody ever calls you out on this if your music is good, and Banks’ is. “NEEDSUMLUV” (even the styling of its title is on-trend!) differs from “212″ and “Liquorice” in two ways: none of it’s rapped, and none of it’s brash. Oh, there’s still a gotcha line — “you ain’t in love with her, but she still is in your heart / but you’ll be in my apartment tearing me apart” — but the rest sits demurely above a burbling synth and percussion that’s been tipped off the beat.
NEEDSUMLUV (SXLND) by Azealia Banks
POPDUST SAYS (for both!):