Fleet Foxes, Feist and Frank Ocean: Track Roundup


Originally published by Varsity on 27th March 2017

Alt-J – ‘3WW’

British indie band Alt-J return with their unusual brand of artful pop music on the pensive track ‘3WW’. The song opens with a deceptively simple looping guitar riff, but as the track unfurls, that riff is subsumed into the shifting sands of instrumentation that build and build throughout the song – slide guitars, synthesisers, strings, piano, you name it. It’s the kind of song that demands multiple listens to unpack all its sonic details, but only if you don’t mind the repetitiveness – very little happens until about two minutes in.

Feist – ‘Pleasure’

This new track from Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist is a brooding, intense slow-burner. For long stretches of the song, Feist’s quietly passionate singing is accompanied only by a subtle, muted bassline, but as it goes on the song gets tenser and tenser, layering woodwind, strings and drums atop her increasingly erratic voice. The visceral, storming crescendo in the final minute of the song alone makes this worth a listen.

Fleet Foxes – ‘Third of May / Ōdaigahara’

After six years of silence, sylvan Seattle folk rockers Fleet Foxes have finally crawled out of the woodwork to offer us no less than a nine-minute odyssey. At first, I was a little disappointed by this track. Despite its sprawling, grandiose scale, it seemed somewhat hollow, rushed, and overly immediate. I’m glad I listened till the end, though, because the song’s ‘Ōdaigahara’ section justifies the length. It’s a mystical, experimental instrumental passage that’s chaotic yet harmonious, percussive yet gentle and serene. If the forthcoming album continues this streak, it’ll definitely be worth a listen.

Frank Ocean – ‘Chanel’

Hot off the heels of his hugely acclaimed 2016 album Blonde, R&B crooner Frank Ocean has dropped this woozy, nocturnal new number. It’s a rich, nuanced song full of melancholic longing, and its low-key instrumental means that Ocean’s powerful, arresting voice is placed front and centre. It’s worth revisiting that instrumental, though; it may be understated, but there’s a lot of detail there that reveals itself on repeat listens – a distant string arrangement here, an evocative piano riff there – which makes the song just that little bit more emotive.

Girlpool – ‘123’

‘123’, the new single by LA lo-fi band Girlpool, starts deceptively quietly, with Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s whispered vocals barely audible atop a layer of dreamy guitars. It’s a sound that’ll be familiar to longtime fans – Girlpool have built a reputation on the back of not having a drummer. It’s surprising, then, when the song erupts with a sucker punch of bombastic drums and impassioned vocals. This new direction pays off – the song feels viscerally emotional and is deeply compelling.

Lorde – ‘Green Light’, ‘Liability’

New Zealand synthpop superstar Lorde is back with two new songs responding to the songwriter’s “first major heartbreak”. Breakups are complicated, messy things, and that complexity is reflected in the contrasting characters of these two songs – ‘Green Light’ is a defiantly triumphant banger, while ‘Liability’ is a fragile piano ballad. Despite this subject matter being new territory for Lorde, both tracks are refreshingly free of clichés and are completely captivating in their own different ways, ‘Green Light’ for its catchy, percussive melodies and unusual song structure, and ‘Liability’ for its sheer emotional starkness.

Nicki Minaj – ‘Regret in Your Tears’, ‘Changed It’, ‘No Frauds’

Last month, Nicki Minaj’s fellow NYC rapper Remy Ma released ‘Shether’, a vicious, seven-minute-long diss track against Minaj. Now, with three new tracks and a new record, Minaj is proving that she’s unfazed, casually responding to ‘Shether’ on the trap-flavoured banger ‘No Frauds’. ‘Changed It’, meanwhile, sees Minaj continuing her typically personality-driven rapping style over a similar instrumental, and dancehall-infused ‘Regret in Your Tears’ is a confessional breakup song. These tracks aren’t going to go down as Minaj’s best, but they’re certainly a worthy retort to anyone who thought she was past her prime.

Weezer – ‘Feels Like Summer’

Those of you who thought California alt-rock outfit Weezer were finally turning a corner with their last album are going to be disappointed. Their new song ‘Feels Like Summer’ is a half-hearted, graceless imitation of a carefree, teenage pop song that sounds exactly like what you’d expect a bunch of 40-something dads trying to write a carefree, teenage pop song to come up with. It’s kind of catchy, I guess, but only in the way that an annoying advertising jingle that you can’t get out of your head is. Don’t waste your time on this one.

Young M.A – ‘Hot Sauce’

Brooklyn rapper Young M.A echoes the liquor-fuelled brag rap of her hit single ‘OOOUUU’ in this smoky strip club anthem. It lacks some of the snarky, standoffish energy of that previous hit, and it certainly doesn’t showcase her skills as an MC as well as other recent tracks like ‘Eat’, but it’s still a fun party song. Plus, with both an EP and an album announced alongside its release, it’s a nice teaser of things to come.

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