Settle down after your finals and coast into summer with some warm female vocalists and cool waves of synth.
Sylvan Esso – “Just Dancing”
Sylvan Esso, an indie-folk duo made up of singer Amelia Meath and her producer Nick Sanborn, has been a staple on festival lineups since their first album was released in 2013. In their new album, titled “What Now,” the group proves their staying power with smartly constructed synth pop that delves into topics plaguing their audience.
Meath told NPR that this song is about the fleeting romances found on Tinder, characterized in lyrics including, “You never can seem to remember my name / But when we’re dancing I am in love again.” Sylvan Esso paints the dating scene as a tango with a revolving door of dance partners – which hits close to home for college students – and four-on-the-floor beats make the song too inviting to leave.
The band tackles what could be a cliché subject matter from a new perspective that is smartly doomed but lighthearted. Although the song’s limp chorus doesn’t immediately stick compared to the band’s earlier singles, the bridge surely makes up for it, as Meath repeats a foreboding yet enticing wish: “Come on baby / Let’s never stop starting.”
Sylvan Esso will play at the 9:30 Club May 27 and 28. Tickets are $25. “What Now” was released April 28.
Feist – “Baby Be Simple”
Leslie Feist gained fame for her song “1234” when it was featured in an iPod Nano commercial. After her quick rise, she could have easily continued in the indie-pop waters. But Feist opted to trade catchy melodies for more drawn out folk rock tunes that have become part of her signature style.
Her folk sound is most evident on her track, “Baby Be Simple,” a six-minute slow burner off her latest album “Pleasure.” Although other tracks on the record have Feist showing off her fiery personality – this song acts as a heartrending and ultimately hopeful ballad. Opening with a lone acoustic guitar, Feist’s voice creaks in, sounding like she was recorded through a tin-can. Feist stretches her phrases to the point of croaking on her words, which only becomes more heartbreaking as she stretches into her higher register.
Feist’s vocals overlay on one another to gain composure, and the song flourishes with woodwinds and strings. Add Feist’s whispered la-la’s into the mix, and the track swells with a subtle, uncomplicated romance. Feist continues to prove that she still has songwriting treasures to offer, and she implores the listener to stick around.
Feist will play at Lincoln Theater June 7. Tickets are $45. “Pleasure” was released April 28.
Gorillaz – “Submission feat. Danny Brown & Kelela”
Gorillaz, the popular cartoon band created by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, hadn’t released an album since “The Fall” in 2011. So “Humanz,” their latest album released last month, was highly-anticipated. This new collection features a diverse pool of guest vocalists, including Grace Jones, D.R.A.M. and Pusha T. Despite this eclectic roster, the record’s sound features a similar compilation of electronic tunes.
The pleasantly slinking track “Submission” is structured on monotonous synth grooves, but is saved by glowing features from alternative R&B singer Kelela and a guest verse from rap star Danny Brown. Kelela’s vocal nuances carry the tune, and her breathy falsettos fog up against the icy beats.
Danny Brown arrives with a characteristically energetic verse just when you were hoping the track would dramatically shift in sound. Opposite of the unpredictable nature of his own releases, Brown is boxed in by linear beats on this track. He still manages to provide some humanizing bars like, “’Cause I lost my patience yesterday / If you could see inside of me / There’d be no heart on my X-ray.”
Gorillaz will play at Merriweather Post Pavilion July 17. Tickets are $62 – $199. Humanz was released April 28.