It’s the height of summer right now, so why not listen to some gloomy-but-exciting synthpop? Something about that makes sense. Or, rather, it makes sense when the tracks involved are this good. Let’s take a look.
I’m not completely on board with the Garbage revival; there are so many groups both past (the band’s basically Curve, but poppier) and present (Curve vocalist Toni Halliday’s group Chatelaine; British newcomers 2:54; hell, even Zola Jesus sometimes) that are more than comparable. None of this cheapens Garbage at all, of course; they’re just the sort of acts who tend to get sidelined in favor of Shirley Manson’s fashion sense or polished aesthetics.
That said, there is no possible way a teamup between Manson and vocalist/pop up-and-comer Sky Ferreira would be anything short of awesome. “Red Lips” certainly isn’t, a synth rocker that sounds simple enough in its soft-then-loud, cool-then-surly-then-forceful structure–it could almost be a cover of a Breeders track–but surprisingly complex in the production. Check out the piano flourishes and videogame zaps tucked into the mix, for instance. There’s more Shirley Manson in this than Sky Ferreira, to be sure, but we’re having a hard time objecting.
CHARLI XCX, “YOU’RE THE ONE”
Charli XCX has a mixtape out on SoundCloud, full of remixes and adaptations and ephemera as SoundCloud mixtapes generally are. This mixtape is not the Charli XCX story you should know about today. That would be her EP, You’re the One, out today. But really, “EP” is a misnomer; it’s just “Nuclear Seasons,” which you’ve heard before, two remixes, then this, which is one of the greatest tracks of the year. Yes, in June. Do not question my love.
“You’re the One” could practically be a sequel or prequel to Charli’s previous single and cold dead standout “Stay Away.” It’s got a big, echoing chorus, throaty vocals and a spoken-word break, and it sounds like something from an ’80s teen movie, if a particularly dark example. But it has its own charms, and they’re immediate: namely, that growling synth line, heaving like breaths, relentless and evil. It’s so fearsome that in its wake, Charli’s vocals might as well be gasps and yelps; the lyrics are pure angst, running through thunder and darkness and that sort of thing–but nothing else would make sense. It eventually coughs up the chorus, and that’s pure prom-floor-at-midnight sweep: swirling strings, near-ebullient chord changes, simple-but-deft lyrics (“you’re the one who can make me stay, you’re the only one who makes me feel this way / you’re the one who’s been stealing stars, a golden arrow through my heart”–chorus of the year?) and that trickling-waterfall effect you hear from time to time.
But–this is key–the major key doesn’t seem sudden at all; rather, it’s that core of hopped-up, crushed-out feeeeeeeelings that make you so vulnerable in the first place, and when the chorus becomes the whole song, it’s like surrendering to them. This is a song for everyone who’s 15, who’s 25 but feeling suspiciously 15 years old, or who’s ever been 15; it is practically unimprovable.