Marco Benevento’s new album Swift is a bliss-inducing swirl of electronic sounds, fuzzy organic instruments, and catchy melodies that floats somewhere in between Animal Collective and Dan Deacon–music that works equally well for dancing or for spacing out and watching the clouds go by. Last fall Benevento lay down on his skateboard to get a different perspective on the changing leaves in his upstate New York hometown, which ended up inspiring the video he made for the Swift song “Witches of Ulster.” Incorporating hundreds of drawings by director/animator Anne Beal the clip has the same gentle energy and unfussy, handmade feel as the music it accompanies.
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Milezo is the high school nickname of Austin musician Miles Kelley as well as the name of the band that he formed at the University of Texas before he dropped out to pursue music full-time. That plan seems to be working out, as psych rock fans have started to catch on to the blend of bubblegummy pop and far-out vibes that Kelley and company have refined over the span of seven albums and three EPs. Their latest single, “Kiss You All,” drips with lysergic weirdness but still lands its hooks, giving it the feel of a bad trip that’s somehow still kinda fun (not to mention a cross between Thee Oh Sees and the Banana Splits). For the accompanying video, the band dons face paint and takes to the stars for an intensely cosmic faux talk show appearance. Groovy.
In their separate ventures, Stars of the Lid’s Brian McBride and Furry Things’s Kenneth James Gibson are heavily influenced by uncommercial styles like dub, minimal techno, and drone. Together, under the name Bell Gardens, they make music that they claim is “more of an experiment than [their] current ‘experimental’ projects,” but the pair are blessed with pop sensibilities that they can’t seem to repress.
“She’s Stuck In the Endless Loop of Her Decline,” from their upcoming LP Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions (out Oct. 28), has enough delicate sonic textures to satisfy their more avant-garde-inclined fans wrapped around an unhurried, tuneful folk melody that you don’t need to know what “minimal techno” even means in order to enjoy.
Rio-based electronic producer Leo Justi is far from a household name, but his star is most assuredly on the rise. He’s a leading figure in a Rio-based style called “heavy baile” that builds off the foundation of Brazilian baile funk–aka funk carioca, aka favela funk, aka the stuff M.I.A. emulated on “Bucky Done Gun”–but manages to incorporate everything from drum ‘n’ bass to heavy metal. It could be the next regional style to blow up on the global EDM scene, with A-Trak a fan and M.I.A. flying Justi out to India to record.
The title of Justi’s latest track, “Devils Horns,” from his HVY BL NSS PRR EP for the Waxploitation label, may be a nod to heavy baile’s heavier influences, or it could refer to the menacing brass stabs scattered throughout the track, or maybe both. Either way, the song’s got intensity to spare–it sounds like just the type of thing to turn a dance party into a full-blown riot.
Producer/composer/pianist Taylor McFerrin is the rare member of the Flying Lotus-led Brainfeeder collective to operate out of New York City rather than L.A., but the influence of vintage soul, psychedelic jazz, and Golden Age rap beats on his music is right in line with the crew’s aesthetic mission statement. His debut album, Early Riser, which came out on Brainfeeder earlier this summer, features a fascinating cast of special guests including Brainfeeder bass master Thundercat, pianist Robert Glasper, Brazilian jazz veteran Cesar Camargo Mariano, and McFerrin’s dad Bobby. For the lead single “The Antidote” he teamed up with Hiatus Kaiyote vocalist Nai Palm and created a psych-soul cut wrapped in the warm and captivatingly complex textures that he specializes in. Its trippy black-and-white animated video was made by director Simon Benjamin, who also drew Early Riser‘s cover.
John Maclean got his start playing with the legendary (for the chaos they caused as much as the music they made) electropunk band Six Finger Satellite, but since the early aughts he’s been producing synth music under the name The Juan Maclean that incorporates abstract modern composition techniques alongside the heavy influence of early house and techno, resulting in recordings that are as good for producing a meditative mood as they are for dancing along to. Along the way he found a highly complementary partner in LCD Soundsytem vocalist Nancy Whang, who adds a human element to Maclean’s electronic compositions.
The pair just released In a Dream, their third LP together, on DFA Records that boasts a lead single, “A Simple Design,” that could be the catchiest thing they’ve ever made. The accompanying clip, directed by the Wilderness collective, gives the song an organic abstract paint job that’s as lush and satisfying as the song itself.
Twenty-one-year-old Hyde Park native Alex Wiley is an increasingly important player of a movement of Chicago hip-hop artists–with Chance the Rapper at the forefront–who are uniting the city’s history of smart, bohemian backpacker rap with cunning pop sensibilities that have helped earn them a far broader audience than their biting social commentary and emotionally raw personal narratives might suggest. “When I was younger I had a turning point in my life,” Wiley writes in an email. “It made me what I am right now, set that in motion. I guess now, I’m trying to make music that that kid who was going through a lot of shit would have wanted to hear, and would have helped him get through his day.”
Back in June, he released his Village Party mixtape that drew more attention from outside of his city than anything else he’s released. His first song since then is “Sexual Dolphin,” a far deeper and heavier song than the title would suggest, produced by Odd Couple and Carter Lang. “With this,” he writes, “I’m trying to pick up where I left off from Village Party and take people to the next place. I’m really excited to drop it. It’s my first song with two verses. It’s a new sound for me, but I think it still feels relatable, it still feels like me.”
“I’m trying to make rock music,” he writes. “I don’t want rock n’ roll to die. I think Kanye said it best: Rappers are the rock stars right now.”
Singer-songwriter Hal Ketchum spent years building the foundation of a solid Nashville career before releasing his breakthrough hit, the proudly twangy “Small Town Saturday Night,” in 1991. Only a few years later, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He’s spent the past decade and a half largely holed up in the small town of Wimberley, Texas, dealing with a progressive illness that has included bouts of paralysis, blindness, and depression.
Recently, Ketchum’s bounced back some—and with the encouragement of his friend, the songwriter Jimmy LaFave, he’s written a new album, I’m the Troubadour, that’ll be out Oct. 7 on LaFave’s Music Road Records. Its lead single, “Baby I’m Blue,” has an easygoing groove and lilting melody that should hit the pleasure centers of anyone who listened to country radio in the early ’80s.
Icewater began as three guys playing around with self-penned country songs in a Brooklyn apartment, but after four years, the acquisition of a drummer and a bassist, and the tragic passing of member Grant Martin, the band has reinvented itself as purveyors of chiming, clean-toned indie pop built on a rootsy foundation with a glassy psychedelic sheen. Imagine Wilco if they’d abandoned their proggier tendencies and taken up residency as the house band for a very classy but chill drinking establishment, and you should be in the right neighborhood.
The group’s been splitting its time between performing its own material and serving as the backing band for Eleanor Friedberger. They have a followup to this year’s Collector’s Edition LP in the can but no solid plans yet for releasing it. While they plan their next move, they’re releasing a two-track EP, out Oct. 7, which they’ll celebrate with a release party at Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right on Oct. 15. You can hear it here right now.
Scandinavia has had a strong presence on the pop charts this year, first with Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz’s out-of-nowhere smash “Am I Wrong,” followed by Tove Lo‘s “Habits (Stay High),” which spent the summer steadily climbing the Hot 100. Next up is Nabiha, a Danish artist who splits the difference between hip-hop, R&B, dance music, and straight-up pop. Considering how closely this combination of genres resembles the makeup of the American pop charts these days, it seems likely that she might be able to find more success here with her newly released EP Mind the Gap than her 2011 track “Never Played the Bass,” which made it to No. 37 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart despite the fact that it wasn’t officially promoted as a single.
Mind‘s second single could be the break she’s been looking for. “Animals” is a beast of a turn-up anthem, alternating between noisily minimal rap verses that sound like the hybrid offspring of Yeezus and Major Lazer’s “Pon Di Floor” and a sweeping, jumbo-sized melodic hook that probably has Rihanna biting her fist with envy. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself listening to it on repeat.
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