PJ Harvey – “Written on the Forehead” – Let England Shake
Chameleon songstress PJ Harvey sings “let it burn, let it burn” over this dreamy, sample-infused electronic track, another teaser from her eighth studio album, set for a mid-February release. Like the musical equivalent of a bug light, the listener is drawn in by an audio hypnosis created by Harvey’s distantly-echoing voice slicing through a repetitious, seething synth blare.
My Chemical Romance – “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
Bad news for those in the disgruntled teen populace who fed off the woe and angst of My Chemical Romance B.C. – Before Comic-book-superhero-inspiration kicked in. The single that has received so much hype just for being its pop-y self sparks and explodes with enough catchy hooks to soundtrack a superhero showdown, which was the intended effect as the album employs the band’s alter egos, The Killjoys. The guitar is bare and grating and the beat is pop savvy; in short, MCR has, as frontman Gerard Way himself admits, lightened up.
Jenny O – “Well Okay, Honey” – Home
From Jenny O’s new EP comes an unhurried, mid-tempo rhythm that provokes thoughts of afternoon drives and warm sunshine. A reflection of folky west coast cheeriness, the track opens with a bumbling bass line that lays a solid and upbeat foundation beneath Jenny O’s breathy, hoarse vocal style. She channels Norah Jones and Sheryl Crow with faint, rattling percussion and wiry, simplistic guitar plucking, finishing with a tambourine’s rattle and sporadic hand-clapping.
Iron & Wine – “Walking Far From Home” – Kiss Each Other Clean
Spare instrumentation spotlights Samuel Beam’s light-as-a-feather vocals, backed by harmonized “oh-ing” and “ah-ing.” Verse follows verse with little variation as is the Iron & Wine custom. “I saw sickness bloom in fruit trees/I saw blood and a bit of it was mine,” he sings. The five-minute song is a mere collection of observations made on a journey from home, but somehow he romanticizes public urination and car wrecks, as well as peppers in the usual angels, lovers and sinners.
Amos Lee – “El Camino” – Mission Bell
“All my ships have sailed away” Lee laments amidst the soft rustling of a drum brush and a pretty piano-and-acoustic melody. Hushed and heartfelt, the melody gently rocks with classic country influence as Lee subtly name-checks his new album’s title within the first minute and offers up comely little details of trekking along the border, lovers left behind and the cracked tiles of kitchen floors.