What I’m Listening To: Week 11 (Bon Iver Edition)

He’s back. Justin Vernon has officially made his return as Bon Iver at the 2nd annual Eaux Claires Festival in Wisconsin this weekend. And as promised, he has released new music to coincide with his band’s reappearance after a long five year hiatus. Listed below are two of his newest singles (with thoroughly insane titles to boot) that provide us with a good taste of what is to come. Bon Iver’s newest album, entitled 22, A Million, is now slated to drop on Friday, September 30th.

1. 22 (OVER S∞∞N) [Bob Moose Extended Cab Version]

Where do we begin? After two excellent stints with both Volcano Choir and The Shouting Matches, Justin Vernon finally finds himself back home. Bon Iver has officially re-risen. Here, “22” is the first of two singles ripped straight off of his newly announced album, 22, A Million. Here, the static ambience, vocal repetition and celestial chorus create a lush, new sound for fans of the band, both old and new. And that saxophone is just touchy enough to bring us back to the glory days of the self-titled album. But most importantly, Justin Vernon’s voice in “22” is crisp and clear amongst the fading and blipped noises that echo in and out throughout the song. It remains consistent until “22’s” end, allowing for a stream of string instruments to slowly let the new single fade into its quiet outro. While there’s just enough in “22” to settle for familiarity within our ears, there’s also just enough newness to get us excited for the upcoming 22, A Million as well.

Watch the lyrical music video for “22 (OVER S∞∞N) [Bob Moose Extended Cab Version]” by Bon Iver below: 

2. 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠ (Extended Version)

There is an unexpected aggression found in “10”. A dark, stormy, chaotic turmoil that courses through the distorted drum beats that start off this single. Make no mistake, “10” is a direct descendent resulting from Justin Vernon’s time working on Kanye West’s Yeezus. The same tribal, trap noises found on Kanye West’s album is found here as well, accompanied by a swell of voices all codified by an orchestral sounding auto-tune. “10” is unlike anything that Bon Iver has put out in his past. This is a signaling of new direction. And it’s an exciting indicator of the high experimentation and risk-taking that Bon Iver may have undertaken while making 22, A Million. Might it be a stretch to say that this is his first banger?  Maybe so. Nevertheless, it’s another promising sign of things to come in the band’s near future.

Watch the lyrical music video for “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠ (Extended Version)” by Bon Iver below: 

What I’m Listening To: Week 10

1. Brand New Moves – Hey Violet

Bumps and booms, grinding about. Hey Violet’s newest single “Brand New Moves” alluringly grooves about in its heavy bass-thumps and dazzling electronic riffs. Rena Lovelis’ vocals coasts then soars with mesmerizing precision, baiting listeners in with one hell of an addictive pop rock single. And it came as no surprise to me when I found out that Rena also handles bassist duties. That’s because the song has an uncanny ability to meld her voice with that bouncing rhythm. That combination lets both audibles work in tandem with each other rather than apart. And it’s that interaction that kept me coming back for a second, third and fourth listen (in a row). “Brand New Moves” is a song meant to function as a soundtrack to your active life. Hey Violet wants you to live up to their single’s namesake. You can walk to this song. You can run with this song. And you can dance along with this song.

Watch the lyrical music video for “Brand New Moves” by Hey Violet below: 

2. Run Run Blood – Phantogram

There’s an electrifying tinge to Phantogram’s newest track “Run Run Blood”. It squeals with a high reverb in the opening riff and segues into a cult-like chant of “Hey wolf, there’s lions in here/There’s lions in here, there’s lions in here”. It’s a continuation of the dark and unsettling mood found in their first single, “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”. Here, the chaotic, urban atmosphere crafted in “Run Run Blood” settles heavily within the listener’s ears. In some cases, it doesn’t allow itself to be enjoyed. Rather put, it’s a tense experience, aiming to elicit some form of an emotional reaction to its disjointed and dystopian noise.

3. Dang! – Mac Miller (feat. Anderson Paak)

West Coast meet (almost) East Coast. The soulful crooning of L.A. native Anderson Paak mixes with the psychedelic spit of Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller in the latter’s first single , “Dang!”. It’s a potent song, catchy in its hooks as the rap flows through the open spaces left out on purpose by the song. It’s a continuation of form for Mac Miller after the 2015 release of his excellent album, GO:OD AM. And most of all, it’s nice to hear the song itself surrender itself a bit to the trappings of that West Coast vibe. Which is most likely encouraged by the presence of Paak’s vocal contributions. So, it’s in that resignation that we find a slick smoothness in the way “Dang!” plays. It’s effortless. It’s cool. It’s sexy. It’s fun.

4. Lying to You – Goldroom

Soft, effervescent pop has become a calling card for Goldroom. The sky-high choruses and hooks that are effectively backdropped against the muted, emoting verses. Once again, the formula proves faithful in the way “Lying to You” plays. It is most assuredly a summer song. One that makes no qualms about what it’s trying to be for fans of the artist. And yet, I keep coming back for more. And that is a testament to how addicting the music has become despite the similarities with Goldroom’s past works. But rest assured, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about here. “Lying to You” is fleeting listen but packs just enough punch into those quick listening sessions. It’s a song that belongs on a playlist or in the midst of an album. A crowd-pleaser that you welcome when you stumble upon it every once in a while.

5. Cop vs. Phone Girl – Third Eye Blind

“Cop vs. Phone Girl” by Third Eye Blind starts out as a stripped down song before becoming more richly sounding by the thirty second mark. Then it goes back again to its original state. Stripped off but then donning a full wardrobe of sound. It’s a foil that calls back to what I wrote in this week’s review of Goldroom’s single. That dichotomy works. It’s a catchy hybrid single that throws in elements of electronica, rock and anthem with a bit of timely political self-awareness (“Why’s it so hard to say Black Lives Matter?/It doesn’t mean that you’re anti-white”). The song is a bit on the nose in terms of its overall message but the tone is positive. At the end of it all, it confidently asserts an optimistic outlook by declaring, “All the kids are alright/All the kids are alright”.

6. drugs – EDEN

I got calm Band of Horses vibes (specifically “The Funeral”) when listening to “drugs” by EDEN. And then the EDM happened. It was jarring at first. Not something I expected with such a calm start to the song but as I listened to the lyrics, it all started to make sense. “drugs” is a bit of a chaotic song but there’s also a tumultuous, self-revealing message in the song that fits with the tone. The lyrics bemoan, “Cause I’m a fucking mess sometimes/But still, I could always be whatever you wanted” and from then on, it just gets more darker and more self-loathing. It’s an odd combination of the up-tempo EDM beat combined with such introspective contempt. Yet, the song somehow manages to pull off an alright listen when considering it as a whole.

7. Grown Up Calls – Toro y Moi

Chill and wavy. Toro y Moi have crafted a slightly island-influenced single called “Grown Up Calls”. It’s an easy song on the ears and the lyrical material is just as light that details a long-distance relationship. But by the song’s two thirds mark, the whimsical nature of “Grown Up Calls” shifts to a more beat-centric, rock heavy tune. The transition is well executed as the reverb kicks in to indicate the change in style and pace. No lyrics for the remainder of the song but just a nice set of rock influenced tunes to guide you to the end. It’s a clean and calm listen that becomes frenetic without putting off it’s listeners by the end.

8. Wolf – Skott

There’s a certain confidence in the vocal delivery in “Wolf” by Skott. It’s undeniable. The fingers snap. The harp cascades. The piano metronomes through its repetitious notes. The song is so simple and yet it’s simplicity asserts a presence in the listeners years. And that’s because “Wolf” is wholly reminiscent of those songs featuring powerhouse vocals of the world’s Amy Winehouses, Beyonces and Adeles. That is to say that Skott’s voice shines brightest here. It dips, eddies then glides back upwards with such ease that her entire performance becomes mesmerizing. A quiet yet powerful single, “Wolf”  is an optimistic sign of things to come for this Scandinavian artist.