Beach House - “Sparks”
Baltimore duo, Beach House, is at the forefront of modern dream pop, a genre built on whispered vocals and shimmering walls of sound. A criticism frequently leveled at the genre is that in striving for its particular kind of gossamer beauty, dream pop often sounds too fey, too sentimental. Where is the gusto? Where is the oomph?
And, true enough, Beach House often sedates rather than exhilarates. Thankfully, new song “Sparks” has a lot of bite to it. Victoria Legrand’s multi-tracked vocals begin the song in beautiful, lethargic fashion, before Alex Scally’s squalling guitar shocks feeling back into our limbs. This juxtaposition of the sleepy vocals and the life-affirming guitar makes for a lovely textural tension. “Sparks” has melodic sugar in spades, but the dissonant feedback brings an ambivalence to the song that is perfectly matched with Beach House’s themes of heartache and introspection. This dichotomous approach is hardly new, and can be traced back to dream pop heavyweights like My Bloody Valentine. However, there is something in the crystalline production and oblong structure of “Sparks” that makes it feel fresh.
“Sparks” has me excited again, about not just Beach House but dream pop as a whole.
Chelsea Wolfe - “Carrion Flowers”
Oh, sweet mother of the void. If you weren’t already excited about gothic singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe’s upcoming album, Abyss, then “Carrion Flowers” will seal the deal. Riding in on pulsations of black bass, “Carrion Flowers” is a percussive, industrial-tinged death march. The production is astounding, taking tasteful inspiration from the vaults of Nine Inch Nails and recent Gary Numan. “Carrion Flowers” unfurls slowly and villainously, each verse more dramatic than the last. As usual, Chelsea’s voice is a haunted croon. The spectral calls of the chorus recall the very best moments from her last album, Pain Is Beauty, like the climaxes of “Feral Love” and “The Warden”.
If darkness is your jam, you may already have your album of the year confirmed. August can’t come soon enough.
Alaska Thunderfuck - “This Is My Hair”
You may already know drag performer, Alaska Thunderfuck, as one of the runners-up in the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. An alien from the planet Glamtron who crash-landed on earth, Alaska is known for her charisma and theatricality. Not surprisingly, her larger-than-life persona translates perfectly to pop music. Though pretty gosh darn repetitive, “This Is My Hair” is nevertheless a catchy and engrossing dance number. The nose-dives of distorted bass make one instantly think of electro-house outfits like Justice and SebastiAn. “This Is My Hair” is definitely worth a listen, though you need to watch the music video for the full experience.