LEYA, “Sister” (NNA Tapes)
I didn't know LEYA from Eve when their new song hit my inbox recently, but something compelled me not to ignore the e-mail and play "Sister," and my risky click was rewarded manifold. This is the most fragile, hauntingly beautiful piece of music to caress my ears in years. Pensive harp plucks by Marilu Donovan, aching, dark burgundy strings by violinist/vocalist Adam Markiewicz, and arch, morose vocals describe a lament of profound pathos. My eyes are watering on a Friday morning, y'all. Touchstones include early His Name Is Alive, Hugo Largo, Joanna Newsom, but without the patience-testing tweeness, Nico circa The Marble Index, and Dead Can Dance at their most bare-bones. You can find "Sister" on The Fool LP (out May 11).
[Video for "Sister" below NSFW]
Janelle Monáe, “PYNK” (Bad Boy)
A minimalist, delicate electronic ode—with a tempered guitar freakout in the middle—to the splendors of vaginas, "PYNK" and its attendant video also could serve as an unsubtle recruitment video for lesbianism, if you want to view it through the lens of a cultural conservative. And I'm all for Monáe and director Emma Westenberg's vision, because it will carry the bonus of making those assholes' blood pressure rise. Let "PYNK" zoom to No. 1, if it makes them panic and whine, "Think of the children!" Monáe channels Prince and Minnie Riperton (via Joni Mitchell) on this soft stab at the charts. And yes, it's pretty much in the vein of the last Janelle song reviewed in this column, "Make Me Feel," but I'm not complaining. "PYNK" appears on Dirty Computer (out April 27).
Chris Carter, "Moon Two" (Mute)
Another gem from the new album by former Throbbing Gristle keyboardist and current member of Carter Tutti Void. On "Moon Two," Carter is in deep space-out mode, conjuring a vast, chilling starscape that is pure escapism, but sans any of the corniness that afflicts some of today's modular-synth wielders. Find it on Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume One, his first solo release since 1999.
Melody's Echo Chamber, "Breathe In, Breathe Out" (Domino/Fat Possum)
Melody's Echo Chamber (aka Melody Prochet) is one of a handful of heirs apparent for the crown abdicated when Broadcast's Trish Keenan passed away in 2011. Prochet's voice is a bit higher and airier than Keenan's, but she captures the late singer's ability to move you deeply with a delivery that's all sotto-voce poise. She's wonderfully aided on "Breathe In, Breathe Out" by Dungen's Reine Fiske and the Amazing's Fredrik Swahn; they create a mutedly brilliant sunshine-pop foundation (think somewhere between the Free Design and Jane Birkin) over which Prochet can soar. Mood-elevation achieved. This tune appears on Bon Voyage (out June 15).
Denmark Vessey, "Sellout" (Mello Music Group)
Denmark Vessey's a Detroit rapper now based in New York City, and he brings some surly (sur)realness on this Earl Sweatshirt-produced track. The music sounds like a 21st-century warping of a late-'60s psych-rock reverie, which is then shot through with slanted, sluggish funk beats and a bass line that seems to be holding a grudge against the woofers. Amid this highly atypical backing, Vessey spits, “If rap don’t work, I’m whipping this fishscale out/Probably not though/I watched The Wire and it looked fire, but I checked online but the streets not hiring, bro.” Get you some more of this on Denmark's album Sun Go Nova (out April 20).
Noteworthy April 13 album releases: Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic/KSR); Mouse on Mars, Dimensional People (Thrill Jockey); Juliana Hatfield, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (American Laundromat); Tinashe, Joyride (RCA); The Damned, Evil Spirits (Spinefarm); Say Sue Me, When We Were Together (Damnably); King Tuff, The Other (Sub Pop); King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Gumboot Soup (ATO); John Prine, The Tree of Forgiveness (Oh Boy); Derek Smalls (aka Harry Shearer), Small Changes (Meditations Upon Ageing) (BMG); A Place to Bury Strangers, Pinned (Dead Oceans); Nels Cline, Currents, Constellations (Blue Note); Laura Viers, The Lookout (Raven Marching Band); Sleepyhead, Future Exhibit Goes Here (Drawing Room); Rival Consoles, Persona (Erased Tapes); Wrekmeister Harmonies, The Alone Rush (Thrill Jockey); µ-Ziq, Challenge Me Foolish (Planet Mu); Breaking Benjamin, Ember (Hollywood); Sandy Bull, Steel Tears/Endventions & Tributes (Omnivore); Wiley, Godfather II (CTA).