Susan Behrends Valenzuela
Welcome back to Listen to This! We’re back with the first edition of the spring semester. Spanning several genres, we’ve got nine great songs this week, which all came out over winter break. Read on for more.
“Light Switch” by Charlie Puth
Candace Patrick, Staff Writer
After months of teasing it on TikTok, Charlie Puth’s newest release “Light Switch” is an infectious pop anthem. Already a chart-topping single, the song is an elevated version of his previous work, maintaining his signature falsetto vocals but refining his production and songwriting. His catchy chorus conveys sentiments of desire as he sings, “You turn me on like a light switch / When you’re movin’ your body around and around / Now, I don’t wanna fight this.”
Puth’s production expertise shines through with some clever word-painting — the simple click of a light switch sneaks its way into each chorus. The song’s pulsating beat with retro-sounding synths in the background form a motif carried into the accompanying music video, in which Puth dances in ’80s-inspired workout gear. In the video, he puts a humorous spin on the traditionally unfunny notion of unrequited love while belting out his boppy tune.
“Funny Girl” by Father John Misty
Ethan Beck, Contributing Writer
Joshua Tillman — more commonly known as Father John Misty — is no stranger to pairing indelicate lyricism with elegant music. In fact, that juxtaposition is how he made a name for himself on self-critiquing albums like “I Love You, Honeybear.” Things seem a bit different on “Funny Girl,” the lead single for his upcoming fifth record. On the new song, the target of his scorn and infatuation seems to be the song’s titular character. He sings about how she’s “young, but baby, you’re not getting younger” with a cutting boredom that treads the line between being clever and, well, mean. “Funny Girl” presents a pleasant type of resentment, though, as Tillman is backed by lavish orchestrations and a newfound jazziness. The arrangement here isn’t a huge step away from “I Love You, Honeybear” or “Pure Comedy,” but this is the first time Misty has ever sounded like he deserves a Vegas residency among other bitter, possibly washed-up acts.
“Tintoretto, It’s for You” by Destroyer
Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Arts Editor
At his best, Dan Bejar — Destroyer’s frontman — sounds like he’s crying alone on an opera stage. This is precisely the case in “Tintoretto, It’s for You,” a strange pop song dedicated to a Renaissance artist. With his typical haiku-esque lyricism and alternating vocalization that either elongates or chops down words, Destroyer creates a pop ballad that sounds as though it was penned by a literati despite how well it would work on a dance floor. As he sings “The sound of your phone ringing / And ringing / And ringing,” Bejar sets up the most marvelous electronic amalgamation of sound that’s come out this year, a drop reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem’s disco antics that also suggests the melancholy of New Order. From this moment on, the song teeters between loud, electronic and synthetic shrieks that will keep listeners dancing as Bejar injects poetry into their cavorting by crooning atop the wild track. “Tintoretto, It’s for You” reminds listeners of Destroyer’s clever songwriting while introducing a new, energetic side to his music that will hopefully make itself even more present in his upcoming album.
“Lights” by Band of Horses
Jack Peterson, Contributing Writer
Ahead of their upcoming album “Things Are Great,” Band of Horses’ latest single “Lights” is the true story of frontman Ben Bridwell’s interactions with police, ripped from a time in his life in which he was “getting over the worst shit ever.” “With the cops that ended up being around, there were more people turning the lights on us, one way or another,” Bridwell told Paste, explaining back-to-back confrontations with security guards responding to Bridwell’s apparent public intoxication, and cops responding to a break-in at Bridwell’s own home.
“Lights” pulls details from both these stories to paint the picture of a metaphorical paranoia in which lights are shining in the bands’ eyes from all directions, whether from the top of a stage or the bathroom mirror. It’s a sad song featuring both existential lyrics and a starkly upbeat chorus — perhaps my favorite indie rock trope — and one that is beautifully at home in the hands of Band of Horses.
“Strung with Everything” by Animal Collective
Holden Lay, Contributing Writer
Animal Collective’s new single “Strung with Everything” is the closest they’ve come to their classic “Merriweather Post Pavilion”/“Strawberry Jam” sound in years. In contrast to the fantastic previous two singles teasing their upcoming album “Time Skiffs” — which were perhaps the most tight and straightforward pop songs the band has ever put out — this track is an expansive seven-minute psychedelic opus. It’s got that elusive, joyful sound that their best tracks always seem to harness, coming through most in the playful shouty vocals, musing, “They’ll move east when the deserts drying / I moved in, you checked out.”
The use of live drums on these three singles has done wonders for their sound — and the interplay between these, the vocals and the jangling Brian Wilson-esque piano make the band sound as alive as ever. The rawness and experimental structure of “Strung with Everything” is a refreshing change from their recent material, but I’m left wondering where the rest of their album will fall on the spectrum between their pop-like material and their less accessible work. “Time Skiffs” is shaping up to be one of Animal Collective’s most exciting releases.
“paper tiger” by Foxtails
Jack Solomon, Contributing Writer
The closing track on Foxtails’ excellent new LP “fawn” finds the Connecticut-based experimental screamo quartet at their most intense and harrowing. “paper tiger” is a multi-part suite that never goes where you’d expect it to. Opening on a dissonant guitar and violin riff, the song gradually builds, switching on a dime between off-kilter grooves and more melodic emo-influenced sections. All the musicians play off each other effectively to pull off these complex shifts, with vocalist and bassist Megan Cadena-Fernandez impressively switching between sweet and vulnerable singing, anxious spoken-word and violent shrieking. It’s a gut-wrenching journey the whole way through, proving that Foxtails are one of the most exciting bands in screamo right now — any fans of punk or experimental rock should be listening.
“You Will Never Work In Television Again” by The Smile
Brian Savino, Contributing Writer
Blaring, grungy guitars and vocalist Thom Yorke’s hard-hitting snarl strike like long-lost relics following the experimental, electronic and somber paths that Radiohead members embarked on in the last few years. “You Will Never Work In Television Again,” The Smile’s first release, is a derogatory, fast-paced post-punk anthem. Tom Skinner’s loud, crisp drums startle the listener and lead into a consistent, catchy guitar riff by Jonny Greenwood that perfectly signifies his rock comeback.
Yorke sounds straight out of the 1990s, angstily wailing, “He chews ’em up / He spits ’em out / It’s whatshisname / The genie man,” perhaps referring to the false belief that what people see in the media is an attainable dream. The uncomfortable scenery that Yorke paints throughout the song, paired with his difficult-to-understand vocals, add to the song’s intensity. Hopefully, an upcoming album will capture the same energy that “You Will Never Work In Television Again” emanates.
“Simulation Swarm” by Big Thief
Holden Lay, Contributing Writer
On “Simulation Swarm,” the eighth single from their upcoming sprawling double album “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You,” Big Thief dives deeper into a new, folkier sound. As with their previous singles, Adrianne Lenker and co. are now working from a subtler, more lyrically focused angle. Especially on this latest track, Lenker’s lyrics, often darkly foreboding, have become more lighthearted as she leans into a sense of poetic eclecticism, singing “Once again, fall asleep with our backs against each other / You believe, I believe too / That you are the river of light who I love / That I sing to in the belly of the empty night.”
“Simulation Swarm” falls somewhere in the middle of this pack of singles in terms of energy — a familiar and delicate duo of fingerpicked guitar and drums drives the track while a fuzzed-out lead gradually breaks down this composure. It’s enjoyable hearing the band stretch themselves across so many different sounds with these singles — they reportedly worked with four different producers in various studios across the country for the upcoming record — and the result of so many different collaborators shows. With almost half of the album out, these songs are beginning to shape up nicely as a cohesive set, even in light of this surprising variety.
“Jackie Down the Line” by Fontaines D.C.
Jack Solomon, Contributing Writer
Fontaines D.C. has just announced their forthcoming third album, “Skinty Fia” — and with it, they may have dropped their best song yet. The Irish quintet’s poetry is as memorable and bleak as ever, delivered by Grian Chatten with classic indie-rock nonchalance. Chatten said the song could be summed up in one word as “doom,” with pessimistic lyrics from the perspective of someone “who doesn’t want to be good or doesn’t feel the need to pretend to be good.” With a more defined and hooky melody than much of their previous work, and a dark and driving bass and drum groove, “Jackie Down The Line” is a surprisingly infectious track, complete with some bright acoustic guitar to cut through the gloom. Fontaines D.C. continues to stand out in a wave of new post-punk acts, and “Skinty Fia” will hopefully be an excellent addition to their catalog.
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