All Songs Considered: From Perfect Pop Anthems To Saxophone Punk
On our show this week, bigger is better. We start with a pop anthem and feature a set of artists all leaning into or newly discovering their boldest, most attention-grabbing music yet. Some, as in the case of a frontman gone solo and a bilingual saxophone-heavy punk band, deliver precisely the momentous sounds we'd expect. Others used the pull of memory, a desperate four-month stretch of insomnia, or a single shared microphone and two minutes of trippy ambience to level up their sonic ambitions. Maybe we were drawn to more epic sounds this week because it's Robin's last before he hunkers back down into the nest of infant-rearing, or maybe it's because summer is in the air — whatever the reason, turn your speakers to 11 and open the windows.
Songs Featured On This Episode
- Song: Great Big Storm
- from Grand Romantic
In the three years since its blockbuster sophomore album Some Nights, indie pop band fun. has kept a lower profile, recently announcing an official hiatus while its members pursue solo projects. Last year, we got the debut album of guitarist Jack Antonoff's irresistible indie pop band Bleachers, and this year we'll get the debut from front man Nate Ruess, which just might include our song of the summer. The title of both the album — Grand Romantic — and his latest track — "Great Big Storm" — imply grandiosity, which is exactly what we'd hope for and expect from a singer Robin swears is channeling Freddie Mercury. Plot-driven lyrics, cinematic instrumentation, an anthemic chorus and a spoken breakdown are all the evidence we need that Ruess has access to some kind of secret fountain of pop perfection. Grand Romantic comes out June 16.
- Song: Semantics
- from Lovers Know
If your introduction to Laura Berhenn, lead singer of indie rock outfit Mynabirds, was her sparse, atmospheric riverside performance for our SX Lullaby series, set aside every expectation you've got. Berhenn's magnetic, enveloping vocals are still the centerpiece of her latest song, "Semantics," but she's incorporated a dense, lush synth into the Mynabirds' web this time around and the result is more propulsive and pop-oriented than anything we've heard from her before. Lovers Know, recorded in Los Angeles, Joshua Tree, Nashville and Auckland, New Zealand, will be released in early August.
- Song: Sirens
- from In the Wilderness
Cat Martino and Sven Britt, who perform together as Stranger Cat, bring us a bright, grand pop song born in the dark. Martino, who sang harmony during Sharon Van Etten's 2010 Tiny Desk Concert, wrote "Sirens" during a four-month period of relentless insomnia as a reminder to herself to be free. The wailing of ambulance sirens outside her window pulled the sleep-deprived Martino into a world of eery surreality, lending a frenetic edge to the dance beat beneath her soaring vocals. The border between freedom and losing control is, in Stranger Cat's treatment, porous, but the results of Martino's delirium are impeccable. In The Wilderness came out in April.
Death and Vanilla
- Song: California Owls
- from To Where the Wild Things Are
Our dreamiest pick this week comes from the Swedish pop group Death and Vanilla, whose song, "California Owls," pairs reverb-soaked vocals with a harpsichord-like synth that sounds like sunlight filtered through water. But over its final two minutes, the retro pop song is overtaken by ambient experimentation. Death and Vanilla's latest album, To Where The Wild Things Are, is out now.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
- Song: Song Will
- from High Country
Robin injects the show with a shot of pure adrenaline, courtesy of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. After more than 15 years together, the Missouri rock group is looking back to its origins. Their brief, high-octane single, "Song Will," is a tribute to the group's humble beginnings in the late '90s in founding member Will Knauer's attic. A new album, The High Country, is out June 2.
- Song: Monstro
- from Full Communism
The Providence-based, bilingual band Downtown Boys specializes in frenetic saxophone punk. Its breathtaking breakout single "Monstro" opens with a blistering political tirade performed by front woman Victoria Ruiz. Ruiz shouts and sings with an unfiltered energy we also see in Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves. As we see it, punk always needs more saxophones, and we always need more raw, restless voices like Ruiz's to capture the young and bursting energy of any era. Downtown Boys' debut album, Full Communism, is out now.