This week in Notes From Left of the Dial, we take a look at a handful of tracks that have been circulating around the Internet, gaining a good measure of deserved attention. From the ’70s folk storytelling of Linda Perhacs to the psych-influenced rhythms of Italian rockers The Vickers, as well as the subtly damaged electronic beats of Doom Squad, this week has given rise to a slew of genre-hoppers and unexpected releases.
The War on Drugs, “Red Eyes”
It’s been a few years now since Philly rockers The War on Drugs have released an album, but they are looking to remedy that with “Lost in the Dream,” their latest LP since 2011’s “Slave Ambient.” Mixing the blue-collar swagger of Bruce Springsteen with the theatrical bombast of Arcade Fire, The War on Drugs creates rustic, Americana-indebted songs that pull inspirations from the past five decades of musical history. On their latest single, “Red Eyes,” the band lays out a wide net of influences (Tom Petty, Bob Dylan) while detailing a vast array of musical landscapes. Their songs have always felt large, but here they find the perfect mix of intimacy and expanse.
Doldrums, “Dive Deep Pt. 1”
Canadian electro-pop artist Doldrums is back with another helping of murky, fractured electronics. While feeling more concise and headstrong than many of the songs on his overlooked 2013 record, “Lesser Evil,” recent single “Dive Deep Pt. 1” still feels very much a part of that musical world. There’s less circuit board collateral damage, and the abstract minimalism of the song feels oddly self-contained. You can sense that there are many more things hiding just under its surface, but they’re likely things that should stay hidden.
Doom Squad, “Ovoo”
Montreal/Toronto band Doom Squad isn’t as metal as their name might suggest. In fact, you’ll find no striating rhythms or jackhammer percussion on their latest single, “Ovoo.” What you will find is a song that weaves a hypnotizing web of synths and chorale vocals meshed together with starkly drawn beats and motorik percussion. Doom Squad lays out a cacophonous blueprint of densely layered instrumentation and dreamlike cadences that draw you in before you realize that you might have taken just one step too many into their fog-soaked musical ambience.
Linda Perhacs, “Freely”
After taking 44 years off, ’70s folk singer Linda Perhacs is set to release a new album in March of next year. “The Soul of All Natural Things” is the spiritual sequel to her 1970 masterpiece, “Parallelograms.” Born in the heart of hippie country, in Topanga Canyon, Perhacs was a dental hygienist who became inspired by the natural world around her, as well as the all-encompassing social revolution that was going on at the time. Acting as the U.S. equivalent to the English songwriter Vashti Bunyan, she mixed equal parts Aquarian folk with avant-garde arrangements in an attempt to combine the natural and creative aspects of her life. On her new single, “Freely,” gentle acoustic guitar notes and strands of piano plinks wrap themselves around her ethereal voice, acting as a buffer between the outside world and the safe, comforting world within her own mind.
The Vickers, “I Don’t Know What It Is”
Italian psych-rockers The Vickers have the uncanny ability to create small pockets of ’60s-influenced pop that incorporate detailed aspects of modern indie rock. Sparkling reverb-drenched vocals, leagues of hazy pop structure and a sense that anything could be hiding beneath the flowing waves of vague distortion give their latest single, “I Don’t Know What It Is,” a feeling of marked uncertainty-an uneasy foreboding that something could be, and probably is, waiting just around the next corner. Sounding like The Beatles after one too many acid trips, The Vickers don’t dwell on the minutiae of their music but instead focus on the sprawling pop atmosphere that just seems to pour out from their instruments.
And because you can never have too much music, tilt your ears toward the playlist below. It include songs by GEMS, Hauschka, Mode Moderne and Lanterns on the Lake, among many others. Jumping from rustic folk ruminations to vibrant synth-pop theatrics, this week’s playlist covers a remarkable amount of musical ground.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.