In Notes from Left of the Dial this week, we check out a few songs that highlight the vast gulfs that sometimes arise between genres—and the work it takes to bring them all together. From the guitar jangle of Real Estate to the dark melodicism of Weeknight and the musical abandon of Roladex, these songs initially sound very different; but once you hear past the ephemera and listen to the heart of the song, they all sound somewhat similar. The same kind of restless creativity threads its way through every song on our list. And, as always, let me know what you've been listening to in the comments section below.
Real Estate, "Talking Backwards"
New Jersey indie rock band Real Estate is set to release their third album, "Atlas," March 4 via Domino Recording Co. And recently they shared the first single, "Talking Backwards," from the album. Taking the expertly wound guitar lines and honey-throated vocals of singer Martin Courtney and adding a polish and jangling sheen as yet unexplored on previous albums, the band shaves off the fuzzier edges of their music without losing any of its immediacy and ear-tugging catchiness. The song is instantly recognizable as Real Estate, as they are one of only a handful of bands who seem to genuinely consider themselves a straight guitar-centric group, and "Talking Backwards" finds the band more confident and accomplished than ever.
Hobo Cubes, "Structures in Stasis"
Montreal musician Francesco De Gallo (AKA Hobo Cubes) is readying his latest album, "Apex Ideals," for release Feb. 11 via Debacle Records. De Gallo, who has released cassettes for NNA Tapes and Opal Tapes and runs the Montreal label Hobo Cult, finds himself on the more impressionistic side of electronic music, with ambient textures and synthetic rhythms mixing together with vocals clips and atonal sputters in a wild cacophony of sounds and tones. On his latest single, "Structures in Stasis," he meshes an ecstatic droning rhythm with various electronic ephemera and creates a chirping, static-y series of hiccupping tones that manage to stay within a vast, though insular, landscape of electronic experimentation that holds your attention without causing you to tune out. Even among the most dissonant passages, there is always something to hold on to—a repeating synth or chiming tonality—and this continues up until the song hits its apex and gently fades out, quietly dissipating back to some intangible musical ether where this music lives.
Spirit Kid, "Slow It Down"
Boston musician Spirit Kid (AKA Emeen Zarookian) deals in the poppier, more melodic vein of power-pop that bands like XTC and Apples in Stereo make a career out of mining. His new record, "Is Happening," is due out March 18; and he's given us our first taste of the album with sugary, pop-punky lead single, "Slow It Down." The song layers Zarookian's higher-range voice with chugging guitars and a thumping percussion that aims straight for the chest—though you're just as likely to find yourself dancing along to it as you are to be thrust into a headphone coma by its hook-y harmonies and hummable melodies. The song hits fast and gets out of the way, in the best way a pure pop song can.
Weeknight, "Dark Light"
New York-based dark electronic group Weeknight is gearing up for the release of their debut LP, "Post-Everything," which is due out March 4 via Artificial Records. Simply going by the first names Holly and Andy, the duo crafts moody, slightly menacing songs that linger briefly on the edge of your periphery before leading a synth charge against your eardrums. The lead single, "Dark Light," finds the band exploring the darker recesses of synth-bred rhythms, distorted guitar lines and the affecting interplay between their intertwining voices. The song promises shadowy alleyways where bands like The Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen share a midnight séance; and with one listen to "Dark Light," you'll want to join them.
Roladex, "Cathode Rays"
Equal parts dream pop and subdued synth-wave, Roladex has recently released their latest EP, called "Cathode Rays," for Night-People Records. They're also prepping an LP, "Anthems for the Micro-Age," for Medical Records, which is due out sometime in the near future. On their latest single, "Cathode Rays," which can be found on both releases, the band finds comfort in synth-pop and warbling electronics. Channeling the spirit of The Magnetic Fields and Kraftwerk, the band dives headfirst into this electronic pop hybrid and creates something that revels in its influences, even as it deconstructs them.
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.