Lykee Li’s new album “Eyeye” is drenched in malaise

Lykke Li– Eyeye (Ystad, Sweden)

The pains of love (romantic or among friends and family) can utterly devastate some, resulting in albums from artists that feel like a naked reveal of a human desperately trying to come to terms with feelings. More subdued than ever, Li is using her range of sounds as an artist to enhance the sense of malaise this album is clearly drenched in, rather than making something overtly fun. “No Hotel” opens on a dreamy lament, with Li’s voice dancing with a wistful freedom, but also regret. The power of this sound comes to form on “You Don’t Go Away” where the spectre of lost relationships is baked into the ghost guitars and vocals, resulting in these choruses that feel huge not for a galactic scope but for how deep it goes into the inner space of our own dread. “Carousel” is brimming with 80’s inspired, starry keyboards and a beautiful performance on the mic from Li, emulating the energy of Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush without feeling like a pastiche. Li’s most ambitious and yet high-energy approach comes through on “ü&i” as the romantic notions in her lyrics take over the rest of the music, going from a hopeful rush and bounce, to fiery slow-burn to ballad-like rises to a solemn fade-out in nature with neon keys.

The Flamingos Pink  At Least I Got Your Pretty Face (Single)  (Montreal)

With a little bit of “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” by the White Stripes in its bones, the latest single from the Flamingos Pink has a bouncy and rolling energy to it to showcase their new album Free Livin’. The way they twist their drums and let their vocals flow more like an R&B track gives the song this great floaty feel, right up until that stop and start drop. The raw tension they bring in that one final breakdown goes so unbelievably hard that it shakes up the whole song. If they can harness these awesome bridges to full-blown two-part songs in future tracks, they’ll have a true loose cannon of a song writing power in their back pocket.

Damien Jurado – Reggae Film Star (Seattle, WA)

While always veering into pieces of their sound, Damien Jurado takes on a palpable amount of Nick Drake energy on his latest record.  Airy, sparse and welcoming, Jurado makes a whispered gem here. There’s a suave and intimate swing to “Meeting Eddie Smith,” with Jurado’s guitar work and the cool beats just luring you into its calming space. After its hazy flow for some time “What Happened to the Class of ’65?” suddenly blooms into a psychedelic burst of creamy harmonies, lush strings, and longing for a place (and possibly someone from there as well). The bright storytelling of “Day of the Robot” feels so magical thanks to the way Jurado weaves the arrangements and even the size of the bass in the mix here, especially given how typically the guitar leads most of his tracks. The quick and  quiet beauty of “Lois Lambert” shows a real strength in craft from Jurado, as his very personally detailed lyricism colours in this tight journey through dozens of cohesive musical ideas.

Daniel Lanois – My All (Single)  (Hull, Quebec/Ancaster, Ontario)

There’s an immediate richness to the textures and use of production on Daniel Lanois’ latest single “My All” that shows the mastery of emotion this virtuoso can loose on people across just a few instruments. Between the pianos and these weird synth tones, Lanois constructs otherworldly tones, and leaves the song as a mixture of modern time and a memory, seemingly warping itself into oblivion. This simple back and forth between the swelling of the main line and the distant calls of the other effects leaves the whole song in this place between two times, leaving the listener lost to try and piece them together.  

Soccer Mommy –  Sometimes, Forever (Nashville, TN)

There’s a true beauty in the way that Soccer Mommy mashes together essences of pop old and new on her latest record. While the writing feels true to her past records, the refinement of the instrumentation and overall production here feels like an artist arriving at their optimized self. “Bones” starts things on a melancholic shuffle of a track, but one that goes from a hum of neon fire into a cascading flurry of emotional shredding. In some of her most experimental work to date, “Unholy Affliction” sees the musician playing with a lot of fast and loose drumming, and eerie vocal layering, creating this kind of haunted horror tape like something ripped out of a J-horror film at times. Soccer Mommy feels like they’ve fully realized their sound and intentions as an artist on “Shotgun” as the jagged ends of the song feel perfectly warped, and the shifts into its heavenly wall-of-noise refrains takes us to another plane of existence. Though a similarly fleshed out production gives unique hues to “Feel It All the Time,” it’s the way every murky verse is slowly layered and layered until it’s overflowing with ideas that makes this song such a cool listen.