Weekly Music Roundup: Darker & Dirtier

Week of September 26: Leonard Cohen goes (even) darker, Dirty Projectors return, and hunting for the new Weeknd song.

Leonard Cohen’s Dark and Chilling New Song


The man who gave us “Hallelujah” – among many other songs that examine our fraught, often ambivalent relationship to God, religion and love – is about to release a new album on October 21 called You Want It Darker. The title track has just been released, and it is as gothic and gripping a song as that title might lead you to expect. The 82-year old songwriter and poet speak-sings his lyrics that quietly seethe at an uncaring god (‘if you are the dealer/I’m out of the game”) over a bassline and drum groove that is both spacey and relentless. A wordless men’s chorus drones fatefully behind him, and towards the end a cantor’s voice soars, as if struggling to free itself from the beautiful darkness surrounding it. A brilliant first glimpse at Leonard Cohen’s current state of the art.

Will the Real “Starboy” Please Stand Up?


The Grammy-winning artist The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye) released “Starboy,” the first song from his next album (also to be called Starboy) on Friday. It’s a collaboration with the hugely influential dance music duo Daft Punk. And within hours, the internet was awash in fake versions of the song. One had random piano tracks playing over what might have been Tesfaye’s voice; another sounded like a demo, with little hint of the distinctive sound of Daft Punk. Paid sites of course have the real thing, and while the song at first listen doesn’t seem to reach the heights of “Can’t Feel My Face” or “The Hills,” his ubiquitous hits from the multiple-platinum album Beauty Behind The Madness, it seems destined to reach the top of the charts this week. Daft Punk contributes a combination of slow piano chords over a steady dance groove, and The Weeknd’s voice remains a liquid, soulful one – even when he’s cramming a dozen syllables into a single line, as if trying to sing what was meant to be rapped.

New Song Sees Dirty Projectors Up To Old Tricks


David Longstreth’s art-rock project Dirty Projectors has been quiet since 2012, so the release of a new single, “Keep Your Name,” marks a welcome return.  Some things haven’t changed: the spare textures, skittish rhythms, a bridge that sounds like it came from a totally different song, and in the chorus, those sweet yet pungent harmonies that were formerly done with female voices but which here are all Longstreth.  That voice, though, sounds deeper than usual (maybe it’s the beard?); and the chorus might just be the most accessible and lovely melody Longstreth has yet written.   The song also uses an altered sample from “Impregnable Question,” a key track from the band’s last album, Swing Lo Magellan.  The video was co-directed by Longstreth and Kanye West associate Elon Rutberg.  Like the song, it’s oddly beautiful, mournful, and free of obvious guitar sounds, although this is one place where you won’t see a disclaimer saying that “no guitars were harmed in the making of this video.”

Pan-Caribbean Party Music From Miami’s Locos Por Juana


The core members of Locos Por Juana are all based in Miami, but their roots are in Colombia, and they would like to remind you that Colombia is a Caribbean nation. Their forthcoming album, due on October 7, is called Caribe, and the new video for the album’s first single, “Se Fue La Luz,” is set in the city of Barranquilla, a hard-partying town on Colombia’s northeast – which is to say, Caribbean – coast. The band has always based its hybrid Latin/hip hop sound on traditional Afro-Colombian and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, but the new album ups the ante with guests like Talib Kweli, and on this song, the Colombian hip hip trio ChocQuibTown (especially the trio’s lead singer, Gloria “Goyo” Martinez). “Se Fue La Luz” means “the lights went out,” but if you want it darker, you’ll need to go back to the top of this list.

The band plays in New York at SOB’s on Saturday, October 15.  

Sadie Dupuis: Who Says Gender Wars Can’t Be Fun?


As the lead singer and guitarist of the garage/punk/pop band Speedy Ortiz, Sadie Dupuis has made a big impression.  In the band’s two live Soundcheck sessions, she’s talked about what’s behind her whip-smart, sharp-edged lyrics: usually, it’s toxic relationships, calcified gender roles, and the like.  Now, she’s getting ready to release her first solo album under the name Sad13.  The record, Slugger, is due on November 11, and its first single, “Get A Yes,” was surprisingly poppy – especially given its urgent message that consent is everything.  But her new song, “<2” (less than two), is a return to rockier sound.  In a statement accompanying the release, Dupuis says that “<2” embraces a feminism that doesn’t bow to convention: “it’s about knowing you’re smart, knowing you’re doused in glitter, and refusing to see these two bits of self-knowledge as conflicting.”  The video is a fun tribute to online makeup tutorials, with Dupuis and some of her rocker friends getting increasingly bizarre with their applications.  Dupuis co-directed it, and I suspect the whole point was to see how she’d look with a bagel glued to her forehead. 

Sad13 plays in Brooklyn on October 28 at Alphaville. 

[Credit: Soundcheck]

This article, Weekly Music Roundup: Darker & Dirtier, first appeared on Soundcheck.