Listening Post #20

by Ben Gladman

1. Alex G – Witch

Alex G is a young singer-songwriter from Philadelphia. Having always been an underground presence on Bandcamp, Alex shot to fame with his sixth album, DSU. His two new singles, Witch and Bobby, are the first to be released since then, but show no signs of a more commercialised song. Witch is the more entrancing of the two, opening with an intricate harpsichord melody. The drums slowly build until a bizarre turn, the harpsichord dropping out and leaving Alex’s reverb laden vocals almost bare. Buzzing guitars come and go through one ear and out the other, before the song fades out on a disconcerting but oddly beautiful female vocal hook.

2. Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

An incredibly fun new song track from Portugal. The Man. The incredibly sparse instrumentation here only helps emphasise what’s on offer: A catchy hook, funky bass, loud if a little predictable brass. The highlight comes just before the chorus kicks in for the last time in the form of an almost contrapuntal guitar part.

3. Alt-J – 3WW

Even on their first album, Alt-J were hailed as potential successors to Radiohead for their innovative song-writing and sound. While I wouldn’t quite believe that hype, it’s clear that this song is indebted heavily to the Oxford legends; the first minute of 3WW is essentially a lighter and more melodic take on Amnesiac cut Push/Pulk Revolving Doors. However, this track is more than just a watered-down Radiohead clone, pushing on from its beginnings into new territory. The traded male and female vocals, an element introduced in This Is All Yours highlight Warm Foothills, once again works beautifully, adding poignancy to a song already bursting with subtle textures.

4. Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, Migos – Slide

Despite wanting to hate this song, I couldn’t help but find myself hitting repeat. Frank Ocean’s pitch-shifted vocals make yet another appearance, leading into a catchy synth line that, like the title suggests, slides effortlessly up and down. The chord progression is a little boring, as is the song structure, but Ocean’s vocal performance and the impeccable instrumentation still manage to add an infectious summery energy. Perhaps a song that will get old fast, but those first few plays are a joy.

5. Fleet Foxes – Third Of May / Odaigahara

A subtler effort from Fleet Foxes, which is to be expected. After a long hiatus, with ex-drummer Josh Tillman threatening to eclipse his old group as Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes have returned with a nine-minute odyssey. Pecknold’s vocals are strong yet tender, with echoes of David Gilmore. The dynamic range of this song keeps it from becoming boring, moving from loud, string heavy jubilance, to reflective and slower moments of just vocals and bass. In a song full of unconventional but beautiful chord progressions, the most intriguing moment comes at the end, when the band becomes stuck on just two chords for minutes on end, the percussion thudding away in the background.

Listen to the PearShaped Listening Post #20 Playlist below.