Autumn brings us a veritable buffet of fantastic music; it is, basically, indie rock's Oscar season. This week's selections portend great things to come - from HAIM's long-awaited debut, to Son Lux's most accessible work yet, to exciting debuts like that of Casimir and Casimir.
HAIM -- "The Wire"
"Always keep your heart locked tight/Don't let your mind rebel," the ladies of the L.A.-based sister act HAIM urge, in unison, in this single from their forthcoming full-length debut, Days Are Gone. The statement can be read as a sort of cri de guerre for the band: Partially because of hurried, insensitive rock journalism (but mostly due to sheer dumbass sexism), rock groups composed of women tend to have their gender paired with their artistic output in a consistently insufferable way. HAIM won't be immune from these designations, unfortunately (indeed, I'm now falling into this very trap). But one thing that's quite compelling about their work -- and about "The Wire" in particular -- is its pointed embrace of androgyny. This isn't a collection of women who happen to rock; it's a collection of rockers who happen to be women.
Chvrches -- "We Sink"
Of all the female-led synth-pop outfits wriggling into the limelight out there (Purity Ring, NONONO), Chvrches may be the most fully formed and unpredictable. Though "We Sink" is undeniably dense (its staccato synths whistle and stick like well-flung ninja stars), the song is most poignant during its moments of candor. "I Bleed out/What the fuck were you thinking?" singer Lauren Mayberry demands, beautifully and unexpectedly. Even when spitting profanities, her voice is smooth as marble; it rises above the song's skittering sonic cacophony with the grace of a balloon loosed from its twine.
Rubblebucket -- "Save Charlie"
Five years and one name change after forming, Rubblebucket (formerly "Rubblebucket Orchestra") has all the exuberance of a jam band, minus the masturbatory excess. "Save Charlie," the first single off their EP of the same name, is a glitter bomb of delectable precision: plinking M.J.-esque bass, crisp horn stabs, a disco-flecked guitar line. Bands like Rubblebucket -- i.e. those with seven members and a full horn section -- are always just one wank away from utter tastelessness. "Save Charlie," though effervescent and lively, is far from that rabbit hole.
Son Lux -- "Easy"
The first rule about being a music writer is that you don't talk about it. The second, and perhaps more applicable in this case, is that you don't laud one artist in two successive columns. But everyone knows that rules, like deadlines, were meant to be broken, and so here we have a stuttering, brooding masterpiece from Son Lux. "Easy" is the second single off the forthcoming Lanterns LP, and it waddles along with the sort of doomy precocity a Tom Waits/Annie Clark lovechild might possess. Organs wheeze, saxophones honk, and a thick stink of hip-hop menace floats above the whole thing. More of a tone poem than a musical composition, it's by turns raw and riveting.
Casimir and Casimir -- "O Sweet Joe Pye"
At face a shot of unabashed whimsy, "O Sweet Joe Pye" conjures images of front porches, lemonade stands, and dads dancing dopily in tube socks and cutoffs. But give it a few careful listens, and a suspicious counter-narrative rolls in like a thundercloud. Throwaway lines like "Could you careen the filigree between the rust and the railing/Without failing on me?" are shaded by those with sadder undertones: "I know that this was once your home/But you let the weeds take over/And now it's all over." What you come out with is an experience that's wide-eyed, yet not altogether innocent.