The 5 Best Songs We Heard This Week: Marissa Nadler, Woods, and a Few Good Covers

This week has been fairly light on big new releases, either in the indie sphere or the world of Top 40 — except for today, which might as well be Zayn Malik Day. Still, the gift of the internet is an unending stream of new releases from bands big and small, so we did manage to round up some quality new tunes for the weekend. 

We’ve got a sunshine-y indie superduo, a bunch of Brooklyn folkies, a forlorn melding of past and future, some Prince-loving, arty pop, and, well, Marissa Nadler.

Whitney — “Golden Days” 

Whitney are Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, former members of indie favorites Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, respectively. With “Golden Days,” they’ve managed to capture and distort the sounds cultivated in those former acts, creating four minutes that cry for summer, maybe from the top of a grassy hill and into a valley. The video, directed by Josiah Marshall and Frank Frankowski, fits the mood perfectly, evoking classic technology in a 2016 way. Whitney’s debut album, Light Upon the Lake, is out June 3.


Little Scream — “Love as a Weapon” 

Little Scream’s Laurel Sprengelmeyer is already a fixture in the indie scene, as evidenced in the guests on her upcoming album, the total sum of which reads as a who’s who of Williamsburg.

“Love as a Weapon,” the first single from Cult Following, proves  Sprengelmeyer’s chops, as she layers Annie Clark guitars under some serious Prince-loving vocals. The video itself ain’t too shabby, either, and sees Sprengelmeyer primped and posed like some kind of Lynchian wax doll before jamming out, doing some modern dance, and walking in furs down a snow-covered drive.


Marissa Nadler — “All the Colors of the Dark” 

Marissa Nadler isn’t the first name that comes to mind when summertime rolls around, but it’s always winter somewhere. “All the Colors of the Dark,” the video for which is, fittingly, in black and white, is beautiful regardless of the temperature outside. Nadler’s beautiful croon of “Plenty of grass and white pine leaves/ This is not your world anymore” actually evokes the changing of the seasons, and the strings that simmer long before boiling speak to creation rather than destruction. Who says summer has to be all about sunshine?


Woods — “Morning Light”

Brooklyn’s Woods are almost a legacy act by this point, with a fistful of records already under their belt. They’re gearing up for the release of their ninth album, City Sun Eater in the River of Light, but “Morning Light” proves they’re not resting on the strength of their eight prior albums. (Also, that they’re putting the thing out with a coinciding skateboard goes to show that they haven’t lost touch with the youth.)

“Morning Light” is a reminder of Woods’ strengths: psych-tinged folk rock, stuff for porch-sitting while spliff-smoking, maybe after hitting the skate park, maybe after managing your ever-growing indie label. “In a dream I’d say to you/ take one more on every hour/ and I love you,” sings Jeremy Earl, in his lilting voice that has become synonymous with endearing folk.

City Sun Eater in the River of Light is out April 8.


Nearly Oratorio — “Occlude”

You’d be excused for thinking the vocals on “Occlude” were provided by José González. Melbourne producer and singer Simon Lam’s wispy falsetto rings the same forlorn bells of González, but he doesn’t go for the gut. Instead, he goes for the heart (and the head?) through shuttle shifts in the building beat that anchors the song.

With drum circle percussion and chem-lab bleeps, Lam evokes both Middle Earth and Panem to create an environment lush enough to sustain the utter aching of his prolonged, patient vocal. In the end, the aftereffect is an irrepressible urge to hit repeat, sadness be damned.


Lastly, we’ve got some bonus songs, two excellent covers released this week.

Courtney Barnett — “New Speedway Boogie” 

 

The first, Courtney Barnett’s cover of the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie,” is taken from an upcoming tribute comp of indie covers of the Dead, as curated by the National. A group of songs from that album was released this week, but Barnett’s is far and away the best, capturing the languid love that made the San Fran band legendary.

Sturgill Simpson — “In Bloom” 

Second is Sturgill Simpson is one of the best country acts to emerge in the past few years, so when you see his name attached to this cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” you shouldn’t be scared. In fact, you should be happy, because the beauty he uncovers in his performance of the song is astounding, and totally worthy of Cobain.