Happy Friday, kids. The beautiful thing about this day – other than it being the jumpstart to our weekend – is the flow of new music released into the atmosphere. Into the atmosphere and into my Spotify HEAR THIS new music playlist because every Friday I add 13 new songs to the pool and it’s a deep pool of goodness. Music discovery, music recovery. Hopefully you’ll get in there and follow it and regularly find something that turns your ears on.
Three of the artists in my playlist have recently released some gems and, yep, that’s what we’re talking about: How To Dress Well, Lady Wray and Veers.
How To Dress Well – Care
Here’s the problem: I make no claims of knowing, let alone, understanding how Tom Krell’s clock gets wound. I just know that when, as How To Dress Well, he tells me what time it is as, I’m all about it. Digesting Krell’s latest work of…art…has kept me up at night and I’ve found it difficult as fuck to give a thoughtful, well-reasoned, objective and substantive review of Krell’s fourth album, Care. I tweeted something to that effect because we all have limitations especially when the head and the heart (no, not the band) simultaneously get tapped the way Krell does mine when he’s in HTDW mode. There’s a reason why his last record “What Is This Heart?” was my favorite album of 2014.
On Care, dude’s the most sentient and vocally present that he’s ever been while still flexing his unabashed nods to R&B. Musically, it’s like flesh-on-flesh contact: tactile warmth, sensually playful, rhythmic beats, melody sex play, layers of that damned falsetto. Fucking gorgeous. He’s intimate to the point of discomfort because, yeah, the ratio of poignant and beautiful to TMI and downright icky may vary, particularly if there’s a lack in understanding of the emotional framework you’re dealing with. So if you read Krell’s diary (let’s just assume that he has one) and found sentences like, “I was terrible,” “your whole life is like a song,” “I also love your thighs” and “had a nightmare about my Twitter mentions” it’s understandable to be predisposed to being mentally scarred rather than feeling closer to Krell. That kind of emotive penetration is a deep exercise in discovery and the path to contentment…pleasure. He’s got good love intentions on the brain (romantic, sexual and humanistic) yet he’s man enough to not rule out the possibility (or his penchant) to fuck any of them up: a fragility so damned beautiful that it’s almost too much. But that fragility – in word and voice – is so damned pimp, as is that elastic and conversational lyric-type thing he does (you know, like Morrissey). Whether he’s admitting to being a dick and ghosting when needed most in “Time Was Meant To Stay” or, you know, how horny he is in “Can’t You Tell”…these things should not make sense, let alone be soulfully meaningful to me. But in the care of How To Dress Well, those awkwardly honest articulations of love, vulnerability, lust and failure become the stuff that makes his special brand of alternative and ambient R&B so endearing and stunningly buoyant. Realness is a powerful drug. And now that he’s opted to wrap his gifts in a brighter shade of pop with the assistance of Kara-Lis Coverdale, CFCF, Dre Skull and Jack Antonof, I’m shamelessly mainlining Care. Yep.
Something space-rock fine, this way comes straight outta Los Angeles. Take an English ex-pat, singer/guitarist named Andrew James (playing a pretty AF Rickenbacker) and partner him up with Sam Woodbury (guitar), Roland LeFox (bass) and Tommy Roslak (drums) and the result is a cracking quartet operating under the moniker, Veers since 2015.
What we’re taking about here is a garage rock sound fortified with a Brit rock sheen and desert-ed and psych rock muscle. Muscle, folks. But don’t mistake this for by-the-numbers, thought-free or haphazard thrash: Veers is invested in the finesse, the melody and the thrash. They’ve just released their self-titled EP and those four songs serve as a proper teaser: cycle through the listening and find yourself wanting more? That’s a successful EP. While the dense and cosmic “Reflector” and “Letterbomb” tilt on buzz and energy, the unexpected and old school trip Veers takes you on in “Through The Walls” – man, whose idea was that? Not complaining; more like keep that shit up.
Lady Wray – Queen Alone
Virginia native Nicole Wray has been around the musical block once or twice and it’s taken some 20 years for her to “become.” Freshly released is her latest album, Queen Alone (on Big Crown Records) and in her voice (and in the music) you hear so much retro that it may bring a tear to your eye. The Stax era horns and groove, the call on Ray Charles/Aretha Franlkin/Jackson 5 roots, the church, the beautiful pain of love, trials, tribulations, soul power and the strength of a woman.
In the 90’s Nicole worked with players at the top of the R&B and hip hop game: Aaliyah, Timbaland, Missy Elliot, Ginuwine and more. The Black Keys tapped her for the project, Blackroc, as well as backing vocals on their Brothers record. She’s had her share of admirers, acclaim and forward musical motion but full-fledged success routinely eluded her. But here the Lady stands now, a testament to refusing to stay fallen. Queen Alone (produced by Leon Michaels and Thomas Brenneck) boasts Nicole’s soulful badassery in classic form. If you remember how your ears turned when you heard Amy Winehouse for the first time, Lady Wray is tracking in that musical path: drenched in vintage, yet vibrant with an effortless emotional transference. See her singles “Do It Again,” “Guilty” and “Smiling” or, better yet, just dig into the whole album for the triumphant return and flight of this soulful butterfly.