For the past few months I’ve had Quilt’s music spinning around in my crappy white earbuds. The band’s delicate but enveloping songs have been a calming force when those commutes feel extra long, when the overloaded trains and sidewalks feed claustrophobia, and when I just want to escape. It may sound hokey, but then, it’s right there in the name.
Peter Morén — the singer and guitarist of Peter Bjorn & John fame — says that with his last two solo releases he found a new freedom in writing and singing entirely in his native Swedish for the first time. Morén’s songs on 2010’s I spåren av tåren and 2012’s Pyramiden, explored new influences like soul, New Wave, and even Brazilian rhythms, while retaining many of PB&J’s core calling cards — namely, the infectious pop hooks and his familiar Lennon-esque voice. But lyrically, he was able to tackle more Swedish-leaning politics and cultural references that he couldn’t do as easily in English.
When people think about the music of Broken Bells — the project of The Shins’ James Mercer and producer and multi-instrumentalist Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse) — it’s easy to imagine Mercer writing the songs and Burton coming in to “make them weird.” But really, Broken Bells is a collaboration in the truest sense.
There’s often a unifying quality with some of my favorite record labels that tells me, “Yeah, this will be good.” At best, a label’s feel for musical curation — or sometimes, even a logo or design aesthetic — helps gives some idea of what to expect. This has certainly been the case with Sacred Bones — the Brooklyn label with a roster that includes The Men, Zola Jesus, Crystal Stilts, and Destruction Unit, among many others. Seemingly from its start, Sacred Bones’ “sound” — a bit of gothy electronic pop, some reverby garage rock, a lot of scorching noisy punk all come to mind — established a personality that carries through its entire lineup.