Weddings are often viewed as a joyous celebration of eternal monogamy, but for British singer Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes, they can be extremely harrowing. This duality imbued within marriage acts as the emotional core of her new song “In God’s House” from her upcoming concept album, The Bride. From just one listen, you can hear Khan agonizing with fear as she waits for her groom to get to the church, only to discover that he will never show up.
A bewitching, mystical synth-pop track, “In God’s House” is one of Khan’s most ambitious and emotionally stirring works to date. Its ethereal synths glisten and propel Khan’s masterful, vulnerable vocals, which swing effortlessly from a gentle whisper to a shrieking cry. “Through this veil they can’t see / The fog of death unveil me,” Khan sings woefully, almost as if the world is slowly closing on her. But the most heartbreaking moment comes when Khan realizes that her lover has been killed by a fire, repeating the word “fire” until she can no longer catch her breath.
In a sense, “In God’s House” is a tonally opposite counterpart to last month’s single “I Do,” which offers a much more light-hearted narrative on Khan’s hapless bride through a swooping harp instrumental and lyrics that reflect her giddy optimism on her wedding day. Both songs are like two sides of the same playing card: “I Do” saw Khan ruminating anxiously and excitedly over nuptial commitment, whereas “In God’s House” found her searching for answers on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Entrenched within the nuances of marriage, Khan understands that where there’s happiness, there’s also darkness. If “I Do” is the sweet, rosy prologue to a wedding, then “In God’s House” is the nightmarish climax with an uneasy, ambiguous resolution.
Following their hits “Animal” and “Silvia” from their 2009 self-titled debut and a lukewarm second album, Swedish pop group Miike Snow returned to the music scene in 2016 with an entrancing new single, “Genghis Khan” for their new record iii. Don’t worry, this song isn’t about the infamous Mongolian emperor. Instead, it’s a groovy, pop-heavy jam that’s more dance-oriented than Miike Snow’s previous work and it’s been stuck in my head for the past few days. Also, check out their other single, “Heart is Full,” and its superior remix with Run the Jewels.
This past week, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar released two brand new songs to the world that have reinforced the rappers’ standing as the two greatest hip-hop artists of our generation. West, whose long-delayed Swish is finally getting a release date (February 11), promoted a possible single from his upcoming record called “Real Friends” on SoundCloud. Following 2014’s “Only One” and 2015’s “Wolves,” “FourFiveSeconds,” “Fade,” and “FACTS,” “Real Friends” hearkens back to the good ‘ol days of 2004’s The College Dropout and 2005’s Late Registration. Every element of “Real Friends” is fantastic, from Madlib’s ambient, piano-oriented production to West’s lyrics about the cult of celebrity and fame. In addition to “Real Friends,” the track includes a snippet of another single “No More Parties in L.A.,” which also sounds promising, especially with a feature from Kendrick Lamar. ‘Ye is definitely back and, considering his revival of “G.O.O.D. Fridays,” where he released a new song every Friday in advance to 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Though Kendrick Lamar owned 2015 with his incredible third record To Pimp a Butterfly, it seems like his presence in music will still be prevalent in 2016. During an episode of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Lamar performed “Untitled 2,” a stream-of-consciousness jazz ballad that threads every one of Lamar’s different themes — God, love, family, sex, women, Blackness — into mesmerizing cohesion. This song follows another untitled song Lamar performed back before To Pimp a Butterfly‘s release on the final episode of “The Colbert Report.” Though the first untitled song wasn’t on the record, I’m hoping that “Untitled 2” will have some commercial release or will be featured on Lamar’s next album.
It feels like hit singer/songwriter Sia can sing/write just about any song and make it sound good. After a string of awesome singles from her upcoming record, This is Acting, the elusive Swedish pop artist released two new tracks, the tropical party jam “Cheap Thrills” and the Kanye West-produced “Reaper.” Both songs are great in their own right, the former being a funkadelic, dancehall-infused banger about giving zero fucks and “just having fun tonight,” and the latter being another crazy power ballad in the likes of 2014’s ubiquitous “Chandelier” and the more recent “Alive.” Even though many of the tracks off This is Acting were intended for other musicians, Sia utilizes her groundbreaking vocals and maximalist production to make each song as powerful as the next.
James Blake’s “Radio Silence”:
Browsing through my YouTube feed as usual, I spotted a new song by British electronic crooner James Blake, the alleged title track to his next album Radio Silence. What I got when I clicked on the video link was a beautiful 4-minute song that played like Blake’s classic ethereal trance-like sound, but even more refreshing. Definitely listen to it when: 1) you’re feeling like shit, 2) on a rainy/snowy day, 3) literally whenever because it’s great. Check it out below:
Jai Paul’s “Vibin'” and “Zion Wolf”:
Ok, so I know I’m pretty late in the game to like Jai Paul, the elusive ambient-pop artist whose 2013 mixtape Str8 Outta Mumbai garnered critical acclaim, even when it wasn’t confirmed as an official record. Nevertheless, I’ve been listening to his other mixtape, Everlasting, and some other tracks I found on Vimeo, including “Vibin'” and “Zion Wolf.” Paul’s style is mesmerizing: his vocals coo against glitchy synths and pounding drum loops. It’s doubtful Paul will appear again in this year’s music scene, but these two tracks are definitely worth a listen. Here are the links to the songs: