This Week’s Essential Tracks: Beach House, Krallice and more

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Beach House essential tracks

Another new introduction for 2022: Expanded, weekly Essential Tracks. This week marks the first of what will be round-ups of the best new tracks each week, rather than, well, posting them when we get around to it. We admit our fault on that one, but going forward, this space will include anywhere from five to seven of the best tracks of the week, because we know that there are easily that many great new singles being released every seven days, and this first week is proof enough of that: epic black metal, soaring art-pop, dreamy darkwave, intricate indie pop and death metal.

Plus listen to our ongoing 2022 Essential Tracks playlist.

Krallice – “Crystalline Exhaustion”

Krallice are the rare band that’s both meticulous and highly efficient in addition to being highly unpredictable. Scarcely a winter goes by in which they don’t release a new album—and winter is, of course, the best time to listen to their music—and yet the direction that album takes is by no means set in stone, just that it’ll contain epic black metal of some sort. “Crystalline Exhaustion,” from their upcoming album of the same name, is a case in point, a 14-minute marathon of a black metal anthem, nearly the entire first half of which barely scans as such. From gothic synthesizers a blast-beat emerges, but instead of guitar there’s marimba, at least for a couple minutes, the New York group crafting something oblique and minimal rather than soaring and intense. That still happens, but not without a meditative detour through some strange and beautiful terrain.

From Crystalline Exhaustion, out January 28

Beach House – “Masquerade”

Beach House have, for most of the 15 years since they released their debut album in 2006, existed in a space that’s goth-friendly but not exactly goth. “Masquerade” is the final push over the edge that they needed, its pulsing synthesizers reminiscent of Depeche Mode at their peak and ethereal wash of melody a merger between The Cure and Cocteau Twins—all comparisons I don’t make lightly (I hosted a goth night for two years, I take this stuff seriously…sorta). What’s remarkable is how comfortably dressing up in leather and PVC feels in the context of the band’s work as a whole, Victoria Legrand’s apparitional vocals applicable to pulsing dancefloor fodder just as naturally as they are to wispy slowcore.

From Once Twice Melody, out February 18 via Sub Pop

Jenny Hval – “Year of Love”

In 2019, we chose Jenny Hval’s “Ashes to Ashes” as our song of the year—not because of any trivial reasons of ubiquity or populism or anything so coldly quantifiable, but because it felt like such a massive anthem, and a huge leap toward art-pop grandeur for an artist whose output over the past decade has been consistently compelling. Last year’s Lost Girls collaboration followed, and what we begin to see with Hval is a move toward electronics-heavy maximalism, which reaches a gorgeous new peak with “Year of Love.” The second single from her first album to be released via 4AD pulses with elements of disco and reggae while echoing the art pop greats of the ’80s, particularly Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Less a dancefloor anthem than a headphone masterpiece, “Year of Love” is the kind of richly detailed pop that demands a good pair of speakers or headphones to give it a proper listen.

From Classic Objects, out March 11 via 4AD

Undeath – “Rise from the Grave”

Undeath’s name on first glance can be a little confusing—Undeath would almost seem to contradict their chosen style of music, death metal. But it’s not anti-death, and that’s an important distinction; if zombies are undead, then undeath is their natural state. Which, of course, brings us to the old-school horror of their new track, “Rise from the Grave.” The New York brutes tear through a vintage sound that’s huge on riffs and melody alike, smuggling some massive hooks into their toxic bloodbath of a death metal ripper. Just don’t watch the video while you’re eating—yeesh.

From It’s Time…to Rise from the Grave, out April 22 via Prosthetic

Nilüfer Yanya – “Midnight Sun”

Miss America, the debut album by London’s Nilüfer Yanya, introduced the young singer/songwriter as an artist who knew her way around a catchy chorus and an intricate arrangement alike, more sophisticated than typical mainstream alt-rock fare, but far more ambitious than the average indie strummer. “Midnight Sun” is a stunning example of the kind of subtly mesmerizing songwriting that sets her apart, built around the shifting nuances of her arpeggiated guitar riffs and the chilling presence of her otherworldly vocals. It’s hard not to bring up Radiohead when hearing a song like this, but that’s by no means a bad thing, of course. This is gorgeously hypnotic art-rock at its finest.

From PAINLESS, out March 4 via ATO

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