Essential Tracks This Week: Beth Orton, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more

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Beth Orton essential tracks

After a holiday weekend, our roundup of Essential Tracks this week is a slightly shorter than usual, but the standard of quality remains high. In our four picks this week, there’s the return of two indie favorites after long hiatuses, as well as an up-and-coming goth rock talent and a new ripper from a French post-harcore outfit. Check them out below.

Plus, listen to our ongoing 2022 Essential Tracks playlist.

Beth Orton – “Weather Alive”

Beth Orton’s last set of new music arrived in 2016, and the British singer/songwriter makes her return this year with her first self-produced album, titled Weather Alive. Its title track gives a glimpse into the gorgeously hypnotic space she’s entered into, with a spacious yet maximalist arrangement aided by musicians such as Tom Skinner, Shahzad Ismaily, Tom Herbert and Alabaster dePlume, who fill the space within this expansive song as much as open it up. As both a songwriter and an artist pursuing a sound, Orton’s continued to find unexpected new avenues to explore for more than two decades, and with “Weather Alive,” she’s only uncovering more fertile, unspoiled ground.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” (feat. Perfume Genius)

After a nine-year absence, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their career began with twitchy, garagey noise rock and climaxed with idiosyncratic yet nonetheless massive anthems just before their extended hiatus. But the clue in their first new single in nearly a decade is in its guest star: Perfume Genius. Mike Hadreas’ vocals play a subtly emotional role in the new track, but it feels cut from a similar cloth as Perfume Genius’ soaring art-pop. Nick Zinner’s searing guitars have been temporarily substituted with gauzy layers of synths (until his melodic soloing toward the end) and it feels more like a moment of reconnection than of a full-throated recharge. It’s one of the prettiest songs they’ve ever released.

Birds in Row – “Water Wings”

Birds in Row are as versatile as they are visceral, capable of moments of seething intensity and soaring accessibility alike. And both of those qualities are immediately present in “Water Wings,” their first new single since 2018’s We Already Lost the World. More post-hardcore than hardcore proper, the song finds the French group lingering in reflective, atmospheric spaces between moments of anthemic surge, reserving their climactic, explosive moments for where they’ll be most effective. It’s heavy, powerful music that aims for a transcendence beyond mere aggression, with a ferocious power driving at its core.

Final Gasp – “Homebound”

Boston death rock outfit Final Gasp have released a handful of EPs featuring heavy anthems with more than a little bit of Danzig-style heavy metal showmanship to go around (not to mention vocalist Jake Murphy’s croon). “Homebound” continues that path of stadium-ready goth, a dark yet highly accessible rock ripper that rises from the crypt and sings to the rafters. The flipside is a cover of Hüsker Dü’s “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill,” which also rips, but the stunningly crafted A-side is what has me excited for what the band has in store further down the road.

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