Essential Tracks This Week: PJ Harvey, Ratboys, and more

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PJ Harvey

Our Essential Tracks column took a few weeks off for reasons that are not particularly interesting, but the important part is that it was temporary. We’re back folks, and we’ve got a five-spot of amazing new songs to talk about. Among our favorites this week is a new single from one of the greatest artists of our time (no big deal or anything), a handful of young indie acts on the rise, some psychedelic pop sound collage and more. Hear and read about this week’s best new songs.

PJ Harvey – “I Inside the Old I Dying”

In a statement released with the second single from PJ Harvey’s upcoming I Inside the Old Year Dying, she mentions how difficult it was to capture this song, that it was the final one recorded after several failed earlier attempts. It’s easy to understand the difficulty in capturing something so delicate and sparse—it sometimes only takes one small misstep for everything to go awry. But “I Inside the Old I Dying” was worth however many takes it required to get there. Somewhere between the gothic atmosphere of Is This Desire? and the stark arrangements of White Chalk, the ghostly ballad feels deceptively rich in spite of its sparse elements, a testament to Harvey’s ability to spin magic from the ether.

From I Inside the Old Year Dying, out July 7 via Partisan.

Ratboys – “It’s Alive!”

Oh what a joy it is to hear new music from Ratboys. That’s just a blanket statement, but it does apply specifically to “It’s Alive!”, the first single from their upcoming follow-up to 2020’s Printer’s Devil. Recorded with Chris Walla, formerly of Death Cab for Cutie, the song showcases the band’s penchant for infectious hooks and earthy twang alike, all swirled into a densely layered and soaring anthem. They didn’t have to make a song this perfect to remind me how much I missed hearing them, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

From The Window, out August 25 via Topshelf.

L’Rain – “New Year’s UnResolution”

L’Rain’s Fatigue was one of 2021’s best albums, a masterful showcase of Taja Cheek’s psychedelic sound collages and hypnotic melodies. And though there’s no news of a follow-up as of yet, this taste of new music does just splendidly for now, with Cheek looking back on relationships and their dissolution through the filter of passing time. And, for that matter, lots of swirling sonic treatments. It’s characteristically intoxicating stuff, infectious yet still hazy, the kind of left-field pop fit that makes for a wonderfully weird summer jam.

Out now via Mexican Summer

Sweeping Promises – “You Shatter”

Lawrence, Kansas punk band Sweeping Promises has been gradually making waves in the underground over the past couple years on the strength of releases like their 2020 debut, Hunger for a Way Out. “You Shatter” is a good example of why that is. A scruffy and lo-fi song that’s bursting with massive new wave hooks, “You Shatter” is an outsized piece of songwriting through a decidedly DIY filter, warmly analogue but with a blockbuster sound big enough to reach the listeners in the cheap seats. Audible proof that this band is only going to get bigger.

From Good Living Is Coming For You, out June 30 via Feel It Records/Sub Pop

Lifeguard – “Alarm”

It’s easy to draw parallels between Lifeguard and their Matador labelmates Horsegirl, each band a duosyllabic Chicago trio who recorded their debut at Electrical Audio, and with plenty of distorted indie guitar to go around. “Alarm,” however, is a thrilling showcase for Lifeguard’s unique central point between noise rock, punk and shoegaze. Driving rhythms and a shout-along chorus propel their furious array of guitars and boundless energy, and it’s easy to simply be caught up in the electricity of it all. “Alarm” comes out of the gate sprinting and never lets up.

From Crowd Can Talk/Dressed in Trenches, out July 7 via Matador

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