By setting a traditional British folk weeper to a rock beat, Fairport Convention’s “A Sailor’s Life” set the tone for the British folk-rock boom of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s—and gave the Decemberists about half of their ideas. Yet it’s not even the best song on their 1969 album, Unhalfbricking: That’d be the brutal, Bob Dylan-penned “Percy’s Song,” featuring one of the most vivid descriptions of a car crash in rock history and brilliant fretwork from the band’s then-19-year-old guitar wizard Richard Thompson.
Claire Rousay sits astride the “emo ambient” movement with an abstract but accessible sound built from field recordings, snippets of Auto-Tuned vocals, and samples of blunt conversations about happiness and mental health. Her music can get pretty out there, but in a pop landscape where relatability is king, her new two-tracker Everything Perfect Is Already Here (out this Friday) might just be the perfect gateway into the realms of pop-infused experimental music bubbling beneath the mainstream.
Why local synth-pop legends Chromatics broke up is still a mystery, and lead singer Ruth Radelet’s debut original solo single “Crimes” provides more questions than answers: a song about “the exploitation of others in order to get ahead” that bluntly asks, “Is it easy to start over?” With songs of this caliber, it shouldn’t be too hard for Radelet. If Chromatics’ best work was an abstraction of ‘80s pop, this is closer to the real thing, striking a fine balance between claustrophobia and power-ballad bombast.
If Actress didn’t kick off the lo-fi house movement with R.I.P.—released 10 years ago this month—he at least alerted much of the world to how much stranger and more mysterious house music could sound when submerged beneath distortion and ambient gauze. Rich with literary and mythological symbolism, the English producer’s third album is a smoke-shrouded trip down the river Styx. Even after a decade of imitation, R.I.P. still sounds as unfamiliar as a journey into the afterlife should sound.