Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
With few reservations, I could easily recommend all of A Deeper Understanding, the latest collection of dreamy, tender, Springsteen-worshiping rockers from Philly’s invaluable The War On Drugs. But one song in particular has taken up permanent residence in my brain, heart, and daily Spotify playlist, and that’s album centerpiece “Strangest Thing.” Frontman Adam Granduciel’s lyrics are as evocative, romantic, and ambiguous as ever—all summer rides, late nights, and itchy unknowable longing. (Like most of his best songs, this one is vague enough to be about any number of relationships—which is to say, malleable enough to accommodate your specific heartache, to feel like it was written as commiseration for your blues.) But “Strangest Thing” speaks loudest when it lets the instruments do the talking. The song is built around an achingly infectious, circular riff that the band keeps inflating with each go around, the unspoken sentiment enhanced by warm synth, backup coos, and solos big and bright enough to etch themselves on a stadium’s worth of souls. It’s as if Granduciel runs out of words to express what he’s feeling (whatever that might be—again, the guy is slippery in his melancholia) and just trusts the emotive blare of the music to say what he can’t. It’s a language I think I know, too. [A.A. Dowd]
Beach House, B-Sides And Rarities
Although Beach House released B-Sides And Rarities in late June, only recently have I begun returning to it as religiously as I have the duo’s past records. Its spellbinding textures feel especially curative in the cooler days and earlier nightfalls, and the remastered rarities and other outliers collected on B-Sides all share a particular in-betweenness befitting the odd seasonal suspension we’ve experienced. I’ve been especially taken with the long evening shadows of Depression Cherry/Thank Your Lucky Stars outtake “Baseball Diamond” and the deep-space echoes of “Saturn Song,” built on a piano loop written during the sessions for 2012’s Bloom. “Wherever You Go,” Bloom’s hidden track, finally finds proper billing on B-Sides, and it’s still a swooning, lo-fi revelation, one that harkens back to the band’s earliest work. B-Sides as a whole is enjoyable as one of the looser, more candid moments in Beach House’s catalog, and it stands as a testament to Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s unrelenting, if deliberate, experimentation in carving out their singular dream-pop path over the last decade. [Kelsey J. Waite]
We don’t talk about it much, but let’s be clear: Apple’s earbuds fucking suck. Always have, and no amount of cordless upgrading is going to make a difference. The ridiculous smooth-white-plastic aesthetic demanded of the look guarantees that, for more than 50 percent of the population, they won’t stay in your ear. It’s infuriating. Making headphones that don’t fall out of your ear canal if you tilt your head three inches to the side or walk more than 10 steps shouldn’t be a stumper, but all those geniuses at Apple apparently took every class save for basics of human anatomy. As a result, those headphones have historically been cast aside the moment I get them, to sit in a drawer and get begrudgingly pulled out as a temporary stopgap whenever my actual headphones stop working. But no more! No longer am I a slave to having to buy separate headphones because of Apple’s incompetence. I now have Earhoox: These little guys are like the rubber deals you can buy to pull over your earbuds, with the distinction of actually being both good quality and one size fits all, thanks to the additional piece of rubber that tucks under the upper cartilage above your ear canal, preventing them from falling out (even during ridiculous exercise maneuvers, as I’ve learned through repeated and ridiculous testing). They come in packs of two, but I’ve had the first pair attached for months now, and they’re still going strong, which is already longer than most in-ear headphones have for me, given the heavy workout mine usually get. It’s a cheap and excellent way of getting your portable sound system without having to waste cash on a separate pair of earbuds that will stay in. [Alex McLevy]