Good morning and welcome to a new edition of the Captain’s Log, a monthly series in which I wax poetic about the various indie rock, electronic and pop siren songs I heard echoing off the breakers as I sailed the seven seas in search of adventure (or like, saw on Tumblr once). As summer’s come to a close and the air’s gotten a bit cooler, I’ve found myself in downtempo synthpop land. Most of what I’ve gathered here for you today is on the dreamier/chillier side to match the change in seasons. Fair warning, a lot of these songs are tailor made for crying alone in the bathtub, but I tried to throw in some upbeat songs where I could. While we’re at it, it’s also time to address the bedazzled, sequin-spattered, turquoise feather-wearing elephant in the room, which is the new Britney Spears single “Work Bitch.” Shall we?
Britney Spears – “Work Bitch”
I have really mixed feelings about Britney continuing to make records like this. On the one hand, she’s been known to crank out some damn catchy pop classics that have not only stood the test of time, but become standards of the genre. On the other hand, she’s been through the ringer and for the last couple of records, she’s looked a bit dead behind the eyes. I can’t say I believe that Britney Spears particularly still wants to be churning through these grueling album cycles (but who knows what lies within the depths of your mysterious heart, Britney? Call me. We can talk about it). The good news is, you don’t really need Britney’s active participation to really make a Britney record, and she’s basically proved it with “Work Bitch,” a relatively soul-less and repetitive swirl of synthesizers that kinda sounds like that song you put on your gym mix to listen to while you’re trying to forget how much you don’t really want to be at the gym.
Look, I adore and respect a huge portion of the Britney Spears oeuvre, but “Work Bitch” does almost nothing for me, and I hope her follow-up single is a little more singalong-friendly. Sidenote, when I was in like 8th grade I decided I was a graphic designer and would very tediously adjust photos using MS Paint, and I think I was about as good at it as the person who retouched Britney’s torso in the “Work Bitch” cover art. Britney, girl, I know you can do better, but we still love you so much.
Creep f. Lou Rhodes – “Vertigo”
At long last, Brooklyn-based DJ duo Lauren Flax and Lauren Dillard are finally ready to release their much-anticipated debut album Echoes this coming November 12th (also my birthday!). The Laurens love to bring in talented guest vocalists (Nina Sky, Holly Miranda), and this gorgeous single features Lamb vocalist Lou Rhodes. It reminds me a bit of 90’s trip-hop – slow-building, dark, delicate and dreamy.
Phantogram – “Black Out Days”
Since 2011’s Nightlife EP, all I’ve heard about Phantogram was that they were peforming with Big Boi(!!!). There’s no official word as to when the band will put out a new full-length record, but the electronic duo are thankfully back in action with this gloriously hooky, atmospheric first single. “Black Out Days” is melancholy and moody, perfect for making out in the basement of a smoky club somewhere.
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Glasser – “Design”
If you’re in the market for even more ice-cold synthpop, Cameron Mesirow’s project Glasser have just released this new video from her second record, Interiors. She describes the song as “a moment of joy that exists in the anticipation of ecstasy. Which is the better feeling? Both are delicious phantoms that we’ll only ever glimpse again upon reflection of a new experience.” The song is lovely, but I’m really enjoying the video, wherein Cameron spends a lot of time interacting with a shapeshifting sculpture until her life appears to turn into The Secret World of Alex Mack.
Luscious Jackson – “Show Us What You Got”
Best known for their 1997 hit “Naked Eye,” Luscious Jackson have been quietly working on new music since mid-2011. Their brand new record Magic Hour is the result of an extremely successful crowd-funding campaign, and it’ll be out November 5 via the band’s own imprint label. This track sounds a lot like victory, like the very best 90’s dance party with your friends, or at the very least like Luscious Jackson never actually left.
Jessy Lanza – “Kathy Lee”
Hamilton, Ontario native Jessy Lanza teamed up with UK label Hyperdub and the Junior Boys to put together her debut record Pull My Hair Back, a breathy, generally down-tempo collection of slightly detached but always atmospheric pop songs. Jessy sings with a pop sensibility that traces back to her appreciation for 90’s R&B, but the songs on Pull My Hair Back pull from a wide range of genres and influences, all accented by fluttering synthesizers. “Kathy Lee” reminds me a little bit of a lost Grimes track or the softest Portishead songs, and I’m curious to see what else this adorable Canadian has up her sleeve.
Neko Case – “Night Still Comes”
Neko’s new album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You is filled with sweet and somber moments, but “Night Still Comes” is one of the highlights. This live video does a great job capturing Neko’s energy, and I recommend that you blast this one while you’re alone in your room and it’s raining and everything is the worst. Neko understands you and all of your feelings.
Mazzy Star – “California”
I don’t even know what to say about this one I’m so excited – Mazzy Star finally have a new album coming out Sept 24 called Seasons Of Your Day and you can actually listen to the whole thing on NPR’s First Look right now. Their last record was 15 years ago, but they haven’t missed a single beat – Hope Sandoval’s voice is still still wistful, ethereal and altogether otherworldly.
Potty Mouth – “The Spins”
Guys, I know we started off with Britney Spears but this Captain’s Log was pretty filled with bummer songs. Here’s an adorable all-chick rock and roll band playing a giddy, distorted ode to gettin’ real drunk. You’re welcome.
oh fuck, mazzy star is a thing again. yeeeaaahhhh
“I’ve revenged myself all over myself. There’s nothing you can do to me.” I am so in love with Neko Case it’s stupid. She makes the best words happen.
Loving Neko Case is never stupid. Life is much better once you’ve let Neko into your heart.
So so much better.
Work Bitch is basically my favorite song in the whole world right now, tbh. I mean, I’m a hardcore Britney fan and I love basically everything she does, which is probably not the most discerning way to go about life, but whatever. This song is basically everything I want in pop music. I’m REALLY sad that the rumors that she sampled RuPaul’s “Supermodel” ended up not being true though.
Listening to new Mazzy Star on NPR right meow, and it is sooo gooooood.
“work bitch” is unbearable. it makes me feel sad
“Work Bitch” has this weird self-hate feel going on. As Stef says, it probably wasn’t written with a specific person in mind but the entire song just feels off and demanding.
The reason Britney Spears is still making albums but looks dead behind the eyes is because her father won legal conservatorship over her in 2008 because of her reckless behavior and questionable mental health and the conservatorship still hasn’t been relinquished. He has WAY too much control over her career and is basically forcing her to continue doing the ol’ pop music runaround because he profits from it. I read a fascinating longform article on it a year back or so, but I can’t seem to find it…
i think you’re talking about the article riese wrote that is linked in this post! is this it? http://www.autostraddle.com/its-not-britney-bitch-84052/
Oh, that gives me the creeps! I’d missed that one. It totally puts a finger on what bugs me about the song. No way is Britney writing her own songs. Few pop-stars do. Someone wrote “Work Bitch” for her. Does anyone else think it seems like she’s singing what she’s being told, and she’s not into it? Picture the writers/producers who prob came up with it singing it to Britney, and it’s just unbearable.
every time katy perry or whoever puts out a record the media love to analyze it and make it sound like it’s about something happening in her very public personal life, but the truth is that very very very few pop stars write their own songs; the songs are written by professional songwriters and then shopped around to artists.
this mazzy star comeback is everything
That photo of Britney Spears is sad, she definitely looks dead behind the eyes. Like she’s not even there.
I feel so much cooler for having read/listened to all of this. You rock, Stef.
i’m kind of into work bitch as a meaningless electro song but the continued exploitation of britney is gross.