13 Excellent Things About Music In February
Catch up on the month's best songs, albums, and moments with new music by Drake, Thom Yorke, Phoenix, My Bloody Valentine, and more.
13. Atoms for Peace - Amok
"Before Your Very Eyes"
The second album in what I suppose is easiest to just call Thom Yorke's non-Radiohead body of work is very difficult to pin down. It's all based on rhythm and groove, but the music is so chilly and cerebral that it negates its own funkiness. And yet you have songs where Yorke is putting his spin on Afrobeat, or taking the essence of late '90s/early '00s Timbaland and filtering it through his distinct brand of ambient self-loathing and melancholy. It's hard to know what to do with this music — you can't quite dance to its subtle sputtering beats, and its passive-aggressive spirit is at odds with its sexy vibes — but it has a way of slowly worming itself into your mind, just like Yorke's The Eraser and Radiohead's similarly chilly The King of Limbs. —Matthew Perpetua
12. Kurt Vile, "Wakin' on a Pretty Daze"
Kurt Vile's all about an understated vocal paired with a lush guitar line, and this song is no exception. His quiet, easy singing highlights the full-bodied, strummy melodies that give "Wakin on a Pretty Day" its charm. But his voice never gets lost or otherwise overwhelmed by the music — instead, they complement one another beautifully, as usual. As we head into spring, this is going to be great for headphone walks around the neighborhood. KV's next album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, is out in April, as well. —Amy Rose Spiegel
11. Kelly Clarkson Vs. Clive Davis, Round 2
10. Phoenix, "Entertainment"
9. That Photo of Adele and Chris Brown
8. King Tuff, "Sun Medallion"
King Tuff knows how to plain-long write a solid psych song, and "Sun Medallion" is no exception. It's all gritty sunshine as told by a few easy-on-the-ears guitar lines. The lyrics are similarly casual and great — they tell a story full of luck and chance, but also just recount the general hanging-around that life can be sometimes. "Sun Medallion" was originally released as a cut from one of King Tuff's earliest recordings, the vinyl-only Was Dead, but the song will be properly released in April (and not just on vinyl this time, either). —A.R.S.
7. James Blake, "Retrograde"
6. Drake, "Started at the Bottom"
5. Doldrums - Lesser Evil
"She Is the Wave" featuring Guy Dallas
Airick Woodhead, the mastermind of Doldrums, makes electronic pop songs that seem to burst at the seams with buzzes, hums, and super-saturated tones. It's a deliberately overwhelming sound, and it perfectly captures the feeling of being overstimulated and overcome with dozens of contradictory emotions. But even when the music is most chaotic, as in barrage of laser-gun tones crisscrossing the single "She Is the Wave," there's always a sense of serenity at the center of the music. —M.P.
4. Autre Ne Veut, "Play by Play"
3. Beyoncé at the Super Bowl
2. "Harlem Shake" Meme
1. My Bloody Valentine - MBV
My Bloody Valentine kicked off February with the surprise release of MBV, their first collection of new songs since their highly influential masterpiece Loveless came out in 1991. Many fans, nearly all of whom had resigned themselves to never hearing from My Bloody Valentine ever again, prepared to be very disappointed. But as it turns out, all of that trepidation was unnecessary. MBV is a worthy successor to Loveless and a masterpiece in its own right. The album is sequenced like a journey, starting off right around where band mastermind Kevin Shields left off in the early '90s, and ending with his most far-out experiments. The album is divided into three acts: an opening sequence that offers a more raw version of Loveless' overwhelming haze of guitar, a middle section that swaps out the guitar fuzz for glowing synth tones, and a disorienting final third in which Shields uses busy beats for both texture and tempo. It's a dense, beautiful, and wonderfully inscrutable record, and absolutely worth the wait. —M.P.