Three New Tracks You Need To be Listening To: Claptone, The Living Strange and Tuomo & Markus

We must admit, virtually all the songs we’ve had on repeat as of late – by Zola Jesus, Doja Cat, Wet Leg, Latto, Let’s Eat Grandma… – have been chiefly of the female variety. It’s just a fact, really – women are making the most interesting music right now. (With apologies to the ever magnificent Harry Styles, whose ‘As It Was’ has also been getting repeated plays around here.)

But a few amazing new tracks have definitively caught our ears this month, and wouldn’t you know, it’s the XY chromosome gender that’s behind all of them. It’s an international lot, as well, with Tuomo & Markus, Claptone and The Living Strange hailing from Finland, Germany and America, respectively; and they span a particularly disparate range of viewpoints and especially musical styles, from electronic to anthemic rock to mildly-psych-folk.

So without further ado…

Claptone

Unlike New York and pretty much London, whose music scenes have been deadened by relentless over-development and gentrification, there’s still a great deal of cachet in being a “DJ/producer” from Berlin – as the German capital’s raging nightlife has managed to stand athwart the rising tide of rent hikes in the city center. One such person is the mysteriously named and masked Claptone, who lives precisely the peripatetic life you might expect of someone who holds that title.

In fact, just before everything went into lockdown in 2020, he was just about to launch a new weekly residency at the always epic Pacha Ibiza. Instead, he used the time in quarantine to get to work on a new album, which was released this past January under the title Closer – which he explains as being, “about the joy and sometimes the pain of being human. It’s an ode to togetherness as well as empowerment, to heartache as well as bliss.”

His considerable collaborators on the album included Seal, Mayer Hawthorne and Mansionair. But we can’t stop hitting repeat on the just released new James Hype remix of ‘Beautiful’, ft. lau.ra, with its sultry atmospherics and exhilarating beats. (It’s one of four remixes of the track, with others by Monkey Safari, Murmur Tooth and Lars Moston.)

“The original record felt like a summer day vibe,” Hype explains. “So for my remix I wanted to make a night time version, bringing the pace and energy up for the dancefloor, adding in some more aggressive sounds and my heavy beat for good measure. Glad to say it’s gone off in both mine and Claptone’s sets!”

Which is reason enough, of course, to immediately jump a flight to Berlin or Ibiza.

The Living Strange

As band names go, The Living Strange sounds like the inevitable title of our future autobiography. But this Brooklyn trio (Eli Sokolow on vocals/guitar, Benya Shafrir on drums, Nico Sleator on synth) went into LA’s famed 4th Street Recording Studio last spring, and came out with 11 new tracks that promise to be not so much strange as uniquely thought provoking. They’ll be gathered together on their upcoming album Tell Me Who You Are, out sometime later this year – and the newly released teaser single ‘Close’ gives a pretty good idea of what to expect, with its fuzzed out guitars, dramatic atmospherics, and captivating, anthemic choruses. It was, hardly surprisingly, a product of pandemic isolation, and inspired by the urgent need for the togetherness and intimacy that it kept us from.

“One summer afternoon during 2020,” Sokolow recalls, “I picked up my guitar and out came what would become ‘Close’. Closeness was all over my mind during lockdown so I wrote this genuine love song about wanting to be around someone; I imagined us playing it in a social setting, like an outdoor festival. Whenever I play it to an audience now – I can’t help but smile at the closeness between us.”

Should one desire to get closer to them, The Living Strange will be playing three live dates in NYC this May and June, at Ponyboy, Arlene’s Grocery and Rooftop. Don’t forget to give them a hug.

Tuomo and Markus

As their home country of Finland readies its brave stand against Russia via the bold act of joining NATO, Helsinki’s Tuomo and Markus have turned their scorn elsewhere, delivering a stinging condemnation of social media itself in the form of new track ‘Wishful Information.’ Ideologically, it reminds of post-punk staples like The Clash’s ‘Radio Clash’ and Peter Godwin’s ‘Images of Heaven’, both released at a time when art was making meta critiques of a new age of entertainment-fueled media.

Of course, none could imagine how far it would have gone by the second decade of the 21st Century, with massive disinformation campaigns interfering with international election results, and the endless pursuit of “likes” causing a worldwide mental health crisis.

And indeed, the duo of renowned Finnish soul artist Tuomo Prättälä and Latebirds singer/songwriter Markus Nordenstreng forward some particularly piercing observations on this worrying new age of algorithmic mind control:

“It can manipulate your feelings / It can deactivate your doubt / It can formulate your answers / It can intoxicate your brain”

And yes, it can absolutely do all of those things. Though the slightly psychedelic nu-folk sound, kind of like The Hollies crossed with early Pink Floyd, then introduced to Spiritualized, most definitely stands in contrast to the confrontational nature of the lyrics. Which is just how we like it.

Tuomo & Markus will play the Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA the weekend of May 27-28, alongside Wilco and Japanese Breakfast.

Image by Tero Ahonen 

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