I want to give a shout out to parking lots everywhere. When I showed up at Chicago’s “Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island” to see Vampire Weekend last Sunday, I was reminded about something I’d forgotten in the near-decade since last seeing a show there: The venue is basically a parking lot. Having been raised on Summerfest, there’s something oddly endearing about watching a performance from 500 feet away standing on ground that’d skin your knees if you let it. Vampire Weekend might care about you, but the Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island does not — and something about seeing something so joyous in such a discouraging environment somehow makes that joy feel more genuine and earned.
Vagabon: “Flood Hands”
New York City-via-Cameroon artist Laetitia Tamko earned many fans and widespread acclaim (in indie spheres, at least) upon the release of her 2017 debut album, Infinite Worlds, on Father/Daughter Records. It was one of my favorite records that year, full of strikingly vulnerable tracks such as album opener and live favorite “The Sharks.” This week, we heard the first song from Vagabon’s forthcoming sophomore record All the Women in Me.
“Flood Hands” uses vocal processing, soft synth lines and fragmented, ghostly trap drums to establish a breathtaking vibe. Moments of the track remind me of the chilling production from Anohni’s Hopelessness, a record I can’t get enough of these days. Tamko wrote in a press release that she originally wrote “Hands” for a “well-known pop duo,” which allowed her creative space in the song’s writing and production. I’m grateful that she released this song herself, and I can’t wait for it to lead to more palate-expanding material on the new record.
Vagabon will open for Angel Olsen at The Sylvee on Nov. 13.
Caroline Polachek: “Door”
In 2008, Caroline Polacheck’s old band Chairlift soundtracked one of the most iconic iPod commercials, back when that placement was as big as a song could get. In the decade since, she’s been regularly pushing beyond the immediate and cheery world of “Bruises.” The last two Chairlift records got better and weirder. Solo records Polachek made under the names Ramona Lisa and CEP skewed ambient. And writing what became Beyoncé’s “No Angel” added a permanent layer of serious credibility to her name. “Door” is the first solo single she’s released under her own name, and it’s great. Co-produced by Polacheck, Danny L Harle, Dan Nigro and Jim-E Stack, it feels intricate to the level of a vocaloid performance. Caroline’s vocals float like Imogen Heap’s as her chorus echoes around the track. It’s natural and uncanny and intoxicating. I can’t help but feel like this is the future PC Music promised us in 2014, and I’m grateful it’s Polachek who’s bringing it to us in 2019.
Frankie Cosmos: “Windows”
Frankie Cosmos is back! If it seems like her last release came out a few months ago, that’s because it did. The prolific indie pop outfit led by Greta Kline has been releasing music for about five years, which seems incredible taking into account her output during that time. Some back-of-the-envelope tabulation turns up over 60 tracks; distilled, emotional tableaus which virtually define “short and sweet” (even if some of them are “Sinister”). I think it’s justified to regard Greta Kline as a songwriting genius. Lead single “Windows” opens us up to a view of the upcoming FC full-length Close It Quietly, out Sept. 6. It’s a softly-sung, inward-looking song reflecting on hesitance in a relationship, and it comes complete with full-band instrumentation. That leaves 20 unreleased tracks on this album; hopefully in the next three months we get another handful of good peeks inside the record.