Behold: a sampling of the music we're listening to right now at Mercury HQ!
Ciara Dolan, Senior Editor & Music Editor
Aldous Harding, "The Barrel": Aldous Harding is a freak genius. Right now I can't stop listening to "The Barrel," the first single from her new album Designer (out April 26 on 4AD). Strike that, actually—I can't stop watching the absolutely bonkers music video for "The Barrel," in which the New Zealand singer/songwriter dances like a demonic marionette in a room draped with white sheets, teetering on platform boots and hiding a big secret under that phallic sunhat. The whole thing is very uncomfortable, but I can't get enough. Harding's videos are always quietly captivating and wonderfully weird, whether she's approximating a malfunctioning Stepford Wives robot in "Blend" or simply eating chocolates in the backseat of a cab and smiling to herself in "Imagining My Man." They're never an afterthought, and that's made clear with this inexplicably disturbing visual for "The Barrel." The song follows a serpentine acoustic guitar riff down a rabbit hole where maracas shake and Harding sings in riddles: "It's already dead/I know you have the dove/I’m not getting wet/Looks like a date is set/Show the ferret to the egg/I'm not getting led along." No idea what that means, but like the music video, the vibe is simultaneously playful and cautious, drawing you in deeper while keeping you at a cloaked arm's length. "The Barrel" contains a lot of joy and a lot of anxiety; I love how Harding makes their coexistence feel completely natural.
Blair Stenvick, News Reporter
Girlpool, What Chaos Is Imaginary: I always try to take a walk in the middle of the day—it helps freshen up the writing process for me—and lately I've been listening to What Chaos Is Imaginary, the new album Girlpool released back in February, during those walks. It has a much fuller sound than the duo's earlier work, but keeps the same evocative, interpret-as-you-like lyrics. I've found inspiration in it already, and you might, too!
Bobby Roberts, Calendar Editor
Amy Winehouse, Frank: I, like a whole buncha people, really only noticed Amy after her collaborations with Mark Ronson on Back to Black, and I loved the Amy documentary, but for whatever reason hadn't gone diving back into her previous and unreleased stuff. Finally tucked into Frank this past weekend and nobody told me she flat-out covered Grover Washington Jr's. "Mister Magic!" She took one of my favorite jazz instrumentals and put words over it! The nerve! And on top of that, it fuckin' works! This woman was a miracle. I hate that she's not here anymore.
Suzette Smith, Arts Editor
Natalie Portman, “Wrapped Up” (from the Vox Lux soundtrack): I’m fairly concerned that the devil has me because I can’t stop thinking about the songs from 2018’s Vox Lux soundtrack. It’s probably more about craft than magic, though, because most of the pop songs were co-written by Sia and the score was composed and produced by the late Scott Walker. Natalie Portman’s vocals don’t really do it for me and I wish the soundtrack included the film's sparse version of “Wrapped Up,” sung by Raffey Cassidy (she plays the teenage version of Portman’s character). But there’s something unshakable about the basic hooks on this record, and I find myself listening once and then thinking about the songs for hours after.
Chipp Terwilliger, Calendar Editor
Martha, Love Keeps Kicking: I’m only a few listens into Love Keeps Kicking, the third album from British pop-punk outfit Martha, but I can already tell it’s bursting with the charming wordplay and infectious sing-along choruses that made the band’s first two albums so special. Like 2016’s Blisters in the Pit of My Heart, Dirtnap Records is handling the US release of the album, which means it’s being distributed through Green Noise Records right here in town. A delay at the pressing plant has pushed the physical release back to late April, which gives you yet another reason to swing through Green Noise before they close up their brick-and-mortar location in early May.