Now Listening: Lorde, Mazzy Star, Emmylou Harris, FKA Twigs and Other Ladyish Things

Just some lovely ladies making music for a Sunday afternoon! This is what I’ve been listening to lately. I go through cycles of being open to new music, and then just obsessively listening to a few things over and over. Like a spiral, perhaps: it widens and expands and goes upward at times, and then narrows and funnels down to deepen into one point. I’m at the wide, upward point now and open to suggestion. What are you listening to that you’d recommend? I’m up for anything!

Lorde, “Tennis Court”

Suddenly everyone is all “Lorde! Lorde! Lorde!” and she’s everywhere, even at the top of the Billboard chart. It’s super-tempting to be a hater, but you know, I really like how minimal her pop is. There’s just something innately elegant and self-possessed about her music, which is kind of amazing considering she’s 16. When I was that age, I was pretty much the opposite of elegant and self-possessed — I was a dang mess. Lorde is also something I can listen to with my nephews or niece, which makes me feel like I’m exposing them to something more interesting than some other pop tart on the charts. She uses the same pop vernacular, but what she says with it is different. Of course, one day as the crazy auntie I play to expose my kiddos to the Raincoats and the Slits and Huggy Bear and the like, but Lorde’s a nice baby step to that goal on the wide horizon.

Mazzy Star, “California”

I am beyond excited Mazzy Star is back! I always kind of had a crush on Hope Sandoval, and it’s nice to know the years haven’t blunted their romantic, slightly hallucinogenic take on Paisley Underground-ish folk. I remember when “Fade Into You” was the big alt-makeout song, though I was always more partial to their cover of “Five-String Serenade.” The new record is really nice: swoony, dreamy and pretty much everything you want from Mazzy Star, and perfect for Sunday afternoon listening.

Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife”

I really liked this record when it came out last year, but this is the song I keep going back to, again and again. There’s just something really happy and buoyant about it, but in this non-dippy way. Who doesn’t love a non-dippy happy love song, where you’re just stoked that the person you’re into is just hotness galore? I love how simple the video is as well, just Fiona singing with slightly crazy-face with her sister now and then, but of course I love it.

Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”

I can’t believe I’m putting this here, because I actually really loathe this band. I have never liked them; they have always irritated me beyond belief. You know how people are like, “Ugh! I hate U2!” and it’s this viscerally vehement reaction? Well, that’s what happens between me and Arcade Fire. It’s like gnash-teeth-narrow-eyes-clench-fists when I hear them. (And, they were once complete douchelords to an ex-boyfriend of mine who did sound for one of their shows, so there’s a bit of a grudge there as well. But I didn’t like their music before he worked for them!) And yet, I like this, mostly because it’s pretty disco-y and that’s pretty cool and not their usual thing. I can pretend they’re not Arcade Fire for a few minutes, and then it works pretty well.

FKA twigs, “Water Me”

I’m always going to have a place in my heart for left-of-center electronic music with evocative female vocals. I practically came of age with Bjork, you know? That’s bound to affect you in some way, kind of like having Pluto in your first house in your astrological chart. The influence is from deep space, but it’s definitely an undertow. I love how ethereal this is, and how it manages to be both distant and intimate…and her voice, of course, is supple and lovely. I don’t know much about this London-based artist, but I’m definitely curious to hear more.

Emmylou Harris, “Making Believe”

Emmylou Harris in the 1970s is pretty much my new style icon. I mean, just watch this and look at her, right? But more importantly, listen to her: so soulful, so clear, just kind of relaxed and perfect and plaintive. I’m on a big Emmylou jag; maybe I’ll write more about it later.

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