New Music: The Joy Formidable, LeeLou, PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue, and Florrie

by Maura Johnston

Over the past two years the new band I’ve been most thankful for is the Welsh trio The Joy Formidable; led by a powerhouse blonde named Ritzy Bryan, they sound like all the best bits of alt-nation’s brief matriarchal rule, full of energy and passion and galloping drums. Last year, I probably would have worn out the grooves on their hyperactive single “Cradle” had I listened to it in physical form, and this year I have them on repeat again thanks to “I Don’t Want To See You Like This,” an impassioned look at a broken relationship that’s currently fighting it out for the top spot on my “2010 awesomeness” list.

I first heard of the British singer LeeLou thanks to Twitter, no lie. She followed me, I noted her name, and through some subsequent Googling for a completely unrelated reason I realized that she was collaborating with the British producer Paul Simm, who just so happens to be responsible for one of my favorite songs of all time. As it turns out, her EP Kiss Death Love Come is quite good, with “Burn Your Houses Down” being particularly well-tailored for gray days that get dark too soon, thanks to some finely calibrated cowbell, a hangover-fuzzed bass line, and LeeLou’s striking, Siouxsie-channeling vocals. Take that, my tendency to think that we’re all becoming serendipity-robbed zombies by the Internet!

The most gratitude-inducing music news of today has to be the announcement of PJ Harvey’s new album, Let England Shake, which has a release date of Valentine’s Day 2011. I recently spent some time immersing myself in the Peej’s discography, and while doing so I realized that I’d completely overlooked both Is This Desire? and Uh Huh Her when they came out in 1998 and 2004, respectively. It was a stupid move, although I think I appreciate the stinging eroticism of “The Letter” a lot more now than I would have six years ago. (I mean, “Can’t you see / In my handwriting / The curve of my g? / The longing”? Wow.)

Did you know that Kylie Minogue is performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday? I am definitely not complaining about this bit of booking, although I do find it curious, seeing as how America has been annoyingly resistant to her recent material. I am going to guess that it’ll be a little too chilly / early in the day for her to recreate the video for the quite stunning “All The Lovers,” a monumental love (well, sex) song that would be on the radio all the time if this nation’s adult-contemporary format were to take the word “adult” in its name seriously at all.

Florrie is a former house musician for the British pop braintrust Xenomania (you may have heard their handiwork here or here or here) who is embarking on her own pop-star career. She’s starting things off with a free digital EP, and its track “Left Too Late” is a brooding bit of synthpop that falls under one of my favorite musical categories: “songs that make me visualize rain-streaked train windows.” (See also: Mark Robinson’s remix of the Magnetic Fields’ “Smoke and Mirrors.”)

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“The Smartest Thing She Ever Said” is a Tumblr based digital storytelling art project featuring four teams of two-one artist and one story editor-between now and the end of the year. For three weeks each, the teams were asked to interpret the phrase, “The Smartest Thing She’s Ever Said.” The current team features writer Durga Chew-Bose and photographer Katherine Finkelstein with support from project curator Alexis Hyde. and its artists are entirely supported by Ann Taylor in collaboration with Flavorpill.

Maura Johnston likes music.