5 Can’t-Miss Releases: You Drive, Killstarr, The Midnight, Devata Daun, Javiera Mena

Here are some hot and compelling non-soundtrack releases I’ve been listening to recently. Note that there are actually six, because I just have to recommend two songs from You Drive.

You Drive – “Cracked Plate” and “Royal Blue”

Makeup and Vanity Set and Jasmin Kaset have decided to make their infrequent collaborations official. They formed the synth-pop duo You Drive and made one of the best records of the past several years. Their self-titled debut features songs that recall the likes of Electric Youth, Chromatics, and Beach House.

Blissful cuts bathed in synths like “Cracked Plate” and “Royal Blue” could easily have been on the Drive soundtrack — like the artists on that album, they use the past to make something contemporary and enduring. “Cracked Plate” will heat you up, with a snap and a pop that makes it a damn fine candidate to add to your playlists and for placement in TV shows and films. “Royal Blue” is one of those songs I put on to recalibrate the fabric of my entire being. No pressure.

(Note: If I weren’t busy with certain projects, I’d have easily written a full-blown review of the entire record. Just trust me on this one and buy it today. It’s a phenomenal release.)

Killstarr – “Wonderland”

On his debut album Worlds Apart, longtime synthwaver Killstarr just plain makes me happy. He gets dreamy, upbeat, and invites the listener to join him on fantastic journeys. The vocal pop cut “Wonderland” epitomizes the vibe of this hopeful record, but I recommend you buy this entire album right now.  (Additional recommendation is the instrumental “Hyperdrift”).

The Midnight – “America 2”

Transcendent 1980s-inspired synth-pop duo The Midnight have recently issued two singles as followups to last year’s exquisite EP Nocturnal. (Check out this in-depth interview I did at the time with both members, Tim McEwan and Tyler Lyle). The first single was “Lost Boy,” released a couple weeks ago, and the latest is “America 2.”

It’s not just the cover art that teases a Springsteen influence. The progressive spirit and evocative storytelling of the The Boss is alive and afire on “America 2.” This is a triumphant cut from one of the leading purveyors of synthwave and synth-pop.

Devata Daun – “Weakening”

“Weakening,” the latest from Minneapolis-based Devata Daun, is a gorgeous, slow-burning R&B number. Daun’s vocals are tempered but evocative, flowing like an ethereal Nite Jewel. The lo-fi, minimalist instrumentation behind her shows that bombast isn’t required to express passion.

Overall, the composition gives the impression of teetering on the edge of malfunction, which is an effective way of demonstrating a weakening. The song is from the Pye Luis EP, coming Aug. 24. (The EP is named for the writer who worked on the song with Daun along with producer c.Kostra.)

Javiera Mena – “Intuición”

This is a bit of a leftfield number for me to be presenting here, but someone recommended it to me and I’ve been digging it. I have no idea what she is singing, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of enjoying “Intuición,” a catchy pop cut from Javiera Mena. (Yeah, it’s about intuition, I know that.) The Chilean indie electropop musician has been gracing us with her excellent talent for more than a decade, and her latest record, Espejo — which means mirror or reflection, I think — is a gem to an experience.

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