Playlist of the Week: March 20, 2015

“Baby Britain”—Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield
Approaching indie rock martyr Elliott Smith’s catalog with equal parts taste and respect, Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers and Kent native Jessica Lea Mayfield have produced something truly stunning on “Baby Britain.” The darker characters in Mayfield’s voice prove the perfect contrast to Avett’s brighter tones, painting a complex and textured musical narrative that ends far too quickly. Look for more covers on the appropriately titled “Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith,” available March 17.

“Psycho” is the first pre-album single off Muse’s seventh album, “Drones,” slated for release on Warner Brothers Records in June. While the song’s lyrics leave something to be desired, the huge, lumbering guitar riff and fat bassline are vintage Muse and suggest a heavier direction for the group following 2012’s electronic “The 2nd Law.” Rock has rarely sounded grander or campier, and for Muse fans that is a very good thing.

“Let It Happen”—Tame Impala
Over the past few years, Tame Impala’s psych-rock musings have solidified their position among indie rock’s elite. In time the nearly eight-minute single “Let It Happen” should only bolster that position, offering a dream-like odyssey of layered electronic flourishes and funky guitar. While there is no official word on an album title or release date, be sure to catch Tame Impala when they visit Cleveland and the House of Blues for the first time on June 4.

“King Kunta”—Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s sprawling new album, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” is a dense and complicated piece from one of hip-hop’s finest. While elaborate pieces of artistic expression are often difficult to digest, the dark, menacing funk of “King Kunta” speaks loud and clear. Ferociously raging against the “powers that be,” Lamar spits references to Bill Clinton and Michael Jackson over a babbling bass line that weaves in and out of a haunting acoustic guitar hook. This is song that ultimately gives more than it takes, but only after careful listening.

“Crystals”—Of Monsters and Men
“Crystals” is a far cry from “Little Talks,” the song that turned Of Monsters and Men into indie rock heroes a few summers ago, but for all intents and purposes, this is a very good thing. While it may have been tempting to re-create their mega-hit, “Crystals” shows the band reaching for lusher sonic textures and pushing itself in unexpected directions. Here’s to hoping the rest of “Beneath The Skin,” Of Monsters and Men’s second album, shows the same promise. Look for it on June 9.

Retro Pick of the Week:
“Ventura Highway”—America
Despite what their name may imply, America actually hails from Britain, but share musical similarities with American groups like the Eagles and supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Defining the sound of soft rock in the 1970s, the ensemble marries breezy melodies with a set of stunningly sweet harmonies on “Ventura Highway.” America are an essential touchstone for any listener looking to add more memorable folk or pop songs to their collection.

Teddy Eisenberg is a third-year programmer at WRUW-FM 91.1 Cleveland. He hosts The ’59 Sound, an exploration of rock music, every Thursday morning from 8-10 a.m. and co-hosts the variety talk show Max and Teddy in the Morning at Night (Sometimes) on Mondays from 5-6 p.m. The crackle of vinyl warms him on cold Cleveland nights.