Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Gerardo Ortiz – Eres una Niña

Our third time round covering him…


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Alfred Soto: One of the best contemporary balladeers winks, encourages, and draws back. He’s a flirt who won’t give until he’s good and ready. Or she is. His trick is to let her think so.
[7]

Will Adams: A lush and lovely horn arrangement surrounds the song, but it’s not long before you get to the condescension at its center.
[5]

Josh Langhoff: My Thanksgiving resolution is to ignore the patronizing opening line. (For further research: does “Niña” populate banda ballads as thoroughly as “Girl” does bro-country? It seems like “Mujer” shows up more often.) I will also ignore any possible ickiness involving Ortiz kissing JustAGirl’s extremities until she screams his name. (“HAY no más,” Gerardo soothed soothingly.) Starting… now! Because really this song is very romantic, and there’s little precedent for Sinaloan banda incorporating Dominican-via-Bronxian bachata guitar. Plus, Ortiz’s long-lined melody is beautiful, a way better tune than Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” speaking of songs about children letting their inhibitions run wild. Resolution starting NOW.
[8]

Brad Shoup: Instead of left or right, Ortiz has managed to position his mix down: I feel as if the brass players are standing on my antihelix. Ortiz has plunged a leg into bachata, and so the guitar must stand out. The lyric is filled with torn clothes and orgasms and bad boyfriends; Ortiz doesn’t fade into velvet — even his spoken-word bit is a little gruff — but it makes for good tension.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: So the difference between a dude who’s believable and a douche who just thinks he knows better than a girl’s taste in boyfriends to get what he wants is just language and a weirdly beguiling vulnerability. Ortiz just sounds like he means it to me. Quite a slippery slope, but down we all go.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: Right amount of time, and just the right amount of easy-going-ness, even if that’s all I can really get out of it.
[5]

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Katie Rush ft. Samantha Urbani – Dangerous Luv

That’s Urbani… we have no idea what Rush looks like…


[Video][Website]
[6.67]

Maxwell Cavaseno: In a parallel world where Pornography-era Phil Thornalley is the person who gets ahold of Madonna’s first songs, we get these slabs of hell. The song striding atop the production feels cast aside, but I’m hoping Katie finds that perfect partner for her drooling downer clubland vibes.
[4]

Anthony Easton: I don’t know why I love this so much, but it is genuinely beautiful. There are hints — how that sibilant “S” rises like steam from the wet streets, how this kind of reminds me of Madonna circa “Justify My Love,” how the vocals add texture, how artificial the production sounds — but mostly I love it because of how well-constructed it is, how fecund it sounds. 
[9]

Alfred Soto: It sports neat distortion, especially in the last third, and Rush’s affectless act is persuasive. Not dangerous, though, and it’s not love, much less luv. 
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: This is all downtown-NYC post-punk no-wave angles. This is ESG on ice with a Kylie injection. This does sound dangerous. This is electronic pop that’s neither electro-pop nor electronica, and only barely pop. This feels subversive. This sounds like what Robyn’s fans think she sounds like. This would’ve been huge at Danceteria in ’82, but this doesn’t sound like 1982. 
[8]

Brad Shoup: Rush has made a sort of dystopic take on the PC Music aesthetic, recruiting Urbani to help make a Paula Abdul gloss over melting ambulance sirens, F train bass, and wooden percussion that clops like a warning. It took a few listens to locate something more than a punchline, but I don’t think this is supposed to transport so much as cow you.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: A surge of sound, like how music sounds a few drinks in: music for going out to, alone in streets that feel like wind tunnels and in outfits that feel like pulp-heroine costumes and in the grips of first love/first mistake, for feeling unstoppable and terrified and thrilled. It’s not quite a song for going out to, but the atmosphere’s almost enough.
[7]

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding – Outside

Once again following the “throw every song out there as a single and see what sticks” approach…


[Video][Website]
[6.00]

Thomas Inskeep: Build-and-release EDM-pop of the laziest variety, fronted by one of the UK’s most annoying, whiny vocalists. Kinda hard to believe this is from the same man who just six years ago brought us “I Created Disco.”
[2]

Alfred Soto: “Lights” shook its post-Robyn twinkly melancholy as soon as it stuck itself on top forty playlists in 2011 and 2012. I wish I’d rated it higher. Calvin Harris’ last interesting work involved Dizzee Rascal, but the track’s ambition to achieve a classical simplicity gets realized thanks to Ellie Goulding’s key shifts in the verses and despite those bleating synths.
[6]

Crystal Leww: Music criticism’s olds (even poptimists) love to hate on EDM as a genre, especially how it removed the visible elements of artistry during live shows and replaced them with a laptop and lights. They’re the same (terribly misguided) criticisms that have faced EDM since the beginning, and Calvin Harris is the face of it all. Criticisms of the EDM live show seem to come from people who haven’t ever been to one, though — just angry folks who have time to sneer before trudging off to The Black Keys at the opposite stage. It’s too bad; an EDM live show is aggressively dead-feeling when someone bad is playing and electric when a good DJ is performing. Harris is the best at uniting a field full of people having a good time. I’m not surprised; someone instrumental in creating the people-pleasing pop tracks on 18 Months (whose hits were on radio for about that long, too) would also know what pleases crowds of live fans, too. Motion‘s rollout has been overshadowed by Taylor Swift, but it’s inevitable that these tracks will be big anyway. Hate all you want on Goulding’s vocal, Harris’ tinny strings, or his formula — I can’t imagine the crowd do anything but react automatically when the EDM king drops this. It is gut-wrenching and massive and it wants you to believe in the obvious and the heartbreaking. Welcome back, babe.
[9]

Iain Mew: It’s remarkable how much a typical Calvin Harris build is enhanced by just a slight change in its instrumentation. The sound of strained strings gives a sense of not only grandeur but also physical weight, especially coupled with doubled up drums. It’s effective enough that it doesn’t need much from its singer, which is fortunate — Ellie Goulding is best at dealing in a specific uncertainty and “Outside” is all about vague certainty.
[6]

Brad Shoup: Harris’s melody is so strong, Goulding’s verses become a de facto duet. On the hook, she sounds a bit like Sophie Ellis-Bextor: a royal experimenting with abandon. And then there’s that string bit with which to contend: serrated and wheedly and more than a little pissed-off. As pop texture it’s bad taste, or maybe just avant garde.
[6]

Will Adams: Those abrasive strings gnash their teeth through the majority of the mix, while Ellie Goulding gets pushed upstage. The song’s another serviceable EDM-pop trinket that’ll whet radio’s appetite, but Harris seems to be at the final stage before entering the zone of diminishing returns.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: There’s a missing link from good to great here, and much of it lies in the lyrics. None of them are any good. None are any bad either; they’re just the vaguest, most non-committal suggestions of sadness Harris or Goulding could come up with. The only time she deviates vocally is in the quickfire, two-line pre-chorus too. All round there’s a deflating ignorance to any of the drama so deftly developed instrumentally.
[7]

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Belle and Sebastian – The Party Line

This is not just a modern rock song?


[Video][Website]
[5.23]

Mallory O’Donnell: The aesthetic of disco is often appropriated and oftener approximated by rock and pop acts. Very rarely is it so perfectly, almost clinically exercised as in this case study by Belle and Seabastian. Whether or not they’re mocking disco itself or recent appropriations of such is a moot point: just like tunes by R. Stewart, J. Cocker, and the Bros. Mael this is a great proper big walloping disco song with a wink and a nudge and I plan on dancing to it relentlessly this winter.
[9]

Scott Mildenhall: Radio 2 disco played with 6music eyebrows — that is to say raised ones. What exactly they are being raised at — homogeny and conformity? — isn’t altogether clear, but you better know that they are raised, and raised slightly. Insouciant, Stuart Murdoch steps “off into the dark,” “leaving,” “happy to look and run,” at no point having participated. At least, with his “days of glory” in mind, not recently. Perhaps it’s not so much superior as secretly wistful.
[7]

Brad Shoup: When the main melodic hook merges with Murdoch’s half-in exhortation, it’s wonderful, like watching the streams cross. The hook needs a body to inhabit; Stuart needs a wingman to convince you he’s not just taking the piss for idle fun. Ten years ago, this would have sounded like Saint Etienne; now, it’s a fresh detour, if not a plausible path forward.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Since 2003 B&S have goosed their sound with electronic loops and synths, giving the impression that Stuart Murdoch hits OkCupid looking for quick action. For a while it worked — indeed, it works a couple of times here, notably the way he slides across the line “Where were you when I was king in this part of town?” as if it were a single co-ed on a sofa. The Winnie-the-Pooh voice and that Franz Ferdinand lick are Mace though.
[5]

W.B. Swygart: They’ve gone disco before, of course; but they’re a slightly different band now. Where “Your Cover’s Blown” was a six-minute youth club meltdown, here Stewie’s a feller slightly more aware of, if not his age, then his seniority. He sounds like a man who’s very confident in his ability to buy flattering overcoats. As a result, this sounds a touch more conventional than the Belles usually do, and by turn a bit less energised, harder to dig your fingers into. I suppose that’s progress, and that’s not a bad thing, but my heart isn’t exactly swelling.
[6]

Cédric Le Merrer: Going back to the cute “Electronic Renaissance” on Tigermilk, through the rarity “Final Day” and a few other experiments, this kind of light dance synth disco has always been in Belle and Sebastian’s repertoire, even if they only ever made it work half the time at best. This is not an interesting-but-flawed experiment, but a fully realised imitation of a bored Of Montreal cover band.
[5]

Patrick St. Michel: This isn’t a stylistic shift for Belle and Sebastian, but rather a throwback to “Electronic Renaissance,” the big new-wave blister sticking out on their first album. Except that LP initially counted only 1000 copies in existence, so that song was Stuart Murdoch playing around because, well, why not? “The Party Line” is a desperation heave at relevance in 2014 for a band who slowly became slotted as a legacy act, fated to play If You’re Feeling Sinister at festivals for the rest of their existence. But this fails as a dance-pop-ish song because of how limp it sounds, and it lacks any of the charm usually found in even the most mediocre songs from this bunch. At least “Electronic Renaissance” was a little weird. This is just a flatline.
[3]

Anthony Easton: I don’t know what Stuart Murdoch is doing lately, and after hearing The Boy with the Arab Strap a couple of months ago for the first time in years, I wonder if I need to know what Murdoch is doing. He saved my life from 19 to 22, and the loyalty is there. (Literally, all I heard when I was in the hospital a decade ago was Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and I still know every line to “Piazza, New York Catcher.”) But the girl-group project and the production of this confuses me, and that makes me an asshole, because an artist should be able to grow up. I want a little more rawness, and a little less tweeness — no matter how twee B&S were, it was an assuage to the roughness in the world, their rawness a new kind of rawness to the armour required for the world’s rawness. This just seems less vulnerable.
[4]

Mark Sinker: Autobiography day apparently. My entry into internet life — and re-entry into thinking about music after a long bruised break — largely depended on a lovely London-based clump of B&S fandom, some of whom are lifelong friends now even though I’ve never really felt especially sinister or even sinister-curious myself. These were people — from all over — who were just good at what constitutes the social, and good at it moreover in the context of the awkward and the shy (not that I’m really either, but a lot of the value of the webspaces I landed in was that it wasn’t just the noisy and the confident who got to speak). Could the same have happened with just a.n.other random fandom? I can’t guess the experiments that would demonstrate this but I’m inclined to think no, no, it’s something quite particular to Belle and Sebastian, and the mark skews accordingly. Even on a song I think is quite dull. 
[5]

Josh Winters: It’s just a reflection of a reflection.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Clearly they’ve been listening to some nu-disco, which immediately makes this pretty much the most interesting thing they’ve ever done. Additionally, there’s a hint of Gary Glitter glam. The lyrics — well, as usual, the less said the better.
[4]

Danilo Bortoli: When the internet decided it was a good time to revisit Belle and Sebastian’s earlier stuff in the beginning of the aughts, people often used a very particular word to depict the sound of albums like If You’re Feeling Sinister and Tigermilk: “polished.” That was a very correct depiction of the band’s sound, but it also showcased some people’s disdain toward their affable sentimentality. The negative side of that description only began to make sense for me at the time of release of Write About Love, an album so polished it could reach asepsis. “The Party Line” continues to follow this path of safety. It seems they’re trying to recreate an old feeling, trying to lock us inside a cozy, warm time capsule. This trick worked on The Life Pursuit, but given “The Party Line,” it wouldn’t be too risky to assume they have long lost this ability to keep us from the outer world.
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Truth be told, art-dance-rock is treacherous territory that’s often traveled, and one can easily fall in someone else’s tracks. Ignore the infamous legends and think of the modern peers Belle and Sebastian face with this single; more warped, and this’d be a decent Klaxons single. More frigid, a decent Junior Boys comeback. More muscular, Phoenix rearing their head once more. B&S are as ever sharp with their craftiness, but they’ve sandblasted this stuff to a point that you can’t see too many individual features.  
[4]

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Panda Bear – Mr. Noah

And now, solo material from the only actual animal in Animal Collective…


[Video][Website]
[4.60]

Patrick St. Michel: The whole point of this is that it doesn’t go anywhere, but rather just spins in one big blunt-clouded circle — I mean, Panda Bear sings “He don’t want to get out of bed/unless it feels justified.” Still, it would have been neat had this done anything besides swirl around. 
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: This manages to retain a melody while still sludging along to accurately depict a state: a bitter state, a hungover, churning-bellied and loathing-brained state, where you’re certain that your future, prospects, gumption, and brain cells are slowly dissolving into chyme. Happily for me (if not Panda Bear), “Mr. Noah” is much easier to avoid.
[5]

Alfred Soto: The guitars are loud, so that’s nice, I guess. As usual he lives and dies by distortion and mixing tricks, for without them he dies.
[4]

Cédric Le Merrer: The “ey-ey-ey” and “uh-uh-uh” at the end of each line sound like me trying to sing both the lead and background parts of a Temptations song. But the thing is: I’m very bad. I guess the intent is to imitate the throbbing of the ugly mush that’s playing behind him, but that’s what Garage Band default presets are for, Mr. Panda Bear.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: What do people see in this pretentious, overworked, proggy bullshit? This is the epitome of current “college rock” in every negative way possible. 
[1]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The corniest record of 2014 perhaps. This isn’t musically experimental, this is the sounds of a true prat.
[1]

Anthony Easton: Panda Bear can never quite drop his pop aesthetics, which in my less generous moments makes me think that this gives a certain kind of listener, still not sure about pop, the chance to pretend that they are participating in the deconstruction while still maintaining pleasure. I think that there is a problem for another kind of listener, who only spends time with the pleasures of pop and is dismissive of spiky deconstructions. That this track makes me feel uncomfortable, but that I still cannot dismiss it wholly, rewards a difficult cleverness about the problems of pleasure. 
[5]

W.B. Swygart: Clinic do “The Crunch“, which on paper is very much the kind of newsletter to which I would like to subscribe, except the end result just sounds a bit too much like indigestion. I think I either need to be sleepier or drunker.
[6]

Brad Shoup: What a big ol’ baggy baby he’s become. Even without the video, I think I’d be getting the spins. On the chorus, he throws his lines down a short flight of stairs; it’s hard not to do a shoulder shimmy each time. He covers the floor with quicksand: a bass gullet re-digesting old Flaming Lips voices and a “Sport”-y drumkit. But like usual, his pasty vocal is what drags the song forward. It’s not like music is lacking for a safe solipsistic space — and it’s definitely not as if this is some bold direction for pop, indie or otherwise — but I got caught in the disingenuous-naïf vibe. This time.
[7]

Danilo Bortoli: Panda Bear knows a thing or two about creating — and then inhabiting — musical worlds full of places even the most reckless listener can get lost inside of. 2007’s Person Pitch proved that. But it seems like, after Tomboy, his last album, melancholy started to show up in unusual places — and, even though the dense sampling, you could begin to hear his sadness. He was unashamed and careless, even unabashed. “Mr. Noah” takes this to a new level, I think. “Mr. Noah” resembles a preparation to actually talking about demise and grief, by making up characters in songs like this one in order to make its narrative more credible. But it also has something that has always been a significant part of Noah Lennox’s music: the almost embarrassing playfulness he can surround his songs with, the easygoing feeling which contaminates the storytelling. This is going to be hard to believe, but right now I can’t help but to think this is Panda Bear’s return to Strawberry Jam – both sonically and aesthetically — which can only mean one thing: this is his most passionate, ecstatic creation in years.
[9]

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Marianne Faithfull – Late Victorian Holocaust

Getting the voice into order…


[Video][Website]
[6.38]

Cédric Le Merrer: According to the Wikipedia page of the book that gave this song its title, in Late Victorian Holocaust, Mike Davis “explores the impact of colonialism and the introduction of capitalism, and the relation with famine in particular”. But I must not have been the only one who’d never heard of the book, and the gravity pull of Marianne Faithful’s character is such that like me a lot of people have probably interpreted “late Victorian” as “very, very late” — or the 1970s, really. Starvation just another word for withdrawal. Either way, the music may be ghostly but the piano is resolute, and Marianne’s voice resigned. Imperialism and drug crazes, starvation and withdrawal are all products of inescapable capitalism. Your dreams are sleep to keep, because There Is No Alternative.
[9]

Mark Sinker: A semi-late Elizabethan non-holocaust: my friend T helped out tending Meanwhile Park for a time a few years back — it’s near Portobello Road — and we often still go over the canal and drink coffee together in the little Lebanese teashop in Golborne Road. So the names have the aura they have for me, and not the aura that’s needed, and maybe for that reason this seems mostly schtick and flim-flam, Marianne’s velvet croak notwithstanding.  
[6]

Megan Harrington: Marianne Faithfull’s voice wears its age in a way few women are ever allowed. She’s as craggy and tar-stained as any Dylan or Cohen but she’s not a comforting or maternal presence the way her male peers are largely grandfatherly at their advanced age. Part of that is due to her partnership with Nick Cave, a songwriter who’s always had an old woman or two haunting him. Together, “Late Victorian Holocaust” rattles the floorboards and shakes the cupboards. Faithfull is both self-possessed and unhinged, spectral and mortal. This late-career flourish has produced some of the best work in both artists’ catalogues and it feels rare and exciting to hear these two find each other after so many decades apart. 
[9]

Anthony Easton: Faithfull’s loss of voice is one of her great gifts, moving from a great singer with a decent voice in songs like “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan,” to the best punk album about female rage ever, to one of the great interpreters of Kurt Weill, almost as good as Lenya. Over the past decade, she has carefully picked out writers and producers who remind her of the cabaret stars, and she has moved her shipwrecked voice closer to those shores. That she managed to dig out the Marxist urban critic Mike Davis’s evocative title, and made it about personal erotics instead of public politics, complicates an artist  who has never been simple. That she has managed to last longer, done more work, and not really released a bad album for most of her life, suggests a radical endurance that is profoundly under-discussed. In this season of six hours of Dylan wankery and zombie Stones (yes, like zombie capitalism), this makes me genuinely angry.
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: I love Faithfull and Broken English is a totem, but this is no Broken English. There’s barely a song here, just a few barely-connected elements (a violin poking its head in, some dull piano chords, “moody” atmospherics), with Faithfull singing undergrad poetry atop it.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Nick Cave seems like an ideal collaborator — on first listen at any rate. Not as insufferable as when he croaks his own Death Valley ’69 takes on American fatalism that fascinate Europeans, but he still indulges an artist who thinks anyone should still mention Swinging London and heroin in the lead graf. I like my Faithfull with a little pep. 2002’s Kissin’ Time, in part produced by Jarvis Cocker, Beck, and Billy Corgan, let her rasp behind synths. Here she sounds “classy” and desiccated.
[4]

Mallory O’Donnell: Lacy stringwork and methodical, sombre pacing underscore a Bowie/Brel/Faithfull-esque narrative of pleasure and hunger, memory and sweet little sleep. MF sounds raw as ever but with a wistfulness that cuts elegantly through the bitter recitation, pal.
[7]

Brad Shoup: To fall asleep in a light snow, to remember what kept you warm once upon a time. To snap awake, and recall that you’ve commissioned a tune that freezes you in glass and presses echoes into service as ghosts, once again. 
[5]

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Readers’ Week 2014 is coming

We’ve run a few checks, and there is very little that can happen music-wise before the end of the year. No Beyoncé album, no Rihanna album, no Beyoncé and Rihanna collaborative album. Although it’s still only November, thoughts adverbially turn to that wonderful period of giving and receiving – music that is, from you (yes, you) as part of our 2014 Readers’ Week.

As in the past two years, we want you to send us any non-Drake singles that have hitherto avoided gracing our pages this year which you think we should take a look back at. So long as it was released as a single in 2014 – as arbitrary as that can be in 2014, let’s say with at least a video, radio play or similar indication – we are keen to hear. As ever, we’d be especially glad of anything you feel beyond our typical outlook, but everything is welcome. OK, yes, even Drake.

Suggestions can be sent to tsjamnesty@gmail.com. One song is enough, but if choosing proves difficult you can go up to three. Each should come with brief reasoning, and the ones that most pique our interest will run next month, along with a maximum 250 word blurb from you, should you wish. For reference, there’s a list of tracks we’ve already covered this year here.

Closing time is 23:59 GMT next Friday (28 November). Songs will run in the week of December 8-12, to be precise, the week before our writers’ own traditional Amnesty selections. The Friday before we’ll also be featuring three big international hits we know we’ve missed. Should you pick one we’ll let you know, but we’ll say now that it’s not good news for Elyar Fox.

A continued thanks for reading. Merry Readers’ Week!

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Slash – World on Fire

The latest effort by the talented Audioslave guitarist.


[Video][Website]
[2.83]

Patrick St. Michel: It has been a very long time since Slash was a vital part of a fantastic rock band, or even just the coolest looking guy in Velvet Revolver. Slash is now a metaphor, an unlockable Guitar Hero skin come to life, inspiring teenagers to say “oh fuck yeah, rock ‘n’ roll” when they really mean “I want to get trashed on bottom-shelf vodka.” “World on Fire” isn’t a song as much as it’s a shitty lifestyle declaration, all boring guitar and macho blah blah and lyrics that lack any sort of humor or self-awareness, let alone anything that isn’t cliche hard-rock gobbledygook. Just YouTube Appetite For Destruction already.
[0]

Maxwell Cavaseno: I can see why Axl won’t take him back, because besides maybe three songs on the first Velvet Revolver album, Slash hasn’t done anything since ‘that solo’. Lukewarm medium-speed-metal that makes Avenged Sevenfold look like Mercyful Fate in comparison.
[3]

Anthony Easton: What the hell is happening with that pinched-off, off-key yowling, and why do the guitars just kind of grind uncomfortably? I refuse Slash’s call to revolution, and also yearn for the cheap nihilism of Appetite for Destruction. Rock is so much better when it doesn’t believe in anything. 
[2]

Alfred Soto: Babylon redeemer, whore, satan, fires — a Sunday sermon? While Slash still plays as if someone turned on the gas range while he was sitting on it, his strangled Axlisms project no danger or menace; he could be a college bar band dude imitating Zach de la Rocha. 
[3]

Brad Shoup: In the same way that Paul McCartney had to wean himself off recording backing vocals that sound like John’s, Slash is stuck smelling the Roses. The whine, the sneer, the complete commitment to scraped-up dogshit like “beautiful disaster”: Kennedy is the total dinged-up package. The chillest collaborator in hard rock, Slash avoids the heavier tone, content to chop away until he’s called upon to unleash some vintage wheedle.
[4]

Cédric Le Merrer: Well, of course setting the world on fire and pushing it to the edge would bore you too if it’d been your day job for 30 years.
[5]

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Imagine Dragons – I Bet My Life

Banjos!


[Video][Website]
[3.38]

Brad Shoup: “I’m just a slave unto the night” is the sound of a guy punching way over his weight class. It’s the screamy stuff that lands, and Dan Reynolds leads a decent jamboree in between full-gospel howls chopped for maximum ease of digestion. It turns out spirituality is the last resort of the scoundel; I guess y’all already knew. The four-on-the-floor revival stomp is here, and some curling guitar figure playing for banjo. On the final run through the refrain, I was thinking Reynolds was bound to let himself get digitally twisted a la “Some Nights”. But a scoundrel he remains.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: It’s happened, the horrible unthinkable: I’ve come around to “Radioactive,” in a gonzo lumbering Linkin Park way. A friend started singing along in a bar and I didn’t even smirk. But now they’ve gone and went soft. I mean, softer.
[3]

Anthony Easton: This doesn’t even have the wind-up to the explosion or the undulating waves. Plus, the banjo is underplayed in the mix, and the banjo was the best thing about the band. 
[3]

Alfred Soto: Still shouting pretty maxims, still loud and pompous about it. 
[1]

Maxwell Cavaseno: You know, it did make some sense when this band blew up. Earlier singles might have been dull and malformed, but it was a character all of their own. Now you’ve got the exact midway point between Train, fun and Mumford as a stylistic voice; all that’s left of the old Dragons is their swollen sense of self-importance, their eternal easy Achilles’ heel. Funny how the worst things can be the crux of someone’s work.
[1]

Iain Mew: If you’re going to strip back the rest of your song to functional nothingness to emphasise your chorus even further, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that it isn’t just a bombastic Kinks rip-off.
[3]

Patrick St. Michel: “Please forgive me for all that I’ve done.” Sorry, dude, but basically taking the formula behind a billion EDM songs and flipping it for rock…and making it impossible to dance to, only scream along with…is a pretty big slip up.
[3]

David Sheffieck: The song isn’t as catchy as it should be, relying on repetition over hooks, but the production is gloriously overstuffed, quickly turning into some kind of gonzo ho hey – with a bridge that’s enough of a left turn to feel genuinely unexpected in contrast. I have no idea who Imagine Dragons are as a band after hearing this song (maybe pop’s most gifted mimics?) but they’ve got my attention now.
[8]

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Shamir – On the Regular

Bouncy!


[Video][Website]
[6.57]

Anthony Easton: So bouncy, with an excellent electronic stickiness, and Shamir has one of the smartest, most deliberately gorgeous flows I have heard of late. How it ends with a move between speaking and singing is delightful. Excellent tension between musical emotion and lyrics as well. 
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The more fitting descriptor of ‘average’ can work wonders for this middling “212”-progeny.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Cowbell and kickdrum. Synths and whistles. Ratchet-ass goons and Fisher Price. Shamir loves words, sounds, and the sound of his voice. He needs better words though.
[7]

Ashley Ellerson: In the first verse, Shamir drops the line “Guess I’m never-ending, you could call me pi.” Maybe only math geeks appreciate that reference, but “On the Regular” becomes more exciting after he says that. Yeah, Shamir is “young”, but he’s already spitting lines and rhymes better than people twice his age, and no doubt this song is catchy enough to get a party started. If you aren’t telling people “Don’t try me, I’m not a free sample” when they’re testing your patience, then you’ve missed a golden opportunity.
[8]

Scott Mildenhall: Shamir’s complete composure makes up for the weakness of some of his lyrics. He places all the meaning into them with the barest of inflections, immovable while everything else dances around him, hypnotised. Being the centre of attention is often worth more when it comes without grand gestures.
[7]

Brad Shoup: “Foul ball free throw” was the phrase that got me. He’s not afraid to be adorable, clearly; the pitchdown at the end plays up its own pointlessness. The house backing is exactly the sort of peppy facepulling that induces eyerolls when it washes up on American soil. I understand the impulse to swaddle, I really do, but something irregular seems more in order.
[5]

Josh Winters: A ruthless love-me-or-hate-me statement with enough bounce to ricochet off the walls and hit you smack dab in the face.
[9]