Saturday, May 27th, 2017

LCD Soundsystem – call the police

Man, we didn’t particularly like anything today, did we?


[Video]
[3.71]

Tim de Reuse: Sixteen years ago, James Murphy’s first single as LCD Soundsystem was about poking fun at the stylistic pretensions of people younger than him; over his next three albums, he gradually perfected the persona of the slightly schlubby, tired, middle-aged dude who’s supposed to be too old for this “dance music” shit but sticks around nevertheless. He wrote vague songs about age and disillusionment and partying and New York and got on the in-store soundtrack of every Blockbuster from coast to coast. Between the releases of Sound of Silver and This is Happening, ten trillion articles were written on how supposedly uncool his beard was. I was curious how this so-unhip-it’s-actually-hip-’cause-he-knows-he’s-unhip image would adapt to the latter half of the twenty-tens; unfortunately, it didn’t. “call the police” addresses the current state of things with a noncommittal cry of “Whoa, this is all pretty crazy, isn’t it?,” culminating in a climax that confuses reference with commentary and comes off as more confused than incisive as a result. These rambling, indulgent rants worked when they were self-obsessed and self-deprecating, but attacking 2017 with the exact same technique just doesn’t make any goddamn sense; in the space where previous tunes were achingly nostalgic or monstrously clever all I’m getting off of this one is a feathery, sarcastic message of half-worry. All that said, this isn’t a bad song; It sounds as gorgeous and punchy as Murphy’s arrangements have ever sounded, and an energetic enough I – IV – I Bowie worship session will do it for me any day of the week. It’s just that every time I hear Murphy proclaim that it “gives him the blues” when people “argue the history of the Jews” I feel like listening to the numerous songs off of Murphy’s last album that did this kind of thing better but weren’t so ill-conceived. Or, better, I could just listen to Bowie.
[6]

Alfred Soto: The guitars pull James Murphy backward where (when?) he wants to be: the teen listening to The Cure’s “Push,” conscious of history, unaware that fifteen years hence he’d write a song commemorating that history — a history as biography. I suppose Murphy gets credit for picking up where he left off. Nothing on “call the police” sounds like felonious, much less like a misdemeanor, despite those guitars.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Like U2 if they actually had rhythm, with a bassline so epic it could be peak-era JD/NO Peter Hook. The guitar line sounds equally of Pulp and Blondie. And I love that they can pull this off live, flawlessly. Perhaps this is just the comeback we need in 2017. 
[8]

Claire Biddles: Like an mp3 of “All My Friends” that has been copied over and over again until all of its defining features have washed away into the ether, “call the police” is so old and dull and long that it makes me want to start using proper capitalisation in my tweets again purely as an act of defiance.
[1]

Edward Okulicz: This song’s harmless, anodyne chug suggests no criminal intent, danger, or even edginess at all. I give two points because part of it reminds me of “Dakota” by Stereophonics, in a good way. The rest of it also reminds me of landfill mainstream indie rock from the mid-2000s, and not in a good way.
[2]

Rachel Bowles: Sounds like the Strokes. Not what I want from an LCD Soundsystem song, especially one referencing Berlin and Death From Above (1979). It all sounds very indie 2007, but not LCD Soundsystem 2007 sadly. Gimme Get Innocuous and Losing My Edge. Maybe I’m too auld.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Call the police, more like call the coroner, ’cause I thought we finally put James Murphy down once and for all!?!? Like the one ugly awful band of my adolescence that was adjacent to bands I wanted to listen to and not the people who made my childhood neighborhoods to expensive to live in (Refused, for the record) LCD Soundsystem did some documentary/concert putting a pin on their supposed legacy, despite the fact that people generally thought they had one ‘good’ (mmm… dubious) single. LCD Soundsystem are a band comprised of taste… Not of their fans, of Murphy, constantly showing the right moves, the right things to sound like. Here he’s doing a ghastly fake Bowie voice invoking viruses and Berlin (at least he did the grace of letting the cancer take him, hearing this would’ve been all the more painful) while the bass thwacks obnoxiously and the guitar twangs in a way to scream “POST-PUNK BRAAAAAAAJJjjjjddddoooYOUUUUULIIIIKEEEEEANCUHHHRRRTZZZMEEEETOOOOOBRUUUUUUUUUUUH” at us while we do our best to feign politeness in the hopes this selfish asshole will go away. Seriously, why are all of his songs badly done Neu! grooves with fake Springsteenian lyrical blather that NEVER GO ANYWHERE AND NEVER STOP. In fact, don’t call the cops, call someone to fumigate the rotten buzz of this record.
[1]

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Bibi H – How It Is (Wap Bap…)

Not our most disliked song ever, but awfully close…


[Video]
[1.43]

Alfred Soto: My skin started unpeeling from its bones the moment the opening acoustic guitar and piano announced their fealty to false cheer. No one’s going to sing “Wap Bap” because even three-year-olds know “it’s” not how it is.
[0]

Thomas Inskeep: I know I can sound like a cranky old man when I dis internet “fame,” but this reinforces all of those thoughts and prejudices. This German vlogger has inexplicably received over 37M views for this look-at-me-I’m-pretty barely-stringing-together-phrases video/barely-a-song, and it really does make the likes of Paris Hilton sound like, I dunno, Radiohead. I bet Bibi H went to the Fyre Festival.
[0]

Will Adams: With all the hate being directed at “How It Is,” you’d think Bibi was using her obscenely inoffensive song as a platform to sell you shitty iced tea. Sure, it’s a bad song — it’s an uphill battle when all you’ve got is a ukulele and cloying optimism — but its knee-jerk designation by many as being the “WORST SONG EVER” speaks volumes more about the detractors than it does Bibi. It sucks and it’s unfair: this gets pages and pages of YouTube reaction videos with all-caps titles and mouth-agape thumbnails, while the Mrazes and Marses of the world go multi-platinum for the same bullshit. “How It Is” won’t matter in a few weeks when the Internet finds something new to point and laugh at; my cynical hope is that when the cycle repeats, it’s for something far more deserving of this level of scorn.
[2]

Cassy Gress: This is a thoroughly confused concept: lyrics apparently written by a 12-year-old pretending to be an adult, orchestration courtesy of library music (that’s not the actual song but may as well be), video of sexy girl in sexy dresses rolling around in bed. One point for effort, I guess, no matter how incoherent it ended up. But this doesn’t deserve to be the 6th most hated Youtube of all time, not when there’s like, actual Nazis.
[1]

Iain Mew: I don’t know if I want to understand the forces that elevated this so quickly to the sixth most disliked video in YouTube history. Sure, it’s twee in a way that sounds like it might be on a weather forecast ident and its mundane lyrics take a puzzling turn at the end, but while I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to it more, it’s harmless and I’ll take afectless vocals over plenty of the common alternatives for this stuff.
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Europe needs to get every which way to the hell out with this nonsensical, Betty Boop-oop-e-doop ass bullshit right now. Hell to the Tom Green nauh buddy. I already struggle enough with the occasional returns to blithe twee Hallmark Card commercial soft-pop, now you’re doing this with some “Lemme just hit two notes for a whole song” type from the fjords blathering about things just being what they are, and who cares lol? NO. NO I CARE, OK?!? And I’ll take any sort of hyper-alarmed feeling of energy than this slow asphyxiation of sunlight and cotton candy and dullness. C’mon man…
[1]

Joshua Copperman: Look, there’s so much backstory to this song, involving Warner Music, colossally overpriced singles, and a German YouTuber whose entire existence apparently revolves around manipulating young children, so I’m just gonna hope other Jukebox writers cover that part. To my ears, this is not bad enough on it’s own merit to warrant the amount of dislikes, but it’s certainly bad. The backing track sounds like the production music in those 30-second Facebook news videos, Bibi’s voice is not just robotic in pitch but in delivery, and the lyrics remind me of the old Internet game of translating a song through Babelfish and seeing the results. In this case, the source must have been “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby, and the attempts at making Bibi seem like a human being (I lost my job! My credit card was denied!) are somehow even shallower and clumsier next to Hornsby’s poignance. Maybe it’s not Bibi’s fault, considering she didn’t write it – she just doesn’t have the Range.
[3]

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Linkin Park ft. Pusha T & Stormzy – Good Goodbye

Not that good, and not even a goodbye! I demand a refund.


[Video]
[3.00]

Crystal Leww: Linkin Park’s core structure with a singer, rapper, guitar & drums, and a turntablist have enabled them to adapt much more deftly to the changing tastes in production in pop music. That single with Kiiara worked well, pulling in more elements with EDM and a duet partner for Chester Bennington. “Good Goodbye” works less well because it doesn’t capitalize on Linkin Park’s adaptability, settling for Fort Minor circa 2005 production to showcase Pusha T and Stormzy, which theoretically could have been very interesting but instead just sounds tired. I understand the desire to imbue meaning, but if the last half decade has taught us anything, isn’t it that we can do that with dance production, too?
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Chester Bennington whines, Mike Shinoda rap-whines, and Pusha T and Stormzy give it a go but can’t help this weak sauce rise above the mire. 
[2]

Rachel Bowles: Those Stranger Things opening synths give false hope. They soon give way to the painfully slow tempo of Good Goodbye’s chorus which is the aural equivalent of watching paint dry. Stormzy is not well versed enough yet in the art of phoning in a half decent verse to elevate a shit song (Nicki Minaj’s specialty.) “Tell ’em I’ve got a tune with Linkin Park.” Why?
[1]

Katie Gill: Honestly, I like Linkin Park providing a backbeat for rappers more than Linkin Park doing their own thing: “Numb/Encore” is literally one of the most underrated songs of the 2000s. However, in “Numb/Encore”, both Jay-Z and Linkin Park actually put in effort. Here, the only person who seems to be giving at least half effort is Stormzy. “Good Goodbye” had such potential and, if everybody gave a little bit more and turned it up a few notches, we’d have something amazing. As it is, we just have something okay.
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Man, don’t force me to sit through a Fort Minor single and tell me its’ Linkin Park just because you managed to keep Chester around. This might be one of the most boring attempts at ‘motivational rap’ (best exemplified by the banality that was Drake’s “Forever” which you KNOW Mike Shinoda still can’t get sick of). Pusha is particularly terrible and Stormzy is adequately uplifted, but in general this is a song meant to soundtrack ESPN segments, not be listened to.
[2]

Will Rivitz: In which Linkin Park listens to Monstercat/Alan Walker/G-Eazy/any other mediocre and milquetoast producers or artists half-bridging electronic, pop, and rap with none of the benefits of any of those genres and says “Yeah, that’ll do.”
[2]

Joshua Copperman: One thing I’ve realized about “Heavy” in the weeks since I reviewed it is how close it is to not being terrible – the chorus melody is anthemic, the lyrics have some good ideas, and even the generic arrangement has moments where it registers. It’s just that somewhere along the line, all the energy was sucked out. On that note, I’m going to paraphrase an often-quoted line from Roger Ebert; if it’s not what a song is about, it’s how the song is about it,”Good Goodbye” more or less hits exactly what it’s going for. By the logic of Ebert’s quote, this is a solid [8], as not even hypothetically would I give a [10] to “I’ve been here killing it/longer than you’ve been alive, you idiot” or an awkward interpolation of “Hit The Road Jack”, of all songs. But unlike “Heavy”, or the rest of One More Light, “Good Goodbye” manages to do everything its creators intended. Also, it contains the line “Mandem we’re linking tings in parks/Now I got a tune with Linkin Park”, and that’s kind of amazing.
[5]

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

IU ft. G-Dragon – Palette

Continuing the tradition of making Jukebox editors feel completely ancient…


[Video][Website]
[7.71]

Ryo Miyauchi: Self-aware and self-referential yet not too self-critical, there’s a chill in “Palette” that this soon-to-be 25-year-old wishes to adopt. This being IU, it isn’t without the twee: the meaningful relationship that fades in this easy-going world is her preferred hair style. But as much as she chops off her hair for a modest bob to welcome a new age, she proudly looks back at her long-haired past — a phase Twenty-Three IU would’ve locked away for good through a much more dramatic makeover. While 23 was a year of still being “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time,” 25 seems to be a time one finally can embrace their multitudes not as a clash of contradictions but simply a part of a whole. And to face such a year head-on, no pair of lyrics can be a better gift than “I got this: I’m truly fine.”
[10]

Iain Mew: “Palette” is quietly remarkable; it conveys such a sense of calm mid-20s self-acceptance that its mood even survives an inspirational lecture from a 30-year-old.
[8]

Alfred Soto: A lap pool disturbed by faint ripple of disquiet. G-Dragon is the equivalent of a teen cannon balling into it.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: This is the sound of a twentysomething finding and figuring out her place in the world — and accepting who she’s become/ing. IU’s had to grow up in public, so that makes this all the more poignant, especially paired with a soft, gently bumping melody (a little less major-key and it could almost be trip hop) and an encouraging rap from G-Dragon. “I got this/I’m truly fine,” she sings, “I think now I know who I am a little.” And now, we know her a little more. There’s a real universality to “Palette,” as well, whether you’re in your 20s or 40s; this is a truly lovely single.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: I appreciate that it’s a follow up to “23” in many ways (which I loved) but whereas the soft-disco and mild-temple-rubbing sensation of the previous installment worked wonders of being so dizzy, here on “Palette” IU is kind of trying to give herself a lot of breathing room. To the point that the record is so low-key and drifty, it can feel boring as hell (I blame the invocation of Corinne Bailey Rae). Regardless, the call for serenity has unmistakable charm speaking to IU’s insistent need to find the spaces nobody else in her field tries to claim.
[6]

Will Adams: Maybe it won’t click until I reach that age in September, but IU’s calm contentment at being 25 seems unreachable for someone who feels like they’re at threat level orange at all times. What might be blocking it is the song itself, a pile of buttered electric piano noodles, breathy (though admittedly lovely) vocals, and unsolicited advice from G-Dragon, the latter being far less helpful than what Verbal Jint provided Taeyeon.
[5]

Mo Kim: “Twenty-Three,” IU’s sharp left away from the doe-eyed image of her adolescence, resonated with the college sophomore busy swallowing their trauma and alienation in snarling, expansive anger hungry enough to eat entire days away. I’m turning 22 today, though, and one of the nice things about being older is being increasingly at peace with who you were then and are now. “Palette,” like its predecessor, brims with clever (and well-earned) meta-commentary about young womanhood and the strange experience of growing up under a spotlight, but its lips drip with a newfound honeyed compassion. It’s hard to explain. It’s seeing yourself on the screen when you’re fifteen, sighing but remembering you sure were pretty. It’s not just letting go of the young girl who became Korea’s little sister a little too soon, not just circling back around: somehow it’s both. It’s liking the “simple things” these days but still being able to jam to “Corinne’s music” (Corinne Bailey Rae, whom IU presumes we’ll know is still one of her favorite artists, after all, we’ve known each other for years, haven’t we?). It’s “I know you hate me” and “I’m truly fine” learning, finally, to sit in the same room. The uncertainty is still there (it’s still “I think I finally know something” because that’s the closest to knowing anything you can get), but it’s not a pair of glitter-studded gloves shielding your face anymore, not rejection of your past but reckoning fully with your present. It’s not “a picture” you need to curate but a “palette,” a range of possibilities as colorful as a rainbow. All of which is to say that I love this, and I’m so glad it exists and so proud of the person behind it.
[10]

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Miley Cyrus – Malibu

All the stars explode tonight…


[Video][Website]
[4.89]

Alfred Soto: Supposedly written in a half-hour card ride, and I hear it. Courtney Love already wrote the finest song about Malibu, but the world needs more from someone old and smart enough to understand the scene, its behavior, its language: what would it sound like to use the Malibu ethos to write a valentine to Thor? Miley Cyrus is that person. I like her unsteady warble too. But this “Malibu” has too many received gestures. 
[6]

Claire Biddles: Every time the chorus hits, I start daydreaming about Hole’s “Malibu”: Recognisable as an ode to the same place as Miley’s, but with the bland, washed-out Instagram filter removed. The drive to escape is there, but so is the rotted desperation that came before.
[3]

Olivia Rafferty: Miley really hits something special with “Malibu.” There’s an earnestness to the way the chords progress in each verse, flitting between hopeful and somehow wistful with each change. The ease translates to her vocals, which are breathy and contain a jewel of authenticity. For all the beautiful build-up, the teasing and coaxing of those verses, something gets lost as the refrain turns into some kind of Mumford-cum-vlogger music. Still, I’ll listen again and again for those verses.
[7]

Katie Gill: Take a shot because Miley Cyrus is reinventing her image yet again, going to a more laid back, sort of folky and breezy sound. There’s been plenty of articles written about how Cyrus just so casually cast off her appropriation of black culture with this new single, so I won’t tread ground that’s already been covered, but as pretty much the only person who liked the weirdness and unconventionality of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, her following that album up with something sweet and gentle yet not all that exciting is… kind of disappointing?
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Enough has been said about the supposed “she return to whiteness” narrative from plenty of people who resent the garishness of Miley’s “rebel period,” starting with the ratchet-kin vibes of Bangerz before briefly sliding into the trash/psych/brat vibes of Dead Petz. More creepily, “Malibu” feels in many ways like a millennial version of the classic boomer-rehab angle. After falling head over heels in gaudy pursuits of rebellion, now we get a calmer, more relaxed Miley who gets to provide some sort of wisdom after surviving… what, exactly? Doesn’t matter. After years of making music that admittedly was sonically oversaturated with flash and bang, we get Cyrus with her voice and guitars to both cast aside the supposed plasticity of her early Disney beginnings (like “The Climb” ain’t a great MOR ballad), or the shamefulness of her “wilderness years” to settle down and be a real person. Its dullness is supposed to endear her to the parents who just want their kid to settle down and get themselves together and the adolescent who no longer feels the old rushes like they used to. It’s a deliberate drain and squeeze in such a predictable fashion.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: At this point there is probably literally nothing Miley Cyrus could release that people would like. In her Hannah Montana days she was a metonym for the Disneyfication of pop, in her Bangerz days she was a metonym for the faux-twerkification of pop, in that Dead Petz minute-and-a-half she was a metonym for the excess of celebrities. This is the curse of the metonym: you’re a household name, but you can record Disney Channel pop-punk, watery inspiro, stompy electro, straight-up pop fizz, party sulking, weird-ass piss-takes or conspicuous country authenticity, and it’ll all be written off as Pop All Sounds The Same And Is Awful. So sure, “Malibu” is as calculated an image move as “Can’t Be Tamed” was: the prodigal pop star, returning to happy-hippie guitars and milquetoast morality and Liam Hemsworth. That’s not the problem; pop is the construction of feelings via calculation. The problem is that “Malibu” wants to be a Katy Rose record, but is too contrite.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: No, this doesn’t have the excitement of Bangerz, but I really like (what I assume is) the natural twang that Cyrus lets dictate her singing here; this amenable, lightly countrified pop-rock suits her (as, apparently, does domesticity). The only glitch comes in the choruses, where the beats threaten to encroach on the proceedings, but fortunately they settle down before that would happen.
[6]

Will Adams: What does it say about Cyrus’s career that the best case scenario for her post-VMA shenanigans era would be skewing as inoffensive as possible (I won’t speak too loudly; Katy Perry might be taking notes)? It’s a quagmire: Bangerz is one of the decade’s worst pop records and I’m happy to never return to it, but “Malibu” comes at the cost of Cyrus roundabout shitting on any hip-hop that isn’t Kendrick and providing yet another mixup between authenticity and plainness for a year already chock full of them. The sun-streaked guitars and Mumford stomp are rote, the lyric mushy, and the end result pat.
[4]

William John: What’s worse — Miley Cyrus continuing to maraud and profit as a cultural minstrel, or Miley Cyrus denouncing that same appropriated culture altogether and then gravitating towards an authenticity as dictated by the white establishment? It’s hard to divorce “Malibu” from this context, and to view it through any lens other than one heavily clouded by cynicism. Cyrus’ melancholy twang has always been her biggest strength, and it’s nice to see it highlighted here (one would hope it is further exploited by Nashville songwriters either on this album or the next) on a pleasant enough guitar stomper. It’s all vacuously fine, but in the way she’s released this single Cyrus has positioned herself as a condescending cultural tourist. That in turn weakens not only the song’s likability, but its credibility too.
[3]

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Tove Styrke – Say My Name

In case you want to comply with her request, here’s a handy pronunciation guide.


[Video][Website]
[6.38]

David Sheffieck: Her delivery vacillates between laid-back and demanding, and the production follows suit: it’s as if Styrke’s stitched two songs together, scattered a handful of additional samples and effects over the top like dice, and figured she could make it work. And she mostly can! This isn’t her first or strangest experiment after her relatively straightforward debut album; unfortunately, neither part of the song has a particularly catchy hook. I’m looking forward to the day she finally assembles the puzzle box she’s been working at for the last three years, but I don’t think she’s there yet.
[6]

Iain Mew: Tove Styrke and Elof Loelv do a Timbaland period piece, with at least enough tinkering at the edges to sound fresher than Jane Zhang and Timbaland himself did. There’s not much this does better than they did, though.
[6]

Alfred Soto: The verses pulse like Timbaland, the choruses like a hybrid of Rodney Jerkins and Robyn, the nagging guitar hook like nothing else — it’s like Tove Styrke teases the guitar into creating the musical equivalent of something lexically unrecognizable.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Hipster indie dance for the hipster indie kids who like to dance in the kitchen at house parties. But not particularly exciting.
[4]

Claire Biddles: Along with Kyla La Grange, Tove Stryke is the (alt-)pop woman having the most fun and covering the most sonic ground at the moment. There’s so much going on in “Say My Name” — each section or sound or idea could easily be spun out into a full track by a lesser artist — but it never loses its groove or sense of excitement. According to recent interviews, Stryke is holding off on an album release for the moment to “just to keep working on songs, simultaneously writing and releasing”, a thrilling prospect for a popstar who can’t be pinned down to a style or formula. 
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: Tove Styrke is no way in hell the first and won’t be the last artist to retrace Max Martin’s production path, but her past couple years are remarkable. First, a scuzzy-but-faithful cover of “…Baby One More Time.” Now, an utterly shameless rip of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” the sole differences being a yearning bridge suited to the other alt-pop Tove, some multitracked and distorted bits respectively from Troye Sivan and probably Kanye, and a chorus that at least reveals a more interesting lyricist than par.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: With all the rubbery reverberations, the blithering of the glitch guitar lick, and those distorted vocal tire-peel-outs it feels honestly like PC Music’s supposed piss-takes on pop were closer to the reality than many of us might like to admit. It’s the predictable patterns of modern pop we know, but everything that they’ve used to fill in the blanks is either ambiguous or rather extra.
[7]

Will Adams: The verse is a dead ringer for “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” with its lightly bouncing guitar strum (and it helps that they’re in the same key), but it’s not long before “Say My Name” proves it has much better tricks up its sleeve. We get the standard false drop structure right after, but the treatment of the ensuing hook is riveting. “SAY MY NAME,” Styrke cries, big enough to fill a cavern, but the chorus throws a clamp on it, and we’re back to an immediate, up-close space. The trick continues on, as effective the eighth time as it was the first. In a pop world that readily overindulges in reverb, it’s nice to still experience this much excitement happening inches from my face.
[7]

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid – 1-800-273-8255

In all seriousness, though, the number’s there if you need it…


[Video]
[4.88]

Thomas Inskeep: All the credit in the world to Logic for releasing a single whose title is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and whose lyrics concern someone calling said number who, at the start of the song, wants to commit suicide — but who, by song’s end, has changed their mind. “1-800-273-8255” is a song of hope from someone who (on some level, at least) understands the struggles and impulses of those who consider suicide. This song’s gonna reach a lot of people (the guest turns by rising stars Alessia Cara and Khalid don’t hurt, either), and it actually works on a musical level, as well. This isn’t a corny public service announcement, but a narrative that draws you in. And it’s incredibly powerful. Be jaded if you must, but as someone who’s been touched by suicide, I want lots more songs like this, and similarly more platforms for them to be heard.
[10]

Alfred Soto: If this tract saves lives, it’s in spite of the tuneless chorus. 
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: There’s a lot to be said for the Bornsteinian idea that at the bare practical level, anything you can do is preferable to suicide, even if that means listening to Logic singing. The song is alternately maudlin and murky, the “who can relate!” cheers evoke Big Fun in a way I assume is unintentional, Alessia Cara joins the long lineage of women cast as the selfless voice of emotional giving (Khalid’s place in this narrative is a can of worms I’m going to leave shut for now), and Logic’s major-label career is yet another case of G-Eazying would-be crossover rap off the radio. I mean, if it works, it works; it’s impossible to say, years and cultures removed, what’s copycat inspiration for teens and what’s solace, and the resulting confusion is one of the last refuges of victim-blaming in popular discourse (the recent nadir being the raft of psychologists who should know better criticizing 13 Reasons Why, a story in part about sexual assault, for its protagonist not, like, just talking to her abusers and bullies). So if “1-800-273-8255” lodges that number into the crevices of the brain where impulse decisions happen, all the better. I just suspect that as a teen, who had been there, I would have found this darkly farcical and alienating.
[3]

Iain Mew: The murky depth of the arrangement is an effective choice, perhaps one of the few possible, for tackling something as big as this does. It gives an impression of a great roiling mass of emotion that words couldn’t do justice to; the vocalists each bubble up and give it a go that barely registers anything more specifc, and it just heightens the feeling.
[7]

Crystal Leww: Art can give people who young kids look up a platform to talk about issues that people are often embarrassed or uncomfortable to talk about. That’s great! However, while I hope that this song helps any kid feel better about themselves, I cannot help but feel a deep, deep cynicism about Logic in particular doing this. Logic is the same dude who named his album AfricAryaN before someone told him that it was fucked up and then still chose to retain the song title for his final track. Logic’s whole album is Woke Bae in the grossest, most pandering and annoying way. No diss at all to my little siblings Alessia Cara and Khalid, who are not much older than actual teens, but this feels more self-serving on Logic’s part than helpful.
[2]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Logic is the Bono of rap in a way that Kanye always dreamed of being, but never could. Whereas Kanye’s greatest issue was that he had far too much of a personality, Logic has blinding ambition and very little else. In his own words, “1-800-273-8255” is meant to be an experiment where he writes a song from the perspective of someone who is plagued with suicidal depression, but done so in a way that it can still feel anthemic. The intent is well-meaning, but his read-through of the experience is hollow and uncomfortably calculated, in that Logic’s goal is to deliberately craft something that acknowledges a problem without really empathizing. The gesture is embarrassing, patronizing (the call and response adlib of “Who can relate?” feels less impassioned than it does vampiric) and one of the reasons why I actively worry about a kid like Logic succeeding. He understands how to appeal to people and earn their respect and confidence, but I don’t believe he understands them at all.
[4]

Will Adams: It’s the “Who can relate?!” that bothers me, as it betrays how much Logic is trying to be universal instead of personal. Obviously, if “1-800-273-8255” helps even one person, that’s great, but it’s unfortunate that there might be many who’d miss out on that help due to the edges being sanded down so much. The production’s lush enough, and Alessia Cara’s and Khalid’s brief contributions provide some bulk, but with so much of the song centered on Logic’s weak chorus, it’s not nearly as powerful as it wants to be.
[4]

Joshua Copperman: There is some gorgeous, warm production here, with a compelling contrast between the simple drum kit and the thick textures of the orchestral arrangements. Alessia Cara sells the second verse, as her voice gels with both the storyline of the song and the background music itself. Similarly, Khalid does his best with the soulful outro. That leaves Logic himself’s disappointingly impersonal storytelling as the weakest link; the rushed change from “I just wanna die” to “I finally wanna be alive” is the clearest evidence of reach exceeding grasp. I get the idea, that all it takes is one phone call to change the direction of someone’s life, but it’s handled somewhat clumsily, as are the shouts of “who can relate, woo!” that repeat throughout. But if someone who needs it is encouraged to call that number, that matters more than any bracketed score I could assign.
[6]

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Phoenix – J-Boy

This makes 3/5 of GAPDY we’ve covered this year…


[Video]
[6.14]

David Sheffieck: A sparkling confection of a track; it almost doesn’t matter that the chorus is barely a half-step up from the verses since there are enough little hooks and flourishes to fill a song twice the length. Which is also its problem: even at four minutes this lacks the expansiveness and flow of Phoenix’s better songs, coming across as skillful but unmemorable despite its well-buffed sheen. It does the work and vanishes without leaving a trace.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Have these masters of the nonplussed been listening to Charly Bliss? The chunkiness of the electronic and guitar bed is most welcome. What the hell “J-Boy” is about besides announcing itself as a robust new Phoenix single is the question I shouldn’t ask; good songs are their own answers, and “J-Boy” doesn’t offer any.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: A bunch of disco balls, “ooh-la-laaa” phrasings, and a prevailing feeling of empty gestures. I’ve often been told that Phoenix was one of those rock bands who people swore could sound believable. Here, these guys don’t sound like the buy the song they’re trying to get out.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: This doesn’t sound like anything of recent vintage that I’ve heard recently, so yay for that. It also does some cribbing from 1983 American funk records (hello, Linn drum!), which provides the underpinning for Thomas Mars to sing over, and it’s overall quite synthy. No complaints here. 
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: Bankrupt! had Phoenix set aside soft rock to play with shards of glass like they were rejecting their hipster cool after a decade of grooming it to existence. But “J-Boy” sounds even more like a carcass of 2000s Phoenix with Thomas Mars moaning from the rubble, with words more oblique and hostile than before. A once-polite band taking this antagonistic voice isn’t likely to win new ears, though the fact they’re not trying to do so marks a curious little phase for them.
[6]

William John: Phoenix’s lyrics occasionally take on transcendent, aphoristic qualities, but mostly sound garbled, as though they’ve been fed through a Google translator and then back again. Thomas Mars has become a master of delivering such words in a laconic, knowing way, but his phrasing serves mostly as accompaniment to the main course: a head rush of an arrangement, glittering and spiralling most incandescently at the chorus. It becomes difficult to pay much attention to what Mars is saying when monstrous, clacking drums and that subtle, ascending synthesiser are at hand.
[8]

Crystal Leww: Phoenix’s new album Ti Amo has reportedly been in the works since 2014, but if you told me that it was written in the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix cycle, I wouldn’t be surprised. This would usually be a diss, but for Phoenix, it’s fine. Their music has never felt particularly trend chasing, instead choosing to groove into the twinkle of the synth and Thomas Mars’ weird nasally voice that manages to work for this style. “J-Boy” is business-as-usual for Phoenix, and honestly, for them, BAU still works great.
[6]

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Charly Bliss – Percolator

Fated to share Charli XCX’s fate of Most Likely To Get Lazily Misspelled By Music Sites…


[Video]
[5.57]

Alfred Soto: The granitic force of the opening guitar volley grabbed me, and when barely a minute later Eva Hendrick’s scream heralds a solo it’s obvious Charly Bliss has studied its influences: Imperial Teen, Fountains of Wayne, the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack.
[8]

Crystal Leww: Between big acts like Paramore and throwbacks like Charly Bliss, who said pop punk was dead?
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: As you know if you’ve tuned into the broken record that is me, one of music’s greatest unacknowledged genres is songs that either appeared or could have appeared on a teen-movie soundtrack from the late ’90s, where every other buzz band sounded like Veruca Salt or Letters to Cleo or a glossier version of 10 Things I Hate About You‘s “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion.” This is a niche opinion, and this stuff took endless shit from critics — too poppy for the rockists, too girly for the male critics, too vocally gleeful for those who see “female vocals” as a genre, and no, the overlap isn’t totally 100%. Then it was swept away with the rest of alt-rock from the zeitgeist, settling in crevices — Warped Tour, Disney pop, children’s TV — that I’m sure the aforementioned critics see this as some sort of vindication, but are, not coincidentally, formative places for music taste. So perhaps a revival is upon us; other acts have come pretty close to the grunge end, but Charly Bliss remembers this exact sliver of the ’90s to glorious effect. “Percolator” isn’t the hookiest track on Guppy, but it’s the most sardonic: “Swimming in your pool, I am pregnant with meaning / could I be more appealing / writing slurs on the ceiling,” Eva Hendricks writes, skewering a dozen in-retrospect-dubious alt-rock videos and promo shoots in one verse.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Did you know we really needed more bands that sorta kinda sound like stuff that was on 4AD in ’87 or [respective local college rock-focused indie] in ’95? It’s cool and all; singer Eva Hendricks def. has a somewhat iconoclastic voice with its childish tone which makes “Percolator”‘s eagerness to be clever all the more poignant. It’s just I swear I’ve heard 400 versions of this song.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: “Percolator” is nothing-special Weezer-esque pop-punk with grating, squeaky vocals from Eva Hendricks. Not only does this not percolate, it never even warms up. 
[2]

Anthony Easton: This would be a generic rock track without the slightly flat chipmunkesque vocal. I don’t know if that makes it interesting or annoying. At least it’s an aesthetic. Extra point for the scream, and I wish it went on longer.
[5]

Iain Mew: There are lots of hints that “Percolator” is going to find a way off its predictable track, that it’s squeaking at the edges for escape, but they never amount to anything. Solid but unmemorable genre exercise it stays.
[5]

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Winner – Really Really

Solid day all around, really (really)…


[Video]
[6.33]

Mo Kim: “Really?” “Really!” “Really?” “Really!” “Really?” “Really.” “Wow. Really?”
[7]

Iain Mew: Trop trap! It’s a smart bit of beat combination, but not one so creative that it should be the element of the song that provides the most personality as easily as it is here.
[5]

Alfred Soto: While I’m not fan enough to hear the differences between their Taehyun and post-Taehyun careers, I am skeptical enough of any track with a marimba and a lilt getting classified as trop house. Yet “Really Really” boasts enough vocal oomph to compensate for its OK rhythm. And it’s selling! Would that it could give Bieber and Khaled a scare.
[7]

David Sheffieck: The production sounds a little stale, but the hooks largely hold up regardless — and the vocals do most of the heavy lifting, anyway. It’s enough to make “I’m outside your house waiting for you to hear about my undying love” seem like a cute concept all over again; lyrics like the “If my feelings for you were money/I would be a billionaire” carry it the rest of the way.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: Those warm, syrupy synths continue to be enough of a comfort food of pop for Winner to just get by. They do stumble upon some goods that could’ve been explored more, though. The elasticity of “really, really” has untapped potential, for one, and I keep imagining how much more stylish this would sound had the edgy half of the four was treated less as an alternative to their shy counterparts.
[5]

Madeleine Lee: When the title hook first jumped out in the song’s introduction, like the songwriters thought it was so good that it couldn’t wait for the chorus, I was put off by it. But by the third or fourth go-around, and in the presence of a partner melody, I understood why they thought so. This about sums up the whole of “Really Really”: some good decisions (like the perfect timing of each drop before the chorus) and some bad ones (whatever Kang Seungyoon is doing with his once-lovely voice now), but all made with an unwavering confidence and a sense of joy that’s strong enough to cover for its weaknesses.
[6]

Leonel Manzanares: Even if the overall sound on this track goes pretty well with the vocal range of the entire group, and it contains some interesting performances (notably JinWoo and Seungyoon), the “insert trop-house template #223” approach is not a wise move. We end up with a track that’s so well performed, it’s a shame how easily forgettable it is.
[5]

Lilly Gray: What is Winner’s concept, exactly? Every one of their songs that I’ve loved has had choruses or sticky slurring bridges that are a touch melancholy and impossible to sing on your own, and instead echo over and over until they dissolve. Maybe I’m projecting, but the edge of sadness that you just can’t shake is enough to keep me in the gentle trap of “Really Really,” which has no orchestral bones, overt weepiness nor a satisfying end, but feels like the only certain point in a feeling you know will fade. “Really Really” sounds like a song for trying and meaning it, with just a touch of strain in the vocals and a melody that will keep going even when the voices can’t keep up. I’m down, I guess, for the imperfections in Winner that provide a little gap for your own feelings to seep in. 
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Finally, someone figured out how to merge K-pop and trop-house the right way, and it’s Winner. This is breezy and lightly carbonated, like 7-Up, and the rap verses from Mino and Seunghoon are great, too. Highly recommended for your summertime pool party consumption.
[8]