Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Simone – Heart Shaped Hole

Third place in the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, and… Nirvana?!


[Video][Website]
[4.80]

Edward Okulicz: The Dansk Melodi Grand Prix is generally one of the lowlights of the pre-Eurovision calendar; it’s usually one atrocious song after another, culminating in an atrocious song bombing out in the Eurovision semi-finals. “Heart Shaped Hole,” which lost out to what I assumed was a Christian rock boy band, seemed almost brilliant in its company, and I like its chilly, rumbling opening, childish but evocative chorus, and thundering melody. If anything, it’s stuck between its throbbing intrigue and its power-ballad bombast and should have gone with one or the other. But there’s a sturdy construction underneath that keeps me coming back. As ever, this year the Swedes pulled this moody trick off better in their selection extravaganza.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Slight problem: There’s already a song called “Heart-Shaped Box,” and it refers to something fairly specific (as well as Hole), and no matter how many rallying strings and Margaret Berger quavers you put in that association is going to ruin things. Also, needs 50% more chorus.
[3]

Will Adams: The first forty-five seconds or so were actually promising, with skitters crawling over the foreboding throb and Simone striking a balance between approachable and mysterious. But then the giant drums and showboat melody barged in, opening the floodgates of cheese.
[4]

Katie Gill: Things like “dynamics” aren’t really Simone’s strongest points — that chorus slams into you like a freight train, those vocals and instruments at top speed as Simone wails the chorus as hard as she can, only to become oddly soft when she hits those high notes. Add the vaguely S&M undertones and James Bond theme stylings in the prechorus, and you end up with something I’m not sure how to describe but want to listen to again.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Prowess isn’t the question — prowess is the problem. Simone combines the conversational, faintly pinched timbre of Ellie Goulding and Adele’s indifference to restraining forces, exposing the hole-shaped heart of a tune.
[4]

Megan Harrington: Brutally gruesome imagery paired with ice cave synths — doesn’t sound refreshing, but it definitely stirred me from an extended period of nothingness. 
[9]

Joshua Copperman: I actually love most of the lyrics — the idea that she cut him out of her life but still feels his absence is specific but relatable. I’m not a fan of the rest, though, especially the phrasing and arrangement; the “I cut you out of me-eeee” build to the chorus doesn’t work, and in that chorus, the drums borrow too heavily from “Love Me Like You Do” and obscure the sentiment. Elsewhere, the production and Simone both try really really hard to make this sound “big,” but nothing approaches the “holy shit” factor of ballads like “Love Me Like You Do” and “Impossible.” Only the bridge manages to break through the production, with that weird hopping melody. It makes me wonder how the song would sound with a sparser backing — maybe something resembling its graphic cardiovascular-related antecedent “Bleeding Love.” It wouldn’t make the instrumental less derivative, but it would make it easier for Simone to stand out.
[5]

Ramzi Awn: Leona Lewis had the last word when it comes to cutting love out of the picture, and “heart-shaped hole” is beyond trite. It’s difficult to get to the good parts in this globular-shaped mess.  
[3]

Iain Mew: The vocals range from too much to way, way too much. The lyrics range from ridiculous to nonsensical. It sounds just like a song which didn’t quite make it to Eurovision, to be honest. It does, at least, feature an unexpectedly gorgeous bridge which sounds like the basis for a much better song.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: It’s “empowering.” It’s got Katy Perry sonics. It’s midtempo. It’s overblown. It’s boring. 
[2]

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Busu – 116 RIP

Via Marcus, a Swedish hip-hop/grunge act, and, uh, NIRVANA??


[Video][Website]
[5.43]

Thomas Inskeep: Dreary hip-hop from Sweden with a faux-grunge guitar backing. This almost — almost — makes G-Eazy sound good.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Essaying the same strummed intensity of Kaleidoscope Dream-era Miguel, “116 RIP” lives or dies by your response to Busu’s quavering singing. Pretending to be amateurish is one thing; being amateurish is another.
[4]

Iain Mew: As this type of sung hip-hop gets increasingly successful it makes sense to take on different singing styles. Busu’s grunge snarl at himself fits the despair of his words, and with not much else to dilute it but the slightest (and beepiest) of hope, “116 RIP” is an uncomfortable but compelling listen.
[6]

Ramzi Awn: Autotune gets in the way of a good riff, and Busu’s voice would be better off without it. The blips and bleeps don’t help much.     
[5]

Anthony Easton: Swedish hip hop sort of sounding like Chicago: spare to the point of a little boring, but matches the ennui. Sort of sounds like Green Day circa 1996, too — which is a combo which you would not think functions well, but is kind of super-appropriate. 
[6]

Megan Harrington: I’ve started watching this Norwegian teen drama called SKAM and I just feel very in touch with what the Scandinavian youth are up to and, like, what they might want to hear at the skate park. And it’s Busu. This is a song for when you get too drunk at a party and you cheat on your girlfriend and you throw up on the stairs and you wake up and smoke a joint and it’s just too fucking quiet, you need some music. “116 RIP” is the song you play. Or, it could be the song they play if such a scene takes place on SKAM
[7]

Madeleine Lee: How can a song so low-key feel so anthemic? It doesn’t even matter that half the lyrics don’t make sense next to each other and that Fanta and rosé sounds dreadful, because I know what it means when he wails “I missed it all / You’re better off without me.” Just like that self-pitying hyperbole, this song makes a big deal out of next to nothing, and it feels good.
[8]

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Mister Wallace – It Girl

Seems the readers know what we like (thanks, Kevin!)…


[Video][Website]
[7.11]

Thomas Inskeep: Mister Wallace’s debut EP Faggot is one of the fiercest things I’ve heard all year, they can rap as well as anyone out right now, and “It Girl” is the best vogue track of 2016.
[10]

Alfred Soto: Opening with Space Mountain beeps like the ones on early New Order, “It Girl” drops a tick-tock/wristwatch rhyme and something about a magazine before unleashing a breathless horndog monologue. The queer rapper is hungry; they’ll grab your lapels and shout in your face if it’ll get them a deal. Ambition is wasted on the rich.
[7]

Claire Biddles: An almost-perfect push and pull between intimidating personal space invasion and enticing deliciousness. I desperately want to be at this party but I’m probably going to change my outfit three or four times before I leave the house. 
[7]

Ramzi Awn: Mister Wallace has endurance, that’s for sure. And “It Girl” can kiki with the best of them. But the gimmicks are more borrowed than new.   
[5]

Iain Mew: I like their “212”-ish flow and the incredible variety of inflections and uses of the short word “girl,” but the production doesn’t have the invention to match. For me, confrontation repeated to this extent results in more dilution than accumulation.
[5]

Will Adams: The instrumental isn’t far from something I would’ve heard on the Fantasea mixtape, and Mister Wallace’s flow is attention-grabbing, but both they and the music stagnate pretty quickly.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: Good luck deciphering through that lightning-fast delivery. Mister Wallace doesn’t make it any easy to pin them down even with lyrics at hand, though that challenge also seems to be the thrill. Like the best rappers warping voice and communication of language, their eccentricities only lure you closer in hopes of understanding them. And “It Girl” is a nice label to fit such a character.
[7]

Brad Shoup: The giddy boasts are fantastic, but I might like the track even better. The synth hits and flashes of fake clavichord conjure suspense scenes in a late-night flick, a shadow-filled space that Mister Wallace fills with manic mischief.
[9]

Tim de Reuse: Wallace’s rapping is disorienting and unpredictable but never messy; they sound enormous and in control, ten steps ahead of the listener at every point, weaving in and out of a gorgeously minimal horror-movie-sting beat and pushing through sci-fi voice modulation that ought to feel corny but instead feels menacing as hell. I am at a loss for words to fully rationalize how infectious this is on every level — in style, in rhythm, in content — and how easy and fun Wallace makes it sound as they pull it off.
[9]

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

NV – Kata

We head over to Russia for this synthpop single suggested by Cathy…


[Video][Website]
[7.11]

Madeleine Lee: With its recursive lyrics, incremental addition of layers, and slow build-up to anything like a breakdown, “Kata” is a song that rewards patience, of which I have very little. (The intro is a minute and 10 seconds long! 10 seconds over a minute!) But Kate Shilonosova’s gently yelped and then synthesized hook is the part that gets stuck in my head, so “Kata” also does me a favour by putting it on repeat while I’m waiting for the song to go somewhere, like the world’s most interesting on-hold music.
[6]

Ramzi Awn: “Kata” reveals an obvious knack for melody, and the jazz-pop backdrop recalls a different time. A deceptively simple track, and refreshingly light on its feet. 
[8]

Claire Biddles: Nothing stays still in “Kata” — each time a familiar phrase returns it’s been paired up with a different sound, or sent to ring out in the background, or sung after being introduced on synth. I’m worried the giddy experimentation could get tiresome, but it’s grounded by the strength of the AOR drums and piano that are so anachronistic in the context of contemporary pop that they end up sounding oddly fresh. NV packs enough tricks and structural quirks to sustain this over the six minute run time, and I want to return again and again in the hope of uncovering more. 
[8]

Cathy Yang: One of the only words I think I catch Kate Shilonosova saying is  “whatever,” and the song echoes that insouciance: the little electronic  bells and whistles like the sounds of a computer lip-popping, a drum  machine caught wandering off rhythm about a minute into the track, and  the melody cooling down and building back up like the wax of a lava lamp  rising and falling in predictable but playful patterns. “Kata” sounds  like every Yellow Magic Orchestra tribute-slash-rip-off you’ve heard  before, but also like nothing else I can put my finger on in 2016, and  even though it outstays its welcome, it’s just so gosh-darn fun.
[7]

Iain Mew: What if Yellow Magic Orchestra did music for ’80s educational TV interstitials? It may well have been as zoned-out blissful as this.
[7]

Brad Shoup: It sounds like a collaboration between Carole King and YMO. Playful and deceptively straightforward, with fantastic timbres and a complete disinterest in lifts or drops. NV just cruises along. 
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Gorgeous popcraft which reminds me of Todd Rundgren in the early ’80s, discovering synthesizers but still using them to sound more like his ’70s work. 
[8]

Juana Giaimo: NV mantains a balance throughout the almost six minutes of “Kata.” It’s a balance that involves a light-hearted spirit, innocent vocals and a circular feeling, given that the song repeats its sections that consist in the repetition of one or two lines. Maybe if the lyrics were more substantial, this circular feeling would make some sense to me, but by the end of the song, “Kata” resembles an exercise rather than anything else. 
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Between the bits that sound like Todd Terje, the bits that sound like Stereolab, and the bits that sound like EarthBound, “Kata” has plenty of fun. Substance? Maybe not, but why quibble?
[7]

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Brave Girls – Deepened

Matt brings us a K-pop group that might be struggling elsewhere, but not with us…


[Video][Website]
[6.82]

Madeleine Lee: Back in February, rapper Hyeran described the promotions for this song as her last chance. Brave Girls are hardly the only K-pop group that have had years of never progressing past “struggling,” but Hyeran really does sound like it’s her last chance in “Deepened,” throwing herself wholly into her half-sung verse. It’s already a melancholy song, and kind of a flat one until that point, but her performance gives it the emotional core it needs. One of the most striking individual performances in a K-pop song I’ve heard all year.
[7]

Iain Mew: “Deepened” mostly works as a rolling mood piece, its forefronting of atmosphere above all an unusual choice which pays off because it sets up Hyeran’s rap as the moment everything solidifies.
[7]

Katie Gill: I mean, it’s a sexy R&B jam. The main thing it’s got going for it is that powerful, in your face rap break, but the rest of the song’s simple sexy R&B, designed for grinding and not really designed for analyzing.
[5]

Alfred Soto: It’s got the bump of a The-Dream production but not the grind — it’s pleasant fare.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: The combination of that deep, grinding throb and a sad piano is interesting but awkward — how am I going to get down to this when it sounds desperate, as if the voice of the song isn’t getting into its own groove?
[6]

Will Adams: I love the mashup of the piano ballad and trap templates here; neither outweigh the other at any point, and the balance between the former’s sweetness and the latter’s melancholy make for an engaging listen.
[7]

Leonel Manzanares: The slow mecha-beat/elongated piano chords combination in the verses rarely works with vocals that are too frontal in the mix, but the second-verse rap, with such a commanding flow and interesting rhythmic choices, puts that idea to rest. Then the chorus goes full Miami Bass — which should be illegal at this point, ’cause man, does it bang
[7]

Brad Shoup: Outside of the appearance of a clopping beat (and ignoring the Mustardy “hey”s), it’s a fine slow jam in the Braxton mold: cleanly-etched anguish, small high harmonies, midnight piano chording.
[6]

Ramzi Awn: Brave Girls nail the pre-chorus and fade-out on “Deepened,” a breezy track with texture. 
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Even if you don’t know the lyrics to “Deepened,” you get the melancholy, thanks to the vocal performances of Brave Girls. This is a song of regret, made all the more powerful by its juxtaposition of piano-based near-balladry with freestyle snares preparing to body-rock (which happens in the chorus, albeit subtly). There’s a sadness which catches you right there, and that makes this fairly essential.  
[9]

Matt Vitone: “Deepened” clicks from the first note. The gloomy, piano-driven production chugs along with machine-like precision, but it’s the human elements here that intrigue. Hyeran’s sixteen stunning bars are the song’s centerpiece rather than simple flourish in the typical K-pop way. She tears into the lyrics with the ferocity of someone well aware this might be her last chance. “I just wanted you to look at me/I know love changes as time passes,” is directed at an ex-lover, but also speaks to the fragile reality of the idol machine, and how easily our dreams can pass us by. From a fan’s perspective, a lot has “changed” in K-pop too (the song title in Korean 변했어 literally means “You’ve Changed”). This year I got bored of the same cloying cute concepts, the same songs that try to be 15 songs at once. I was bored and disappointed with groups that should be the antithesis of all that playing it safe. And so there was something refreshing about this song that aspires to be nothing more than well-constructed, with a nice touch of wistfulness and sophistication. Yet something about hearing “you’ve changed so much” repeated thrice touched in me something larger, about how my teenage hobby might be passing me by, too.
[9]

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Fernanda Abreu – Outro Sim

And thanks to Luca, we turn our attention to a long-running Brazilian…


[Video][Website]
[6.91]

Luca Zingali Meira: Fernanda Abreu was  known in the nineties for being the first mainstream artist to  incorporate funk carioca in her music, but in the days of Anitta, when  funk is probably the biggest cultural force in Brazil right now, that  just doesn’t carry the same novelty value. So, straying away from the  cultural appropriation of it all, electropop isn’t the most daring route  she could have taken, but it keeps her current enough that it works as a  comeback single. And the song itself stands up nicely, with her way of  talk-singing fitting well with the synths, especially when it speeds up  in the chorus. After that it kind of underwhelms. I mean, who would’ve  thought singing about wanting to be fucked and then saying “ah” a lot of  times would sound so unsexy. Even then, it kind of fits the theme of  the song. After a decade-long absence, Abreu came back with a song about  time passing and things always staying the same, but now the wonder  mutant city she described in “Rio 40 Graus” is mundane and stagnant,  with it’s mutations as cyclical as another day, another change of  seasons or another soap opera on television. Her music is not as  exciting as it once was, but maybe it’s just as good, or at least good  enough for me to keep hitting play again and again.
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Abreu, who Wikipedia calls “the first lady of Brazilian funk,” is taking a page from Madonna’s ’90s/’00s playbook re: how to continue sounding relevant well into middle age (she’s 55, just a few years younger than Madge) without embarrassing yourself (see: Madonna, ’10s, lol). This utilizes electronics without being in debt to them; this ain’t no EDM. It’s simply straight-up electronic funk, smartly produced and well-sung and catchy as hell.
[8]

Jonathan Bogart: Remarkably harmonically and rhythmically inventive for a pop singer whose long career has been roughly contemporaneous with Kylie Minogue’s, the lyrics to “Outro Sim” slip enough unease into the candy-colored sweetness of the production that what might be superficially read as a knees-up celebrating middle-aged flings could equally be understood as a lament for human inconstancy. As the world darkens and once-apparently stable coalitions fracture overnight, all that outro-ness can start to sound sinister.
[7]

Iain Mew: From the ear-tickling cut up voice slalom of the intro to the confident speed of the chorus and everything in between, “Outro Sim” is constantly evolving and exciting. It makes the unusual and tricky sound like the easiest thing.
[8]

Juana Giaimo: “Outro Sim” sounds incredibly fresh, thanks to the carioca rhythm masked in an electroic beat and her almost-rapped lines delivered with the confidence of someone with experience; someone who has lived enough to know that life is spontaneous and that there is no time to live in the past. 
[8]

Ramzi Awn: There’s something infectious about “Outro Sim,” and Fernanda is just convincing enough to pull it off. 
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: “Outro Sim” is a maximalist song that is most intriguing in its details. In particular, it is weakened by a rather flat chorus that gets bigger but not more exciting. Better is the layered interplay between the cut-up vocals and a spirited, wriggling synth arrangement.
[5]

Alfred Soto: The drums entering at 3:20 hit my sweet spot: the sour in this sweet nougat. Fernanda Abreu’s addiction to a single syllable (“ah-ah-ah”) is a novelty that many careers can’t touch and hundreds of dollars can’t buy. 
[7]

Edward Okulicz: The track is a clever, buzzy arrangement of curls and loops and tricks and sonic easter eggs (it reveals wonderful depths on headphones), and the section where Abreu throws herself into a half-rap half-chant is startling. It’s such a good pose for her that she sounds disengaged when she breaks from it, and how could you hope to follow that up with an “ah-ah-ah” chorus? It’s weird to find yourself utterly transfixed by a singer one moment and then wishing she’d get out of the way of the ear candy the next.
[7]

Brad Shoup: It’s akin to a country list song with way more rhythmic crunch: Abreu ticks off the world’s pleasurable and banal commonalities. If she’s not particularly engaged, the instrumental touches — vocoded squiggles, studio drumboom, flash-fried handclaps — do their best to obscure that.
[5]

Joshua Copperman: I did not expect to hear a female Brazilian version of Everything Everything when I pressed play. That is far from a bad thing, though. While EE does everything in their power to make their songs as theatrical and weird as possible, the blending of genres and instruments feels really natural here. Whether the chorus is borrowing a melody from “Ignition” or the second verse is suddenly introducing live drums (and then some saxophone, then some vocoder effects, then some squigglies…), everything feels like part of the same world. “Outro Sim” blends together so well due to the laid-back confidence of both the producer and Abreu herself. They make it sound effortless, but that belies the manic, fussy creativity underneath.
[7]

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Anna Straker – Serious

Courtesy of Connor, a Londoner steps into the spotlight…


[Video][Website]
[7.18]

Ramzi Awn: Anna has a serious beat to work with, and she slays the hook, a Dumblonde take on Juliana Hatfield’s “Dumb Fun.” Though the track has one too many ideas, “serious” comes in late as one of the sexiest words of the year.  
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: More house should take cues from early Madonna (ignore the anachronism). Much more house should eviscerate pretentious music dudes and dance-industry politics this mercilessly. That “losing sound” bit is perfect: an immortalization-via-banger of something stupid I’m sure was actually said, and given ample interpretation space, not a bad description of the way the prechorus slips away briefly into nothing.
[9]

Edward Okulicz: Wow, the music draws you in as Straker cuts you off at the knees. My one complaint is this: why you’d take such a poised woman who gives no fucks at all and process her voice in the second half of the song into indifference?
[8]

Brad Shoup: The second verse scuppers what could’ve been a very good Chainsmokers drag. Instead, it becomes the icy glare of someone who’s so into the mechanics of record production that, on the chorus, she becomes technology. The back half of it is a magic bag carelessly dumped: empty-stomach bass, disco hits and an electro ghost vocal.  
[6]

Alfred Soto: On one hand it’s pro forma English house, and on the bridge Straker is too close to Jessie Ware, but the tension between the vocal distortions and the febrile mix reminds me never to count anything or anyone out. All you, Katy B. 
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Tight and taut, “Serious” is a tough midtempo work-it-out, a progressive house track shoehorned into a becoming 2:52 pop single.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: Anna Straker’s somewhat tinny deep house is of the frothy kind; “Serious” is not particularly. It feels like a night that’s just starting, when you’re feeling out your mood and wondering what might happen a few hours in when the bass starts kicking and things really get going.
[6]

Tim de Reuse: Straker launches immediately into a convincing, dynamic vocal performance over a four-note synth loop that’s pleasantly glossy if it isn’t terribly exciting. Really, there’s nothing that she does wrong, but I feel that she sticks to her comfort zone too much — the quieter pre-chorus is the only place where the energy level shifts at all, and outside of it there’s a lack of overall movement that makes it hard to stay properly engaged.
[6]

Madeleine Lee: I suspect this song is a bit thin outside of the two or three ideas it repeats, but those ideas are just so good that they do bear repeating immediately after the first go-around, and digitized deep house is hard to make unlikeable. It helps that Straker sounds so triumphant from the very first line.
[8]

Ryo Miyauchi: As glorious as that breezy 2-step beat unfolds — those tinkling bells and gunfire synths, oh my — it would not be what it is without Anna Straker dancing at its center. She doesn’t just taunt; she challenges. For my year in dance-pop full of balmy sighs, it’s a good, much needed shake-up.
[8]

Iain Mew: Like the last Saint Etienne album if it was just as self-referential but more sharp and boisterous. The more straightforward pop melodicism in places sits a bit oddly with everything else, but it’s all good enough to still work.
[7]

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Starlit – Kita Berbeda

Readers’ Week begins with a pop-punk ensemble from Jakarta recommended by Andrew…


[Video][Website]
[7.27]

Thomas Inskeep: Alternative Press needs to pick up more non-English language music and spotlight this trio from Indonesia immediately. Based on “Kita Berbeda” they’re at least the equals of Paramore in the realm of female-front emo pop-punk.
[6]

Andrew Waddell: A tremendously well-paced Indonesian pop-punk/easycore hybrid spun out  over four-and-a-half minutes for maximum catharsis, finding enough time  and space for dreamy melodies, unexpected tonal shifts that manage to  build, not deflate any momentum, and Zolof The Rock And Roll Destroyer-evoking synths that all coalesce into one of 2016’s most replayable songs.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: Like I have any critical faculties whatsoever when it comes to female-fronted pop-punk.
[9]

Katie Gill: It’s amazing how just having a female vocalist instantly removes some of the cloying whiny obnoxiousness that most pop-punk’s partial to, mostly due to the inevitable whiny male vocal timbre. Add in some AMAZING keyboards and just sign me up for the Starlit train; I am 100 per cent here for this.
[8]

Iain Mew: They label themselves as pop-punk and get immediacy and simple thrills right, but “Kita Berbeda” is also a song done with the scale and dramatic flair of emo. And by the time they’ve built the layers of guitar and second singer roars in, they’re a joyful thing of their own.
[8]

Ramzi Awn: The magic’s in the mix on “Kita Berbeda,” a twinkling production with surprising passion. 
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: In the days since its hegemonic 1990s, pop-punk has become as formalized as a twelve-bar blues, but that’s to its benefit: the joy is in the proficiency of its realization. Starlit, much like Tonight Alive or Kicking Daisies, wanders down the “Ocean Avenue” end of the genre, but this is a tight space defined at the edges by the nouveau-Blink-182ism of Chumped and the working class emo of The Wonder Years. Palm-mute guitar, aching choruses, and moshpit-quick drum beats will always find a welcome place in my heart though, and if it comes with fizzy and chirping synth line, all the better.
[8]

Tim de Reuse: An authentic pop-punk romp, sent here in a time machine from the early-to-mid-aughts, but hey — what better year than 2016 to enjoy some nostalgia? The song picks up in earnest halfway through, when the tempo drops from “overcaffeinated” to “melodramatic” and we get two whole minutes of hyper-indulgent, syrupy slow burn. The mix is awkwardly dull and the execution is so doggedly enthusiastic that I feel the need to take a breather halfway through, but I can’t bring myself to dislike its overblown sincerity — no matter how much it all reminds me of middle school.
[7]

Alfred Soto: I’m not sure why it’s so long — too much fun? Put the loud synth aside and it could be early Soul Asylum or early Paramore.
[5]

Brad Shoup: The drums gradually cede primacy to the stop-heavy riffage and synths that sound more like charting than Crying. Not understanding the text, I’m left with the hard-won posi feeling of the best current pop-punk. The second vocalist pops up in the half-time bridge to add a little modern-rock scuff; it’s stirring.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: “Kita Berbeda” is enjoyable pop-punk that leans much more heavily on the pop than the punk, and why not? It’s still got a great galloping rhythm in the verses, and if it sounds like great fun, you should check out how much of a whale of a time the keyboardist is having in the video. As well he should — the keyboard’s the best bit, and the song feels like it loses a little bit of sparkle when it’s absent. I’m not quite to jumping around like a fool yet; the chorus is an effortful chug, not a euphoric release. Still good though, can someone throw a bunch of money at these guys?
[6]

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Coming Up: Reader’s Week 2016

It’s December, so you know that that means: everyone ignoring the fact that there’s still another month left and posting their best-ofs for the year. Not here though, because we know there’s more to come and even more that came and went without us noticing. Hence, Reader’s Week returns for 2016 with 15 songs we missed that you, our beloved readers, didn’t. And some of your reviews!

Here’s a YouTube playlist of the qualifying nominations, with 34 songs from 14 different countries. That’s fitting because our readers come from all over the world — just like great pop music. We can’t do them all, but we’ll have a bit of a wrap-up at the end of the week.

It’s your week, so we hope you enjoy it as much as we have listening and reviewing to your picks.

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama

Psych-prog hip-hop…


[Video][Website]
[6.17]

Ramzi Awn: An epic of masterful proportions, “Me and Your Mama” takes its sweet, sweet time. Structurally, it conjures up something entirely new, and the mix boasts all the right levels. From the carnival laugh to the Zep-infused rhythm, Gambino leaves nothing off the table and belts a raucous vocal.   
[10]

Anthony Easton: Between the end of this, most of Frank Ocean’s Endless, and Clipping, is this the year that hip hop just fully absorbed prog? 
[7]

Alfred Soto: He wanted Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow; he gets Let Love Rule with bronchitis.
[5]

Will Adams: Aw, that’s cute: he thinks he’s Miguel.
[4]

Jessica Doyle: At this point I will grant Donald Glover license to do just about anything, up to and including a six-minute-long, Moog-enhanced, drain-circling sideways meditation on the negative effects of continuous marijuana smoking on fragile love and vice versa.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: It’s jazzy, it’s psychedelic soul, and it’s nothing at all like I expected. Someone’s been listening to a lot of Andre 3000.
[6]