Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Dean Brody – Mountain Man

Is Brawny hiring?


[Video][Website]
[6.43]

Juana Giaimo: The charm of “Mountain Man” lies in its unseriousness. The question “Ain’t this romantic?” can’t be serious when his plan is to “grow you a big ol’ bushy beard” and his preparation was to be a beaver scout. That’s why the lighthearted melody and the playful banjo suit the lyrics well, and everything together can lead us to think if he’s maybe even making fun of the masculine stereotype.
[7]

Anthony Easton: The video shows that this is intended as ironic, and it could do with the woman in question talking back to Brody’s mocking — but think of it as a meta-text in Canadian self-mocking, and things add up to a certain joy. Extra point for how enjoyably smooth Brody’s voice is, and another for bragging about how to cook bannock — a skill every Albertan youth learns during scout camp or in their grade five unit on Metis culture. 
[8]

Brad Shoup: All those declaratives without anything to back ‘em up beyond “I used to be a Beaver Scout” — this is comic country, right? The first time Brody sings “I’m a mountain main,” the guitar plunges into a mood. You start to think he’s more into growing that beard. The hammerclaw’s made of fiberglass, but the mindset’s fleshed out enough to compel. Plus, who’s singing about bannock?! 
[7]

Alfred Soto: “We can pick berries in the moonlight/I know which ones to eat” ho ho. Amiable and uncreepy, helped by banjo riffage and Brody’s commitment to acting the part of a politician eating fried racoon for the sake of a few votes.
[6]

Jonathan Bogart: What exists in the space between Mumford and bro-country? Why in God’s name do we have to find out?
[4]

Will Adams: I’d like to live in a world where “girl/squirrel” is a far more common rhyme than “girl/world.”
[6]

David Sheffieck: It isn’t a surprise that the novelty song still exists in 2014, yet every time I encounter one I’m unaccountably happy: in our era of precision-targeted music, how can something so goofy survive? This is structured like a joke, or series of them if you want to be generous, and while the punchline wears out its welcome by the end, the level of commitment to the bit that Brody displays is winning nonetheless.
[7]

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends

Put a blurb on it!


[Video][Website]
[6.67]
Luisa Lopez: Every inch as good a comeback as any wild-eyed sucker could have wished.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Why is it here? Sleater-Kinney was always a band I missed in their prime, but I was OK with that. Wild Flag worked wonders for my curiosity, and the discography had a feeling of, “Well, this was something that reached its end.” So I’m just wondering that for a band who’d definitely reached the point of finality, why try to make something out of the ashes? And such a crude attempt to rouse us too.
[4]

Tara Hillegeist: This is how rock legends end: The Woods was a self- and everything else-lacerating spitfire, angry, tired, and full of the righteous fury of a band that gave every inch of their love to the art of noise and, finally, had enough of the art’s diminishing returns. It was an explosion made to be walked away from, and until now, that’s exactly what they looked to have done: Corin Tucker to a more personal rock and roll, Carrie Brownstein to a career as white Portland’s funniest television personality, Janet Weiss as indie rock’s most reliable session drummer. To those inclined enough to rockism to believe a band could be your life, the only right thing to do in that situation is to kill the project dead. Sleater-Kinney used to strike me as the sort of band to believe in that fully. So what does this un-death do to that legend’s ending? A reunion announcement is often to the band-as-ethos like a vampire’s kiss: sure, you’re shambling around again, but at what cost to the life you used to be? Queer and female and making it even past your middle 20s is reason enough to feel like you’ve suffered at the hands of a resurrectionist. You look back and there are dead bodies behind you. Dead friends. Good friends. And all you have to show for it are the monstrosities you wasted your lives giving all your best loves to, leaving nothing behind for yourselves but depression and dismissal. You wonder how you survived; maybe you didn’t. You want something to give it meaning, you dig inside the holes where your hearts, a succession of them, cavernous and giving, used to be. You look like you need a hero but you just want love, and the worst of it is the monster’s already there inside you, and love isn’t going to save you from this. You can’t bury friends you already lost; you don’t have what you don’t have. A song, a movie, a story, another person’s life is not a cure, your heroes are just as lost and stunned as you are. Is this a reunion that will finally be worth it? That’s too much weight to lay on a single song, though, and at day’s end that’s all this is: a song. Like none of it ever mattered at all. There are no more legends, and maybe that’s for the best. Our lives are too diffuse for it. Look back at your life and ask yourself this simple question and see if you can give it a simple answer: are you glad you’re not dead? Sorry, that was a trick question. The answer doesn’t matter, because you’re still here. All rise.
[7]

Will Adams: A rip-roaring three minutes of punchy, fuzzy rock that unexpectedly unravels in its final seconds.
[6]

Anthony Easton: I’m in Boston tomorrow, on borrowed capital from friends who have real jobs. This is my life, living in places, having other people pay, using people so I don’t starve. I have student loans from two degrees that will never result in careers. I have friends who live these barely sustaining career — from contract to part time to freelance to temp to another part time. No one writing is making money, no one making music is making money — but I still do it, we still do it. I am sure that Carrie Brownstein is making more money that she ever did in Sleater-Kinney, but I am not sure that Janet Weiss is doing well at all. Considering that she is the best rock drummer of the last 30 years, the world is profoundly unfair. So what do we do? We follow the advice here, through the intricate grid of guitars. The second global depression and the failure of social capital to make capital capital means everyone who isn’t selling shit to the very rich or pulling shit out of the ground is broke as fuck, and, “We are sick with worry these nerveless days/we live in dread in our gilded age.” Sleater-Kinney’s politics have never been as explicit or as clean as the other Olympia women, or from the Anglo-American punk precedents; they aren’t as personal as some of the bands on Merge, but they are brilliant at working the optimistic desire to continue despite the odds. So I am going to Boston, but when I am doing the daily broken grind of write, read, edit, speak, write, read, edit, speak, the chorus will continue to sustain me, into and back out of the woods.
[10]

Alfred Soto: They’re not back in the game just because the new gilded age has pissed them off. “This dark world is still precious to me,” Corin Tucker reassures listeners, and when words fail there’s still Carrie Brownstein’s effect pedals, brontosaurus riffs, and second vocals. A Yeah Yeah Yeah-esque middle eight compensates for the muddy mixes they’ve preferred last time out. Welcome back. Please stay.
[7]

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Ailee – Don’t Touch Me

JUKEBOX ALSO LIKES JAMIE T MORE THAN RETRO K-POP, SEND HELP NOW


[Video][Website]
[5.17]

Madeleine Lee: Around the time Ailee debuted, people were still bickering over which idol singer deserved the title of “the Korean Beyoncé.” As expected, the answer was basically “nah,” and since then Ailee’s moved on to being the Korean Back to Basics-era Christina Aguilera, so often that she can now stake a claim on this sound in her own name. All that stomp and sequins is boring in aggregate, and god does this song drag when it hits the chorus, but it seems to be working for her.
[6]

Sonia Yang: A friend of mine often burns mixes of recent K-Pop hits to listen to in the car. This year has seen a glut of watery, limp ballads, a pleasant but forgettable background to our conversations, but when this song came on, it stopped me mid-sentence. What starts off as Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” turns into a sassy stomper as soon as the chorus hits. Instead of pining over a lost love that could have been, Ailee shows the ex-lover the door — and kicks him the hell out for good. She’s really bringing it vocally, belting full and fierce during the hook and dialing it down to a subtly sultry tone in the bridge. “Don’t Touch Me” is packed with attitude, and the retro-inspired arrangement sounds like the producer took cues from Postmodern Jukebox
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Just typing the lyrics to “Look Out! Soul Is Back!” by Nation Of Ulysses might be enough here, but just in case: It’s louder, harder, and sounds fine. But it’s boring as hell.
[2]

Brad Shoup: The claps are deployed so peculiarly, always silent on the one, sometimes missing the four. (Having people chant “clap” is way better; I wish more people would try this.) Clearly this split isn’t a hoedown. Ailee’s working a piano-soul raveup by way of Carrie Underwood. But Underwood gets to sing in the spirit of final judgment; Ailee’s broadcasting her anger and tears both.
[6]

Iain Mew: Its unrelenting angry force feels like being hit by a hurricane, and when Ailee is using controlled power to represent unmediated emotion, it’s powerful stuff. The disorienting thing is that it tries to be a song proclaiming eventual triumph at the same time as being in the moment of tears and uncertainty and unleashed fury. The dual contexts end up like a spoiler that everything will be fine, introducing a sense of detachment that the music isn’t able to do anything good with.
[5]

Jessica Doyle: Weirdly overstuffed, trying to be angry and peppy and disconsolate and rousing all at once. (It’s “clap, clap” in the background, right? But who’s supposed to clap? Not the boyfriend in the process of being jilted; and if it’s the other ladies, the unseen audience, why are they being called to clap over Ailee?) For all my grousing about “U&I” being a “Crazy in Love” knockoff, I’ve spent a fair bit of time listening to it in the time since — because at least in “U&I” the tempo slows down in the chorus just enough for Ailee to build some momentum. Here she never quite seems to be in control, and given that the song is built to sell her as a powerhouse, that’s a significant flaw.
[5]

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Jamie T – Zombie

Surprisingly, we like this guy more than Gwen now…


[Video]
[5.29]

Scott Mildenhall: Not so much a zombie as a survivor of the ’06/’07 Mockney microboom. That was aeons ago though, and again, far from a “post-teen”, he’s nearly 30. It’s a swift and welcoming invitation to a Swiftian market to corner nonetheless; an ambling, bittersweet acknowledgement of general rubbishness. On and along it chugs, and down and down it devolves into a man laughing at the nothing in particular he has to think about. Where Graham Coxon was “Freakin’ Out”, Jamie T just cannot be bothered.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The title already suggests the lack of pulse implied by this sack of post-mod redundancy. In a post-Archy Marshall world we’re more than good, but has anyone really loved Jamie T? This kid’s attempts to fuse The Streets and Arctic Monkeys have always sounded like Michael Franti meets Gorillaz if you’re lucky, and now it’s just become a lot more traddish and dull than ever before. Oh well, maybe one day he’ll find one little subsect of Britpop where he can do more than just the cliches.
[1]

Alfred Soto: Keep your chord changes and Vincent Price sound effects. No one said a thing about singing like one.
[3]

David Sheffieck: The intro is almost painful — I came close to just turning it off when the vocal cracked on the “apart” — but Jamie T recovers well once the song kicks into gear. This is a tightly-oiled machine of a track dressed up as a ramshackle affair, and it’s surprisingly convincing in that disguise, a professional makeup artist showing up to a neighborhood costume party.
[7]

Anthony Easton: This gets very boring very quickly. If I thought he was being cleverly meta-textual, I would have liked it more. 
[4]

Brad Shoup: This is exactly the sort of mod bullshit John Peel would’ve given a 19 out of 10, but the mixture of King Krule anti-nunciation, power-pop formalism and modern melodic sense overwhelms, eventually. The romanticism of the bridge practically chastens the refrain.
[8]

Dan MacRae: Starts out drippy, veers into goofiness, ultimately plants its feet in some nicely glazed guitar-pop merriment. “Zombie” is about as revolutionary as a Clash pin on a 9th grader’s backpack, but there’s mild thrills to be plucked out.
[6]

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Gwen Stefani – Baby Don’t Lie

The second video this year your editor owned an entire outfit from already (guess the first)…


[Video][Website]
[4.10]
Maxwell Cavaseno: While you were busy complaining about Sia, the worst voice in music has finally returned to the kingdom, bearing gifts in new hideous “exotic” accents. The return emerges with assumptions of wisdom, yodeling grotesqueness, and her usual colonialist bullshit.
[2]

Alfred Soto: On her first two records she treated genres and producers like items bought with a ten-dollar bill at a rummage sale, and good for her. Now she’s hoping for a Rihanna-Sia top five hit.
[2]

W.B. Swygart: Sassy Ellie Goulding And 27 Other Halloween Costumes That Aren’t Worth The Effort
[2]

Will Adams: Or, How Not to Do a Comeback. Reheated dancehall and Stefani singing like she’s auditioning for the role of Sia in a high school production; it’s not even worth the melodrama of a line like “if we give up, then we’re gonna die.”
[4]

Anthony Easton: This is weird. The sound is not anonymous — Rock Steady inspired, pop infused, brilliant production (see how she sings that line about getting warm) — but for someone who has one of the most distinctive voices in pop, “Baby Don’t Lie” just doesn’t sound like her. I want like a dozen other voices singing the lyrics in the midst of this updated remix of a Slim Aarons luxe-in-Mystique tropical production.
[8]

Dan MacRae: It’s a shame Gwen didn’t trot out “Wind It Up” again to see if it might fly in 2014. “Baby Don’t Lie” just strikes me as alarmingly plain. It’s the sort of song I imagine was pumped out in a cubicle to pair up with an also-ran YA film adaptation. “Check out Gwen Stefani’s new single in the trailer for Travis Crumbler: Defiler Of The Warlock’s Pastels!”
[3]

Kat Stevens: If you told me this was Serbia’s 2015 Eurovision entry I would absolutely believe you, and absolutely put money on it failing to make it out of the semi-finals.
[4]

Josh Winters: Never has Olympic ceremony-level jubilation been so misplaced, or forgettable.
[5]

Brad Shoup: She cut a big ol’ portentous blanket out of Maroon cloth, the sort of pounding, yearning New Wave track that probably should have started with that synth/human hybrid hook. The taunting bridge refers to her Neptunian pop peak, but there’ve been a lot of less interesting voices warped a whole lot weirder since then.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: I don’t know what pop radio sounds like anymore; as someone who used to keep a notepad by her bed to record every song the DJ played and now makes non-trivial income from writing about the stuff, I probably should. But I only know what pop radio sounded like in cars in the late 2000s. It sounded like despair, a determined minor key, and it felt like drive — death drive, the kind of drive best felt while actually driving. Listening to those hits produces almost a synesthetic response; each song teleports me to specific NC interstate exits. Junior year, temping at a custom-publishing company: that lonely curve of sprawl and strip malls that leads from Wendover into Burlington on which hits like “I Gotta Feeling” and the inescapable dratted “Down” felt like zombification music for dead-end commuters. Senior year, interning at the Winston-Salem paper: “I Made It” for flying smug down the power-plant parking lot expanses past I-40’s Death Valley at commute-in-the-morning with a job ahead of me; “OMG” for slumping the hour home through dry windshield heat and traffic jams, sneaking Blackberry sudoku moves and classmates’ tweets from NYC sites and DC parties that felt so distant from the stranded car and void of a love song. In Chapel Hill it was “Take It Off” and “Rock That Body” and “LoveGame,” music for determined dancing with three drinks as sunk costs and disaster at the end. In Durham it was “Tonight,” “Blow,” and “Till the World Ends,” music for relationships and jobs already rotting on the stems. Even radio’s mainstays were bleak: “Say It Right” and “Sweet Dreams” and “Disturbia” and the pinnacle of this sound — Dave Moore calls it the “Rihanna death drive“: “Don’t Stop the Music.” Gwen Stefani predates all of this, and the pop zeitgeist is too scattered to sustain a coherent mood let alone this one, but “Baby Don’t Lie” is practically a time trip. The beginning echoes the xx sample from Rihanna’s “Drunk in Love,” the spoken-word interlude its one concession to Gwen then; the rest could have been played on the radio anytime from 2009 to 2011. It would have been bleak filler back then, but I miss back then, and I miss bleak filler.
[6]

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Javiera Mena – Otra Era

YEAH. AGAIN. IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN. IT NEVER ENDS. WE’LL NEVER STOP DOING THIS. THIS IS OUR JOB. THIS IS OUR LIFE. OUR LIFE IS LIKING JAVIERA MENA SONGS. THERE IS NOTHING ELSE. THERE WAS NEVER ANYTHING ELSE. THIS IS IT. ALL IS MENA…


[Video][Website]
[7.91]

Josh Winters: As a kid, outer space is presented to you as this boundless technicolor playground, and as a kid, you absorb this new world with the kind of wide-eyed wonderment one only possesses when so innocent and impressionable. It can be difficult at times to preserve this perspective as you grow up, but you naturally come across new things, places, and especially people to project feelings of awe towards. Javiera Mena loves the thrill of a new crush, how one so intense can completely take hold of your thoughts and transport you to another planet. “Otra Era” is so sensual, so recklessly playful, but it also feels like it’s stuck in time, the way she sings with mesmeric steadiness over pounding piano and a driving disco beat. There’s a coziness in its cosmic landscapes that, like a colorful rug of the solar system, makes you want to get lost and explore for hours. Hell, nothing has made me want to blast off into space more than that explosively fizzy firecracker in the middle of the track.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: “Hold On, We’re Going Home” plus a rainymood piano interlude, plus crescendos, minus Drake. Don’t you love an equation?
[8]

Juana Giaimo: It’s clear that the third single off Otra era is for Mena’s old fans. The straight mainstream pop of “Espada” and “La joya”, which asked us to join her on the dancefloor, was pushed aside to let in a new Javiera. It’s not the Javiera of Mena or of Esquemas juveniles, but one that we haven’t met before: a Javiera that dares to move further from her past by turning ethereal, sensual and mysterious, but still able to maintain her quietness and secrecy. However, the vulnerability may never be back, and to say the truth, I will not miss it that much.
[9]

Iain Mew: I walked through the pedestrian tunnel under the Thames for the first time last weekend and it was disappointingly un-magical, filled with people and just like walking between platforms in any tube station. On headphones “Otra Era” feels completely enclosed to a rare degree. Coupled with a sense of forward motion even stronger than the end of “La Joya,” it makes me think of an ideal futuristic version of the tunnel with not a join in sight and disco walkways accelerating towards a neon destination.
[9]

Alfred Soto: No performer owns electronic landscapes like Javiera Mena, and she’s a natural fit for this house-inflected number. The number itself though can’t decide whether to delight in its twinkly charm or race for the dance floor.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: So Balearic the song has become an iceberg.
[5]

Madeleine Lee: This kind of synths-as-aural-bath, voice-as-synth texture production does sound like it’s from another time, albeit not one I can pin down aside from “recent past.” The recent past is possibly a minute ago in the song, but hey: it holds up!
[7]

Edward Okulicz: Had the Pet Shop Boys decided that the answer to the lack of success of “Domino Dancing” was to do it over and over again until everyone’s resistance broke down, the end results might have been something along the lines of “Otra Era.” Our loss, up until now, that is!
[8]

Patrick St. Michel: I don’t even know what angle to come at for “Otra Era.” The music itself is a sparse, squiggly strut, a sound Javiera Mena has built fantastic songs around over the last few years; it almost seems unfair how she’s able to embrace the same formula yet meld it into something compelling every time. The lyrics… well, that’s a little unfair, because I still have to rely on Google Translate to understand what’s going on beyond the title (though the results hint at a rejection of both past and future in favor of a timeless — like, time doesn’t exist — love that’s sweet). But the voice behind them sells the power of those words perfectly, making a language I don’t grasp sound natural. 
[9]

Will Adams: It doesn’t quite make sense until the final minute, when the space-age synth lets loose and Mena is thrown to the distortion filters. But oh, what a minute that is.
[7]

Jonathan Bogart: Swooning out-of-time romanticism about out-of-timeness; “you’re like something from another era” goes the refrain. I choked out loud when the house piano came in. It’s hard to shake the past’s idea of the future.
[10]

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Tamar Braxton ft. Future – Let Me Know

pls lmk ok…


[Video][Website]
[7.29]

Alfred Soto: Confident and glittering, with a full-bodied production, “Let Me Know” goes for the Keyshia Cole market and succeeds. Future is less obtrusive than he sounds the first couple of times.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: An interpolation of Lil Jon’s “Lovers and Friends” plus a chipmunk’d sample from Aaliyah’s “At Your Best (You Are Love)” times an assured, sexy vocal from Tamar Braxton equals grown folks’ R&B that yet sounds youthful. The only negative here is Future, who’s not bad so much as slightly in the way — and not needed. Toni’s youngest sister can more than carry a song on her own, as she proved on her fine last album and, by all appearances, is about to prove again. 
[8]

Megan Harrington: An assist from Future is one way to hoist yourself out of the contemporary R&B well you’re drowning in, but, as usual, Braxton’s timing is all wrong. Future’s recent appearance on the peculiarly hateful “Pussy Overrated” has him on the opposite side of this lover’s anthem. He’s thin, autotuned, and faking it on “Let Me Know,” made even more incomprehensible next to Braxton’s full-throated emoting. She deserves better. Braxton wants to modernize her sound and appeal to younger audiences, but she’s not a risk-taker. “Let Me Know” didn’t have to be this unbalanced. Wasn’t Ty Dolla $ign available?
[7]

Jonathan Bogart: Is it really so ingrained in us that the male has to be a subject and not an object that we are giving half a moment’s thought to Future’s “contribution”? He’s a hook singer, pure and simple, aural decoration exactly the way thousands of women have been for songs about dude feelings. Tamar is the star here, and she knocks it pretty cleanly out of the park, taking Mariah’s signature pileup of overdubs and emotions to deliriously baroque heights.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Between the new-wave guitars cresting upon the shore while the gulls call out the memories of Baby Girl, with Nayvadius dancing around the stars (who, by the way, has been killing the R&B feature department of late)… I just want to lay down and let the tide pull me off. There’s some rarefied joy in this moment, and Tamar knows it too well.
[8]

Anthony Easton: The call and response is super tight, and her voice is exquisite. I love how public it is, and how it moves from the pleasures of emotion to the pleasures of the flesh.
[8]

Will Adams: The whistle register that pops up at the end lays bare the aspirations of this passable piano-laden midtempo number. Tamar Braxton is more emotive than Mariah Carey has been in this past decade, but Future’s presence feels unnecessary, like gilding a lily.
[6]

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Ina Wroldsen – Aliens (Her Er Jeg)

First official solo record from a major pop songwriter with a Wiki biography that goes to show how much Wiki editors care about major pop songwriters…


[Video][Website]
[4.88]

Iain Mew: I guess when you’re a top pop writer you can make a chorus just by bolting together “Royals” and “Chandelier”. I don’t mean that as snark; this thing is pleasantly stuck in my head and has lived on beyond the resemblance. The only problem is that she approaches singing everything else like one long continuation of the chorus, and hasn’t given it enough strength to support the personality.
[6]

David Sheffieck: Appealingly off-kilter in lyric and sound, with the punchline delivery of “Knock knock who’s there / Me” a particular favorite. But I can’t get over how much the first line of the chorus sounds like the hook for “Royals,” a similarity so distracting it’s impossible for me to lose myself in Wroldsen’s world of Star Wars and kites.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: There’s something really teeth-on-edge about hearing a Scandinavian trill out about “bougie bitches” and the plain ugliness of her hammy “’cause I am a little bit bisexual!” The latter in particular sounds like a line delivered by some plastic-chinned failed male soap opera star rather than any sort of casual off-the-cuff remark of eccentricity. This mess of a track was already a strange rally cry to be yourself but at the same time, what is identifiable here in this Erector-Set mess of production and worn-out sayings?
[1]

Anthony Easton: Ambitious and a little unhinged, Wroldsen’s desires seem to be constructed for a market who would have more patience for tweeness than “Aliens” seems to.
[3]

Edward Okulicz: “Aliens” gets right what, say, “Chandelier” and “Air Balloon” got wrong. And it’s because, not despite, its silly gimmicks like the “Knock knock / who’s there / me!” bit keep it moving in a snappy fashion. The chorus is still mildly annoying when she does go high, mind you. Wroldsen also sounds uncannily like Martina Sorbara out of Dragonette.
[6]

Alfred Soto: She does go high and high, and that’s the trouble: the song doesn’t come down, Wroldsen won’t stop keeping to the same pitch.
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: The breaking of the fourth wall as declaration of presence is a narrative in itself. That ascension from fence-sitting to fearlessness is as palpable as the ambition it gives Ina Wroldsen the spirit to assert, and with all the weirdness fulfilment would bring. One of the literal articulations of that — seemingly referring to the woman Google thinks she is — borders bobbins (as do the Mike Read homages, too), but otherwise it’s a delirious drift into the ether, holding on to letting go.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: The hook — about kites capable of breaching the atmosphere, punctuated by a vague youuuuu — works well at selling this as a radio-ready number, but it also distracts from the real intrigue here. This is Ina Wroldsen, songwriter to big names all over the globe, debating whether to step out from behind the scenes to take a stab at landing on the album cover rather than the production notes. It’s an interesting struggle, even if Wroldsen has written far better songs for other artists over 2014.
[7]

Monday, October 27th, 2014

TV on the Radio – Happy Idiot

We’re split on which half of the title is more appropriate…


[Video][Website]
[5.00]

W.B. Swygart: You know how Akon occasionally sounds like his despair is the most urgent, mortality-inducing despair that he or anyone has ever experienced? This nearly sounds a little bit like that on the chorus, and that only makes me wish Akon was on it instead, cos this could really use a total loss of perspective.
[4]

Cédric Le Merrer: I hadn’t anticipated Tunde Adebimpe’s singing to become the weak link in an otherwise great TVOTR song. Maybe it’s his stints as indie movie actor that have taught him to dial his performances down? Obviously, the voice not being doubled like it was on all their early songs doesn’t help. Whatever’s the reason, he’s listless through a song that would have called for despair and anger. 
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Maybe she left you because you’ve become quite stagnant and boring fam. Like, look here… sit down a sec. *puts on the “Wolf Like Me” video* Remember that? Yeah, of course you do, you’ve gotten a bit sick of people saying “OH WOW, REMEMBER THIS SONG AND THAT SONG?!?” sure. But look, listen to that weird beat, the way you guys used to sing like you meant it, that bridge. THAT BRIDGE THO. Sorry, I’ll leave the Vine humor out of it… But it’s like this TOTR, when she met you, you were fun! Exciting! You talked a big game! Sure, everybody gets stiff knees when they get older, and you’ve really had a rough go these last few years. But remember, we came to you because you’d reach out as far as you could go! This is the kind of song you easily could’ve done back in 2002, and you’re better than that!
[1]

Brad Shoup: Sure enough, it’s direct as hell, from the glumly catchy alt-rock strummage to the “Hot N Cold” drums. Like every terrible high-school presentation, TVOTR begin with what they’re gonna tell you and close with what they’ve told you. They’ve always been dodgy with the lyrics, so the retreat to the ruefully laconic is both canny and kind of a relief. This feels like a bid for the attention of a rock radio that doesn’t really exist anymore, which is the worthiest kind of stupidity I know.
[8]

Alfred Soto: The boringest drum machine in the world over lyrics and singing that don’t know whether to court irony or stay serious. Other than Dear Science these guys have meant nothing to me; without their funny sounds they’re a second-rate college music station band. I mean, so are these guys, but they realize their concept. Imagine Matchbox 20 produced by Dave Sitek.
[4]

Jonathan Bogart: Presses some New Order buttons I didn’t realize I would like pressed. There may not be too much more to it than that, but sometimes that’s enough.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: TV on the Radio turned into a remarkably bland indie rock band pretty quietly, huh?
[4]

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Mick Jenkins – Jazz

And now, something that isn’t jazz…


[Video][Website]
[6.83]

Ashley Ellerson: “Jazz” is refreshing like a glass of water on a scalding day because you know Jenkins is right. Scat singing is popular in jazz, and it’s about as nonsensical and beautiful as Jonsi when he sings in Hopelandic. Folks are scatting and fooling the dehydrated; do your research, drink that fresh water, and you’ll see right through that jazz.
[8]

Brad Shoup: He comes at the oppositions so casually: triumph is a JFK pose, talking jazz is trouble unless it’s not. I like his catholic selection of luminaries, and the combination of the vibes and a Tyler-like baritone lend this a peculiarly West-Coast feel. But I guess if I had to pick my diving spot, I’d take the Pacific over Lake Michigan in a heartbeat.  
[6]

Alfred Soto: Like Kevin Gates and Tyler, his baritone and stentorian diction are arresting in themselves, but the story’s arresting too: a smart guy who’s done shit and has trouble convincing people those smarts are for real. OnGaud’s use of a horrorshow organ and reverbed guitar help.
[7]

Jonathan Bogart: Sometimes tense chords are tense not because they’re presaging horror, but because they’re trying to keep a lid on joy. Undemonstrative, logorrheic, obsessed with history both personal and cultural — there was no way I wasn’t going to love this.
[8]

David Sheffieck: Jenkins has demonstrated his versatility in the past, but he seems to be most at home with spectral beats that float between B-grade horror soundtrack and existential dread. Here his delivery projects a sense of weary resignation, elevated to something like disgust on the third verse, and centered on a hook that imagines his assassination. It’s bleak and not a little disturbing, but while you might need to cover your eyes, you’ll find yourself peeking through your fingers.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: “I can’t keep watching the same movies.” He says. But the sad fact is, Jenkins scowling and grumping is the same thing so many rappers who take his field do. His technique is adequately flourishy, and his vocabulary is good. But people armed with diagrams and thesauruses only get so far in life. At the core, Jenkins is just providing decorative fancies to the same subject material as say, Ace Hood. (“Gotta get this loot! Momma need new shoes! I’m the realest, not everybody else who says the exact same thing as me!”) The presentation might echo TDE, Chance, Vince or various “underground” acts that promote a more “thoughtful” approach; but at the end of the day this kid is talking that Wynton Marsalis: refried, retread, fancy old cliches.
[4]