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]

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

EXID – Night Rather Than Day

Ditto for K-pop funk smooveness…


[Video]
[7.00]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Now this is what I’m talking about! Too long in R&B influenced K-Pop do songs tend to stay at one constant level and rely on simple switches of style to make the song not feel monotonous; hell, EXID are guilty of this on “Ah Yeah.” But here you’ve got honestly a perfect disco-house groove that builds in vocal intensity with time, and for once not only is LE’s sort of quacking nasal tone appropriate, it’s used instrumentally in a cheeky way that keeps her from being regulated to being a Feature or a Necessity rather than a member. Hard to say how well it’ll do for the group, but this might be their strongest single yet.
[8]

Ryo Miyauchi: Taking it slow turns out for the better. The moonlit shine in this dusky funk number really brings out a tenderness I needed to get familiar with EXID that I couldn’t exactly find in their rowdy Street. The softer tones don’t stop LE from stealing the show, however.
[7]

Jessica Doyle: I don’t love “Night Rather Than Day,” especially the second verse, which seems to lose momentum every time it switches parts: so Hani’s “Butterflies in my mi-i-i-ind” isn’t properly built up to. But I’m very glad for Eclipse, because it sounds like EXID, but EXID getting experimental (at times, EXID meets The Nightfly, even). With lead singer/ad-libber Solji on medical hiatus until further notice, if ever Shinsadong Tiger and LE were going to play around with a new sound, now would be the time to do it. Eclipse is no Street, nor was it meant to be… but the next album, with Eclipse (and “Boy“!) under the group’s belt, and Solji back? I am trying to contain my expectations about that next album, and it’s not working.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Let us praise the rhythm guitar, subtle horns, and well-deployed vocals. I love space deployed as strategically as this.
[7]

Katie Gill: The opening thirty seconds of this song, LE’s beautifully bratty sounding verse, and the way Hani belts “butterflies in my mind” make this song practically perfect. Pity about that slightly sleazy backing, though.
[7]

Leonel Manzanares: This one is all about the production — Shinsadong Tiger’s smooth disco beats and smoking sampled brass take the track to deeply sensual heights — but EXID’s love-drunk yet surprisingly restrained vocals are the big seller. Street proved that EXID can be a pretty good album group, and “Night Rather Than Day” is proving that they can pull off their typical sexy concept but now under a more mature perspective. 
[7]

Tim de Reuse: A ticklish two-chord loop that’s gorgeous when it’s quietly building up tension but trips itself up with cluttered harmonies and momentum-breaking asides every time it tries to hike up the energy.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Airy ’90s-esque pop production complements the well-written melodies and strong vocals, making a delightful bonbon of a single.
[7]

Madeleine Lee: Unhurried and romantic, this is about as far as you can get from their noisy last single, but it never feels like a calculated move. (In fact, it’s the thing that most recalls their previous singles, LE’s snappy recital of the title, that feels the most unnatural.) It’s a song for a lazy summer evening, when the air is warm and buzzing with possibility.
[8]

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Paramore – Told You So

We liked the follow-up single too? Told ya!


[Video]
[6.75]

Joshua Copperman: “Told You So” is a bit of a come-down after “Hard Times” and a baffling choice for a single when plenty of other songs on After Laughter are more immediate, but it’s a grower in a way that’s surprising and entirely welcome. I love the math-rock-influenced guitar line in the chorus and somewhat dissonant synths in the bridge, which sounds like Hayley Williams has been listening to Everything Everything just as much as she was inspired by Talking Heads on “Hard Times” and Haim elsewhere on the record. One thing that especially surprised me here are the lyrics; it took a while for the meaning to click, but the narrative of being screwed over and laughed at rings especially true for a band like Paramore. If there’s one thing clear about Paramore’s history, it’s that they are a singularly troubled band, starting incredibly young and surviving years and years of lineup changes and hardship to reach this point. “I’ve been through a lot” is about right.
[7]

Will Adams: A marked improvement from “Hard Times,” swapping out crowded arrangement for pure airiness, guitars and synths and vocals all playfully ricocheting in different directions.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: There’s an underlining lived-in darkness beneath this technicolor pop that I couldn’t find in “Hard Times” to make Paramore’s struggles feel personal. And the band’s angular riffs finally meets its brilliant match in Hayley’s staccato bridge.
[6]

Alfred Soto: An exercise in the judicious use of space and dynamics. A showcase for a dynamite lead singer. Not one second longer than necessary.
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: How fucking awesome that Paramore have not only gone in a fairly new wave direction on After Laughter, but that they’re spiking it with highlife guitars cribbed from classic Afropop, of all things. They’re doing an excellent job making feeling bad feel very good. 
[9]

Maxwell Cavaseno: I’ve been surprised that so many have been entertaining such a lackluster return from Paramore. Pare back the 80s infatuations on your and their parts for a moment and let’s note this song for what it is: a bunch of ridiculously dull melodies, some unnecessary guitar noodly bits that nobody wants from this band, let alone tips to the hat of non-rock elements like those vocal squelches for emphasis. Everything here is the most banal this band has ever been, and frankly suggests that maybe they’re forcing their career a little bit longer than they should.
[2]

Tim de Reuse: A decent pop effort hamstrung by a mix that’s all plastic and uncomfortably bright and an arrangement that’s as well-organized as a post-earthquake Toys ‘R’ Us.
[5]

Rachel Bowles: Hayley Williams has always been a favourite to sing my sadness and very occasionally unadulterated joy. When a friend committed suicide I played “That’s What You Get” over and over, wishing for the robotic mania that sometimes takes over in times of great stress, typified in “Hard Times.” It seems the monster buried with Lauren Mayberry on the anthemic “Bury It” has returned, as it’s always wont to do, in After Laughter — when the worst has happened but worse is always yet to come. The angular guitars on “Told You So”‘s chorus would have my sad self hitting the indie disco floor hard, but the real clincher is William’s channeling Annie in the slow build of “Throw me into the fire/throw me in/pull me out again.”
[10]

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Ninety One – Su Asty

The Jukebox turns its attention to Q-Pop…


[Video]
[5.25]

Will Rivitz: A few years back, when I was first getting into K-pop, someone whose opinion I trust mentioned that they found it hard to listen to much of it because its musical style tended to lag a couple years behind its American counterpart. This was around 2011 or so, when many of the groups I liked were biting Britney’s style circa Blackout, and so despite how true the statement might have been across the board I certainly believed it. I now see in the style an artistic maturity I’m sure existed when I was in high school but could nevertheless not find then: a genre that exists on its own, not beholden to the whims of American radio four years prior. Point is, this song sounds in 2017 like the kind of K-pop I listened to five years ago. Qazaq-pop may be exciting and new, but if this is any indication the genre needs to take a second to find its footing.
[4]

Olivia Rafferty: Taking cues from all the scariest parts of East Asian pop music, here we have something that flits between a dirty hip-winder and a panic attack in the club.
[4]

Iain Mew: Security alarm synths, growled and clucked vocals and a sense that anything could happen at any moment except maybe a tune — it feels like the next step into chaos from something like Exo’s “Wolf.” There’s a reason they didn’t take that route, of course, but this is a lot of fun for a dead end.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: When they convene in this siren raid, Ninety One hammers a point like a schoolyard bully making his stroll to make sure his lesser wimps know of their place in the food chain. They talk a good one to keep their crown. But the credibility that they fall back heavily on for their power feels as existent as the straw-men supposedly doubting their authenticity — which is to say, not very.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: I love that writing for TSJ exposes me to things like Q-pop: boy bands from Kazakhstan! However, I really wish this didn’t combine the worst impulses of 5-year-old EDM with the aggro attitude of a Limp Bizkit. (Why so defensive, guys? I know, I know.) This is entirely joyless pop music, and without joy, what is pop?
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: I’m downright giggling at the ol’ “We are not the same, I am a ____” trope now being turned into bragging about being amphibious mutants. Essentially most of this song is a mess, either musically (basically a post-Skrillex mess of dive-bombing synths and gang vocals, with the occasionally really challenging use of syllable stutters and digital delay) or lyrically (essentially a bunch of boys really insistently barking “RESPECT ME DAWG”). It’s a whole lot of aggression and demanding, but it’s at least playful enough on its own terms that you know these guys don’t take themselves too serious.
[4]

Cassy Gress: My first thought on seeing the video was, “oh, it’s a group of G-Dragons, or Big Bang mk II” but that’s unfair. What this is, though, is a rather cacophonous swagfest that works mainly because its noisy aggression is tempered by the wink and the tongue sticking out.
[7]

Jessica Doyle: To address the obvious first: the video is some thorough YG cribbing, right down to Alem’s Taeyang impersonation, asked for by absolutely no one on this green earth. Although possibly the video’s bloodstains-ballgowns-trashing-the-hotel-room banalities are meant to anchor a song that’s anything but banal — although I’m not sure you can appreciate how not-banal it is without some context: not just “boy band,” but “boy band who became obnoxiously huge last year with a style that sounds and looks relatively conventional to those of us used to K-pop but scared people enough to get their concerts shut down in parts of Kazakhstan.” Under the circumstances, I expected them to start their sophomore album with something big-vocaled and safe, the rough edges smoothed away. Instead they decided to make a whole song out of rough edges: serrated growls where a chorus would be; and varying beats like heated snakes catching each other’s tails midway through lines; and none of the three singers sounding like themselves; and ZaQ’s raps turning into air bubbles; and AZ deliberately, almost aggressively, fey in his delivery. Startling, too, is the metaphor: everyone is sinking, but Ninety One doesn’t rise above; Ninety One has gills, Ninety One is going to flourish in the darkness. “Su Asty” is thus less a provocation than a firm planting of the feet, delivered with a smirk. (The smirk delivered by Bala, obviously.) And thus Ninety One — who wrote the song themselves — AZ and ZaQ have the lyric credits, Alem and Bala wrote the music — is established as more confident, more complicated, more exasperating, and more just plain ridiculous than even I had anticipated. “No matter how you study, you will never comprehend us,” they claim. Maybe not, but the researching will be fun.
[8]

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Royal Blood – Lights Out

Lights out, guitars out…


[Video]
[4.88]

Alfred Soto: A market exists for this sort of thing, I suppose *gets up to make a smoothie*.
[4]

Will Rivitz: The song is ostensibly about getting high after an erstwhile hook-up walks out the door, which feels appropriate given the massive testosterone rush its avalanches of bass trigger. Rock is dead, saith the critics, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still convulsing.
[8]

Iain Mew: Well done on the video, which takes the vague lyrics (“stuck in the ground,” “through the walls,” “skin tight,” “burning red”) and faithfully turns them into an uncanny Doctor Who concept. Making the most of constraints goes for the song, too. Royal Blood’s rock doesn’t do much new, but the focused energy of their stripped down approach gets them right to the point and means that the wilder bits of guitar aren’t just hemmed in details.
[7]

Lilly Gray: I remember hearing Foals’ “Inhaler” for the first time and replaying it over and over until the chorus buildup stopped giving me a headrush and I was finally tired of it. This is the Ollie’s Discount Outlet version of that, with very little drive or distinction to pull it out of the background. “My eyes are still burning red” has promising menace, but every element stays quietly at the back of the room instead of forcing its way to the front, from the ok-guitar to the ok-vocals. I just want this song to make me do a double-take, and as it is, I’m straining. 
[4]

Joshua Copperman: One of my dad’s favorite songs at the moment is Ghost’s “Square Hammer”, which I introduced him to after I gave the song a [7]. I played him this, however, and he shrugged — it’s too bro-y and simple for his taste and mine, and the melody and lyrics are so unmemorable that now I just want to start talking about “Square Hammer” again instead. I’m not trying to criticize “Lights Out” for not being a Swedish doom metal song, but I’ll definitely say that for all the slow-motion “yeaaaaaaahhhhh” backing bros and bass guitar tricks, “Lights Out” feels distant and dull, like arriving at an outdoor concert venue late and having to stand literally hundreds of feet away from the stage or even any speakers. Most of the points I’m giving are for that knowingly ridiculous drum fill at 2:27 and the ensuing breakdown, but it’s tough to get excited about anything else. 
[4]

Jonathan Bradley: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it seems taking the prog out of Muse makes them worse.
[3]

Cassy Gress: This sounds like “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” but much less cloudy and mysterious, like if Richard Patrick hadn’t toured with NIN but instead… I dunno… God Lives Underwater or The Hives or something. It’s not actively bad, but it seems old in an underwhelmingly nostalgic way.
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: I’m kind of an amateur expert on bands who are satellites of Queens of the Stone Age. The band with the kooky meth-head bassist, the band with the guy who was the unimportant member of Failure, the Swedes who opened for them who sound like a bad copy. Its like you have ten cars and occasionally, you have to swap out the tires from one or two of them to get car 7 running. Strange system. The reason why I bring this up is that frankly, that Royal Blood sound like one of Josh Homme’s friend’s lesser affiliate bands is really sad. Because apparently these kids are well over a decade younger than anyone who thinks being friends with Josh Homme is a cool thing, and that says everything about how backwards their ambition is.
[4]

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Skin

Drag and moan man…


[Video]
[3.14]
Katie Gill: I’m pretty sure Rag ‘n’ Bone Man is the result of a monkey’s paw wish that someone made to get less Sam Smith in popular music.
[4]

Olivia Rafferty: I guess we had to have a placeholder while Sam Smith dipped out to write a new album or discover the existence of racism, whatever he’s up to.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Soulful-sounding, earthy DUDES do something to people where they seem elevating and spiritual. To me, this ends up sounding like lesser Sam Smith. All the production reads of an “inspirational” Eminem single and the lyrics here are innocuous as hell. At least when Aloe Blacc made sell-out soul that meant nothing; he was doing it for the purpose of getting that movie soundtrack. This kid is really being told he’s a star.
[3]

Crystal Leww: When BBC Sound Of was announced, I knew it was inevitable that Rag ‘n’ Bone Man gets to be big — after all, there is a market for “soulful” music that is made by white British folks. “Skin” is all about the signifiers for heart and soul — voice desperately trying to reach for meaning, that choir, the swelling production, and lyrics that reference time, love, and surrender. But there’s nothing specific here to show that Rag ‘n’ Bone Man has an artistic vision beyond reading the article for Blues on Wikipedia and listening to a BB King song once. This is boring and will undoubtedly make a lot of money.
[3]

Iain Mew: There’s a bit of the British music industry, the bit that gets Jack Garratt and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man to Critics’ Choice Brit Awards and high placings in the Sound Of list, that has been precisely iterating its way to an ideal. You can see it just by looking at the two of them, but “Skin” takes it a step further by taking large bits of melody from Garratt’s single “Breathe Life,” while ditching its interesting production elements, replaced by the bluster of James Bay — another predecessor in the role. The iteration has worked, too, with Rag’n’Bone Man releasing the UK’s fastest-selling debut album by a male artist this decade. It’s just unfortunate if you’re seeking more from pop than empty signifiers of strong and stable musicianship.
[3]

David Sheffieck: I am usually all for melodrama and excess in pop music, but there are limits. Here is a short list of elements in “Skin” that go too far — dropping any two would give the song a chance at hitting the right level of too-muchness: 1) the drama class over-emoting of the vocal; 2) the inexplicable 808 flourishes; 3) the choral backing that was accidentally triggered too early and left running too long; 4) the somber piano that indicates Seriousness Pop is being made; 5) the bouncy Sesame Street chirp of the organ deeper in the mix; 6) the name “Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.”
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: More portentous than a Hollywood fantasy blockbuster and twice as glossy. If you’re gonna be this silly, give us high drama, not your best Wobbly Voice of Emotive Seriousness.
[2]

Friday, May 19th, 2017

The Singles Jukebox is seeking new writers

The Singles Jukebox is home to a talented roster of writers from around the globe with passionate, critical voices dedicated to the spectrum of modern music. We are an unpaid collective with a friendly community and many writers and alumni writing professionally elsewhere. If you’re a writer interested in exploring diverse genres and unfamiliar sounds we want to hear from you.

The site is seeking applications from writers with bold ideas and a willingness to tackle new subjects. We are particularly interested in writers whose voices are under-represented in music criticism and strongly encourage women and people of color to apply. All are welcome to apply, including those who have previously expressed interest in writing for the website.

If you are accepted, you will be free to choose how often you write for the site and on which songs, but as a guide we are looking for those able to write about at least two songs a week.

If you’d like to be considered, please submit the following as an email to info@thesinglesjukebox.com (no attachments, please) by midnight at the end of May 27th:
1. Two blurbs on songs of your choosing from the following list:

2. A blurb on one of your least favorite songs of the year so far.
3. A blurb on a song from this year that we haven’t covered.
4. A sample of your writing — this could be anything from a published review to a blog post you’re proud of — anything you think represents the best of your work. If you don’t have anything suitable, please add a blurb for a third song from the list.

All blurbs should be up to 250 words of clean, concise copy (there is no minimum word limit) and include a score from 0-10 that is well justified by the writing. If you have questions, send an email to info@thesinglesjukebox.com. All submissions will be considered, and we will respond to all applicants.