Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Hồ Ngọc Hà – Em Muốn Anh Đưa Em Về

Good morning! From Iain, a Vietnamese “top sad banger with filthy bass drop”…


[Video]
[6.00]

Iain Mew: It’s not just the “you and me” repetition that makes me think back to Medina, as the deep electronic throb soaks in the same feeling, even when it’s updated with dubstep vworps and beyond. The bigger difference is Hồ Ngọc Hà’s vocals, which are smeared across the surface of “Em Muốn Anh Đưa Em Về,” subservient to that mood.
[7]

Tim de Reuse: It’s got early-aughties electronica synth design, a late-aughties electrohouse midsection, and a boatload of raw, overdramatic sincerity. That’s interesting, I guess, but past the initial nostalgia trip there’s not a lot there to grab the attention.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The production is a collection of “dark” EDM-pop signifiers strung together without care for cohesion (including an inexplicable bro-step break that feels cut and pasted from another song). But Hồ Ngọc Hà’s vocal performance, breathy and triumphant, is good enough to excuse such uninspired work.
[6]

Joshua Copperman: The verse is refreshingly spacious, the pre-chorus is gorgeous (I love how the Auto-Tune artifacts sound on “baby!”), but 40 seconds in this 3:41 song are dedicated to an awkwardly fitting drop. It’s fine at first, though the dated chopped_vox samples are distracting, but as soon as the bass comes in, the song loses focus. The second drop in the final moments is much better placed, but no song with vocals and melody this delicate  — even this bouncy — should have a breakdown that sounds like it came from the post-“Bangarang” era.
[6]

Julian Axelrod: As the first chorus sizzled and squeaked and slowly escalated, I thought, “This is the drop they built the song around?” And then it hit: the kind of big, squelching bass thwack producers used to kill for, dripping with aggression and drained of all subtlety. But the effect is less “Cool drop!” and more “Oh, so there’s the other drop.”
[5]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The payoff isn’t quite as exhilarating as the end of “What Is Love?” but there’s quite a bit of ferocity to the horns and dubstep wobble. They’re self-assured and brash, revealing just how committed Hồ Ngọc Hà is to obtaining this love. “I want you to take me home” sounds sensual at first, but it can become a threat if need be.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: There’s a three-note melody that pops up in the verses that keeps making me think it’s going to explode into “Self Control” by Laura Branigan. While most songs should at least consider doing this, this settles into a kind of electronic pop that feels about 10 years old but is still welcome. Hồ Ngọc Hà navigates the cut-up vocal swatches with a felt, longing performance. “You and me,” she sings in English, but you don’t need the words to understand.
[8]

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Hardy Caprio ft. One Acen – Best Life

UK rapper, now not so “Unsigned“…


[Video]
[6.43]

Will Adams: Standard come-up posturing made charming by both Hardy Caprio’s and One Acen’s everyman affect. The latter’s hook in particular matches the melodic trap underneath, a production that’s at times twinkling, stuttering and smooth.
[6]

Stephen Eisermann: Songs that involve flexing your success don’t normally move me, but Hardy Caprio’s sincerity on the track and the rich, peppy beat that he raps and sings along to are so moving, it’s hard not to smile and bop along with him.
[7]

Ramzi Awn: Hardy Caprio and One Acen deliver a solid flow with a tight hook. Good synth work reminiscent of an earlier time accentuates the beat, and the boys aren’t at a loss for words. A surprising late summer jam. 
[8]

Alfred Soto: This Croydon rapper would be better off as a singer, for his plaintive timbre suits the usual rags-to-riches climb. Unlike Swae, Hardy Caprio isn’t anomic — yet. 
[5]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Goes down smoother than any other Hardy Caprio and One Acen collaboration thus far, allowing the chorus’s celebratory hook to feel well earned. “Best Life” succeeds because it sounds unequivocally familiar but totally effortless: a combination that makes the boasting feel even more biting. You can practically hear the haters complaining that anyone could’ve made a song like this.
[6]

Iain Mew: After a Cardi B album track of the same name, both the UK and USA have current minor hits about “living my best life” — it’s a phrase more than having its moment. I like this one more than “Smile” thanks to the bite Hardy Caprio and One Acen give it, with just the right sprinkling of the idea that living well is the best revenge.
[6]

Ian Mathers: Many songs that could include the line “fuck what you heard, I been out there living my best” would come across as protesting too much. The single strongest virtue here is that it just sounds accurate.
[7]

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

David Guetta ft. Anne-Marie – Don’t Leave Me Alone

But feel free to leave me “Barracuda.” Or $100,000,000. Your call really…


[Video]
[4.00]

Iain Mew: As the carousel of a handful of the biggest producers and the vocalists of the moment goes faster and faster, each new combo struggles to be novel. Perhaps that’s why this also sounds more like Marshmello than Marshmello does at the moment, or did with Anne-Marie. It’s maybe better than sounding like David Guetta.
[4]

Alfred Soto: A pity that Guetta saddles Anne-Marie with lame please-don’t-leave-me’s and Autotune tricks that T-Pain abandoned in the late Bush II era.
[3]

Alex Clifton: It’s not co-written by Ed Sheeran, so already Anne-Marie’s off to a good start. She slurs so much during the first verse that I had to look up the lyrics to understand what she said, but by the final chorus I’m close to believing her. One point deducted because my dumb ass thought “even when I’m cold” meant she was worried her partner would leave her anytime she wasn’t wearing enough clothing during the winter, and the video didn’t really disprove that.
[4]

Will Adams: I cannot get past this one line in the first verse: “…while you’re sitting on my chest.” Sitting??? Is this about a dog? If it is, this is a [9]. If it isn’t, then this is another example of an Anne-Marie song that’s been derailed by the details. David Guetta, meanwhile, is settling into is talkbox-EDM phase adequately, but there’s more emotion to be found in other yearning producer-singer team-ups.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Ascribed to David Guetta, sung by Anne-Marie, sung like Julia Michaels, written and demoed by Noonie Bao and Sarah Aarons, co-produced by Linus Wilklund, processed like Zedd’s “Stay” (a Wilklund co-write), and surrounded with Marshmello’s chart goo, given words from Lifetime movie obsessives and EDM-pop masochists and more nuanced Pink songs. Much great cinema, TV, gaming, publishing, theater, and probably cave art is produced with this kind of assembly-line model — because that product isn’t this.
[4]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Anne-Marie and Guetta are more tolerable than I usually find them, but their union feels even more anonymous than most EDM-pop crossover attempts. Also, I can’t tell if the vibe is supposed to be “romantic bliss” or “codependency,” which is rarely a good sign.
[3]

Edward Okulicz: Makes co-dependence sound bouncy and almost inviting, which is an act of purest evil. Catchy evil.
[5]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A plea to extend an unhealthy relationship that fortuitously benefits from its musical trip down memory lane. That dated instrumental break forces listeners to reflect on EDM of the past few years: a perfect complement to Anne-Marie’s own urgings to consider a future together through a reflection of the past.
[5]

Stephen Eisermann: I can imagine David Guetta’s pitch about this song: imagine every electronic pop song that’s gone to #5 at top 40 radio in the last year mashed together, but worse. And, hey, he’s not wrong.
[3]

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Trippie Redd – Taking a Walk

Not a Passion Pit cover nor reference…


[Video]
[4.50]

Will Rivitz: Please sign my Change.org petition to add a Trippie verse to every piece of elevator Muzak.
[7]

Anthony Easton: This seems more like the introduction to a song, not a particularly interesting song, but a song nonetheless. Now it’s just kind of flaccid wallpaper. 
[3]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Scott Storch and Avedon’s production is softly plaintive but comforting in its warmth: a fitting soundtrack for a leisurely-paced walk during autumn. Disappointing that Trippie Redd then undersells his attempts at emotional resonance through a diluted performance and scattered lyricism. The casual suicidal ideation, the hollow braggadocio, the vituperative language directed towards women — it all congeals into greyscale nonchalance. Apropos as a portrayal of numbing depression? Perhaps, but the result is more of confusion: is there any purpose to the song’s brevity? And why is Trippie Redd playing to none of his strengths?
[3]

Juana Giaimo: Suicide is a delicate matter in society, and hearing a song being so open about it is at least surprising. It can also cause empathy, especially in the way Trippie Redd makes the syllables longer as if he were falling apart, almost roaring at the end of the only verse of the track. But I can’t help notice the first lines of the verse, where blaming women for mental illness and a toxic lifestyle is once again a common theme. The suicide note not being read by his “bitch,” is put as a cause for him to say “rule number one: never trust no bitch.” It’s hard to have empathy for someone who victimizes himself by blaming a whole other gender. 
[5]

Alfred Soto: “Rule #1: trust no bitch,” I learn in the first verse. The love scars run as deeply as the shared values, aesthetic and moral, with the late XXXTentatcion. 
[4]

Will Adams: Everything here — the brief run time, Scott Storch’s laid-back and at times dreamy production, the wordplay that at first feels clever but weakens through repetition — really does evoke the feeling of taking a walk outside to clear your head. Slight as it may be, sometimes a quick breather is just what’s needed.
[5]

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

B Young – 079ME

From 867-5309 to 678-999-8212 to now…


[Video]
[4.33]

Alfred Soto: Angling to join the list, decades in the making, of songs using the latest technological advance as a way to pick up girls, “079ME” offers little but a Afroswing rhythm that 50 Cent used for cooler ends fifteen years ago and the East Londoner’s mild charm.
[5]

Iain Mew: It makes sense that as we get more and more ice cream van jingles in the UK chart someone had to get a hit that turns it sad, and it’s a neat effect. Around that B Young gives us an extended one-sided daydream and an ambiguous “you know that you done for.” It’s not clear whether the sadness is more fitting if she doesn’t go for his pleas or if she does.
[5]

Tim de Reuse: A douchey sentiment, but it at least comes with a good sense of rhythm; the stuttering delivery of “really, I’m lying, girl you know I just want your number” is remarkably infectious. It’s good that most of the time is spent on a fairly well-crafted chorus, because everything outside it is an unfocused mess.
[5]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Meanders without any sort of development such that the central hook eventually resembles that of incessant nagging. The frank admittance of a pick-up line being a mere formality is also, at this point, neither charming nor original.
[2]

Will Adams: The synth twinkles and bubbles serve as a nice distraction from B Young’s hounding, itself a rather unimaginative take on the “call me” trope.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: The number she gives is also the number of pleasant songs that sound exactly like this.
[5]

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Marshmello ft. Bastille – Happier

Don’t frown because of a low score, smile because the huge marshmallow mask you’re wearing has a smile painted on to it…


[Video]
[4.14]
Kat Stevens: Did you SEE Marshmello nail the Ninja Warrior course? Max respect. I am automatically adding 3 points to his scores from now on.
[3]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The introductory hook’s topline is evocative, but the song spirals downward from there. For one, the verse features an ugly, off-putting melody that dips too low (in the first verse, it’s during “become” and “back”). From there, it becomes clear that the song’s attempts at unifying disparate musical elements is a paltry mirroring of the paradoxical “if you love something, set it free” notion. These warring emotions finally climax with a crude bridge that aims for catharsis but reads more like hurried songwriting. “I’ll go,” sings Bastille’s Dan Smith. I’ll follow suit.
[3]

Alfred Soto: He wants her to be happier but he changes his mind? I suppose the arrangement finds correlatives for the baffling lyrical twists — trop-house effect here, angry guitar there — but it results in an overheated track.
[4]

Taylor Alatorre: There were some good rock collabs on the Shock Value albums. There were some bad rock collabs on the Shock Value albums. This reminds me of the bad ones, where Timbaland had to dilute his production style in order to accommodate that of a band that was mostly unwilling to reciprocate.
[4]

Iain Mew: Bastille has a mood of anthemic regret that he can bring to any setting, and a song about leaving because he wants to make someone happier is a strong starting point for it. A start is all we get, though. If the plan was for Marshmello to fill in for the lack of detail beyond that, it hasn’t worked, since he provides a ping-ponging bridge and not much else recognisable.
[4]

Will Adams: The buried lede in Marshmello’s 2018 output is that he’s still creating festival-ready EDM-trap with the same bells and whistles. And while Joytime II is just as underwhelming, it makes his pop collabs feel like even more of a lark. “Friends” was and still is mean-spirited and cynical, but at least there was stuff going on in the production. “Happier” is something just like Chainsmokers but with even more toothless drops.
[4]

Will Rivitz: “Happier,” as with most other Marshmello songs, demonstrates why the producer is the only one of the legions following in the footsteps of the Chainsmokers to emulate some of that group’s magnetism. In the Hundred Acre Wood of 2018’s electronic pop realm, Marshmello is one of the Poohs: simplistic and a little dopey, to be sure, but also able to distill complicated situations down to their basic emotional cores, all tinged with a fundamental positivity no matter how dark. “Happier,” in that sense, is instrumentality the brightest of a dim moment, its synth-horn blasts and insistently major key the sound of watching the sun come up after a night of crying alone. To continue the Hundred Acre Wood analogy, Dan Smith’s treacly delivery is the Eeyore here, and nobody wants to be around an Eeyore at sunrise.
[7]

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Dierks Bentley ft. Brothers Osborne – Burning Man

We hope everyone enjoyed themselves at the festival!


[Video]
[6.50]

Leela Grace: Nevada has 248 mountain ranges, the most of any state, or at least that’s what I was taught when I worked there. When you drive past Reno across the state on Highway 50 — the officially-designated Loneliest Road in America — you pass through maybe five towns before you reach Utah. In one of those towns, at dusk on the main street, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a deer standing in the middle of the road. In Reno you meet Burners at the farmer’s market, at the co-op, they’re driving buses that are decorated to look like whales over the winding roads from Tahoe. More people come into town as August wears on, more people ready to head out to the playa and make Black Rock City, for a ten-day period, the third-largest town in Nevada. There’s nothing in this song of statements that points to community living, self-love or joy or whatever it is you can get with six hundred dollar tickets and a trip to the desert. But when I listen to it I hear the sound of Highway 50, the twelve or thirteen eight-hour trips I made back and forth across the vast nothing of that state, when you can crack your windows after rain and the smell of sage is like a presence in itself, when the horizon might as well be riding shotgun with you. A person can get desperate, out in the nothing. You can lose yourself. And sometimes you have to turn your radio up and scream along to whatever I statements come along to prove to yourself that you’re still here, you’re not lost, you’re just going somewhere new.
[8]

Crystal Leww: Burning Man as an annual/event/festival/life event has inspired eyerolls from me. Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osbourne, by the looks of this music video, have referenced the festival and attempted to create an uplifting ~event~ of sorts. It has also inspired an eyeroll, and Real Masculine Man Struggle country music is still just one of the most unappealing corners of the genre.
[4]

Will Adams: Dierks’s got one hand in his pocket, and the other is giving a peace sign (because Burning Man, duh). The “I contain multitudes” conceit is appealing, but the reliance on signifiers hinders it — the title in particular is far more evocative when read metaphorically as opposed to in reference to the festival. Still, the big production gives urgency, and I’d rather have Dierks wax lyrical on himself than on women.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Driving, uptempo statements of intent from Bentley seem to work the best for him — “I’m a little bit holy water but/Still a little bit Burning Man,” goes the hook, rather than sappy endearments like previous single “Woman, Amen.” Brothers Osborne provide able assistance here as well, taking the second verse. There’s also a shit-hot guitar solo that’s actually allowed to go on for longer than four bars, and the heavy, percussive rhythm makes this not only a driving song but one great for driving. And somehow, past its lyrics, “Burning Man” evokes the high deserts of California smartly. This is easily Bentley’s best single in some time.
[9]

Jonathan Bradley: He’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Bentley’s catalogue of his internal dualities threatens to cast his “Burning Man” narrator as the kind of libertarian corporate bro I presume does show up to the festival that eventually appears in the song’s bridge. The song would be stronger if the connection were only implied, and lyrics like “One day I’m the exception/most days I’m just like most” do enough on their own to imply a conviction that a weekend in the desert where you trade a necktie for cargo shorts is evidence of a countercultural ethos. But there’s a deeper sense of spiritual anxiety in this lyric, and Dierks’s performance draws more on the raw tension of his conclusion: “I’m a little bit holy water, I’m a little bit burning man.” A churning rhythm bolstered by panicky bursts of guitar affirms that these contradictions aren’t ones he greets with complacency.
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The guitars are fiery, the drums are fierce, and the hook is certainly memorable, but it’s all bogged down by lyrics that are far too simplistic for the Inspiration it tries to arouse.
[4]

Taylor Alatorre: The best Dierks Bentley songs are the ones that successfully straddle the line between familiar and formulaic, streamlined and shallow. On both counts this one tips more toward the latter, but it’s made worthwhile by some unexpected brute force strumming and a guitar/fiddle tag-team by John Osbourne and Tim O’Brien, wherein each instrument does a pretty good imitation of the other. For a song about resolving the dichotomies of wild youth and responsible middle age, it might be a bit too well-balanced for its own good.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Two months ago, I wrote that this cautious first-tier country star would never risk his “brand” and release a Brothers Osborne duet with a title recalling the largest bro-fest in America, a place from which broken relationships flow like drugs in the desert. Well, he did, and it sounds like a Bakersfield Lindsey Buckingham with dreams of being in Old Dominion. Bentley can be boneheaded often, but goddamn it he got me now.
[8]

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Polycat – I Want You

Not to be confused with Doja Cat, Thundercat, TacocaT, Cashmere Cat, Cat Power, Catcall, Fat Cat, or Catfish and the Bottlemen…


[Video][Website]
[6.67]

Alfred Soto: As elegant as late ’80s Jam and Lewis, “I Want You” allows Polycat to navigate across an elegant musical space. Hyperbole interests them not at all — they dramatize. 
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “I Want You” strikes a delicate balance. On the lyrical level, as well as in the maximalist ’80s pastiche notes of the production (those orchestra hits!! the big skronking guitar!), Polycat aim for high drama. Yet in the softer notes of Rattana Janprasit’s vocal performance and production — the way he yearns in the prechorus as the percussion rattles below him especially — you get the feeling that “I Want You” wants nothing more than to be a supreme piece of chill pop. That these two competing desires can coexist so sublimely is the core appeal of “I Want You”– a close second is the inexplicable quoting of “Happy Birthday to You” as the song’s instrumental climax, which bewildered and endeared me in equal measures on first listen.
[9]

Iain Mew: A marshmallow tower which starts luxe and gets luxer and luxer as they go up. Which is impressive but also a lot of one thing, especially when it’s not my favourite to begin with. It’s not that each new level doesn’t reveal some surprising new details, just that they’re all still made of the same basic stuff. If Polycat did something more with the prog guitar wail from the beginning that all but disappears after, it would help.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: It’s an opulent guitar riff, dripping in diamonds and pearls, and Rattana Janprasit’s delicate singing can’t match its luxuriousness. His chorus, however, is classic R&B: comfortable with taking its time, and all the finer for it.
[5]

Ian Mathers: The backing is indeed very slick, but with grace notes that comprise practically a little symphony of pops, clicks, stabs, and washes that just grows more vivid with closer attention. The vocals, meanwhile, in both form and content throw back (in a good way!) to acts like Boyz II Men, which combine with the slightly different tenor of the production in a surprisingly harmonious, overall wonderful blend.
[8]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The ’80s-loving Thai group returns with a single that finds them channeling all their energy into a tastefully dramatic ballad. Compared to Polycat’s previous singles, “I Want You” is dense and attention-seeking: all ears stay glued to Rattana Janprasit as he elegantly pines for an ex. He’s sad there won’t be another “Happy Birthday” to sing to her, and is increasingly envious of the new boyfriend’s current position. “Seeing him do what I used to do, I can’t take it,” he sings, and his soaring vocals sell the sentiment.
[6]

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Empress of – When I’m With Him

As our thoughts turn to fall…


[Video][Website]
[7.88]

Julian Axelrod: Los Angeles is an inherently isolating city, with every neighborhood splattered across its sprawl and a commute culture consisting of personal transportation boxes. Even natives can’t help but feel disconnected from the city that birthed them, one that can’t help but push its people away. “When I’m With Him” is already a masterful exploration of loneliness in love; the panic attack toms and prom-ready synth glaze make your heart feel like it’s trapped in amber, while Lorely Rodriguez’s weathered wail reaches out through the darkness. But watching Rodriguez smolder through the streets where I grew up only deepens the song’s resonance, especially after several years away. Los Angeles is a city that nurtures you even as it nudges you away. You can live inside it your whole life and still feel like an outsider. Watching it through that lens, Empress Of’s pointed Spanish asides cut even deeper: “I distance myself more and you can’t see it.” There’s nothing more crushing than giving all of yourself to something that doesn’t need you.
[9]

Juana Giaimo: Empress of’s debut album looked for tension in the sound: it had loud noises and her vocal melody had abrupt changes. Now, rather than looking for dissonance, she builds up a very pleasing song. The beat is steady and there are short guitar notes in the background (ones we are used to hearing in Haim), which gives a sunny atmosphere. And suddenly, after the falsetto of the chorus, her voice gets lower, the beat quieter. Spanish being my first language, I can’t avoid the meaning of the first two lines of the second verse: “You wanted more of what it could be/I get further away and you can’t see it.” She sounds reflexive, but it is a subtle break from what came before that shows that underneath the calm and polished sound, there is nostalgia for something that she knows is going to end. 
[8]

Vikram Joseph: Since long before I was old enough to understand it, September has filled me with a penetrating, intangible malaise — the watery sun, receding daylight hours, florid leaves (magnificent, but undeniably terminal). “When I’m With Him” captures this soft decay exquisitely. Set against a fuzzy, sepia-hued drift — those last warm days sending off late, lonely sparks into cool, early sunsets — Lorely Rodriguez sings of the autumn of a relationship; the inexplicable, irreversible atrophy of romantic feelings. The lyrics in Spanish, aside from sounding stunning, help conceptualise the idea of an insurmountable emotional/communication barrier. It’s a close cousin of Solange’s “Losing You,” and like Solange, Rodriguez’s timbre is one of resignation, but undercut with a profound sadness (if you doubt the latter, just hear the beautiful, poignant waver on “trying but don’t know why-y-y” in the middle eight). She’s submitting to the change of season, but still reluctant to let go of the vestiges of the one that’s already disappearing into the rearview.
[9]

Eleanor Graham: Nothing like some synthy ambivalence to flavour our lattes as the cooler weather drifts in! I don’t really have a problem with talented pop girls remaking “Everything Is Embarrassing.” In fact I think this song strengthens the argument that they should all have to, by law.
[8]

Will Adams: At times, it takes very simple concepts to convince me. “Everything Is Embarrassing” with more rhythm section is one of those.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: The bleacher-stomp beat places this in a high school gym right alongside that prom night synth swell, and the shivers of guitar coloring the mix confirm that our scene takes place in the filmed confines of a 1980s movie. Lorely Rodriguez builds up the heartache with quick fluttering syllables that don’t quite lead to a chorus arresting enough to justify them, though the sighing, drawn-out way she pronounces “hi-iim” comes close.
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: This didn’t click for me until the bridge started and that drum fill, simultaneously buried under layers of amorphous synths and pianos and beaming directly to you in perfect clarity, arrived. It’s a small note in what is otherwise a self-assured, well-written, but kind of boring song, but it’s one of those small details that complicates and enriches a song into something interesting and fulfilling.
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: You never fucking learn, do you. These are the words I hear when I put on “When I’m With Him.” They’ve crowded my mind for years, readily accusing me when I make the smallest of mistakes, when I fail to meet my own standards, when I feel the most unlovable. Six years ago, Sky Ferreira’s “Everything is Embarrassing” encapsulated the numbing humiliation of love lost. Its forlorn spirit — one of expectant dejection and a solitary mourning — is found here, and listening to both songs has proven similar to reading one of my old journals. Leafing through the entries, I’m always astounded that my anxieties haven’t changed. I’m still crippled by the same self-doubt, painfully ashamed of the huge gulf between who I want to be and who I currently am. When Lorely Rodriguez laments her inability to be honest, she does so with a comparable discontentment. “I’m going back and forth like branches in the breeze,” she sings, and the song’s other lyrics constantly reflect that nauseating vacillation. Most crushing is the difference between the pre-chorus (“I don’t know how to tell you“) and the chorus (“I don’t know how to love, I pretend when I’m with him“). It signals further distancing from confronting the situation, and a concession to the same unhealthy behaviors. The result, however, shouldn’t be perceived as any form of action; it’s inaction, it’s paralysis, it’s fear. But it’s easier to deny your loneliness than to face it head-on with a breakup you initiate. And as uneasy as it may feel, it’s a comfortable decision — the one that doesn’t require you to make one.
[8]

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Joyce Manor – Think I’m Still in Love with You

Barry Johnson checks out what’s new at The Singles Jukebox…


[Video][Website]
[5.75]

Ian Mathers: I can’t entirely erase my suspicion that this is a prank played by my brother where I accidentally rate an old song from his adolescent horde of pop-punk records that I could never quite tell apart. But this one does, on the one hand, feature a singer who sounds like an Americanized version of the singer from Idlewild, and on the other has lyrics that keep threatening to be slightly more complex than the form demands, so ultimately it’s a toot from me.
[6]

Taylor Alatorre: “Is Joyce Manor Pop Punk Or Emo” — the greatest thread in the history of forums, locked by a moderator after 12,239 pages of heated debate. The adult response is that it doesn’t matter; the Get Up Kids are synonymous with third-wave emo yet penned one of the great pop choruses of all time in “Ten Minutes,” and New Found Glory were in the first Emogame. If Joyce Manor are the NFG of the revival scene, this is akin to one of the midtempo jams from Radiosurgery, though informed more by Guided by Voices than the Ramones. It’s clean and uncluttered and designed to frustrate the sort of people who got mad at the whole stage diving thing. It’s nice. Self-limiting, but nice.
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Joyce Manor continue to stray further from the highly melodic and palpable energy of Never Hungover Again for a song that places most of its worth in telling a story through lyrics alone. People will mistake this for “growth.”
[3]

Vikram Joseph: If you trace a line between the aggressive, sub-two-minute shards of Joyce Manor’s early material and the streamlined punk-pop of “Think I’m Still In Love With You”, there are two constants: a dead-eyed brand of humour which splits the difference between sincerity and savage self-deprecation, and their unusual, instinctive mastery of melody and dynamics (which was even present amid the wreckage of their self-sabotage of a second album, Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired). Most fans will probably agree that the sweet spot on that trajectory was 2014’s Never Hungover Again, but, five albums in, they’re still churning out plenty of sharp, hooky bangers. The production sheen might have worn off a little personality, but equally, it renders the harmonic power-chords of the chorus in pristine high-definition melancholy. And if you’re going to sound painfully ’90s, then Pinkerton and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (the intro is so Jawbreaker) are just about the sweetest kind of pain you can find.
[8]

Alfred Soto: This emo act boasts the hook-filled horrors of Weezer, down to the line “Take a bunch of pills and crash in to me.” Why, is that all it takes?
[4]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: An inadvertent victim of the fallacy of imitative form — it’s a well-struck portrait of being stuck in the tropes and patterns of both an individual romance and the romantic narratives of society that unfortunately sounds like a mass-produced punk-pop love song.
[5]

Ashley John: “Think I’m Still in Love with You” sounds fuzzy in the way that memories get when trying to string them together to make the version of the past we wish happened. Joyce Manor’s delivery is quintessential pop punk, the uncertainty of “I think” repeated over and over providing the self-doubt that serves as the backbone of the genre. It’s simple and just as fleeting as the love it describes. 
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: I first heard Joyce Manor when I saw them open for Against Me! at the Metro a few years back, which is a great way to first hear a pop-punk band. Joyce Manor songs don’t vary a whole lot in sound — they play a bright and yearning, lightly distorted California power pop — but it’s a good sound, and their songs tend to be about two minutes long and their albums tend to last about 20 minutes. I’m not saying they’re the perfect rock band, but… go back and read each of the things I said about them. This one is built on a riff with some sharp, dynamic turns and features slick call-and-response harmonies. Some things just work.
[8]