Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Keith Urban feat. Carrie Underwood – The Fighter

Pretty clear who’s the more popular one around here.


[Video][Website]
[5.83]

Alfred Soto: Drum machines? Check. Synthesizers with a hint of glint? Check. Duet with a superstar who wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing? Yep. The production compensates for a dusty lyric — why couldn’t Carrie Underwood be the one protecting Keith Urban’s scrawny ass? He’s the one who owns the expensive guitars.
[5]

Katie Gill: Carrie Underwood is one of country music’s most consistent treasures. She has the ability to consistently put out hit after hit–even her more mediocre songs are still amazingly listenable due to her amazing voice and the power she puts behind everything. Which makes it all the more shocking that she doesn’t even get a full verse on this song and the bits she does get sound shockingly restrained. I’ve a feeling that this is so Urban can still perform this song on tour, with the back-up singers doing Underwood’s part…but you’ve got Carrie Underwood on your song. Don’t just relegate her to the hook.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: Urban’s secret thing is that he’s flimsy and insubstantial in a crowd-pleasing way, and his songs are shallow and obvious in a way that makes them readily digestible, and this song is exactly that too. The rinky-dink dance pop production actually lets him loosen up a little bit, and on top of that almost anything would sound impassioned, and it’s kind of catchy. Like everyone on the planet ever, he’s completely outsung by Underwood, but ever the strong man, he’s protected her from having more than a few lines.
[6]

Will Adams: Not sure why Keith sounds so proud of himself for blurring genres, since the production on “The Fighter” is so cheap and flimsy that it’s barely a step above other slapped-together-for-pop-radio efforts. Carrie sounds like she couldn’t care less to be here, so at least she recognizes her surroundings.
[3]

Juana Giaimo: “The Fighter” has a polished and poppy production, plus it counts with the collaboration of Carrie Underwood to sing together a dialogue-like chorus which makes it very dynamic. It’s only three minutes long — as the “rules” of pop demands– and in those three minutes, “The Fighter” has all these elements to make it immediately enjoyable, but it doesn’t offer much to make it memorable. 
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: If this had come out as a single in 2016, it would’ve been in my top 10, hands down. I’ve loved this from first listen, the poppiest thing either Urban or Underwood has ever put their names to — credit/blame co-writer/producer busbee — and it succeeds precisely because of that. Well, that and its lovely love lyrics. And the fact that I could pretty much listen to both Urban and/or Underwood sing a Google search and enjoy it. And Urban’s tricky little guitar licks in the chorus. I want to hear this glorious, joyous ode to love blasting from every radio, everywhere, all the time. 
[10]

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Gorillaz feat. Mavis Staples and Pusha T – Let Me Out

Shoulda had a MUNA feature.


[Video][Website]
[3.67]

Edward Okulicz: Damon Albarn + politics + gospel + protest, there’s an equation we all wanted. In his hands, even with an occasionally good rap from Pusha T, it comes across as lightweight sloganeering. I do like the slapping beat though.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: A good Push verse is always cause for celebration, and this might be a great one. Plus we get Mavis Staples singing on a track that doesn’t feel embalmed (cf. her Jeff Tweedy records of recent vintage)! The electro syndrums on this are marvelous, to boot. Credit Damon Albarn for piecing this all together, but credit Pusha T and Staples more for their performances, which make this. 
[8]

Tim de Reuse: I don’t doubt the sincerity of the sentiments in here, but other than a few poignant lines from Pusha-T buried in the middle and some underdeveloped religious themes that could’ve been interesting given space to breathe there isn’t a lot expressed that we haven’t all said to ourselves several times already over the past few months. This isn’t to imply that you’ve gotta say something groundbreaking to make music worth listening to, but I can’t think of a reason I would want to come back to this tune in particular for ritual exorcism of 2017 malaise. It doesn’t help that the production is vacant and fluttery, faithfully recreating the anti-ASMR sensory experience of watching a housefly that stubbornly refuses to land and be swatted. 
[5]

Alfred Soto: As concept, Gorillaz exist for juxtapositions like this, but Damon Albarn’s execrable judgment for synth sounds turn no doubt well-meaning interpolations of gospel fervor and enthusiasm into boluses of suck. 
[3]

Claire Biddles: I mean, it namechecks Tr*mp but is it really about anyone’s specific experience in the world? In much the same way as the most recent outing by Depeche Mode, “Let Me Out” uses all the right buzzwords but ends up being about a call for “change” so vague that it’s meaningless. It feels apt that legendary singer and activist Mavis Staples is brought in, but just for a pre-chorus — used as a kind of hype woman for whatever surly-voiced cartoon character Damon Albarn is pretending to be. A wasted opportunity. 
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Worthless gospel signifiers yet again from a clearly dried up and unimaginative artist such as Albarn; the emboldened confidence of Pusha and the worldliness of Mavis here are ruined by generic synth nonsense that insist on a depth and poignancy that aren’t there. Some cartoons deserve to get canceled and frankly Gorillaz is one of them.
[0]

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Calvin Harris ft. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams & Ariana Grande – Heatstroke

Are you ready for the weekend? I am!


[Video][Website]
[6.17]

Thomas Inskeep: By making a point of releasing the credits for “Heatstroke,” Harris makes sure that we know that he played (deep breath) Ibanez 1200 Bass, Linn LM-2, 1976 Yamaha UX Ebony Piano, Gibson SG Custom, 1965 Fender Stratocaster, Flexitone, Wurlitzer Electric Piano, and Roland Jupiter-8 on this, along with mixing and producing it. I for one am glad to know it, because this has an organic mellow disco vibe akin to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (which, whaddaya know, also featured Pharrell, whose vocals fit settings like this so well), and I’m happy to give credit where it’s due. Harris is, with this and the earlier “Slide” (to which this is immensely superior), clearly taking his music in a different direction in 2017, and about fuckin’ time. Enough of the Rihanna-featuring EDM-pop tracks already; he didn’t always make records like that, and I’m quite pleased he’s remembered that. Young Thug is predictably weird on this, but in an amusing way, and Grande delivers her most relaxed vocal in years, making me think she could have a disco-diva record in her, a la Kylie Minogue (if only!). Most of all, “Heatstroke” is warm. This would make a superb little summer jam — and for me, it will be. I’m kinda shocked by how much I love this single.
[9]

Ryo Miyauchi: Jeffery grabs the best vocal affects from “Kanye West” and “Harambe” to present Young Thug, the singer. His raps become really vanilla as an unfortunate side effect of him fulfilling his rock star dreams, but it’s an alright trade if I can get to hear his voice crack in all sorts of pitches in an otherwise pleasant, almost sterile soft rock.
[6]

Crystal Leww: Old people BBQ music. 
[7]

Alfred Soto: Buttery like most Calvin Harris isn’t, “Heatstroke” might’ve been an insta-hit in the fall of 2013 when the aftermath of “Blurred Lines” hadn’t upset a fatigued nation. So ingratiating is “Heatstroke” that it rubs against your leg begging for you to pet it; so vaporous are the vocals that the song vanishes like mist.
[4]

Will Adams: I’m only just coming around to “Slide,” so I don’t have much use for more tiki bar house, especially when I can get the same or better from The Knocks without all the big to-do.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: You know, it’s awful nice of Calvin Harris to give handouts to a painfully washed up musician like Pharrell, especially with that beat battle with Timbaland coming up threatening to *vine vox* EXPOSE HEEEEM and remind us we don’t have to look at a geriatric pretend to musicality, when he hasn’t done anything worthwhile this decade beyond a few loosies with Gucci Mane and his verse on “Move That Dope”. Frankly, what is Pharrell even doing here in that auto-tune, because somehow even that glorious plug in still reminds us his voice is shit? Beyond my petulant abuse of the elderly, I am all for the continued yacht-rock career shift of Calvin Harris, as he offers a playful party vibe that isn’t nearly as classicist as when you had your hamfisted Nile Rodgers collabs from various parties a few years back. Also, entirely happy to hear Young Thug on a proper pop record sounding right at home, and next to Ariana Grande which leaves an opening for them to follow up and have a proper “Fantasy” moment together away from this “Hello, Fellow Kids” looking-ass N*E*R*D.
[7]

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Silent Siren – Fujiyama Disco

Several blocks down from the chocolate disco…


[Video][Website]
[6.33]

Thomas Inskeep: This single by all-female Japanese band Silent Siren has a vibe akin to taking Karen O’s disco excursions with Yeah Yeah Yeahs to their logical conclusion. At points, Ainyan’s bass pops disturbingly like Flea’s (back when the Peppers were actually, y’know, good), and while the chorus occasionally threatens to go full-on dance stormer, it never pulls the trigger, which is to its benefit. “Fujiyama Disco” is some crazy downtown new wave-punk-funk that you may not have known you needed. But you do.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: While S showcased the group’s chops with irresistible power-pop riffs, “Fujiyama Disco” draws out more of Silent Siren’s not-so-secret weapon: Ainyan and her bass-playing. Her nimble lines on the slap bass sets the speed on high from the jump, and she pushes the others to inspire the needed energy for this fuck-the-haters anthem.
[6]

Alfred Soto: It didn’t need to run past four minutes, and I doubt this stew of video game syncs and slap bass will get anyone hopped up at the disco, but its energy is almost infectious.
[6]

Will Rivitz: When J-pop is firing on all cylinders, it meshes high-octane rock and funk with fist-pumping pop-electronic production. This one moves, whirling around with meteoric force – strip away its obnoxious mid-aughts supersaw blares and unprocess the “FUJIYAMA DISCO” vocal cries a bit and you’ve got a jam to be reckoned with. 
[8]

Will Adams: The only times they really take control of the frenzy are the bridge and the rapid-fire “FU-JI-YA-MA DI-SCO” refrain. Otherwise, the slapped bass runs loose, the synth solo grates, and everything is unappealingly claustrophobic.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Imagine an amalgam of Fall Out Boy, “Party Rock Anthem,” “Video Killed the Radio Star,” about six girl-rock tracks from the ’90s, and generously drizzled slap bass. Now imagine whatever’s in your mind, except not terrible.
[6]

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Luke Combs – Hurricane

Don’t cut funding to FEMA, Preident Trump! Think of the bro-country singers!


[Video][Website]
[5.43]

Katie Gill: This week’s version of ‘you’re so sexy that when you entered it hit me like a destructive force’ is (spins the wheel) hurricanes! Have fun trying to make destructive forces of nature sexy! Granted, there’s probably some personal bias slipping in here as I grew up in Mississippi, but really? That’s the metaphor we’re going with? It doesn’t help that the hurricane metaphor is only partly applied — half the chorus is talking about her in a generic sexy way and then suddenly, on a dime, we become hurricanes. It’s a very play by numbers sort of song until the absolutely weird number comes in.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Luke Combs misspelled “Drizzle.”
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Combs is a new(ish) country singer with a rich voice, and in “Hurricane,” which he co-wrote, he’s got a song worthy of wrapping his voice around. It concerns the universal topic of running into an ex — and what can sometimes happen next — and is produced smartly, reminiscent of ’90s hits from Joe Diffie and Neal McCoy. We could use more of that feel in country today, so I’m more than happy with this.
[7]

Crystal Leww: “Hurricane” is great, straightforward, sensitive bro pop country. Luke Combs has got a gruff voice that could make him suited for the boring dreck that’s dominated the conversation the last couple of years, but “Hurricane” is a story about a girl with a chorus that hooks and soars. This song’s had a slow build — I think I first heard it sometime in October of last year — but it’s starting to peak right as rain showers fit the metaphor. 
[8]

Juana Giaimo: Those Nickelback vibes doesn’t help at all to make me emphasize with Luke Combs. 
[5]

Edward Okulicz: “Hurricane” is a big and earnest country-pop song with some authentic-sounding gruff radio rock touches. Combs’ voice saves it from getting too 00s Nickelback, and the crowd vocals on the end turn it into a completely acceptable lighters-waving singalong. Mentally adding this one to my karaoke wishlist.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Kinda kills the intimacy when you throw in a simulated arena crowd, huh?
[3]

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Lady Gaga – The Cure

Remember Lady Gag? She’s back! In pop form..


[Video][Website]
[4.64]

Thomas Inskeep: The edge of boring.
[5]

Crystal Leww: The other day, a friend pointed out that Lady Gaga went from “Bad Romance” to a duets album with Tony Bennett in five years. So I guess it feels apt that in 2017, Lady Gaga has abandoned her latest album after two singles and is changing direction once again, this time to something even blander than faux-country authenticity. “The Cure” is so insultingly anonymous — it could be sung by any wannabe pop star looking at the EDM vocalist route — for someone who was so dominant in pop music less than a decade ago. And yet, this is better than anything off Joanne or Cheek to Cheek and better than everything except “Do What U Want” off ARTPOP (which was only good because of R. Kelly, yikes). There’s no reason why this fall had to be so swift. Everyone deserves to be fired. 
[5]

David Sheffieck: I’m old enough to remember when Lady Gaga started trends I didn’t like, rather than jumping on ones I’d long come to ignore. That said, she sings more convincingly than anyone else in this space right now. That said, the lyric is vaguely cliched in a way that The Chainsmokers would never allow.
[5]

Alfred Soto: She may be in a commercial tailspin, but this concerns me less than the anxiety it inspires. From the received angst of Gaga’s high vocal to the sampled trill, “The Cure” could’ve been written by The Chainsmokers and featuring one of their guests, which means it could’ve been written by no one. 
[3]

Cassy Gress: This is possibly the least Gaga-y Gaga song that I’ve ever heard, aside from her usual awkward scansion (too much emphasis falling on the “with” in “fix you with my love”). A line like “and if you say you’re okay, I’m gonna heal you anyway,” which would fit right into some of the dark, aggressive pop from The Fame Monster and Born This Way, just comes off as flaccidly obsessive here. If she looked at the reception for Artpop and Joanne and Cheek to Cheek and thought that this must be what people wanted from her, it makes me sad. It’s not just that it sounds like a million other anonymous trop-house songs; it’s that she sounds so half-hearted about it.
[2]

Scott Mildenhall: As much as The Fame‘s singles spawned imitations, RedOne’s production itself was never entirely original, and so Lady Gaga suddenly trying to blend into 2017 radio isn’t that extraordinary. Eschewing maximalism on a brand new release is more uncharacteristic, but the cap fits. The restorative power of love and connection is ground she knows, and she sells a belief in it here with delicacy almost as well as when it was bursting out of her on “The Edge of Glory.” It’s not earth-shattering, but pleasantly functional — a litmus test for her ability to chart well, quite possibly.
[7]

Joshua Copperman:  I don’t get why everyone says it sounds like tropical house, or like the Chainsmokers. In fact, this sounds like “The Fame”-era Gaga to me. The same person who wrote “Million Reasons” is the same person that wrote “You and I” is the same person that wrote “Paparazzi” (which actually shares a similar obsession theme with “The Cure”), and so on and so forth. It’s easy to think of this as a regression or one last attempt at relevancy before signing off to do albums with Tony Bennett forever, but this song is a cool way of bringing all the Gagas together, and I hope that it brings her all the success she’s clearly going for here. 
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: And to think that circa Born This Way she actually was veering toward The Cure. The personnel make me think this has gotta be old material, as does how it kinda sounds like it began life as a rnbass take on Britney’s “Sometimes.” The lyrics, free of any complications, make me think she can’t have written it for herself. It’s not the first time Gaga’s been smothered by commercial necessities — Artpop had Zedd, “Just Dance” had Colby O’Donis and RedOne when he rated — but it certainly continues a regression. Stefani’s a theater kid — when did she forget it’s better to be big and wrong?
[3]

Leonel Manzanares: It’s kind of painful to hear such an iconic, unique performer follow a trend instead of leading it, and that fact alone is exactly what kills this otherwise solid tropi-pop song. Miss Germanotta is a gifted topline maker, and the way she frames the melody in the pre-chorus, jumping on that D# chord, is masterful, but considering the surroundings — vocal-synth hooks, Kygo by-the-numbers atmospherics and the most generic-ass beat you can find on Soundcloud — it all just feels like a missed opportunity. Most shockingly, it all sounds so NORMAL. AND IT’S A GAGA SONG. COME ON. 
[6]

Will Adams: Gaga’s had to deal with an implacable audience ever since Artpop failed to recoup its $25 million budget. Make a conceptual electropop record, she’s overthinking things. Make a country-pop album, she’s stuffy. Record some jazz duets, what the hell is she doing? Join the 2017 current, she’s desperate. By some definition, “The Cure” is very of the moment, but apart from the vocal-as-violin thread, I can’t find that much of a departure from her early work. It’s a bit like “Do What U Want” without the paparazzi context (and more “Cater 2 U” by way of Munchausen), and her powerful voice is front and center as always. If she’s not going to reinvent the wheel anymore, at least she can spin it in her own unique way.
[6]

William John: Though it may not have succeeded in every respect, I admired the resolute contrariness of Joanne and its campaign. For an artist whose rise to the top of the charts was meteoric, Lady Gaga’s recent projects – the kaleidoscopic Artpop, the Tony Bennett collaboration, serious Dianne Warren balladry, the veering into country – have felt very out of step with pop trends. Some might see this as deliberate obtuseness, but my impression of Joanne was one of sincerity; this was an earnest genuflection to a genre she’d only dipped her toe into previously. Lady Gaga has bills to pay too, I presume, but it’s a shame that she’s resorted to something so stale to do so. The classic Gaga singles from the latter part of the last decade constitute the apotheosis of mainstream electropop at that time; “The Cure,” meanwhile, has the air of something drawn from one of the Chainsmokers’ backup hard drives, all chirruping and jerky, expunged of any uniqueness or specificity. As a Chainsmokers single this would be fine — that’s their modus operandi, after all. As a Lady Gaga single, it’s dismayingly paltry.
[3]

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Kevin Ross – Long Song Away

Adult R&B chart-topper continues our mild enthusiasm…


[Video][Website]
[5.67]

Alfred Soto: A strummed hook that Color Me Badd and Babyface might have enjoyed animates this adult R&B hit with a couple of surprising chord changes that justify its length.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Of course this recently topped the Adult R&B chart; even though Ross is young (and this single leads off his debut album), he’s got an older soul and is loaded with talent. He’s also a romantic, which certainly helps when making what I affectionately refer to as “grown folks R&B.” The songwriting brings to mind the classicism of Babyface, and Ross has got a damned pretty voice, too.
[7]

Cassy Gress: When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a dorm on the same floor as a girl who blasted Ginuwine’s “Differences” on endless repeat. Whatever enjoyment I may have been able to get out of that song was bashed into oblivion. “Long Song Away” loops B minor-A minor stubbornly and gently enough to remind me of hearing that muffled keyboard pattern and bass every day from four rooms down, but if she really was playing this, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to get annoyed. The “slow down and let’s dance to the radio” sentiment makes me roll my eyes a little, but if this song is any indication, Kevin Ross would be stubborn and gentle enough to convince her to go along with it.
[6]

Tim de Reuse: This is a slow-down song based off of a workable but barely-evolving four-bar loop, thus offloading all the heavy lifting to Ross’s voice. He sounds squarely in his element and occasionally delivers a nice melodic turn, but it’s all rigidly unambitious, aiming for nothing higher than “pleasant.” The only sensation it evokes is something like sitting through a beautiful day off with absolutely nothing to do.
[6]

Will Adams: The production, a heat haze of unsteady minor chords and soft handclaps, is an R&B dream, but Ross can’t match it. While technically competent most of the time, he slips into nasal territory too easily on the longer notes, and I often find myself more drawn to the hushed backing vocals.
[4]

Crystal Leww: This is like watching a child put on a tuxedo and trying to act grown. Kevin Ross is undoubtedly talented with a nice voice, but there’s a reason why urban adult contemporary belongs with folks like Babyface and Toni Braxton. This passes by like a breeze when it should feel a lot more dramatic. 
[4]

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister – Saturn

Non-Canadian indie supergroup(?) thinks new things, difficult things…


[Video][Website]
[6.00]

Alfred Soto: What’s this — Anderson, Bruford Wakeman & Sufjan? No, just a collective known for creating some of the most miserable dude laments of the last 15 years messing around with synths, vocoders and adenoids. “Melancholy” and “Capricorn” appeared at some point before things got symphonic.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: For its first two minutes, this reminds me of a sped-up version of Isao Tomita’s take on Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1 (famously used as the theme for Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler, often the last thing aired by PBS stations prior to sign-off in the ’70s and ’80s) — which befits “Saturn”‘s spacey theme. But I certainly didn’t expect to hear Sufjan Stevens singing with heavy Auto-Tune warping his vocals, or for this to become a throbbing Moroder track 2:15 in. For my non-indie-fan money, this is the most interesting music that both Stevens and the National’s Dessner have been involved with.
[8]

Joshua Copperman: I’m disappointed in the lack of orchestration, especially considering Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly are on the list of collaborators, and the melodramatic delivery wasn’t nearly like that in the live videos. “Tell me I’m evil/Tell me I’m not the face of God” seems a little bit proggy and over-the-top for this group of musicians, especially when Bryce’s heady composer side is normally grounded in Matt Berninger’s Berningering. But I do like the trippy, self-serious atmosphere, even if the electronics and vocoder effects are nothing new for Sufy.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: If we must keep reviving the decade, I far prefer the space-obsessed prog ’70s to the licks-and-leisure-suits ’70s.
[7]

Tim de Reuse: There are little bits and pieces here to love. There’s the wide burst of shimmering distortion that balloons out right when that anemic kick drum gets into gear, or the scraps of emotional strain in Sufjan’s delivery of “Tell me I’m evil/Tell me I’m not the face of God” that survive the hellish vocal processing — just enough to convince you that the people involved with this aren’t completely out of their minds. The other 80% sounds like the obnoxious Europop people would rig to autoplay on joke webpages in 2004.
[3]

Will Adams: “Saturn” orbits around the likes of Moderat and Jon Hopkins (or, more accurately, Jon Hopkins remixing Moderat), its anxious shimmer adding even more uncertainty to the vocal before everything comes crashing down midway through. And like those acts, the rumination on human evil is more a lament than an indictment. Sufjan’s modulated voice bespeaks a self-shame that, given the state of things, hits home.
[8]

Maxwell Cavaseno: kosmische self-flagellation doesn’t make for enjoyable music, especially when a bunch of people are just really really too into sounding like the exact edge of good and bad Tangerine Dream. But to their credit, the assorted co. of this song decided to make such a pained record sound transcendental and not like self-combustion. The insistence of the right to live has been denied so many times, and to blur the sounds of humanity like this says a lot about our failure to see ourselves in others. I’ll never listen again to a song like this, but no doubt I’ll see its echoes more than I’d care for.
[6]

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Broken Social Scene – Halfway Home

Canadian supergroup returns, remains less than super


[Video]
[4.86]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Indie music entitlement finally gets its “We Built This City.”
[4]

William John: The best Broken Social Scene songs walk a tightrope between rousing bombast and the spare aesthetic that’s often appropriate when conveying crushing sadness. “Halfway Home,” from the band’s first new album in seven years, is certainly loud, what with its enveloping, amorphous guitar clouds and relentless drums. But the polyvocalism, once the band’s trademark, works against them. There are too many voices, too many ideas, too many things happening that never coagulate in the way that the work of Drew, Canning & the remainder of Canada has historically managed to. The band is back together, but they haven’t figured out how to communicate what they need to say.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Indie that actually rocks, propulsively. For what it is, it’s pretty solid.
[6]

Joshua Copperman: The beginning is everything I want from indie rock, with the thundering drums and gorgeous waves of tense guitars, but this thing just keeps going and going for five minutes, gradually losing any sense of form. There’s little dynamic shift in the whole song, even though grand crescendos are the reason to even make a five-minute indie rock song in the first place. There’s only so much I can take of a gaggle of Canadians maniacally throwing their instruments at a brick wall before I get a headache.
[6]

Alfred Soto: When the singer mumbles while the zealously mixed guitars aggregate into an imitation of a wall of sound, I admit it sounds pretty. But Built For Spill sounded pretty too. Then the singer mimics Bono.
[4]

David Sheffieck: The breakneck pace reminds me of the second best BSS song — “Major Label Debut (Fast)” — but this replaces the massive hook of the original with a whole lot of clutter: in the backing vocals, in the chaos of the guitar parts, and especially in the messiness of the mix. I want to like it, and the energy is infectious — but only to a point, dissipating as quickly as the feedback fades.
[5]

Tim de Reuse: BSS’s last few records sounded messy, but they were jumbled and cluttered in a way that had a bite. Every individual element was bright and sharp in its own corner of the mix. This is reminiscent of their past output, but it sounds like a soft drink gone flat (seriously, do a little A/B testing against some cuts off Forgiveness Rock Record), in part because most of the song consists of back-to-back dramatic gestures compressed into structural fuzz. They wanted to make a triumphant return, so they released a comeback song that spends most of its time trying to seem like a grand finale.
[4]

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest feat. Busta Rhymes – Dis Generation

Dis Controversy!


[Video]
[6.43]

Joshua Copperman: This, “We The People,” and “Solid Wall of Sound” were easily my favorites off of last year’s We Got It From Here…, and “Dis Generation” is extra special for its hook, syncopated, simultaneously infuriating and mesmerizing. I love the way all the members play off of each other here too — they literally trade bars, often down to the measure (which has the byproduct of Jarobi only getting four lines in the entire song, but apparently that’s just a thing at this point). Perhaps it’s because I still need to delve into ATCQ’s back catalogue, but I love how they’re tight enough to convincingly finish each others sentences — again, literally. What really makes this awesome, though, is how they’re praising the younger generation of rappers in a passing of the torch. Even as the names shouted out are predictable, it’s still pretty cool to see legends praising younger rappers who either want to be legends (Cole), are arguably already secured in the canon (Kendrick), or those who have the potential to get there (Joey, Earl.). It’ll take more than an unstable administration to make songs like this feel less than defiant. 
[8]

Will Adams: The importance of this symbolic torch passing is not lost on me, and the samples used create a robust foundation. But I’ve never been one for “Hey, you’re all right!”-type sifting for the “real” music among the detritus, no matter how easily everyone involved is trading their lines.
[6]

Mark Sinker: Black music evolving ways to address its own pasts and future — ways that escape pop’s endless present-centred event horizons — is so totally my jam, back nearly to the moment that Musical Youth were actually in the UK charts (I started writing the following year), that I really really wish this did more with the idea. 
[5]

David Sheffieck: The tradeoff between the rappers is technically stunning, while the laid-back beat makes it sound easy. Like you’re sitting in on a bull session that happens to have a soundtrack and a hell of a rhythm. Are they saying anything worthwhile? Almost entirely beside the point: they sound good — great, even — saying it. That the hook comes from Musical Youth seems like proof this is the Tribe song that could get me to listen to a full Tribe album; that Busta Rhymes doesn’t get more to do is an example of why I never have before.
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Getting to hear Q-Tip, Phife, Jarobi, and Busta Rhymes swapping lines back and forth is a thrill, always. Hearing them praising a new generation of MCs is, too; they’re keeping the faith. And Q-Tip’s track, which samples Invisible, Can (!), and Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie” (for its chorus), is perfection.  
[10]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Appallingly egotistical, one of the most abysmal rap groups of the so called “golden-age” have returned to the sycophantic glad handling for their pandering milquetoast MOR bullshit they once reaped for almost a full decade. Elevator music instrumentation to save people from the awfulness of modern rap production, best designed for festival cash-ins and swaths of listeners who like the idea of using “real music” as a lapel pin to read of inherent moral superiority. Who of the youth does Q-Tip cite as the leaders? Kendrick Lamar, a hyper-moralist, industry-coddled pseud who loves to deny racism exists. Joey Badass, a deluded ret-conning child actor playing the part of ideal rapper for the whims of disgusting old men and voyeurs. J Cole, a vapid poseur fond of slut-shaming and posing himself as some sort of revolutionary icon. Considering this is the same Q-Tip who once brattily called southern rappers “sub-humans” because he couldn’t get a release date for his unlistenable jazz-rock solo-excursions, it’s no fucking surprise. A Tribe Called Quest are still a sacred cow of bloated largesse in which centrist respectability wank gets disguised as liberalism because they tipped the hat at the delusions of the “woke” adolescents who see the rare elder making inane statements that support them and denounce the spectral bogeymen of the overtly right-wing. Little do the souls getting hoodwinked realize that they’re being conned by an absolute sell-out who’s disgustingly using the death of a partner he frequently abused and cheated of money as a totem for redemptive narrative alongside the waves of social grieving for a nation in crisis. Of course the only thing that could make this more musically repulsive is none other than their eternal protege Busta Rhymes looking like a bloated golem of B-Boy Generation insecurity and sounding as lifeless as ever no matter how much he gurgles and pantomimes at effort. Vile, vile stuff, and the world deserves better.
[0]

Alfred Soto: The crowd noise, Busta’s superb performance, the riff — all throwbacks, all a delight because Tribe use their past to accentuate what has changed without getting fusty about it. They couldn’t have released it in 1993 because they still believed in daisy ages. Despite the darkness, I suspect they still do.
[8]