Friday, March 24th, 2017

K.A.R.D – Don’t Recall

Your editor… kind of wants to play chess now.


[Video][Website]
[4.83]

Jessica Doyle: So BM’s position at 1:37 looks pretty bad: he did manage to castle queenside, but then moved too aggressively and lost his rook and knight. But J.Seph didn’t castle at all, allowing BM to come up through the center, apparently. (And block off the adjacent files with his bishops? Otherwise how do you checkmate an isolated king with a rook?) And now’s as good a time as any to mention I was finding Fabiano Carauna hot until he punted a simple Trump or Clinton question, like no dude you don’t get to pretend you play in a political vacuum when you just mentioned Alekhine (who was playing with anti-Semitism long before Bobby Fischer tried it) and Kasparov (who hopefully has since schooled Caruana some, as he does). Anyway. K.A.R.D deserves better than a tangent, though I’ll admit I find them more compelling when they’re being playful. The backing track here is just a little too languid for Jiwoo’s and J.Seph’s exposing their wounds. Which would seem to contradict what I said earlier, and I can’t tell you the members of K.A.R.D are going to be any better than Caruana at dealing with the world their audience is escaping from, during breaks from providing the escapism. But I’m not consistent either; I’m rooting for them anyway.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Production-wise it’s the worst of the worst: tamed down elements of recent Fifth Harmony singles mixed in with Tropical House and DJ Snake, to a bland Soundcloud mishmash that’s less catchy as it is a ‘pushing the edge of expiration date’ functional blandness. The song itself is moody, but feels far too stiff to be real despondency. That said, bonus points for J.seph’s rap verse, which is just the amount of mild venom that seems to embody the relationship described in his delivery, while his lyrics attempt to convey self-pitying hurt. It’s good to see someone didn’t forget the song they were actually trying to make while everyone else let this record down.
[3]

Ryo Miyauchi: I’m stoked to hear yet another slick club pop from Korea that faintly borrows from the softer side of DJ Snake. And where the synths ping across the surface light as a feather, K.A.R.D. move even lighter. As the four split slides to start some back and forth, the men seem to push back harder than the women even if the latter’s supposed to have the upper hand. But “Don’t Recall” overall sets a nice dynamic that I hope gets explored more as they go.
[7]

Alfred Soto: The call and response vocals go some distance toward compesantion for the chipmunk vocal effect, which I’d rather hear in K-pop than a Chainsmokers track. Still!
[4]

Will Adams: With all the ill-advised EDM duets popping up in the wake of “Closer,” it’s refreshing to find one where the singers interact this well. That’s about all that’s refreshing here; the rest is as familiar as you’d expect.
[5]

Iain Mew: There’s something stylish and fun in there waiting to be let out, I think, which would make something more of the lemon drop synths. As it is, it’s obscured by too many voices pulling as hard as they can in different directions, and it feels too much like a competition where I don’t mind who loses.
[4]

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Steps – Scared of the Dark

Today’s theme is “Boys & Girls.” Wait, wrong group. Well anyway, clearly we know who the better British “90s stars” act this week was.


[Video][Website]
[6.78]

Claire Biddles: In a climate of comebacks that bend and stretch themselves to the shape of trends in chart music, that aim to disguise themselves against the top ten, “Scared of the Dark” feels like a rare diamond. Like Pet Shop Boys before them, Steps do not give a shit about pop trends but they do give a shit about pop music, valiantly making a comeback with a song that’s alien from everything else in the charts, but that feels (and I know how corny this sounds, to borrow some kind of superhero cliché) like what pop needs at the moment. The Ed Sheeran Chart Dominance Discourse™ is getting boring, but it’s undeniably exciting to hear this deeply unfashionable anomaly creeping into the top 40, sandwiched between the whole of Divide and countless cheap streaming-bait tropical hits. Its difference isn’t its whole appeal of course, not even close — taken without context it’s a classic Steps crying-while-you-do-a-synchronised-dance-routine single, like “One For Sorrow” or “Last Thing On My Mind” or “Deeper Shade of Blue”. The sheer audacity of “Scared of the Dark” is astonishing, and it’s high drama from the off — maximal production, thumping bass, disco strings, Claire-from-Steps’ massive belting high notes. It’s giving EVERYTHING and it’s a fucking triumph and if it doesn’t make your heart feel like it’s bursting from your chest with unabashed joy then I’m sorry but there is nothing pop music can do for you. I wish I could give it [11]. 
[10]

Katie Gill: It’s like disco, Kylie Minogue, and Abba got drunk off of cosmopolitans and had a threesome. There’s danger in this dated sound, but Steps manages to blow straight past that by their sheer lack of fucks to give. It’s bright, fun, borderline tacky at certain points, and doesn’t give a damn about current pop music conventions. So naturally, I LOVE IT. Why the hell can’t Britain submit something like THIS for Eurovision?
[9]

Alfred Soto: This isn’t disco or even disco-inflected so much as a remix of a Shania Twain song, preferably from Up! Bubblelicious in a middle aged pub turn sort of way, which means it tries too hard to make a show of having a good time.
[6]

Will Adams: The same disco-string revival as Agnes’ “Release Me” with about half the chorus, twice the vocal tracks, and plus one unnecessary key change.
[4]

Joshua Copperman: Even more so than Take That, Steps seems all but completely obscure in America, unless I’m mistaken, and listening to “Scared of The Dark”, it makes sense why. The American charts, Sheeranocalypse aside, are currently depressing and tuneless (if mostly in a good way), and nothing like this could ever be popular here. It’s definitely refreshing to hear something this unabashedly pop, and with a key change from verse to chorus that’s as unnecessary as the one in “Green Light” was necessary. But even “Green Light” didn’t pull a key change again like “Scared of The Dark” does. The joy of this song almost makes it sound dated, but it’s also too well-crafted to actually dislike. 
[8]

Edward Okulicz: Claire’s “stay.. by.. my.. side” is this close to infringing on the copyright of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart,” but it’s a deliciously camp take on the dramatic exaggeration of the stakes of loneliness that I’d forgive it even if a lawsuit didn’t. It’s too stiff to be disco, but as theatre, it’s hilarious, tears-in-the-toilets stuff for gays and people with horrible taste. I don’t mean that as an insult, though; as far as what a comeback should be for a cheap ‘n’ cheerful pop group, this ticks all the boxes and is far better than expected. The attention to detail in the backing vocal swoons and strings suggests that a lot of effort has gone into this, and for once I am rapturously thrilled to have been born a gay man.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: A pop song that doubles as pop trivia, in that it’s an interesting exercise to figure out everything being pastiched (the obvious ones: “Un-Break My Heart,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”, “I Will Survive”). A winner is announced, a prize is awarded, then everyone secretly, guiltily listens to the song again on their way home.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: The 1990s are back again if you go to the right DJ’s pub nostalgia night, and Steps don’t want you to forget it. This has a chorus with enough synth stabs to fill time between Whigfield and East 17, and a key change to make you wish you hadn’t. The points are for, nearly two decades after “Last Thing On My Mind,” still putting numbers on the board.
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: You know when you’ve called in sick and mutter something half-heartedly about getting a stomach bug or something, and the manager on call is audibly looking through you and your bullshit? Likewise, any sense of fear, need or any sort of feeling is definitely not here, and frankly I’m wondering why these folks even bothered to phone it in here.
[3]

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Jesca Hoop – The Lost Sky

Hey, we’ve got enough songs for a 2017 sidebar now!


[Video][Website]
[7.29]

Joshua Copperman: A sparse folk song with urgency and drive — Hoop’s melody is arguably more like a flow than anything, even against the acoustic backdrop. There’s an intensity to this song that makes it not just lovely and gothic, but mesmerizing, and that’s largely due to both the lyrics (“And when we said the words ‘I love you’/I said them ’cause they are true/Why would you say those words to me/If you could not follow through?”) and the hymnal vocal arrangements. The closest counterpart is the Staves, who kick a similar amount of ass. But the difference is that the Staves are ethereal, and this particular song is musically grounded in reality. Everything in this song sounds intimate, as if this increasing amount of Jesca Hoops are whispering in your ear the whole song. The part that really seals it for me is at the end of the verses, with “…and when we sAID” — it comes earlier than expected, abruptly stopping the song before going into an equally haunting bridge section. Producer Blake Mills, who also worked on Laura Marling’s Semper Femina and Alabama Shakes’ Sound And Color, continues to deliver, heightening the intimacy of Hoop and her background vocals to nearly surreal levels. 
[9]

Alfred Soto: “Why would you say those words to me/If you could not follow through?” is the eternal question, isn’t it, and Jesca Hoop’s staccato melody and spooky multitracked vocals find new ways of posing it — imagine Conor Oberst playing with Laura Marling’s talent for weighing words.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: While “The Lost Sky” loops its cycle with diminishing returns, the kiss-off of a chorus remains the song’s saving grace. I keep wanting the song to come back to it sooner and sooner. Now, only if it had more bite with each return, showing some sign Jesca Hoop learned something, anything, after tripping up on the same problem.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Jesca Hoop’s debut album Kismet was among the earliest albums I bought, before I knew my own taste and knew to be wary of purple PR rain like this gush by Tom Waits: “Jesca Hoop’s music is like a four-sided coin. She’s an old soul, like a good witch, a black pearl, or a red moon. Her music is like swimming in a lake at night.” (What does that even describe? Tales of Us?) I bounced off the album hard, it languished on the hard drive with the Noe Venable and Thea Gilmore and Camille records I’d also bought, and though Hoop’s released albums steadily, “The Lost Sky” is the first I’ve heard from her since 2008. Where Kismet suffered from a garish eagerness to please, songs like “Out the Back Door” and “Intelligentactile 101” that sound exuberant exactly once, “The Lost Sky” is far more subdued, deceptively so. What begins as a vaguely haunted acoustic track turns circular, repeats itself, abandons all niceties. The result is something like Mandalay’s “All My Sins“: obsessive, seething anger that slowly becomes less repressed and more chilling. It makes me reassess the debut despite myself. Makes me believe Waits, even.
[8]

Will Adams: “The Lost Sky” creeps slowly at first, like a spider climbing up its own thread, but then the chorus hits, and every word Hoop spins becomes a dagger. Which each repetition of the central accusation — “The bitter burden of a signal run cold” — the harmonies mount until the web is complete. Alluring as it is chilling.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: The invocations of Sirius are apt: the black distances in “The Lost Sky” are astronomical and suggestive of unfathomable emptiness. Jesca Hoop plucks her chords carefully, strung over the abyss, she grasps for emotional surety and gets only uncertainty and dry-mouthed trepidation in return.
[7]

Claire Biddles: Jesca Hoop conjures ominous drama here that makes me wonder the fate of the lover who has abandoned her. Perhaps it’s already irreversible — the perpetual wandering, both lyrically described and evoked by the rolling phrasing, makes me think of stories narrated by supernatural beings, endlessly walking the earth recounting obsessive love affairs. She’s the descendant of Kate Bush’s embodiment of Cathy in “Wuthering Heights,” returning to the place where she was left alone — “Too long I roam in the night” becomes “I walk the dark star, the lost sky,” both women existing between the ground and the air, the real and the imagined, coming in and out of focus, never quite resolving.
[8]

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Kodak Black – Tunnel Vision

Let’s press some charges:


[Video][Website]
[5.29]

Crystal Leww: Someone earlier this week was telling me that radio stations were refusing to play XXXTENTACION, in part because of the serious allegations of assault against the rapper. When I pressed them further, it seems as though there wasn’t quite the same response for Kodak Black, whose “Tunnel Vision” is now sitting at #6 on the Hot 100, and who is also facing his own set of serious allegations of sexual assault. Most of its chart success is attributable to streaming (if you’re on the team of a young rap star who is only releasing music via Soundcloud and not on Spotify…wyd? But that’s for another time), but radio has had no problem inviting him along with Kodak Black appearing on The Breakfast Club earlier this year, mostly to talk about his beef with Lil Wayne and how much his mom loves him. This is such a rap radio friendly hit, complete with a beat from the current rap radio production king Metro Boomin. “Tunnel Vision” has a rap cadence that snaps, with an undertone that the lyrics are extremely real. But this is what the industry does — it values authenticity in its young, up and coming rap stars while shirking responsibility for what that means at the same time. It’ll play it up when it’s convenient and then shun it when it’s not. Ultimately “Tunnel Vision” is a catchy song, but its success is a textbook formula.
[6]

Alfred Soto: I understand why “Tunnel Vision” is the South Florida native’s first top ten: Metro Boomin’s flute sample, the pretty guitar ripples, and the high-pitched slur of Kodak Black himself. Perhaps listeners identify with the self-pity and aggrandizing too. Who knows — if we hadn’t seen his name linked to a sexual assault accusation, then “I get any girl I want, any girl I want” would sound less grotesque.
[3]

Anthony Easton: The introduction and the last little bit of this, have a weird pastoral energy, and something that sounds pretty close to panpipes. It kind of matches the loose and slow delivery of Kodak, and overshadows a pretty anaemic beat. 
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: Kodak’s mumbled chorus pins a melody in a wobbly beat running samples that seems to only match up by coincidence. In it, he might talk a good one about the unfair prison system, though he also reveals just what about his character got him caught up in the system in the first place. “I need me a lil baby who gon’ listen” comes across more chilly than it should. While it was easier to take him for his word in a song like last year’s “Lockjaw,” it’s much more complicated to parse this.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: The flute’s what catches the ear first, but it’s also annoying, and a detractor from the more interesting off-kilter melody that forms the basis of the production. Kodak Black drops some clangers amidst some good lines, but not so many that the verses aren’t passable, but the chorus and that goddamned flute are diminishing returns the second time — four minutes of them almost had me wishing for more lines about needing toilet pape-r.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: I know that it’s the chorus of this song which is grabbing ears, but it’s the verses that are the key to me, where Black sounds like a Dirty South rapper of an earlier era. His voice has some grease on it. His lyrics don’t do a lot, but Metro Boomin’s production, of course, does. 
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: For all the talk of the Internet supposedly eradicating the divisions of life, Kodak Black thwarts that. The media has entered a point of respectable polarization on how to deal with Kodak’s irreverence, ignorance and outright indefensible actions; this debate gets more and more intense as a great deal of America’s rap audience — often unaddressed in the digital age — has managed to push “Tunnel Vision” into the upper echelons of the Billboard Hot 100. Frankly, the record isn’t even a particular highlight of Kodak’s discography and were it not for the infectious flute loop found by Metro Boomin we wouldn’t be entertaining this hook or those opening lines on the first verse. At the same time, no matter how distasteful the idea of Kodak being one of rap’s biggest stars right now is for so many, many others refuse to let him be swept out of sight, even when he’s not living up to the potential he showed that led to us having the problem of giving someone like Kodak a platform.
[5]

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Ariana Grande ft. Future – Everyday

At least it’s not Mac Miller doing a song with Maroon 5, guys.


[Video][Website]
[5.33]

Katie Gill: Now this is the Future that I know and slightly tolerate! Slightly slurred words, borderline incomprehensible at certain points, I don’t know what sort of pod person Maroon 5 got for “Cold” but the Future of “Everyday” is slightly back to form. The song itself is cute and inoffensive which are its main perks and its main failings. After all, this isn’t Grande’s first song where the premise is basically “who has two thumbs and has a ton of sex” and the other song with that premise at least had Nicki Minaj saying the phrase “dick bicycle.”
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: “Into You” and “Side to Side” worked because Ariana wanted to keep it all a secret. Even if it was obviously impossible for her to not spill it all from the get go, the change in the rules made her try different tricks. “Everyday,” though, once again taps into her worst tendencies of showing off, going extra to unconvincingly tell the world how “he’s giving me the good shit.” Ariana herself put it best in her other single on how this ought to work: “a little bit scandalous, but don’t let them see it.”
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Why does Future always seem more inspired when he makes pop songs than when he’s doing autopilot rap? Why is Ariana doing weird trap-dubstep in this day and age? Why is the way she sings the word “shit” so weird? These questions and more are kind of hard to answer off the merits of this song, which remains the continued development of Grande trying to restrain her voice and performances (a development that might be a bit less effective than anticipated but certainly good at avoiding burn-out for her) and feels less like something that was really MEANT to leave the cutting room floor.
[4]

Tim de Reuse: Future sounds positively exhausted when he’s chanting the song’s title, and more in a “oh, shit, I’m late to work” sense than than in the sexier sense that was probably intended — his high, breathy panting in excruciating hard-panned stereo does not elevate the track beyond a decent hook, nor does his structurally incoherent verse. Ariana Grande dramatically la-la-la-ing her way through the chorus knocks it all a few notches further down. 
[3]

Edward Okulicz: My tendency to imagine pop stars stay the age they were when I first heard and saw them until they show real signs of aging means I have to avoid videos to take Ariana Grande seriously as she’s going to seem like she’s twelve nineteen to me until she’s nearly retired. Future’s chorus hook gives “Everyday” a nice touch of menace and darkness that’s enticing, and coupled with Grande’s cute mini-diva stylings trying to animate the phrase “good shit” is almost brilliant in how incongruous it is. It sounds really good loud, too.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: This feels like Ariana dropped into a Future song, not the other way around, and I don’t believe a word she’s singing. Future, on the other hand — well, sure. But that cutesy-poo breath-y voice of Grande’s makes it impossible for me to hear her sing about gettin’ it on, sorry.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: A rich, dank grotto of a track, with scuzzy guitar and Ariana cooing up and down the walls. I’ve heard this elsewhere, though, and the comparison doesn’t flatter Future — what sort of good shit might Miguel have brought to the track?
[6]

Will Adams: The thread connecting the songs on Dangerous Woman that actually live up to the album’s title is Ilya. “Everyday” finds him in the driver’s seat (Max Martin is only credited as a vocal producer) and, like “Into You,” the results are bracing. The bass is still weaponized, the snares are compressed into firecracker pops, and overall the sweaty, slow grind has echoes of “Pony.” Grande does well with the aural heat, as usual, and if Future’s verse seems like a throwaway, his hook more than makes up for it.
[7]

Alfred Soto: With the opening distorted riff and fluttering vocal, Ariana Grande steps into the future, or at least steps up to Future. He’s long aspired to transmit his rueful tales as pure sound, a string of murmured phonemes; he gets his wish.
[7]

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Imelda May ft. Jeff Beck – Black Tears

One of these days your editor will not mistake her for Caro Emerald, but this isn’t then…


[Video][Website]
[4.71]

Alfred Soto: A torch song graced by a fine Imelda May vocal and Jeff Beck’s solo but rather too much of a predictable thing. What is a black tear, and why are May and Beck so sad about it?
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: What clever artifice: black and tears together, two things potentially irreducible combining to form something of no obvious reality-based meaning, yet doubly monolithic. The song itself is befitting: ceremonial sadness; a stately, upright lament when everything is sinking. It’s like a lesser “Kissing a Fool” — not demanding itself be taken seriously, but sounding like someone is feeling very serious, very seriously. That makes it hard to argue with, and rather all the more attractive; artifice made invisible.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: Imelda May’s story that got her to write “Black Tears” sounds more memorable than the actual product. “I looked like Alice Cooper,” she said, with streams of eyeliner coming down her face after a long goodbye. That image seems like a more complex cry, one you can’t help but to tear from a laugh because there’s nothing else to do. The tear shed in “Black Tears,” meanwhile, is plain and simple partly to a fault.
[5]

Katie Gill: Doo wop meets rock vocals and a bit of honky tonk guitar? There’s so much going on that occasionally “Black Tears” loses itself in the genre confusion. The minimalist approach lets May’s voice shine as she tears into those vocals and lets Beck’s guitar work shine in his solo, but I wish the song had a little bit more to support the two of them.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: It wasn’t Adele’s fault she beat Bey at the Grammys; in some sense, someone who sold that many records deserved to be recognised at a ceremony as industry-oriented as that one. But it is our fault for constantly finding it remarkable when white singers invoke black styles, particularly the trad styles that remind us of older times we can set comfortingly in aspic. Imelda May has a richer, smokier voice than Duffy or Amy Winehouse or Joss Stone, but nothing says self-own like “ft. Jeff Beck.” Sonny Boy Williamson’s reputed quip that the Yardbirds wanted to “play the blues so bad” — the punchline being that they did — has been true of such aspirants for more than half a century.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Norah Jones divided by Janis Joplin = much, much less than the sum of its parts. Jeff Beck tosses in some guitar licks that almost anyone could’ve done. 
[3]

Edward Okulicz: The torch and twang of the chorus recalls to these ears Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” as much as the rest could have been any white girl singing soul pop. Despite the weighty subject matter, the song feels lightweight — like it needs the weight of the production and all its breathy backing vocals and old-school drum sounds to keep it flying away, but instead gets flattened.
[4]

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Valerie June – Shakedown

Calvin aside, we now commence Bluesy Wednesday…


[Video][Website]
[6.67]

Alfred Soto: A lissome hurdy-gurdy of a tune and performance, reminiscent of the Latin Playboys if Erykah Badu fronted them.
[6]

Anthony Easton: An ass-shaking masterpiece that does the mysterious thing of having a steel spine of total control while appearing to break down completely. So close to noise, but with distinct harmonies, in ways that seem both historically minded (didn’t James Brown have this trick? Surely Bo Diddley did) and completely new (can we please get her and Brittany Howard into some sort of super group?) Might be the best sing-along single this year. 
[9]

Brad Shoup: Delightfully, it sounds like she’s merged country with Tishoumaren. Thus, she has no need to keen, only to twirl those guitars like a lasso whilst drawling out the hoedown.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: Wonderful groove, a voice that has just the right sound to exhort you to swing and shake, but the song on top is a bit static and stiff, like everyone (except maybe the backing vocalists) needed another drink prior to the recording.
[6]

Juana Giaimo: In “Shakedown”, Valerie June’s voice is too flat, repeating one scheme that never fully develops into something else that may provide excitement in a song that pretends to be upbeat and fun.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: Rather than stand out as the frontwoman of the show, Valerie June gets lost in the thick of the music. Her instructions to get down on the floor might not seem so urgent, but the blues breakdown does so much of the talking, she’s fine to ride along with the rest of us.
[6]

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean & Migos – Slide

Equinox vibes…


[Video][Website]
[5.71]

Alfred Soto: Calvin Harris spent a lot of dough to recreate the The Weeknd’s lubed disco vibe with two of today’s happening artists: Frank Ocean, doing his damnest to remind people that he can’t sing, and Migos going polyphonic over lines about nachos and gelatos. Why couldn’t Harris get Usher or Trey Songz to sing the “melodic” bits? Was Chris Brown unavailable? (Don’t answer that.) I awarded an extra point for the chirped “I might!” dropped at key moments.
[5]

Hazel Robinson: Collaboration randomiser on full, but I’m surprised by how much I like this, in no small part because the “I might” of the sped-up vocal at the start reminds me of the “hey Mike” from “Drinking in L.A.” by Bran Van 3000. The whole song unfolds a little like that — implausible, doped up on sunshine and enviable in a slightly grotty way. It’s not the kind of team-up that brings out the best in eveyone involved, but it is hella fun.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: Migos find a whole new side to themselves in upmarket disco: easygoing and mischievous, yet charismatic as ever, they deserve better than the unadventurous funk Harris has set aside for them. The introductory piano runs are more lush than the bottom end. It’s fun, but mostly because putting this much talent together carries a residual thrill even if they’re only hanging out. Ocean could do better; he bats his eyes, but still sounds like he’s arrived without having fully woken up.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: I appreciate that this is more house-pop than Harris’s typical brand of EDM pneumatics, but it’s awfully sleepy. Not only is there no hook, there’s not much song. Ocean sounds mush-mouthed, and Migos drop in for their guest appearance fee.
[2]

Ryo Miyauchi: While Quavo lazily puts something together to match Calvin Harris’ brand of luxury, Offset’s out here looking slick and showing off. He fits his double time into a fine boogie, wearing sweet words like “gelato” and “Picasso” in his rhymes like jewelry charms. Frank sounds much impressed when he comes back for that final chorus.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: I did not realize I needed to hear Offset and Frank Ocean being pals over yacht-disco in my life, or Calvin Harris calmly demonstrating that he didn’t need to work with Nile Rodgers to make adult-oriented EDM. This would have benefited from maybe a more lively chorus, or featuring Takeoff in some way, but they didn’t make the song for me.
[6]

Crystal Leww: “Slide” did not work for me the first few times I heard it — surprisingly, given how I am a fan of Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, and Migos separately. The moment that this really clicked was while I was out in some bar in Brooklyn, the kind that plays the kind of set that a place in Brooklyn full of kids who know each other from ~The Internet~ would play, and this transformed into the fun little summer bop that it was always destined to be. I’m looking forward to hearing this in sets from now until late October, when I will be sick of it and sick of any kind of sexy vibe. But for now, this is great and sexy and fun and cute, just the kind of thing that would not be expected from this team.
[8]

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Rombai – Cuando Se Pone a Bailar

Uruguyan group who’ve apparently added a synth as their newest member…


[Video][Website]
[5.33]

Will Adams: A pleasant, summery duet between two singers who demonstrate a palpable chemistry, which makes fo-YOOOO GIANT UGLY TRANCE SYNTH INCOMING THOUGHT YOU WERE SAFE HUH THINK AGAIN LMAO
[4]

Alfred Soto: Serviceable cumbia pop with electronic fart effects.
[5]

Katie Gill: The entire song feels off-kilter somehow, as if the singers are constantly one step ahead of the beat. I don’t know if I like it, but it’s certainly interesting and it certainly adds a bit to this cute, if generic, beachy song.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: Fernando Vazquez and Emilia Mernes are a good match; his lazy flirtation settles into the cumbia skank while she strikes out into more assertive territory, channeling Shakira. Each corrects the other, with Mernes rousing Vazquez whenever his arch, simmering tones threaten to make themselves too comfortable. I can relate: this sparkles like the best kind of sunshine.
[7]

Brad Shoup: The dance-pop pads so lightly, it’s that much more destabilizing when that rave synth attempts to thread the cumbia. I would’ve loved for them to navigate the whole track that way.
[5]

Juana Giaimo: Before reggaeton invaded the clubs of Latin America more than a decade ago, this was the kind of cumbia you could see young people dancing to — a light beat with an awful synth interrupting. Rombai — as well as Marama and other bands — returned to this old-fashioned cumbia but provided professional production and a cool image. The reason why these bands are so successful these days is maybe because of their inclination to pop melodies — after the aggressive rapping of late ’00s reggaeton, the smooth delicate voices of Rombai are pleasing. In this sense, “Cuando Se Pone a Bailar” may not be the most memorable song, but it is one that can make you dance and sing along to it.
[6]

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Mäkki ft. Pyhimys – Mixet Tahdo

See, this is what happens when you don’t credit your female singers: not only does Ed Sheeran keep you from going number one in Finland but the Jukebox doesn’t really like your song…


[Video][Website]
[3.86]

Claire Biddles: The disco-lite rhythm guitar tips this from corny-but-ok into genuinely bad, and the worldwide trend of not crediting the female singer who’s carrying your whole song is getting really boring.
[3]

Crystal Leww: Neither Mäkki nor Pyhimys felt it necessary to credit the woman on the hook, which is a shame because she’s easily the most listenable part of this song. Otherwise, this is just rap set over a FruityLoops — that’s right, not even FL Studio — beat. 
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: Neither Mäkki nor Pyhimys rap with any feel or character; each has the stiff flow of an earnest novice, the kind of delivery premised on the late night comedian’s notion that rap is a method of saying words quickly and rhythmically, and not a creative endeavor. An uncredited singer does better with the hook, though even that is a version of “better” that tops out at faint memories of Latin disco from a vacation decades previous.
[3]

Will Adams: The singer’s appealingly thin voice reminds me of Phoebe Ryan, and she’s easily the best part of “Mixet Tahdo.” Without her credit, we’re left to pay attention to mediocre raps and stale synths that recall that unfortunate time when Lasgo went electro.
[4]

Tim de Reuse: A beat so eerily similar in character to “Axel F” that I had to go take a listen to it to make sure they weren’t somehow using a sample of it in there somewhere. I’m pretty sure they’re not, but it’s got synth tom rolls and chirpy buzzing saw waves that get the same effect going: cheesy and dated, but in a pretty fun way.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: An evocative throwaway Europop track, which is a nice cheap thrill until you remember Europop has historically included throwaway Euro-rappers.
[4]

Edward Okulicz: This sounds amateurish, badly produced and without any personality, and even the hook singer sounds like a zombie. You wouldn’t know it from this, but the cascading syllables of Finnish are really suited to rap, here neither Mäkki nor Pyhimys sound suited for more than four bars as a guest verse on a dance track.
[3]