Friday, September 10th, 2021

Sleepy Hallow – 2055

The boy is nice, but what about the song?


[Video]
[4.67]

Katie Gill: So does this “Peaches,” Masked Wolf, “Build a Bitch” genre have an official name yet? The genre where the song is build entirely around a 10-30 second hook, used exclusively to back TikTok videos, and awkwardly padded out to a 2-3 minute track so that the artist can toss it up on Youtube and Spotify and get chump change from the views. Because if not, at this point, somebody really needs to come up with a snappy name. It’s a good hook. It’s pleasantly lethargic — Sleepy Hallow isn’t really doing much on this track, but it’s a track that isn’t designed to do much in the first place. In fact, it feels like every sort of TikTok bgm track that’s gotten popular: ephemeral background noise. Points for the optimism, though: I highly doubt we’ll have those parties in the sky by 2055, it’s gonna be at least 2155 at the earliest.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: One nice guitar lick is enough for a simple beat, with wilted vocals that can’t snatch away the interest from Sleepy this time. Unfortunately, his lyrics and low, dulled tone can’t drag your attention away from the intrusive vocal sample and the humming in the back. I do like the beef/fries punchline though.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: At least this bore of a hip hop record (whining over an acoustic guitar, how original) is only 2:02. Unfortunately, that’s still 2:02 of my life I’ll never have back, complete with inane lyrics like “Heart cold like some water with some ice.”
[1]

Mark Sinker: A snapshot of one of those scenes in a half-good sci-fi thriller which afterwards we return to bcz the mood and the look of the moment are so much richer than the actual story (which you all saw elsewhere a hundred times).
[8]

Edward Okulicz: If you told me that someone had invented a rap version of a Vocaloid, I’d be sceptical, but having heard this, not entirely dismissive of the idea. Because really, this does sound like a 30 second TikTok thing that someone needed to beef up to full length (2 minutes, of course), and maybe they  used some super-advanced extrapolation technique to do it.
[4]

Tim de Reuse: Straightforward, twangy, sonically unambitious; under most lyricists, good for a yawn and not much more. The melancholy here is intense enough to be compelling on its own, though — note the immaculately crafted refrain “Heart cold like some water and some ice,” made all the more self-deprecating by its clunkiness. Most tunes that contain a line like “I don’t really want friends” don’t make it believable, but I think I believe this one.
[6]

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Santana, Rob Thomas and American Authors – Move

Not fun not fact: when “Smooth” came out, your editor thought Rob Thomas was singing “like seven inches from a minty sun.”


[Video]
[3.50]

Ian Mathers: It’s… not a hot one, I’m sad to report.
[3]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: As a fan of a shockingly large percentage of Carlos Santana’s 50 year catalog I am happy to discover that he absolutely still does have it. His play on “Move” is exciting, a masterclass in his signature style of jazz and blues-indebted latin rock guitar. Unfortunately everything else about “Move” is deeply unpleasant. The vocals are split between the faux-soul guy schtick of Rob Thomas and the completely anodyne presence of American Authors, the drums and horns sound like karaoke presets, and Santana himself is relegated to a marginal presence on the track. On his best work, from the late 60s onto the early 2000s, his music blended Latin and Anglo rock tendencies into an ambitious, almost-prog fusion. Here, he’s an exotic garnish appended to tired alt radio bait.
[3]

John S. Quinn-Puerta: A curse on the incessant beeping synth and overly busy horns and backing vocals for removing any potential this had to be a hot one. 
[3]

Nortey Dowuona: The swinging guitar created by Santana over the loping bass barely holds Rob’s electrified voice and the heavy drums, before the soaring horns sweep down, with the background singers and the shuddering bongos emerge at the second verse, before American Authors snatch the song back, before Santana pries their finger loose and swirls everyone around his startling guitar, launching us all into the air, even letting American Authors get in on the jam, and they land gently on the ground.
[7]

Juana Giaimo: I’m sure someone else will make the same joke, but this is definitely not smooth. Rob Thomas sounds too loud (maybe screaming at me to move won’t actually make me move) and Santana’s guitar is just randomly pasted and never fully blends in with the rest of the song. 
[4]

Jeffrey Brister: I’m honestly at a loss. No idea what to say. It’s not good, but it’s not bad. It moves along pleasantly, operating on the assumption you’ll be thinking about “Smooth” the entire time. It’s not plodding, it’s not annoying, but that also means there’s nothing distinctive about it at all. “Move” is flavorless paste infused with something that makes it smell like food. Not terribly filling, and certainly not worth revisiting, but it provided meager nourishment.
[1]

Alfred Soto: How much you wanna bet these clowns chose “Move” as a title because it sounds like their megahit a generation ago? At least Carlos Santana sounds like he’s — well, if not moving, then swaying in place to those sour notes he plays, his specialty. The rest is a horror of massed vocals and ill-placed drums.
[4]

Anna Katrina Lockwood: Since my dominant personality attribute is no longer Very Serious Teenage Radiohead Fan, I’ve developed some fondness for “Smooth,” and was honestly kind of looking forwards to reviewing this second collaboration from Santana and Rob Thomas. Here on “Move,” unfortunately, the pivotal production choice seems to be the absolute wall of autotune every vocal glissando from Rob Thomas is slammed through. It sounds pixelated, every note a shelf you could stack your books upon. The effect is so distracting that I’m struggling to remember any other feature of the song — probably not the effect anyone was going for on what is ostensibly a Santana record. There was definitely guitar present, some decent hooks too, but, nothing lyrically as sticky as that honest-to-god pop magic opening line from the OG. Feels like I’d like this better if I heard it on AM radio, perhaps?
[3]

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Olivia Rodrigo – Traitor

Among Us tie-in being finalized as we speak…


[Video]
[6.45]

Al Varela: Another grand slam for Olivia Rodrigo, whom I’m just about ready to crown the queen of Gen Z teenage angst. Once again, what she’s doing is incredibly simple: the heartbreak of seeing an ex move on makes all of your ugliest emotions leak out uncontrollably. But unlike “Good 4 U,” which unleashes the raw anger and fury building up inside Rodrigo, “Traitor” is a sad kind of angry. She wants to lash out further but is so overwhelmed with hurt and sadness that all she can do is wail and stomp her foot as she loses control of her emotions. It’s not a pretty scene. At a cursory glance, you may call it immature and pathetic. But that doesn’t matter when Olivia’s intensity and quivering voice overwhelm any sense of common sense or rationality; it really does feel like a betrayal. And that final chorus where she crescendos into a powerful high note sends chills down my spine like you wouldn’t believe.
[10]

Nortey Dowuona: The song begins with warm, soft vocals and pianos, and every chorus fades into silence at Olivia’s bitter utterance of her ex’s treachery. And each time the song builds and strums, it never blows up: it simply hums as Olivia swings in the air, then fades into blackness.
[7]

Austin Nguyen: You already know the story–this time, wounded two-part SSAA vocals set to a funerary church organ and years-old churning underwater thumps. The only surprise is that Mazzy Star hasn’t received a couple hundred thousand dollars for that lilting guitar strum. Or is it supposed to be Taylor Swift?
[4]

Edward Okulicz: The thing about doing something a whole bunch of times is that eventually you hit on the best version of it. “Traitor” is the best track on Sour, the one where her breakup story feels most visceral and her performance is the most vivid, and the one that you can enjoy or get catharsis from in the most ways. Want to sway and mope? Want to wail and cry? Want to yell the lyrics at a mirror while ripping up photos? This song is the ideal soundtrack to any of those, and a genuine successor to “You Oughta Know” or “Caught Out There.” Yep, that good.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: I’m sorry, but if I had this single when I was 15, I’d give it away and exorcise my teenage angst with music that sounds like angst. The word “traitor” is well chosen, a girl grappling with the realization that there are more ways to be hurt by partners than there are words for them. (Works better in a chorus than “backburnering,” at least.) Toward the bridge, Olivia’s singing finally loses its measured hesitance to sound like she might actually be hurting — but hurt is too strong an emotion for the sedate Christina Perri arrangement to permit or indulge. Amazing how that can make me not relate to something you’d really think I would.
[3]

Michael Hong: The drama of “Traitor” is best in its dynamics, like the swoop of the chorus as Rodrigo suddenly finds herself and chooses her words with precision to eviscerate an ex. “Traitor” is honest until it isn’t, and when Rodrigo’s words become melodramatic exaggerations on the bridge, it feels easier to feel pity toward her than sympathy. Meanwhile, the music — especially the monotonous melody — could probably use a little bit of drama.
[5]

Oliver Maier: Does Phoebe Bridgers get a writing credit for this one? At least a vocal coaching credit, surely.
[5]

Jeffrey Brister: Rodrigo does a pretty good Hayley Williams impression. The hard breaks in the melismatic runs, that slight guttural snarl when leaning into notes, that ability to shift between steely and weepy without trying — it checks all the boxes, and adds another layer with that back-of-the-throat singing that’s so en vogue now. But it still feels like a middling musical theatre performance of Hayley Williams. No amount of big choruses and swooping melodic lines with dense harmonies can hide that.
[6]

Alfred Soto: A summer-long exposure to “Good 4 U” and “Brutal” convinced me: I prefer Olivia Rodrigo in pop-punk brutalist mode. While her untutored empathy blunts the power of the guitars, it’s left to its own devices on a ballad and I tug at my collar. Subverting six decades of girl band expectations has its own power; she’s not Ronnie Spector but closer to Lesley Gore, not giving a fuck about who sees her crying.
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Few songwriters are able to craft hooks with the precision, vulnerability, and bite of “Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor.” Olivia sings “I know that you’ll never feel sorry” with enough affect to make the intended feel sorry after all. 
[8]

Alex Clifton: “Traitor” feels very young. That’s not an insult — I just can’t access that same kind of headspace anymore now that I’m nearly 30. But my heart remembers just how bad it hurt whenever she sings “god I wish that you had thought this through / before I ever went and fell in love with you.” Some of the rhymes are a little clunky, but the hurt in her voice really carries the song. I’ve preferred the more upbeat songs from the album but there’s nothing quite like a vulnerable ballad for your worst days, is there?
[8]

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Anne-Marie & Little Mix – Kiss My (Uh Oh)

Uh-uh…


[Video]
[4.56]

Alfred Soto: Lumidee’s “Never Leave You (Uh Oooh)” was one of those aerodynamic miracles of the R&B-drenched pop scene of the early ’00s, unblemished by radio play and still shiny. Anne-Marie and Little Mix revere it so much that they cede large swathes of a vacant composition to replaying it.
[3]

Leah Isobel: The vocal density creates enough interest to counteract the cynicism of leaning on an early-2000s nostalgia sample (and the indistinct meme-lyrics – “love the feeling/hitting different,” how corny). In the post-chorus, when all four singers play off of each other, that sample’s melancholy explodes into communal joy with the hands-in-the-air feeling of a roller coaster drop. It’s a cheap thrill, but it works.
[6]

Juana Giaimo: Little Mix may have great voices, but their backing vocals here seem to be pasted on top of Anne-Marie to make her look less anonymous. The “uh-oh”s in the chorus are too invasive, and the spoken cheerleading-squad bridge was completely unnecessary.
[4]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: This would probably be a [6] if it were Little Mix ft. Anne-Marie instead of vice versa. I will not explain this any further.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Why even use the Lumidee hook? The rest of the song is fine, but that feels a bit like stolen valour (god, what a horrible phrase). It doesn’t help that tonally the interpolation feels very different than “Never Leave You (Uh Oooh)” did — there’s a fine line between the thrill of changing up the energy of an element like that and the feeling that they didn’t know what they were doing with it in the first place.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Why would you use the Diwali riddim (via Lumidee) then not actually use it, burying it beneath Britchart production and vocalists who don’t seem to know it’s there? Why would you turn a flirty sample — “Never Leave You” had words, you know, and context — into a bleep for “ass”?
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: “Never Leave You” is not to be sanitised. However many quasi-raucous chants you include, it will always sound forced compared to the beguiling wonkiness of Lumidee’s quiver. Functionally, “Kiss My (Uh Oh)” is more than fine — the generic UK pop production is tried-and-tested — but when those sounds are burying the Diwali Riddim of all things, it’s hard to shake the sense that a balloon has been deflated.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Another middling reheating of Nigerian/Jamaican pop drums with overladen synth horns and a Lumidee ripoff? And Leigh-Anne, Perrie and Jade are stuck doing backup? Sigh. At least it sounds fine.
[5]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: This song is perfectly fine, but what if I told you there was a Christina Aguilera and Nicki Minaj collaboration with the same conceit where the pop stars sound like they’re putting in 110% as opposed to 85%? 
[5]

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

Wanda Jackson ft. Elle King and Joan Jett – Two Shots

Bang bang?


[Video]
[5.57]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The most good-natured, charming murder threat I’ve ever heard, with Jackson’s poised vocals sounding like the culmination of a half century of practice. She balances warmth and kindness with a wryness and annoyance, making a jokey trifle of a song into something far more interesting.
[7]

William John: Although I understand that some may find perverse pleasure in hearing a song with murderous threats performed with as much jollity as a Wiggles track, for me this needs a little more bite — whether it be in the vocals or instrumental — to truly work. There are a lot of big names here for something that adds up to “not much”.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: We begin with the chomping country drums and flattened guitars that stop halfway through to pivot at the end of the phrase, while Wanda’s sturdy yet soft voice is carried gently by the mix, then placed in a warm circle of jangling guitars and little else. Then the mix lifts her aloft, with Joan and Elle’s voices circling her and keeping her safe.
[7]

Mark Sinker: big ❤️s to all involved of course, but the quack of this plastics remake of the monkees is where I got on and off this stylistic train — and that was back when wanda was only 43 (and joan’s solo arc hadn’t even begun)
[6]

Oliver Maier: It’s always a little bittersweet when an older musician’s new material sounds like a pastiche of the stuff they pioneered. Nothing especially wrong with this really, and some of the threats are at least worth a laugh, but I can’t imagine returning to it for any reason.
[4]

Juana Giaimo: It’s short and simple, but this song has a great bridge. It lets the song breath, creates some new musical tension that wasn’t previously present and smoothly goes back to the last chorus for a very tidy ending. 
[6]

Alfred Soto: Wanda Jackson sounds pinched. Elle King and Joan Jeff are in there, somewhere. The guitars and drums offer compensator pleasures. 
[4]

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

Ed Sheeran – Visiting Hours

This screencap: beatific light of praise or harsh judgment of the Jukebox’s gaze? Perhaps it’s both…


[Video]
[4.22]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Having already conquered high school slow dances and weddings, Sheeran now wants to expand his domain to encompass even the gateway between life and death. Who will stop him?
[4]

Nortey Dowuona: One of the funniest things of the past decade has been watching Ed Sheeran go from being a well-liked but largely innocuous singer-songwriter who was hanging with grime artists on SBTV to the harbinger of the end times in service to the Demon Spotifidiel. But in all this, his music eventually stagnated and withered, his gift wasted on making flat trifles and occasionally beautiful and riveting songs. But for once, he’s used his gift to create a truly riveting tribute to impresario Michael Gudinski, the founder and CEO of the Mushroom Group, a huge business which had nine live entertainment branches, one of which Ed must have used, and the two of them became such good friends that Ed wrote this for him. It’s kind of funny that the best song Ed has written and sung in years is for a massive music impresario, but I guess that’s the 2020s for ya.
[8]

Austin Nguyen: Ed Sheeran’s Pinterest-ready stomp clap hey-ification arrives nine years late, much like the current ongoing apocalypse that should’ve happened then to prevent me from hearing this.
[2]

Juana Giaimo: I never really liked Ed Sheeran’s ballads, but there is a country feeling here that is nice. However, I wish the bridge wasn’t just him mumbling — in fact, I think the song could finish just before that — and that the whole song didn’t feature so many backing vocals. It gives such a formal solemn feeling: quite cliché for a grieving song. 
[6]

Michael Hong: “Visiting Hours” takes Sheeran’s grief and tries to transform it into a grand pop spectacle, a commercial showing for a private funeral. The production is too sanitized to convey its grief and the choir vocals swallow any meaning, until you realize that through Sheeran’s lyrical universalness, there never really was much beyond standard mourning. His grief and his words feel devoid of substance, being far too easily transferrable. “Visiting Hours” lacks a sense of involvement to just feels like grief commodified — a pay-to-view obituary, the type of greeting card that uses the word condolences.
[0]

Thomas Inskeep: In the future, dictionaries will feature a photo of this single next to the word “mawkish.”
[0]

Al Varela: My bold statement is that Ed Sheeran is one of the best songwriters of the past ten years, and songs like “Visiting Hours” are why. As easy as it is to make fun of him, part of why he’s persisted for nearly a decade is because he’s painfully honest and transparent as a person. “Visiting Hours” was written as a coping mechanism after Ed’s close friend Michael Gudinski passed away, and you can tell this was a major loss for him. He fantasizes about visiting him up in heaven and catching up on his life since then. Ed confines in Michael his insecurities and struggles because few people really understood and taught him as much as Michael did, and the thought that he’ll never get to see or talk to him again is almost overwhelming. But he also knows that it’s probably for the best. He can’t rely on Michael forever, and everything he was taught will carry on in Ed’s spirit as he strives to become the best person he can be. Maybe even one day become the person he sees in Michael. All of this combined with the gorgeous orchestration behind him makes this one of Ed Sheeran’s best-ever songs. 
[10]

Andrew Karpan: Everyone who’s interviewed Ed Sheeran likes to say that he knows — a verb that carries a kind of cosmic significance — anticipating the eyerolls his kind of shtick attracts in order to deliberately cast them aside. But his knowingness takes on a greater and almost admirable quality when inspecting the effort he puts into manufacturing the worst song of his career, a record whose brassy badness and groaning conceits are the very tools with which they are built and the plastic purpose with which it is issued. Counting pop songwriters is cliché and rarely insightful — and there’s no doubt half of these people are on there because he clumsily copped their riff — but there’s something almost scary about imaging Shreean’s management asking six people to collectively furnish the bottom rung of the man’s catalog, a song with a maudlin insistence Sheeran himself can barely perform without collapsing in tears. But I would too: it’s industrial strength grief.
[1]

Alfred Soto: Of course the woman in the song exists partially to validate the Ed Sheeran character’s self-worth, but the “partially” does a lot of work. The well-deployed sparseness — little acoustic bits rippling away from the singer — and its melodic strength imply that the “you” was worth the trouble. When Ed Sheeran’s good at this shit, I get mad.
[7]

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Big Thief – Little Things

On “Little Things”, Big Thief grow…


[Video][Website]
[7.14]

William John: Restless without ever losing forward momentum, “Little Things” careens towards a scream — the manifestation of an unrelenting desire, something powerful enough to overwhelm the “blue”, the “use”, and the feelings of shame while left behind, undressed. Tusk-esque guitar noodles give the track warmth and charm, but it’s Adrienne Lenker’s vocals and words that are most compelling: here she offers us pithy, yet vivid images of a love story that together forge something fully formed and heart-stopping.
[9]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Ultimately a minor piece in the Big Thief catalog — Buck Meek’s guitars dance and Adrianne Lenker is excitingly cryptic, but everything feels slightly out of focus. The track lacks the shocking, mystical clarity of the group’s best work. Instead, it sounds like a slightly more sophisticated take on luxury-ad indie rock, the soundtrack to corporatized wanderlust.
[5]

John S. Quinn-Puerta: When the rhythm changes on “Seein’ out that needle eye”, it feels like the world stops turning. Adrianne Lenker’s songwriting has always had a revolving structure, and it’s bolstered here by her frantic, noisy strumming and Buck Meek’s constantly shifting lead. “Little Things” has an energy usually reserved for the last noisy minute of a Big Thief song, but here it starts busy and ends busier, bolstering the chaos of the singer’s bittersweet reminiscence. 
[9]

John Pinto: The upper midrange is stuffed to the point of incoherence, and what of it? The lovers in “Little Things” have melted into one; intelligibility is long gone.
[10]

Juana Giaimo: I feel “Little Things” would benefit from better mixing. Each of the elements sound dissonant, which gives an interestingly raw feeling, but if everything besides the guitar is louder than the vocals, it gets a little bit muddy. 
[4]

Alfred Soto: The guitar tunings recall early Cocteau Twins, intentionally, I suppose, for Adrianne Lenker has evoked Elizabeth Fraser and The Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler in her high, fluting vocalizing. Those guitars turn into a helluva squall by the last third. If “Little Things” is the Big Thief future promised by “Not,” let’s have it now. 
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: the stumbling drums underneath the circling bass and jingling guitars feel like a constantly spinning table, with Adrianne’s soft, pliant voice slipping between the notches and holes that appear, gently chugging along. it continually feels like it’s only spinning to keep from toppling over, each last strand of sentiment pulled out of shape for so long that it’s close to breaking and smashing to pieces, held together only by the unfocused and smushed mix. slowly, it begins to thin out and melt, turning to stingy pieces of a once taut web. when the low bass notes slip out, it finally falls apart, falling silent.
[6]

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Shawn Mendes & Tainy – Summer of Love

In the tennis sense.


[Video]
[3.00]

Austin Nguyen: Shawn Mendes, stuck in non-existent boy-band perpetuity and obligated to sell his winks in Spanish for the sake of Shamilaworshipping PR, at least knows how to deliver this Ed Sheeran x Hollister ad with a modicum of sensuality–sighing vocals, aching inflections. Tainy’s cicada hums and arpeggiated twinkles are almost enough to overlook Mendes’ third-rate-Bieber sing-speak. Almost.
[3]

Alfred Soto: Getting tangled in the bedsheets is uh nice I guess, and I’d giddily wrap my legs around Shawn Mendes if it kept him away from the mike.
[4]

Nortey Dowuona: The drums are pretty good as always, and the twirling guitar buried by the synths sounds great. But Shawn Mendes cannot sing, not even in the very tip of the mix, and he has absolutely no dynamics in his voice. Plus, was this really the summer of love? The summer of peaking COVID cases, maybe.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: Can you believe that it’s almost fall, and summer’s gone so fast? If this song’s any indication, I can.
[3]

Juana Giaimo: It could have been interesting to hear these artists on something different from what they usually do, but they somehow made the most generic beach day dance song possible.
[4]

Harlan Talib Ockey: Presumably the drink Mendes and Tainy want you to associate this with is a margarita, but I’d go with marshmallows in cold water: limp, saccharine, and deeply unpleasant.
[1]

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Courtney Barnett – Rae Street

Okay but what I want to know is if it’s easy to find parking…


[Video][Website]
[5.67]

Danilo Bortoli: Courtney Barnett treats her songs as little journals, ripped off pages from an old diary. “Rae Street” presents raw footage from an otherwise pretty much ordinary life: Barnett looks out the window sitting in her apartment, kids go by, life happens. She seems to rejoice in her own steadiness. But somehow Barnett thinks this depiction of life is enough. As it turns out, the exact opposite of self-centered and hysterical songwriters can be also be quite boring.
[4]

John Pinto: We should all be so wise to accept that there is no apocalypse or utopia looming after COVID, but rather a boring-ass future that will be our collective responsibility; good on Courtney Barnett for seeing that. Unfortunately, this song was still like if a trusted and valued friend took my hand, smiled, then walked off ten or so paces and bounced a Frisbee off my head.
[5]

Juana Giaimo: I know that her music doesn’t aim for something else, but after ten seconds of listening to “Rae Street” I knew exactly how it was going to be the rest of the song (and the rest of the album that hasn’t even been released yet). The thing is that those first ten seconds weren’t very interesting. Her slow singing with the slow strum of the guitar make the backbone of the song. Even when there are other elements, it all seems to be dragged by those two things (the piano adds a nice touch, but it’s so subtle in the mixing that it passes unnoticed).
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Slacker faux-philosophical meandering that would be obnoxiously chill from anyone other than Barnett (c.f. Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s recent work.) In her hands it’s instead something quietly revelatory, the slow washing-machine churn of the chorused guitars and the pitter-patter of the drum machine working to create an endearingly lush portrait of an artist in repose.
[7]

John S. Quinn-Puerta: It’s almost hypnotic. It keeps marching forward, changing a little each time, led by the near constant drum machine, padded by keys. Barnett has a roster of songs that capture the feeling of depression, but “Rae Street” engages with moving forward in spite of the isolation of a continuously low mood. The final bridge’s chord changes embody that sliver of optimism even as the lyrics acknowledge that you’re “barely hanging on”.
[8]

Alfred Soto: I like when musicians philosophize, use topic sentences. Courtney Barnett’s shown herself to be rather good at it. Reveling in its acoustic roots, “Rae Street” is too self-satisfied as a piece of music and a set of lyrics. Sheryl Crow did this better.
[5]

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

Joel Corry x Jax Jones ft. Charli XCX and Saweetie – Out Out

Leçons to be learned


[Video]
[4.78]

Iain Mew: How UK club pop sounds in a nation opening up amidst an ongoing pandemic is a question for listeners as well as those making the music. Perhaps it’s just me that hears in the title line an echo of Kylie Minogue looking mortality in the face and singing “I want to go out dancing”. Whether the apocalyptic angle is deliberate or not, managing to take “Alors on Danse” and make it sound even more blank and alienated is a hell of a way to heighten it.
[8]

Scott Mildenhall: Stromae was so open about the composition of “Alors on Danse” that he repeatedly showed people how to put it together, so this might not surprise him — it’s certainly highly predictable. With that said, perhaps “Out Out” is the double jab for the double jab moment, blithely subverting the subversion of the original in wholehearted embrace of The Club and continental holidays — reassuringly uninspired. Be cynical if you will — these four certainly have been.
[4]

Juana Giaimo: The kind of dance music that relies almost solely on being loud. 
[4]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: This is so interstitial in vibe that I couldn’t focus on it at all until my third listen. It just sounds so much like the 40th minute in an EDM headliner’s 90 minute festival set — none of the excitement of the first run, but not deep enough into the groove to reach even accidental glory. Bad choices abound — “Alors on Danse” doesn’t deserve this, and neither does Saweetie, who raps for 18 seconds total on a track that could’ve used her.
[2]

Oliver Maier: If there’s any trend that doesn’t really need reviving then it’s the detuned horn loops of the early 2010’s, particularly if it’s done by butchering one of the few songs that pulled it off. Shitty horns are better suited to Stromae’s crise existentielle than to Charli and Saweetie’s rather bland night out.
[4]

Will Adams: Unlike “Big Hoops,” “Alors On Danse” isn’t in need of a reappraisal, so putting a house donk on it doesn’t feel necessary. That’s probably why Charli and Saweetie are here; their contributions are serviceable — if unremarkable — enough that I’d sway to this with a vodka soda in hand.
[6]

Danilo Bortoli: This could have been the much-needed 2021 version of “anthems.” After all, she wanted to feel the “heat from all the bodies”. As it turns out, it seems reopening didn’t go according to plan, and this is the mediocre, generic dance track we’ve got stuck with.
[5]

William John: No one else really springs to mind as best embodying the Jekyll and Hyde archetype in modern pop than Charli XCX — locals know her best for “Boom Clap,” an anaemic iteration of her early signature sound, or as a bit part on songs like “Fancy” or BTS’ “Dream Glow,” and even the collaborations on her self-titled album with half the Singles Jukebox Sidebar had the air of a focus group. Contrast all that with the spontaneity and futurism of works like “Grins,” her songs with SOPHIE, Pop 2, or last year’s How I’m Feeling Now, conceived almost entirely in quarantine and over Instagram Live: these have all had little to no chart impact but carry, arguably, significant cultural heft. We’re about to get a new Charli single this week to begin her “sellout” era, but with “Out Out” that seems to have well and truly begun; borrowing elements from “1, 2 Step,” “Alors on Danse” and lyrical tropes from the 2012 Mayan Prophecy era that now scan as truly quaint, this is suited probably to no other context other than being a few double vodka-Red Bulls deep. Though it’s far uglier than most of Joel Corry’s previous Love Islandcore, and though the length of Saweetie’s verse threatens to redefine the term “cameo,” if it all helps fund another “detonate” then I can begrudgingly allow it.
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Tobi Tella: Charli’s charisma as a vocalist makes me want to forgive the inane lyrics, but ultimately for a song with the producers credited, there’s nothing here outside the sample. No one likes an imitateur, Joel.
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