Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Future ft. Nicki Minaj – You Da Baddest

To this editor’s knowledge, the first we’ve covered both of them on the same track. And, well…


[Video]
[4.57]

Thomas Inskeep: “We know you da baddest, baby, fuck them hoes,” Future croons, in front of a bassline so rubbery I think it may actually be an elastic band. Detail and Go Grizzly, as producers, provide a marvelous track, and Future blends into it almost like another instrument. And Minaj bangs out her best-sounding contribution of ’17. When Nicki’s on, she’s on, and when Future’s at his peak, he’s pretty damn great.
[8]

Crystal Leww: I wrote the One Week One Band on Nicki Minaj, so I’ve been interested in all the different sides Nicki Minaj has. But the thing about rap Nicki and pop Nicki and pop-rap Nicki were that they all had personalities. Since her last album Nicki Minaj has been mostly lacking in that department, more than happy to cash in checks to do listless guest features. “You Da Baddest” makes it worse by burying Future in the mix so low he sounds like a murmuring mosquito. This is so ill-conceived for a song about bad bitches that I can’t even imagine someone as bland as one of those Hadids doing their walk-up music to this, much less someone who held the title of Greatest Rapper Alive just so recently.
[3]

Josh Love: Nicki is almost always a welcome addition as a featured artist, but her bright, kinetic personality is an awkward fit with Future’s hazy swagger (his recent pairing with Rihanna, “Selfish,” makes far more conceptual sense). The involved parties seem aware of this incongruity, and Nicki’s role is constrained accordingly — a far more generic performer could have reasonably approximated her contribution here.
[5]

Stephen Eisermann: This is the song equivalent of a guy and a girl playing the compliment game, where the girl comments on his personality, drive, and strength and the guy responds with a line about her “trampoline titties.” Unfortunately for both Future and Nicki, the song is just as awkward as the situation is. 
[3]

Ryo Miyauchi: Future singing a sweet little la-la-la in the intro got me missing the days when he genuinely glowed from all of the warm emotions he sang and rapped about. His short ad-lib in “You Da Baddest” hints that he still might have it in him to paint all over the canvas with one sticky melody he’d come up with on the spot. But instead, he lays low in the same, safe trap-rap lane he paved since DS2.
[5]

Ian Mathers: Look, I know faster does not necessarily equal better or smarter, but let’s be honest: it takes Nicki less than 30 seconds to make Future’s whole thing here feel really lazy in a less than appealing way (and I’m no less susceptible to the charms of “Mask Off” than anyone, don’t get me wrong). By the end he sounds like he can’t keep up with the production, and it’s not even that high BPM.
[5]

Alfred Soto: A title chosen because “You Da Averagest” doesn’t roll off the tongue.
[3]

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Aymee Nuviola – Rumba de la Buena

Checking in with the tropical (hold the house) charts…


[Video]
[6.88]

Nortey Dowuona: AT LAST. THE DRUMS ARE GROOVING AND SNAPPING. THE TRUMPETS ARE TRIUMPHANT AND PROUD. THE BASS IS SLINKY AND GROOVING… WAIT… IS THAT A GOOD TRAP BREAKDOWN?! THIS SONG IS THE GREATEST THING EVER.
[10]

Josh Langhoff: A conservatory trained singer, capable of negotiating Cuba’s vast musical terrain with the plainspoken virtuosity of her voice, goes four chord Zumba banger. Already I can feel the wobbly-legged breakdown in my thighs.
[7]

Juana Giaimo: Aymee Nuviola did a classic rumba song with positive spirit lyrics to forget the problems of everyday life and let your body and mind dance to the music. Unfortunately, it’s rather generic and lacks a distinctive element that could place it in its contemporary society.
[6]

Stephen Eisermann: Sometimes you just want to get lost on the dance floor, in Tijuana, at a random bar on Sexta, and forget that all of this horrible shit is going on in the United States. Thank you, Aymee, for giving me that escape with horns, bilingual lyrics, and a happiness in your delivery that washes away the hurt. Losing Celia in 2003 was horrible, but Aymee’s doing a great job of giving us a current option to remember a happier, more danceable time.
[8]

Ashley John: Relentless and fierce, “Rumba de la Buena”  holds a steady level of exuberant energy for its duration. The entire song sounds like you cut straight to the peak of it. Aymee Nuviola gives us gift of a song that sounds like it’s made by a person who actually enjoys dancing, a novelty!
[6]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Have to give credit for how seamless this sounds, especially since that trap breakdown is able to enter and exit so gracefully. But for how cohesive everything here is, there’s a sense that it all sounds undistinguished and muted as a result. Granted, the song’s lyrics touch on escapism and “Rumba de la Buena” is certainly able to provide the headspace for that. It’s just that it feels more like mindless, passive engagement than something truly captivating.
[5]

Leonel Manzanares: This feels somewhere in between Albita’s transcendental “Ta’ Bueno Ya” and Juan Luis Guerra’s perico ripiao escapades, but it’s really all about Aymee’s confident, magnetic performance, showing us not only that it took some serious charisma to play Celia, but that some of that charm is her own. What makes Rumba, indeed, Buena is its promise to make you feel liberated, and this track does deliver.
[7]

Alfred Soto: My local Latin radio stations play variants on “Rumba de la Buena” every hour, and often I change to R&B or country. Visiting a friend at a Chicago, Seattle, or Santo Domingo dance party will change my mind — will change my ass — right quick.
[6]

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Mick Jagger ft. Skepta – England Lost

So this did not go as hard as geometry, trigonometry even…


[Video]
[3.29]

Ian Mathers: It certainly did.
[2]

Alfred Soto: My grandmother won’t mix a martini or do a somersault. Innovation is an overrated virtue for aging artists, and critics should stop expecting it. If Mick Jagger’s fusion of blues raunch and English distance still excites you, then he should keep recording this music. Going back to 1985, Jagger has spent millions of pounds in search of contemporary context that persuade him he has a life outside the Stones. There’s no reason why Skepta’s state-of-the-nation reportage overlain over Jagger’s typically excellent harmonica couldn’t create a cool frisson with the guy who sang “Hang Fire.” It’s not that Jagger-the-plutocrat has no business commenting on post-Brexit England — he’s a smart guy, he reads the papers, he’s earned it — but the result still sounds complacent, a nice try.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: I listened to the original and it was haphazard, clumsy and ultimately empty. The Skepta verse is pretty cool but not as direct as needed.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: It’s hard to top what friend of the Jukebox Stephen Thomas Erlewine said about this misguided mess: “It’s 2017 and Mick Jagger is still intent on making his solo career happen.” Mick’s first solo record in 16 years was self-written and -produced, so he’s the only one who can be blamed for it. Not even Skepta (who’s sunk to the level of the song) can save this steaming pile of “modern” production and “political” statements.
[1]

Stephen Eisermann: I quite like the music in this, but my God is this a terrible song. Any good will gained by the music (and, kind of, Skepta) is thrown out the window by Mick repeating the same line probably thirty times. The metaphor isn’t interesting, it isn’t intelligent, and it isn’t even really relevant to what happened. Maybe it’s that I expect more from Mick than a subpar entry into the political music genre, but I’m tired of giving a free pass for mediocrity to legacy artists simply because their older output is legendary. England lost, yeah, but so did Mick with this half-baked attempt at being edgy.
[2]

Scott Mildenhall: Clearly this is very subtle: Jagger is talking about England vs Iceland — in the Cod Wars of the 1960s and 1970s, that is, in which international geopolitics relating to the Cold War became a large contributory factor in the anyway-inevitable decline of a number of British fishing communities, something which became conflated with the effects of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and would have been a big factor somewhere at the front or back of many minds when the UK went to vote last June. No? Well it’s hard to imagine people looking to Mick Jagger for searing political meditation in 2017 anyway. Him deadpanning “I didn’t wanna come anyway”, like Jilted John fronting Black Grape, harder still.
[3]

Mark Sinker: He says “lost” and no doubt means something by it. Once — as well as being brazenly vain and ruthlessly shallow — Jagger was a clever and a wryly cruel and funny writer, quick to find a figure for the good and more often the bad in the change he saw round him. Change is once again come — perhaps back in the other direction –but all he reaches for here is a sporting metaphor, which comes with a mood but not much more. It hurts when when your team loses. It’s bad. Yes, but what’s bad? What’s gone lost? Why can’t he invoke what he misses? I don’t actually even think something has gone lost — there was never a gorgeous legendary England that everyone loved because it loved them back. It’s more like several things have returned, or anyway resurfaced, stepped up out of the subtext into the vicious day. Some of them are very frightening, and thus unfamiliar — if only to the comfortable and the incurious. The times feel open as they haven’t for decades, and open at least means that it isn’t necessarily now only bad outcomes hurtling at us. Open means the option of taking another direction: one that doesn’t just get us back stuck here? Fair to say this does catch the flavour of everything we should be glad to see go: the grinding, same-old-same-old, self-punishing mediocrity of it all, week after week after week after week — but his wiry, reedy whine is glue-drowned in the loping blues-murk of the sound, and Skepta, who isn’t even on top form, easily has the best of it. We lost because we played badly, dude: we didn’t train and we didn’t think. The weather is just the weather, you can’t blame the weather. 
[5]

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Lauren Alaina – Doin’ Fine

I’d say a [6.11] is pretty fine…


[Video]
[6.11]

Nortey Dowuona: It’s, well… doin’ fine. And that’s all I have to say about that.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: This is co-written by Alaina, Emily Shackleton, and country-pop producer extraordinaire busbee — which is interesting, because lyrically, this is on a Kacey Musgraves record, not quite as complicated and considerably more pop, but still in that pocket. Hell, the opening line is “Daddy got sober/Mama got his best friend” — how Chambers is that? And the chorus’ opener is “I’m doin’ fine enough to know that everybody’s broken,” and for that alone I like this song plenty. Alaina, an Idol alum, is a fine singer and knows just how to bend her voice around these strong lyrics, and busbee (who’s most recently been behind the board for Maren Morris, Keith Urban, and Lady Antebellum) of course knows exactly what to do here for maximum impact. “Doin’ Fine” is actually more than fine.
[7]

Crystal Leww: Alaina’s album is uneven with the best stuff (mostly written by busbee) frontloaded into the beginning. However, “Daddy got sober; Momma got his best friend. I’ve cut down crying to every other weekend” is the most punk rock thing I’ve heard all year, and that’s enough to sustain “Doin’ Fine.” 
[8]

Katie Gill: Road Less Traveled is not really a good album, but “Doin’ Fine” is easily the best song off it. That chorus easily overpowers the typical sob-story background verses just because of the fact that it’s a chorus in a major country song that explores the complexities of mental health, pointing out the fact that hey, these things are rocky in the first place and sometimes you aren’t great, you’re just “fine.”
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: While RaeLynn took us to the dead center of an aftermath of divorce, Lauren Alaina sets the details aside for the sake of a broader message: everyone’s a little broken. Her reach for universality leaves the story unfinished with a bit too many loose ends, but it writes hell of a redemptive chorus. 
[6]

William John: Lauren Alaina is hanging in there, just; “doin’ fine,” “not OK,” “alright.” One senses vulnerability has been cast aside to reach this point of nonchalance, and more interesting would’ve been an exploration of how she found herself at this point of heavily-caveatted solace. Instead, the song is steadfastly blank, with a dime-a-dozen country arrangement and a vocal performance that lacks the required dynamic grunt.
[4]

Alfred Soto: The chorus’ perfunctory enthusiasm doesn’t sound right. “For the first time in a while I’m doin’ fine” would sound devastating if the arrangement didn’t go for uplift; let the ironies ring a bit. Nevertheless, Lauren Alaina illuminates the intelligent verses, and boy would it sound terrific elbowing past Billy Currington.
[7]

Stephen Eisermann: The lyrics of this story are surprisingly strong for a song with such a pedestrian chorus, but the production does the song a major disservice. It’s loud, unnecessarily poppy, and it drowns out Lauren’s voice. I’m a fan of her voice to an extent, but I don’t think she has the conviction or drive to deliver more vocally difficult songs without sounding nasally and immature. Something about the cry in her voice is very young-sounding, and though that isn’t always a bad thing, it almost sounds too whiny in this song. I wonder how this would’ve sounded in a more capable singer’s hands, with a producer who understood that not all songs need an easy segue into pop remixes.
[5]

Josh Langhoff: Alaina reveals the family trauma lurking behind the well-worn coffee hour response — “Doin’ fine, how about yourself?” — and transforms it into a youth group-ready meditation on acknowledging human vulnerability as a vehicle for grace. Banjo and guitar solos impress without overstaying their welcome. So it’s a song about messiness tied up in neat bows. This song doesn’t crack the world open like the family trauma classic “Ode to Billy Joe,” but at least it’s not urging us to just try harder. 
[6]

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Mashrou’ Leila – Roman

Lebanese long-runners make their Jukebox debut…


[Video][Website]
[7.14]

Alex Clifton: Damn. Not only is this song catchy — those falsetto harmonies might be among the best I’ve heard in recent years — but there’s a quiet power to it. The chorus is simply “Charge!” It’s a haunting battle cry of resistance. The song builds and winds elegantly, too. I wish the build-up were stronger, but the melodies intertwine so beautifully together, so it’s a small complaint. The video’s also a knock-out celebration of Arab women of all sorts, life-affirming and joyous rather than the timid, “oppressed” vision the West is used to from news reports. A beautiful choice, and a band I’ll return to in the future.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: This is amazing. The drums spring and shudder. The bass pops like Newman’s Own in the microwave. The singing leads you down a path you don’t want to leave. Go forth and never return.
[8]

Jessica Doyle: I love the way it seems to circle around carefully, while Hamed Sinno’s voice contains anger, sorrow, accusation, and resignation all at once without losing control or force: the calm simultaneous with the storm.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: “Roman” has a gnawed and empty foundation with two striking elements: a keening instrumental wail that courses through the mix, and a fixed-stare bassline that begins passes from ponderous pulse to a darker sawtooth lurch. These threaten to overwhelm a song that instead only broods.
[7]

Austin Brown: Nearly three-quarters of the way through, the song picks up, coalescing into a moody synth-driven swirl that feels undeniable. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to justify the three minutes of precise but formless trip-hop that precede it.
[6]

Katie Gill: Hamed Sinno’s beautiful, haunting voice pairs wonderfully with those beautiful, haunting lyrics. Which is a damn shame because most of the lyrics are kind of the same. I might be missing out on some nuance here — after all, lord knows the YouTube closed caption translation is iffy on a good day. But I don’t need the iffy translation to tell me that far too much of the song was that mediocre beat and not enough of it was Sinno’s soulful voice.
[5]

Tim de Reuse: Not very much happens here but I don’t think anything really needs to. No element is particularly feathery or indistinct, nor does anything whine or distort or add any significant amount of energy; It’s a calm, straightforward groove that sounds pleasant and doesn’t care for showing off. The hook is a long, haunting command to “charge”; the steady, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other momentum of the entire rest of the arrangement contextualizes this not as a statement of anger or passion but of steely-eyed confidence and self-determination. In this way, it’s absolute genius in its economy; every element has been chosen with exacting, delicate intent, all towards an immediately obvious stylistic goal. To shoot exactly once and hit a perfect bullseye is remarkably audacious, but, of course, they make it sound easy.
[8]

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete the Kisses

Everyone, PLEASE back up your kisses to the cloud…


[Video][Website]
[6.90]

Eleanor Graham: It isn’t the shimmering trundle or blunt syllables of “What. If. It’s. Not. Meant. For me — love?” that makes this song exhilarating. It’s those spoken-word verses, West End Girls-descended, with not dissimilar atmospherics and similarly galvanising; it’s the intimacy of Rowsell’s raw-edged-silk whisper; it’s the zeitgeisty modern love universality that tricks you into thinking it’s literally inside your head. More talking and specificity and anxiety in pop please, but with hooks that are maximalist and like, crash-y, enough to do the writing justice and offer appropriate catharsis.
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: Wolf Alice turns in a Glass Candy tune with Ellie Rowsell displaying obsessive romance from a distance through a detached narration like Ida No’s. But what stamps “Don’t Delete the Kisses” as a proper Wolf Alice track is the screamed-out chorus: love, what if it’s not meant for me? It’s a question that slaps a daydreaming Rowsell back to reality through not only its volume but also its self-doubt, nauseating in its density.
[6]

Alfred Soto: The staccato chorus, spoken-word choruses, production chill — a fetching combination, and a different shade of lust after last month’s “Yuk Foo.”
[7]

Joshua Copperman: The opposite of “Yuk Foo,” but shouty and bratty in a different way. Where “Yuk Foo” was punky and straightforward, “Don’t Delete The Kisses” is more a stream-of-consciousness-Notes-app narrative than anything else. Even from a quote in an interview, even when she’s buried under reverb, it’s easy to tell that Ellie Rowsell and the rest of Wolf Alice retain the same amount of control in all styles, and they earn the song’s adorable happy ending.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Listening to the exact trajectory of internal monologue fantasies that never actually escape the lips rarely sound so suitably soundtracked, but thankfully the blend of wistful romance and aimless swoons are a suitable match. It’s frustratingly over-familiar as a record, with Wolf Alice occupying a feeling of Strawberry Switchblade as third tier obscure synthpop YouTube channel filler. Yet as a mood it’s impeccable and that cushiony safety works wonders to remind you that no matter how disorienting it is, really its not so bad.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: I hope this achieves classic status at the indie disco so when it comes on I can fold my arms and pout that it’s no “Maps” “Dudley.” (Who am I kidding, I’m 34 years old, I’m never going to the indie disco.)
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: As Rowsell softly murmurs her slowly growing love for someone, she feels airy and yet grounded in the soft bed of synthesizers and drums, slowly becoming less cynical and more willing to trust in what she feels, as the synthesizers swell and pulse while the drums sharply crackle. It all feels like that same shedding of cynicism for hope.
[7]

Alex Clifton: A sweet love song that feels like a dream; I prefer this over “Yuk Foo” that came out a few weeks ago. It’s a bit too cloudy for me, though. Half the time I can’t tell what Ellie Rowsell is singing (although she’s clearer in the spoken-word sections). The melody’s a bit one-note and boring for my tastes. It’s pretty, but I also feel like this could’ve been performed by anyone who’s had backing music on Portlandia.
[5]

Tim de Reuse: The spoken-word bit doesn’t rhythmically work; there are lines that either cram in too many syllables or require accents on unfortunately-placed words, and it veers between syncing up perfectly to the song’s meter in a sappy nursery-rhyme kind of way and drifting away from it. But the tone here is not just conversational, it’s internal: the kind of brutal casualness that you can only really get from nagging voices in your own head. The tune leans into the awkward, fumbling monologue unapologetically, producing something that’s human and flawed a level beyond most things we call “human and flawed”; it’s painful to relate to, because these are the kinds of thoughts you try to convince yourself to be embarrassed about even when you know for a fact that no one’s as composed and cool as they present themselves. It is not about a whirlwind, feel-good romance, but it is about the paranoid self-doubt of wishing for a whirlwind, feel-good romance. The fact that a song about the latter turns out to be more engaging than most songs about the former is just fascinating.
[8]

Claire Biddles: I’ve already listened to it hundreds of times but I’ve only just realised that there’s hardly anything to “Don’t Delete The Kisses.” There’s no proper chorus, only snatches of melody; nothing changes, it just goes round and round and repeats forever until I have to unplug my earphones or go to a meeting or fall asleep. But isn’t that how obsession lives in the everyday? When something about a song or a person flies under the radar for thousands of people but becomes the only thing you can think about, hiding inside of you undetected? The last Wolf Alice single “Yuk Foo” was a quick-hit fancy dress costume of someone I wish I was, but “Don’t Delete The Kisses” is exactly who I am. I don’t care what anyone else thinks of it. I know this is bad critical practice, and maybe if I was a better writer I would have the ability to distance myself from the song, or the self-restraint to write this on Tumblr instead, but I can’t: I can feel every single word in my bones like they’re mine. I liked the first Wolf Alice album fine but I never felt it like this, the stakes didn’t feel this high: Like a lot of debut guitar band albums, it was about teenage-and-a-bit boredom, about getting out — looking forward with no space for reflection. Three years in your twenties can feel like decades. Now every line is hiding thousands of familiar words of subtext; endless longing and hoping. This new maturity is all in Ellie Rowsell’s perfect delivery: The cadence of that first half-spoken line “I’d like to get to know you” belies a lifetime of second guessing; a lifetime of being dictated by simultaneous romantic obsession and constant crushing disappointment. But it’s also a lifelong way of being that can only be taken stock of when it’s almost certainly too late. And I think that’s why it’s so special, because it came at the right time. I’m a few days shy of 30 and in love with someone who I’m never going to tell again and — like Ellie, like the song — I’m wondering if this is it, if I’ve given up on romantic love, if it’s not for me. I’m coming to terms with being the kind of person whose life’s great love story is unrequited and from afar — a handful of kisses, years apart, replayed over and over. Obsessing to the soundtrack of a specific song on infinite repeat through headphones that nobody else can hear. The kind of person who puts her life into a song instead of properly living it. The kind of person who won’t get to know you at all, because she can’t, because she’s too scared.
[10]

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The War on Drugs – Strangest Thing

We declare a war on songs more than three minutes and thirty seconds long…


[Video][Website]
[5.80]

Nortey Dowuona: The drums glide without feeling like their slogging. The synthesizers are airborne without too much effort. The bass swings beneath the waves of the synthesizers. The guitars raise a damned soul to heaven every time they kick in. And the voice… that voice. Adam Granduciel. Remember this name. Forget that other guy. Remember Adam.
[9]

Alfred Soto: All that beauty and pain, cushioned by all the echo and synthesized backing that indie cred can buy. The ferocious guitar solo, which plays the hook instead of extemporizing on its possibilities, is too predictable a good thing. Singles like this require a cold eye lest their attractions lull one into getting bitten, like staring too deeply into a cobra’s eyes. Fortunately, it’s over five minutes long.
[5]

Tim de Reuse: Could’ve been transportative in a Beach House-ian kind of way, but it reaches for grandiosity in the same damn two-chord tonal resolution over and over and over again: a sweaty seven-minute plod through a marsh of sugar syrup.
[3]

Josh Langhoff: Finally, a band connects the dots between “Touch of Grey” and the hooklessness of all other Grateful Dead music. At least the Dead had an excuse.
[1]

Ian Mathers: Even the songs I like by these guys are practically subliminal murmurs, so when they turn it down just one more notch I can’t really keep track anymore. That gap is so small it has me wondering why I do like (say) “Under the Pressure,” which probably isn’t a great sign.
[5]

Austin Brown: I get the skepticism towards The War on Drugs, I really do. Dreamy haze or no, is this sound (motorik heartland rock? dream Americana? something equally geeky sounding?) really new or necessary? But in 2017, the number of new artists I can also share with my straightlaced, earnest, raised-on-hair-metal dad seems smaller than ever. That’s reason enough for me to value a band, and its elegantly crafted ballads like this one, that reaches beyond the ever-present cosmopolitan obscurantism (and chill-signifying synths) of contemporary indie into the lizard brain communalism of heartland rock riffage. Adam Granduciel will never write lyrics like Bruce Springsteen, or even the Drive-By Truckers, and so his ballads will always be a little less compelling than his chugging rockers, but who needs lyrics when you have such an indelible sound?
[8]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I’ve never been one for The War on Drugs’ lyrics, but Granduciel understands the weight of words when used purely as signifiers. And as such, the numerous cliché phrases here are granted a pastoral wistfulness when drenched in reverb and presented in a song that ambles casually through soaring guitar solos (that he sounds like Dylan also helps). Interestingly, it’s the descending piano chords and the plainness of the snare that grounds the song’s dreamier tendencies, and they consequently invite the listener inside its atmospheric space. And before you know it, the whole thing turns into a sea of glistening sounds. The War on Drugs frequently try to make ambient music but it’s never been as engrossing as this.
[8]

Joshua Copperman: With the exception of people like Billy Joel, my dad didn’t always listen to the lyrics closely when he heard music growing up; for example, “Sunglasses at Night” was not nearly as cool of a song as was first imagined. That Adam Granduciel covers his lyrics in increasing amounts of reverb seems to be a reflection of this — the instrumentation matters more than whatever he’s singing. TWoD is squarely Dad-rock, a genre sometimes deliberately hard to analyze because of how much it relies on emotion and vibes; it either resonates or it doesn’t. For me, this does! I love how gigantic this production feels, especially how the left tom always somewhat overwhelms the mix before going into the next section, successively managing to top itself with the use of echoes and and guitars. This all culminates in an initial solo at 3:44 (is this the solo everyone was talking about?), and then a full-on explosion at 4:29  (wait, nevermind, this is). It’s a stunning moment, where I understand what my dad felt when he listens to “Sunglasses,” “Point of Know Return,” and others.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: As firefly-lit indie rock goes, I spent 2014 a bit disappointed that Future Islands’ “Seasons” never clicked for me. Maybe this War on Drugs song is what I’d been waiting for that year: a lonely slow-dance ballad that treads the boardwalk and the back country roads at the same time. Sure, I enjoy Born in the USA and Tunnel of Love enough to welcome something that falls in the space between, but the multi-tracked guitars parading the long latter half remind me of the glowing pleasures of the soft rock in their wake: Bryan Adams, perhaps, or, heck, Patty Smyth and Don Henley
[8]

Josh Love: I’ve eventually come around on lots of artists I originally despised or dismissed — Joanna Newsom, Drake, Angel Olsen — but I just don’t think it’s ever going to happen for me with this band. Still just sounds like taking the worst Dylan songs from the ’80s and playing them for twice as long.
[3]

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Sigala & Ella Eyre – Came Here for Love

And we came here for Ella’s big voice!


[Video]
[5.44]
Julian Axelrod: This doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Far from it: This is the exact prototype of a wheel, with the same spokes and circumference as every wheel since 2012. If you asked a four year old to draw a wheel, they would draw an exact replica of this. But holy shit, what a good wheel. The hook feels bigger and more infectious every time I hear it. Sigala shows unusual restraint for a trop-house producer, stripping the beat down to its essential parts and making each one hit like a ton of bricks. And Ella Eyre has the kind of million-dollar voice that was made for songs like this. I feel like the critic in me should be picking this apart, but it’s been far too long since we got a summer banger that felt like ice cream and water parks and made my head feel like that giant glowing brain meme. So I’m just going to sit back and enjoy this while we still have some summer left.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: Love on the dance floor has sounded a bit too passive this year, thanks to this balmy, almost numbing electronic chill casted over pop. So I welcome the maximal burst of this pairing. Sigala’s sounds are rather familiar kits from the pop chart’s toolbox, though the sheer exuberance he inspires out of these sunny sounds is something to be missed. Equally familiar is the weighty R&B diva vocals of Ella Eyre, but rather than recede into the warmth, her voice packs so much into the huge chorus that her producers crack open through those glistening classic-house pianos.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Ella Eyre’s lustrous range, reminiscent of Taylor Dayne and early Christina Aguilera, animates this basic house thumper with one too many trop house motifs getting tangled around the knees.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Honest-to-goodness uplifting, largely non-trop house, with big- (and slightly weird-, and I mean that as a strong compliment) voiced Ella Eyre on the leads, giving the “Came Here for Love” lyric just the punch it needs against Sigala’s musical setting. This is a light ‘n lovely summer jam.
[8]

Stephen Eisermann: Ella Eyre is too talented to be singing on a track that is destined to only hit #1 on the most requested lists of gay clubs. Her soulful voice is drowned out by the loudness of the production and I’m just severely disappointed by this. Please excuse me as I play Feline another hundred times, putting “Even If” on constant repeat.
[4]

Iain Mew: It’s behind only Tom Odell’s “Another Love” as the song on British radio most enhanced by deliberately mishearing “love” as “lol(s)” when the singer swallows the end of the word! It’s also the fourth Sigala single we’ve covered and the fourth with a variation on said word in its title, an adherence to formula in keeping with everything else about it.
[3]

Will Adams: Bland uplift with enough thwack and fervor to subvert my better judgement.
[6]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: It’s pretty darn easy to be cynical about a song like this, both for its familiarity and incessant peppiness. And the first time I heard “Came Here For Love,” I was that dude at a party with his arms crossed, on a mission to dance as little as possible. But all of a sudden, that V/vi appeared and it was like I was thrust into the air and forced to make a decision: when I come back down, will I surrender to this admittedly generic post-Clean Bandit house number? In the chorus, that chord is shortly followed by Ella Eyre screaming “I want you to reach out!” and it’s the exact moment I knew I had to extend my arm out and yield. I’m dancing now, and I couldn’t be happier.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Clean Bandit have a lot to answer for, huh? Essentially this is fine and functional, but the problem with this brand of UK pop house is that they’ve long since mistaken routine as function, and feel overcommitted to doing what’s expected of them. Sigala has given you a perfect example of what people think they’re going to hear, but has no clue how to give someone what they didn’t know they need to hear.
[3]

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Manuel Turizo – Una Lady Como Tú

Una lady como nosotros pensó que esta era boring.


[Video]
[3.50]

Ian Mathers: Just on the wrong side of a lot of things; the production sounds like it came out of a box, the vocal processing is in the Uncanny Valley, the actual vocal performance sounds like it might be due for a nap, the melody is monotonous… and if you pushed any or all of those things just a little, maybe this would wind up being interesting. As it is, I forget what it sounds like while it’s still playing.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Turizo’s slight vocal resemblance to Jorge Ben graces this colorless lilt of a come-on. It might impress Sheeran fans.
[2]

Alex Clifton: I’m reminded of other young male artists like Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes when listening to this song: it seems fairly run-of-the-mill, saying sweet nothings to a girl and writing her into all your love songs. Where Manuel Turizo stands out his voice. Frankly, it’s more intriguing–there’s more depth there, not just because it’s a deeper voice, but a richer timbre. The song itself is mediocre: it begins slow, picks up the tempo, and then never really returns to the initial slow tempo (so why begin it there? I feel cheated). I’m reminded of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” in the production, upbeat and kind of cutesy with a ukulele, which can truly go either way; here, it’s a bit repetitive. Still, it’s not a terrible debut, and I hope he can find better things to do with his voice.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: A very perky reggaeton shuffle-beat accompanies a song that, unfortunately, doesn’t go much of anywhere, and Turizo’s voice doesn’t add much.
[4]

Juana Giaimo: I just came back from seeing J. Balvin live and after listening to how sweet “Sigo extrañándote” is, I can only think that this heartbreak ballad with a silly ukelele is one of the most reggaeton songs I’ve ever heard. 
[4]

Jessica Doyle: Listening to the remix makes the original seem better by comparison in its refusal to follow trends by changing tone or tempo. It’s just Manuel Turizo, a guitar, a mixing board, and a message of reassurance. It doesn’t do much for me on its own, but I smile at the idea of a pair sending and receiving this with as much created meaning as my not-yet-husband and I did with our own chosen song thirteen years ago.
[5]

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Lauv – I Like Me Better

And we like controversy!


[Video]
[5.00]

Will Rivitz: One of about a million things that makes Carly Rae Jepsen’s artistry so compelling is the way she effortlessly makes the listener believe in the love she’s alternately stumbling into, living, and losing. She sings about The Feeling more viscerally and powerfully than anyone else I’ve found, and you can’t help but find yourself swept into the flurry of emotions she evokes whenever anything she creates comes on. “I Like Me Better” is a perfect song for exactly the same reason: its unassuming treatment of the very same Feeling is infectious, and I can’t escape its deceptively massive pull without at least a faint smile plastering itself on my face. Lauv captures the banalities of the morning after with the rosiest of tints, pitched-down strings swelling with the silly sensation of satisfaction that spreads through your body while you look at the person who maybe might just be the one disheveledly drinking their morning coffee, at least at the times when you can get the memories of kissing them under the streetlights for the first time out of your head for a moment. Every little detail – the roundness on the plucked bass adding extra warmth to the arrangement, the gorgeous reverb on the guitar line, the playful inflection on the singer’s voice when he brings in the chorus with an awestruck “Damn…” – is built immaculately, aerodynamically lathed to press all the right buttons and hit all the right heartstrings, and Lauv’s skill at evoking the sentiments he does is already astounding six songs into his career. It’s the purest rush of emotion I’ve heard all year, Jepsen’s humongous summer single included, and I’ll be in its thrall for months to come.
[10]

Thomas Inskeep: I suppose it’s good that you like yourself better, Lauv, because I don’t like you at all. 
[1]

Ian Mathers: “What’s the most self-aggrandizing way I can phrase my love and admiration for another person? Bonus points if I can manage to convey the impression I might be a Bachelorette contestant or something.” Plus one point for the nicely creaky sample (of?) that opens the track and could conceivably be used in a better song.
[3]

Tim de Reuse: Well, the restraint is refreshing! Half the song takes place over hushed snaps and shy little synth plucks in an acoustically-untreated garage, letting the vocals take center stage: a perfectly fine setup that completely backfires. The main issue is that I’d be completely unable to pick Lauv’s voice out of a lineup because he refuses to reach for anything that wasn’t well-trodden pop ground several years ago. Worse, the lyrics are unflavored bubblegum, expressing contentment in a way that is precisely and deliberately neutral — the immediate NYC scene-setting ought to clue you in to how much this tune loves the culturally generic! It’s almost impressive how thoroughly he’s wrung all of the potential excitement out of a declaration of new love and replaced it with the tedium of a children’s song. There are, frustratingly, drops of ambition here and there in the sound design, like the sparse, scratchy guitar and the rich chopped-and-screwed string instrument in the after-chorus; the rest is just dull, even if it’s dull for kind of interesting reasons.
[5]

Will Adams: The invocation of New York would annoy me more had I not had the exact experience in that city. The premise is familiar, even for this year, but it’s one that has nagged me for years: how to reconcile the selflessness of loving someone else with the self-interest of wanting to be loved. “I like me better when I’m with you” summarizes it neatly, and unlike my previous examples, Lauv sings in the present, in the what-could-be-for-me. But even he sounds apprehensive. The misty-eyed hook, a vocal turned into a sax, wails on and on over an introverted instrumental that never wants to become too big. The promise is in Ari Leff’s delivery during that one line, which sounds like the elbow bending after a stand-off at arm’s length.
[8]

Ashley John: I’ve put myself purposely through the obstacle course of going to shows by myself and drinking a gin and tonic without anyone to turn to for conversation. What I hear in this song more than comfort is surprise. Between plucky beats Lauv sounds wondrous at the realization that sharing a moment doesn’t mean splitting the benefits. “I Like Me Better” is uncomplicated to the point of formulaic, but the sound of a comfortable relationship is sweet still. 
[5]

William John: Just trite enough to earn an invitation to the Chainsmokers’ next writing camp.
[3]