Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Shiina Ringo – Open Secret

Shiina Ringo for the next Bond theme, y/y?


[Video]
[6.83]

Ryo Miyauchi: The peppy spy-film arrangements of “Open Secret” as well as its lyrics about seeking the justice hits the target a little too perfectly as the title track to a drama show billed as a comedy-mystery. But Ringo adds just enough of her signature touches, particularly those prickly vocal trills and breathy ad libs, for it to still check the right boxes of a good Shiina Ringo song.
[6]

Kylo Nocom: Chicken-scratch guitar and near-cacophonous symphonies suit Shiina Ringo’s equally gripping vocals. One forgets after so many orchestrated “art pop” records that strings can be used for more than dramatic atmospherics; “Open Secret” is the perfect antidote.
[8]

Kayla Beardslee: I always appreciate a good use of violins in pop and pop-adjacent music, and I love the energetic use of them here. Of course, Shiina Ringo throws in the rest of the orchestra as well: with so many instruments swooping in and out of the mix, the vocals end up feeling like the least important part of the production. But even with so much going on (that last, drawn out note, though!), “Open Secret” is maximalist in a self-aware, enjoyable way.
[7]

Will Adams: There’s a lot packed into “Open Secret”‘s three minute run-time, but amidst the violin trills and drum fills, Shiina Ringo manages to keep the train from flying off the rails.
[6]

Alfred Soto: It sounds like a refugee from the long ago and faraway mid-nineties: those spy thriller strings and the bonkers tempo could’ve come from the sixties revivalists. Shiina Ringo can handle these and more. 
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The instrumental flourishes (that ending drum fill especially) are almost too ornate — the musical equivalent of riffing too long on a joke that’s played out. But Ringo’s vocal performance, flighty and charming, keeps the song from dancing out into jazzy nothingness. This is spy movie music, glamorous and ridiculous.
[7]

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber – 10,000 Hours

Not a lot of outliers here…


[Video]
[4.00]

Katie Gill: It takes 10,000 hours of practice in order to be an expert at something. This is a well-known saying. So it’s perfectly feasible to believe that Dan, Shay, and Justin knew of this saying before they came up with this song and built the song up off of that specific saying. So, what? It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert in this one particular girl? It falls apart. Why evoke that specific amount of hours if you’re not going to build the song off of it? Needless to say, Dan + Shay have not completed those 10,000 hours yet because they give us a song that’s just “Speechless” with a fresh coat of paint and a Justin Bieber guest verse that is utterly superfluous.
[3]

Will Adams: Given Bieber’s track record of ruining songs he has no business being a part of, his turn on “10,000 Hours” is refreshingly inoffensive, and pairing him with Dan + Shay for a boy band ballad makes sense. Still, I’m not sure that invoking Malcolm Gladwell for a love song is the move.
[5]

Hazel Southwell: Would I like this if *NSync did it? Probably. I mean, not now — would I have liked it if it were one of the mid-tempo ballads that made up the majority of the back end of most *NSync albums? Yeah, sure. I’m kind of fascinated that that’s one of the aesthetics coming back as part of all this ’90s/’00s sound revival that I’m mostly unashamedly loving. Thing is, if I’m not limited to one or two albums every six months, and therefore not duty bound to go all-in on whatever I throw my record store tokens at, would I put up with this pedestrian melody whose lyrics have a weird kind of silicon valley grindbro/grifter element to them? Probably nah.
[3]

Alfred Soto: Thinking that a dulcet melody can support lyrics this cornball and a guest vocalist this blank is the most depressing thing about “10,000 Hours.” But, hey, banjo solo!
[5]

Oliver Maier: The lyrics on the verses here shoot for endearingly specific and land on absolutely bananas. “Do you love the rain, does it make you dance / When you’re drunk with your friends at a party?” Do the folks this deep inside the pop-industrial complex have so distorted a sense of what intimacy is like that their lyrics scan more like Talk to Transformer prose than anything a human being might conceivably ask their partner? “Do you miss the road that you grew up on? / Did you get your middle name from your grandma?” croons Bieber like he’s trying to hack into Hailey Baldwin’s online banking account. Rescued from going full uncanny valley by the hook, trite but catchy in a way that makes me wish a boy band were singing it.
[5]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Sounds like 10,000 other forgettable, clumsy, cliché love songs. 
[3]

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Caroline Polachek – So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings

This, though, we think should be a hit now.


[Video][Website]
[8.00]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: i feel personally attacked by this relatable content
[8]

Julian Axelrod: Caroline Polachek has spent most of her career trying to hide Caroline Polachek. She’s operated within bands, under monikers, and behind other artists, parceling out pieces of her genius but never showing her full hand. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is Caroline’s coming out and coronation, a reintroduction to her astonishing range of talents for anyone who forgot. It’s also a full-bodied bop, sleek and lithe without sparing an ounce of impact. The gleaming 80s prom synths and cave sprite backing vocals promise a pop fantasia, but her bleakly hilarious cries for connection feel like a sendup of diva desperation. The most thrilling moment might be the bridge, when her wordless wail is vocodered into oblivion. Ironically, Polachek obfuscates her voice to create her most singular expression to date. And when she’s done, all you can do is gasp.
[9]

Hazel Southwell: Wow Frou Frou are back right in time to soundtrack my mid-thirties breakdown as well as the mid-twenties one! Except this also has a nice bit of chugging Fleetwood-Mac-by-way-of-HAIM guitar so it’s tickling all kinds of aesthetic pressure points. It gained a whole two points from me for the embarrassing sax solo in the breakdown, that’s a real stomach-curling squirm of a crush right there.
[7]

Oliver Maier: “So Hot” doesn’t push into exciting new frontiers like “Door” and “Ocean of Tears” did. Indeed, the “The Middle”-esque vocoding on the hook and relatively conventional arrangement suggest a mainstream sensibility that isn’t so much absent from Pang‘s other singles as it is wrestled into Polachek’s own pop framework. Here she’s mostly content to play ball, and the result is a straightforwardly great song, still with enough eccentric turns of phrase (“X-rated dreaming”!), sticky melodies and frenzied vocal solos to stay a step ahead of the competition. I could see the abundant quirkiness being grating to those less convinced by the elegant architecture of C-Po’s songcraft, but I’m helplessly charmed by both.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Fans of Haim’s precisely deployed synth chug will warm to Caroline Polachek’s latest single: 2013 as 1987. She’s gotten more assured since the Chairlift days: check out the vocal distorted unto death and into a solo.
[7]

Michael Hong: Caroline Polachek is trying to keep her composure. She’s out at the party, attempting to be cool, attempting to live her life. But at the same time, she’s quietly suffering, counting the days her partner’s been gone. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is as slick as the best of Chairlift, with lines worthy of its title, like “I cry on the dance floor, it’s so embarrassing,” delivered without an ounce of self-pity but with Polachek’s biting humour. Her attempts to appear collected fail from the outset, but her frustrations come to head on the chorus when she sings “get a little lonely babe” and the desperation and desire in her voice become palpable. Polachek’s composed vocals over the heavily processed ad-libs perfectly capture the mental anguish of a long-distance relationship, her outward poise giving way to the inward chaos.
[9]

Kayla Beardslee: I’ve been listening to “Door” a lot lately (a 10, by the way), and one of the many things that’s grabbed me about the song is how impressively detailed it is: I’m still discovering nuances in the production after a double-digit number of listens. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is a less complex experience than “Door” — a name-brand lollipop instead of a box of chocolate truffles — but it has the same attention to detail that makes playing it over and over and paying close attention so rewarding. The three claps in the verses, the “aah-aah”s panning right and left, the electric guitar strum (I think) at the end of the chorus, the gasps and “Woo!”s peppered throughout — god, inject this shit straight into my veins. And, of course, Polachek’s vocals are on point, even behind the tasteful vocoder; her voice climbing and falling on “it’s so emBArrassing” is an entire journey on its own. “So Hot” is sparkly synthpop designed to go down easy, but there’s substance in it too, for those who want to look for it. 
[9]

Isabel Cole: The lyrics unfortunately don’t live up to the OTT promise of the excellent title, squashing my hopes for something exuberantly agitated along the lines of an emotion I still only know how to describe as “blogging about One Direction in 2013” in favor of a fairly banal exploration of the angst inherent to long-distance love. I do like the burbling production, with its funny little stream of disembodied vowels winding through behind the verses.
[6]

Joshua Lu: An adroit tiptoe along the line between horny and tender, unconcerned with appearing too desperate or silly — or with enunciating properly.
[7]

Will Adams: There’s a certain melodrama that comes with relating embarrassment (“I could have just DIED!”), particularly with intense crush feelings for a former flame, that “So Hot” nails. It’s there in the gasp before the final chorus, the way Polachek’s distorted vocal wails as the backing vocals murmur “show me the banana” and the song’s title. While the previous Pang singles took time to wiggle their way into my head, “So Hot”‘s charms are immediate.
[8]

Kylo Nocom: The Aces via Forevher era Shura shouldn’t sound endearing, yet Polachek is a vocalist and songwriter entertaining enough to sell it completely. “X-rated dreaming” is a clunky phrase, but I’m obviously reaching, damn it: the song exists for the title and it’s a great one.
[9]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Caroline Polachek makes music that is almost too perfectly formed– rhythms that sound like perfect tessellations, dazzling vocal performances with leaps and runs that are almost inhuman, synths that sound wrought from glass. The only thing preventing it from being intolerable is the stuff she’s singing about, the fundamental vocabulary of longing that her work, whether solo or in Chairlift (RIP), speaks. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” is just another manifestation of a running theme in her work, but it stands out for its directness and messiness– she’s not just crying in public but on the dancefloor, pining in ways that are almost outside of society. It doesn’t all work on the record (the bananas on the bridge are a little hokey) but it feels so deep it can’t be avoided.
[8]

Stephen Eisermann: A sexy little song that owes much of its sex appeal to Caroline’s voice, the harmonies, and my god that production. It’s crisp and clean, like the white dress shirt my fantasy man wears; the one I thought of as I closed my eyes and listened to this song. Lust in song form, this one.
[7]

Joshua Copperman: So good it’s hurting my feelings: I keep wanting to save my [10]s for songs that feel Big and Important, like “Slip Away” or “The Joke.” Maybe something that doesn’t have immediate political importance but stands on its own, like “Cellophane.” (Being co-written by a transgender woman when the Supreme Court is about to decide whether transgender people can be fired on the basis of their identity might qualify this song, but I don’t want to reduce Teddy Geiger to her gender.) From the opening line, which seems to swipe from Robin Williams’ character in mid-2000s Blue Sky Studios comedy Robots, it’s clear that this isn’t exactly a deep song. Instead, “So Hot” is perfectly goofy songwriting, down to a bridge where Polachek chants “show me the banana, na na na na na” while also performing a guitar solo with her voice. Even better, it’s a three and a half minute pop song, so it doesn’t have time to meander like “Door.” There isn’t anything personal or political about this, but that doesn’t even seem to cross Polachek and co’s mind. Losing oneself in a pop song is just about the most overused trope in all of music criticism, but there’s something to not being serious or even defiantly silly. It’s just fun for the sake of fun, which is hard to justify as a [10]. Except maybe that was the whole point of this poptimism thing. In that case…
[10]

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Lizzo – Good As Hell

We look forward to “Juice” hitting the top 40 sometime in 2021..


[Video][Website]
[7.55]

Katie Gill: It is infinitely amusing that with Lizzo’s career trajectory, her songs that are 2-3 years old are getting the radio play instead of her current work. Granted, “Good As Hell” is an absolute banger. But it’s an absolute banger that is obviously a product of Lizzo’s earlier work, especially when compared the the musical evolution she shows on Cuz I Love You. It’s also an absolute banger that seems tailor-made for inclusion in movie trailers or makeover montages but hey, get that bread Lizzo.
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Lizzo singles don’t expire after three years; they’re just like chardonnay, get better over time. 
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Goddamn, Lizzo can wring every bit of strength out of a female empowerment lyric, can’t she? And she nails the rapping/singing combo like no one since — I dunno, Lauryn Hill? In fact, maybe she’s the rightful heir to L-Boogie’s throne? And she does it all so damn joyfully to boot. Talk about fresh air on the radio.
[8]

Joshua Copperman: After enjoying Big GRRL Small World, I remember hearing that Lizzo signed to Atlantic, working with the insufferably goofy producer Ricky Reed. It felt like a classic “sell-out” moment even if the term has lost all meaning. This song felt destined to blow up, but went nowhere. Neither did “Phone,” and neither did “Truth Hurts.” Cuz I Love You could incorporate her earlier, more political work in ways that felt authentic… but then “Truth Hurts” got massive, and “Good As Hell” is well on its way. There’s a sense that Lizzo will go further in the shouting party anthem direction. She’s a great interview, and a fantastic live performer, but it’s disappointing to foresee a Bruno Mars-style trajectory when there’s so much more to offer. At this rate, Big GRRL Small World could see a rerelease as the darker, more ambitious follow up, but she’s still clearly happier making mindless party music. If she saves the thoughtful political commentary for when Terry Gross calls her “brave”, that’s okay.
[6]

Stephen Eisermann: It is so hard to fault Lizzo’s older material. While it’s very easy to be cynical about self-empowerment anthems today, Lizzo has consistently shown that she excels at putting herself, a plus-size black woman, first and showing other people how to put themselves first. It’s hard to separate her past hits from whatever current story she is involved in (like that horrid Postmates debacle), but, fuck, you are full lying if you say you don’t smile on even your worst day when you play this chorus. The background vocals, the energy, the personality — no part doesn’t hold up. There is no chorus like a Lizzo chorus, no matter how long it has taken people to notice. 
[8]

Alfred Soto: Lizzo released a terrific album this year, you know, on which her sense of rhythm and how a star in waiting presents her material meshes wit the body-positivity messages. 
[6]

Tobi Tella: Sometimes the strength of a song is enough to push past any factors trying to stop it from entering the public conciousness. “Good As Hell” is a little corny, sure, but it’s also empowerment without pandering, an uplifting song that doesn’t feel the need to insert generic platitudes. Most of all, it’s fun, which is something I think 2019 music totally misses most of the time.
[8]

Kayla Beardslee: Personally, I’m looking forward to a couple singles from now, when Lizzo’s team will be looking so far in the past for singles to push that they’ll arrive at a point before her music career began and encounter a time paradox. If “Truth Hurts” can go #1 two years after its release, anything is possible, and why can’t that include Lizzo deconstructing our understanding of time as a linear concept? Oh, and I’m supposed to review the song, too. Yeah, “Good As Hell” bops, will bop, has bopped, bops in the subjunctive, etc. The vocals are fantastic, and the piano riff gives the song a constant feeling of forward motion. It’s the kind of track that makes you want to sing along, and even if (like me) you fail at imitating Lizzo’s attention-grabbing vibrato, “Good As Hell” is so relentlessly fun that you’ll feel happy about it anyways.
[8]

Kylo Nocom: The power of hindsight is very strange. I used to see talk go around about how “Good as Hell” sounded like it could have been a hit, and now that it is one, is that underdog appeal still here? I used to think that her being compared to Natasha Bedingfield in Pitchfork’s review of Cuz I Love You was unfair, but in hindsight, it’s not really that far off. Values PSAs had “Where Is the Love?” then, and the soundtrack to them would be “Good as Hell” now. That’s not a condemnation: corny stays in fashion, and with sounds as lovely as the ones Lizzo selects (namely, the drum kit of the chorus and the sampled vocal belts) it’s easy to ignore how ultimately juvenile the message feels.
[8]

Jackie Powell: Right now as we speak, “Good as Hell” sits at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was featured in the third film in the cult series “Barbershop,” which starred fellow women in hip-hop Eve and Nicki Minaj, both whom Lizzo currently eclipses in relevance. Like the film, this track came out three years ago. This sleeper hit, along with Lizzo’s career, has emerged from the ashes. They are a collective rising like a phoenix but with slightly more swagger and chock-full of sass. How is all of this possible? Lizzo’s entire being defines what it means to be living in 2019. Self-care, inner strength, and an IDGAF attitude. That’s why “Good as Hell” hit harder in 2019 rather than three years earlier. Zane Lowe has referred to this track as an “instant vintage vibe” and that’s due to clean but predictable production from Ricky Reed. Lizzo’s delivery functions in between a bounce in the verses and sweeping call and response in the pre-chorus and the hook. Her magic remains in the way she works to make her raps more digestible for listeners who live on the throwback playlists on Spotify. She’s creating a similar product to Mark Ronson in that they both aim to bring sounds from then and now together in a triumphant union. Thank goodness for Lizzo, someone who has the secret recipe to make anyone feel “as good as hell,” a task far from effortless.
[7]

Vikram Joseph: It seems kind of fitting that I’m writing this before work on a wet Monday morning, because “Good As Hell” is transformative in a way that’s hard to resist. Taylor Swift might have recently claimed that she “want[s] your dreary Mondays” (ok, not yours, Joe Alwyn’s), but “Good As Hell” simply will not allow them to exist — at least for 2 minutes and 37 seconds. It achieves this mostly because of the melancholy that lurks in the corners of the song, and because of the way that classic descending chord progression confers a sense of unconditional positivity in the face of chronic adversity. The delivery of “baby, how you feeling?” should win awards — most singers would sell it as uncomplicated celebration, but Lizzo sounds incredibly empathetic, concerned even, like she half-expects the answer might be “like shit, Lizzo, I feel like shit.” And the song’s instant meme — “hair toss, check my nails!” — is actually a performance piece in putting your best self out there when your heart feels bruised and tired. The strange, wonderful alchemy of “Good As Hell” is that, through method-acting feeling good as hell when all of your instincts tell you that you really don’t, it actually makes you feel fucking incredible.
[9]

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Foster The People – Pick U Up

More like Foster the Poople, right?


[Video][Website]
[4.83]

Kayla Beardslee: I don’t know much about Foster the People, so I have no barometer for whether this is a familiar or strange addition to their discography, but what I do know is that “Pick U Up” is fun and funky pop music in its purest form. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that savvy pop songwriter Sarah Aarons (“The Middle,” “GIRL”) and producer Joel Little (Lorde, Taylor Swift, Broods) worked on it. Forgive me for sounding like I’m setting up a thesis statement, but it’s interesting to compare “Pick U Up” with “Beautiful People” by Ed Sheeran as a way to examine the trope of writing about the negative side of fame. Both songs bemoan the fakeness of fame and LA, but neither really offer examples of what the singers want to do instead of clawing their way up the social ladder. Sheeran falls flat by devoting his chorus to the nebulous, cliche concept of “famous people,” but Foster the People sidestep this shortcoming by focusing on the specifics of the narrator’s relationship. Celebrities singing about how fame kinda sucks is a dangerous tightrope to walk, but FTP only use the Hollywood setting to contextualize the narrator’s doubts about his partner’s interest (“Do you love me? / Or you just trying me on?”). Either ironically or appropriately, the superficial sheen of Los Angeles becomes just glitzy window dressing for familiar questions about the strength of a relationship.
[8]

Alfred Soto: I won’t dispel the notion that FTP have discovered a clutch of 2009 The-Dream singles but added Xmas ornaments like “cocktail of charm.”
[1]

Kylo Nocom: Nerdy white boy funk a la Vulfpeck, but Vulfpeck are too busy trying to impress theory nerds to ever bother offering a simple pleasure as delectable as this.
[7]

Joshua Lu: Funk fits Foster The People, whose indiepop styles have always sounded better when leaning into the poppier side. But “Pick U Up” runs out of ways to funk at times, made apparent in those bits of white space in the chorus where, devoid of lyrics, you realize how lifeless the churning instrumental really sounds.
[6]

Will Adams: Foster the People collaborate with The Knocks for a single (and pretty good!) song one time and all of a sudden they want to turn into Chromeo. You hate to see it.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Did… did Foster the People think “Pumped Up Kicks” was popular because of the lyrics?
[3]

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

Travis Scott – Highest in the Room

Middling on the Jukebox…


[Video][Website]
[4.17]

Jackie Powell: For a single that’s supposed to represent the struggle and end of one of the most high profile relationships in pop culture, Travis Scott’s delivery and lazy flow ruin the ability of the listener to really understand his pain and predicament. This track clocks in at less than three minutes, but it’s just gloomy, and it’s not an emotionally driven murk, but a tired and sleepy one. His lyrics elicit a relatable emotion, but his tone and intonation don’t fluctuate. He sounds indifferent and that’s disappointing. I rarely agree with Anthony Fantano, but he’s correct when he says that this track is “kind of like the [single] cover in that it’s kind of like a ladder to nowhere.” But maybe that’s the point. Is that what Scott actually feels? Possibly. There’s an ambiguity associated with being a king of the clouds. It’s scary as hell, but again Scott doesn’t make listeners want to sympathize. The redeeming qualities of this “ASTROWORLD” b-side are how it starts and finishes. Scott is experiencing a phase as a spaceman renegade and that’s why he wanted an intro and outro laced with a haunting high synth, functioning as a set-piece to illustrate extraterrestrial life. The acoustic loop that threads through the majority of the track is a nice departure and juxtaposition to the heavy-hitting percussion. The piano chords in the last 36 seconds sound like producers Mike DeanOZNik D are building toward something a bit more compelling, but alas the last synthetic slide results in silence.
[3]

Alfred Soto: The title isn’t a boast so much as a statement. He had me at “She filled my mind with ideas/I’m the highest in the room” — no one’s come up with enjambment this startling since Robert Lowell. High or not, I’d keep the pistol away from him. The rest is the usual clickety-trap.
[6]

Hazel Southwell: I hated this and then thought it was quite catchy and then hated it again, all of which seems to depend on how much echo effect is making itself unwelcome over the top of an otherwise decent, artfully sleepy but rhythmically exact flow. 
[5]

Will Adams: Travis Scott’s Auto-Tuned vocals usually lend him an endearingly woozy quality. But combining that with production this foggy makes me feel like the drunkest in the room.
[4]

Oliver Maier: Travis Scott continues to sell low-effort hip-hop in sleek, purportedly forward-thinking packaging. There is just enough here — the woozy theremin, the Beautiful Dark Twisted outro — to suggest some kind of thematic intent, but the slightest closer look will reveal that it’s cut from the same aimless, hypnagogic cloth as Astroworld. A potentially interesting emotional angle rears its head in the lines “I’m doin’ a show, I’ll be back soon / That ain’t what she wanna hear”, but it’s resolved just as quickly by the reconciliatory sex bars that follow, then we’re right back to the grocery list of Scottisms. It’s music boasting the pretense of depth with nothing to back it up; you thought it was an ocean, it’s just a pool.
[2]

Julian Axelrod: “Highest in the Room”: great title! Maybe the ultimate Travis Scott title, which is appropriate for a song that attempts to capture Travis Scott’s Whole Thing in a scant three minutes. The lilting strings and UFO whirrs are lovely, but they do a lot of the heavy lifting on a song that’s surprisingly light on relationship or drug drama. Scott lives up to the title, his weary drone sounding like he’s six hours deep into a rager and can barely muster the energy to engage with his surroundings. However, the “Highest in the Room” hoopla has given us one of the defining texts of his career: “The end isn’t for decoding. Just vibe.” Maybe that’s the ultimate Travis Scott title.
[5]

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending October 12, 2019

It’s time for our weekly notification of what our writers have been doing elsewhere. (Missed past weeks? You can always check our archive for previous editions of Bonus Tracks — there’s bound to be something to catch your interest.)

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Georgia – Never Let You Go

Stay a while!


[Video][Website]
[7.17]

Hazel Southwell: I think I don’t feel this now but that’s because I’m sitting in my dressing gown waiting for a conference call I don’t want to have and I’ve had exactly 0 glasses of wine. If I was wearing a nice dress and on my way to go out, breath freezing in dark air, having had exactly one (three) glass(es) of wine to pre-game then I would be declaring the synth ripple one of the most emotionally affecting things I’d ever experienced. 
[6]

William John: As far as pop songwriting nonsense goes, the repetition of “keep you reminded” here isn’t as striking as “I was thinking about work the dancefloor“, nor as flatly un-grammatical as something like “now that I’ve become who I really are“, but it’s still odd, and a little silly. Georgia might be adopting the feted Max Martin technique of “using words’ natural melody to create catchiness“, but her tessellating synth patterns should allow her to skirt around any accusations of production orthodoxy.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Now here’s nuevo synth pop with anguish in its rhythm, like the best Years & Years and Shura. Those sustained patterns complement lyrics about loving someone whose mental health requires scrutiny. Not love, though — love is assumed. 
[7]

Michael Hong: It’s apt that Georgia’s upcoming album is titled Seeking Thrills, as her singles have been a thrilling mix of cascading synths over clubby beats and a strong sense of pop melody. “About Work the Dance Floor” may have been a fully realized, throbbing tune perfectly suited for the dance floor, but “Never Let You Go” one-ups it, backing up the pulsing beat with a spirited chorus that unfolds like a series of endlessly thrilling possibilities.
[8]

Josh Love: The superior “About Work the Dancefloor” boasted a depth and rhythmic insistence born of the nightclub, which helps to explain why it’s proven to be such appealing remix fodder for the likes of Black Madonna and Krystal Klear. “Never Let You Go,” meanwhile, is B/B- Tegan and Sara, which is hardly an indictment.
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Before we hear Georgia, we hear the vocoder fading in and out of consciousness, something like the electric spirit of a lost loved one, too ephemeral to stay but too indelible to be forgotten. Georgia emotes and dances with this partner amid a gorgeous backdrop of pastel synths which swirl and twinkle like the colors in a Monet landscape.
[8]

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Billie Eilish – All the Good Girls Go to Hell

Her lowest score yet! Saltwater wells in my eyes…


[Video][Website]
[5.29]

Kayla Beardslee: God, this is edgy. Eilish’s producer and brother Finneas has said that “good girls” is about climate change, and there are a couple — seriously, like four — repeated lines explicitly about the topic (“Hills burn in California / Don’t say I didn’t warn ya” and “Once the water starts to rise”), but those lyrics are kind of it for socially conscious songwriting. The rest of the track’s runtime is devoted to  e d g e  and a muddled metaphor about God and the Devil discussing climate change. Theoretically, that sort of twist on the topic could be interesting, but Eilish’s overpowering aesthetic hampers the message. “All the good girls go to hell” (a phrase so blunt that I had to restrain myself from writing it in Spongebob meme text) slots so easily into her dark, Halloweenish persona that my instinct as a listener is to interpret the satanic lyrics as a shallow contribution to her aesthetic, rather than an image with deeper meaning. Even knowing the context, I still resist it as a questionable conceit. Other artists are making more specific and/or evocative songs about climate change, and people like Greta Thunberg are showing us that anger and directness are the best forms of climate activism — so, as a musically and lyrically middling cut in Eilish’s discography, “good girls” flounders. And yet, when the stakes are this high, I suppose some effort is better than nothing.
[4]

Hazel Southwell: The better Garbage tracks were the ones with tunes.
[4]

Alfred Soto: The originality of Billie Eilish’s breakthrough comes through on her perkiest tracks. Mumbling through fantasies whose outcomes she’s so certain about, implicating herself as a good girl and a good girl who’d risk going to hell for those same fantasies she’s barely limned, she proves herself a typical adolescent, albeit one with a sense of tunes and an ear for organ lines. 
[6]

Joshua Copperman: “My Strange Addiction” is such an obvious choice for a single. I’d push the Invisalign track to radio before I pushed this.
[5]

Will Adams: While I question the decision to make this the next single when “My Strange Addiction” is right! there!, this is another strong example of Billie Eilish’s kinetic energy. She plays the devil, sneers about Saint Peter, gestures toward our current climate calamities and invokes the pop good-girls-vs.-bad-girls trope, all while the mischievous track twitters away. The message ends up a little garbled, but the conviction is there.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: “Heartless”-Watch 2K19 continues, somehow. To be fair, this also occasionally sounds like Regina Spektor and “All That She Wants.” And it also sounds like Billie Eilish, albeit a slight version thereof.
[5]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Tacky sonics (synths and bass directly from Homestuck Vol. 7, vocal effects from 2015 Halsey) and even tackier faux-sacrilegious lyrics, but Eilish’s charisma wins out even still. I was going to write something about not knowing what level of irony she’s on here but it doesn’t even matter — the song works solely on the good time she’s having.
[6]

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Headie One – Both

We have thoughts on samples again…


[Video]
[5.50]

Hazel Southwell: Can’t describe how soothing some good grime flow over a melancholy sample of Ultra Naté’s “Free” is if you’ve spent any time at all conscious in Britain recently.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: People will return to monoliths like “Free” for a long time to come, but it’s what they do with them that’s interesting. Comparing this with MNEK’s recent take leaves it looking quite uninspired. Headie One clearly has experience of the whole semantic gamut of the word trap, but the tension that could provide beside Ultra Naté just isn’t apparent in a song that quickly becomes monotonous.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Grumbling melancholic sound-as-vision with guitars prettier than expected. 
[6]

Tim de Reuse: Pro: The quiet arpeggios of the beat are a great contrast to his clunky, percussive flow. Con: The word “Both” is such an awkward combination of phonemes to base a song around that after a couple listens I’ve reached that point where it’s stopped sounding like a word entirely.
[6]

William John: It’s nice to hear the “Free” sample again, but MNEK paired it with a far more befitting vivaciousness and emotional intensity two years ago, and Headie One’s dour approach to self-aggrandisement is far less appealing.
[4]

Will Adams: I, for one, am wholly in favor of Ultra Naté’s “Free” becoming as popular a sample as, like, the Amen break.
[6]