Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Jeremih ft. YG – Don’t Tell ‘Em

Points off for not having a video in which Jeremih wears a black spandex bodysuit


[Video][Website]
[6.10]

Hazel Robinson: Fuck yeah, “Rhythm Is a Dancer” sample. I can get behind this; it appears to have a sense of both fun and the urgency of languidly winding around completely shitfaced, song slowed down enough to suit the summer heat. It’s like the “Chris Brown samples Robyn S” incident but without the inherent grossness of finding yourself enjoying a Chris Brown track. It’s completely seasonal, of course — this is for precisely the point of way-too-warm that we’re in right now and probably the precise combination of hedonism, laziness and appreciation for the familiar that I’m in right now. But I’m pretty confident that’s no kind of unique state in the sweaty height of yet another recession summer.
[8]

Brad Shoup: He talks Chicago, but YG’s got the bars. Still, he picks up on the title, rapping about secret DMs and snitching and pseudonyms — total above and beyond move, and Jeremih’s “oh”s play up the event. Mustard’s got a great bass melody, but it’s running a little counter to the Snap! lift. Nothing as bad as Jeremih fucking up the rhythm with his fourth-quarter ad-libs, though.
[5]

Iain Mew: The short time since the last calmer version of “Rhythm is a Dancer” doesn’t help, but leaning so heavily on it makes “Don’t Tell ‘Em” plodding and predictable. It doesn’t even play into the story in an interesting or witty way. Jeremih improves it in flashes, but mostly sounds hemmed in, and could do with the freedom that YG gets.
[4]

Megan Harrington: I’m never more delighted than when YG looks at his ringing phone and wonders aloud “Oh? Whose number is this?” He pauses to look up and then shoves the phone in your face, shouting “It’s your bitch!” It stings, but you must admit YG got you pretty good. 
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: “Nine-three-four-eight-six-one-six,” begins YG, concern-trolling like a motherfucker. “I just got a missed call from your bitch?” Damn. Maybe she too is a sucker for a Snap! interpolation.
[7]

Alfred Soto: He’s got a couple of moist sex jams to his credit, but this is about as sexy as Chinese food left in the rain. The use of repeated catchphrases and interpolating “Rhythm Is a Dancer” sounds jerryrigged to get him back on the charts. 
[4]

Anthony Easton: This is heavily produced, glittering, and artifical trash, with the echo chamber playing a kind of endlessly mirrored pop luxe paranoia. The opening 10 seconds might be the best sound I’ve heard in pop music this year. 
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: There’s minimalism, and then there’s a track that’s just empty. DJ Mustard is like the black hole of R&B and hip-hop production in ’14. Also, YG is an idiot, and Jeremih can do better (than both YG and this song).
[2]

Josh Love: Feels like paint-by-numbers Mustard, though I do appreciate how he’s managed to make such a huge chunk of the charts cohere under his chilly hedonistic vision.
[5]

Crystal Leww: “Body like the summer” is a perfect simile, so perfect that I wonder why no one’s ever tried it before. You know exactly what Jeremih means when he says that: body like that mesh croptop and sparkly blue shorts combo, body like sipping on half lemonade, half iced tea, all whiskey, body like sweating and his hands on your waist and his breath against your neck. Jeremih is that boy who likes 90s house tracks in a dorky way but holy shit doesn’t seem dorky at all. Not by the way that he’s dancing or touching or smirking or…
[9]

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

f(x) – Red Light

Jukeboxers agree: It’s Better Than Tiesto!


[Video][Website]
[6.67]

Madeleine Lee: I find this song hard to love, and it’s not because it’s bad, but because it’s intimidating. Where other songs with this kind of pile-on organizational structure end up limp or directionless, “Red Light” wields its beat changes with purpose, and if you can’t keep up, too bad. I may find it hostile, but I’ll still dance to it, in a circle facing my friends and with my elbows out.
[6]

Anthony Easton: For a song called “Red Light,” does anything move faster, refuse any guidelines including narrative, and just speed into a kind of fucked up oblivion? Gorgeous and smooth with textures that work like Adderall after an all nighter.
[8]

Iain Mew: Nothing ever stops moving, there’s a clock ticking extra fast to emphasise the hurry, and the effect is like turning the disorientating transitions of “I Got a Boy” or “Wolf” into an entire song. The ease that f(x) bring to the vocals holds it together — they always sound in control of where they’re going, and that makes whizzing through the harsh landscape thrilling rather than uncomfortable.
[8]

Patrick St. Michel: “Try to breathe for a moment,” f(x) sing, but good luck with that. “Red Light” is controlled chaos at its finest, a whirring song that packs in so many details and zips off in so many directions at once that it should break down at some point. Clocks tick, bass rumbles like its processing itself through a talkbox, and voices spill into and over one another. And that’s all just before the faux-chorus breakdown swivels into a finale full of disembodied voices stuttering off in the back. It’s disorganization made orderly — it took five people total to write and two to produce — and great evidence that overproduction works wonders when everything clicks into place just right, even if the end result is sort of suffocating.   
[8]

Hazel Robinson: Aw, man. This was all menacing bass and Little Mix strut, and then it hits the boshed up bit and drops the menace completely, like it turning out the gun pointed at your head is a super soaker.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Its kinetics impressive, it nevertheless boats spongy keyboards and an air horn transition — in 2014 the most obnoxious musical element. Yellow means proceed with caution, you know.
[5]

Megan Harrington: In translation, f(x)’s red light is the universal sign for stop, but from the spooky ringing rotary phone that opens the music video to the crank thrush of the beat, “Red Light” sounds devilish. I can’t help but imagine eyeballs glowing red in the dark and rooms stained red with blood. Something sinister lurks beneath the creaking dance floor boards. 
[7]

Brad Shoup: Harsher than “STUPiG,” my 2014 gold standard for pop needle detonation. Once you get past the refrain’s PCD first half, there’s some shrill — and astounding — harmonies. They don’t have long to register, because once the track establishes its excellent boom-bap/croaking Benassi-style synthbass combo, it’s off to the death races.
[5]

Jessica Doyle: Multiple people (including myself) have in the past fallen into the trap of looking to f(x) as a more “authentic”/creative/independent/pick-your-vaguely-positive-adjective alternative to the K-pop girl-group formula, now running on overdrive: all the SISTARs and Stellars and Girls’ Days and Tahitis and AOAs and Dal*Shabets competing to be the next SNSD, or at the very least the next Miss A. Such thinking is comforting — interesting maximalist beats! arty packaging! Amber! — and, like a lot of comforting thinking, bullshit. The K-indie scene exists, and f(x) is not part of it. The lack of overtly sexual choreography is almost certainly SM Entertainment’s decision rather than the group’s; the skittering cockroach beat comes courtesy of a UK-based publishing house who has also written for DBSK and Super Junior (as well as Little Mix and Miley Cyrus); and when not opening “Red Light” Krystal has been filming a gentle reality show with her sister Jessica… of SNSD. I love “Red Light” for its impressive packaging of ambiguity — the pleas to slow down and breathe that come right before the chorus kicks in; the chill in the production versus the affectionate warning of the lyrics; the gloomy atmosphere versus Krystal’s shrug at 3:20 — but don’t mistake it for anything revolutionary, in terms of personal expression. The machine is capable of a lot. The women currently working with the machine are capable of a lot.
[9]

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Indiana – Heart on Fire

Our current champion fires again but flickers out (see what we did there?!?!?!)…


[Video][Website]
[6.58]
Mallory O’Donnell: “Don’t push me, cuz/I’m close to the edge,” Indiana intones, evoking “The Message,” to be sure, but speaking for all of us eternal, infernal romantics even more. “Heart On Fire” describes a person on a precipice, ready to fall in love but uncertain of the necessity of a particular object. “When my heart is open/my heart is open.” The particulars are irrelevant (as is the absurd video, mostly), the process is all.
[10]

Katherine St Asaph: “I really want to make this happen”: oh no, it’s a nonstarter already. There are other issues — mostly, you don’t set “with every heartbeat” to marble percussion without sending the would-be receptive listener shrugging straight back to Robyn. But the intro betrays too much defeat. I’ve got little use anymore for music that simply mirrors my life. What I need is music that heightens, that plunges me into happening as if into strong dye. “Solo Dancing” was that: dancing turned intensity. This is dancing turned resignation.
[5]

Iain Mew: The sense of inward focus is just as strong as in “Solo Dancing,” but the narrative’s inverted. That song was about pushing the world out to claim a space of your own; this time Indiana’s in retreat from the world, pulling up her duvet and settling into soft isolation. That change means a great showcase for her voice and ability to bring subtle emotion out of the slightest of lines, and sets up the bridge that’s the song’s big pay-off. “With my heart on fire,” vast strength suddenly flowing, feels like not so much like a dream as an out of body experience, even before “I begin to fly”.
[9]

Anthony Easton: Less of a meta-workout than her previous single, less cryptic, and I think less emotionally open, but how she talks about falling to pieces has a kind of frozen and broken Pet Shop Boys ennui, and it suggests potential.
[6]

Hazel Robinson: I keep thinking I’ll be into Indiana because I’m listening to so much tremulous, melodic folktronica-step or whatever we’re calling this, but it’s just all a bit “eh.” I’m not sure what the missing ingredient in this really very pleasant combination of strobelike synths and gently swaying beats is, but it stops short of hitting me in the breathy dancefloor feels it’s aiming for, making the whole thing sound weaker than it probably is; maybe in any year when I hadn’t been spoilt by the Kyla La Grange album I’d be breaking down the door for this, but it just never quite connects.
[6]

David Sheffieck: A collection of lyrical references in search of a song. They’re good references, but still.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: Serviceable, perfectly fine dance-pop a la Kylie circa 2002. Not sure why everyone’s so over the moon about her, though.
[6]

Alfred Soto: She’s got a voice as clenched as a fist, supple enough for Euroglide beats but not resourceful enough to convey suppressed hysteria. Despite the Middle Eastern melodies that flit through the mix and the weird, excellent nasality with which she experiments in the last third, “Solo Dancing” made this gesture superfluous.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: It would be impossible to repeat the bolt from the blue of “Solo Dancing. Now she’s got your attention, it makes sense for Indiana to move closer to conventional. The verse melody is ripped straight from the heart of “Beat Again”, a nice bit of thematically apt theft were it not obviously a coincidence, but where Aston Merrygold hammed it up thrillingly, Indiana’s permanent plainness leaves the song wanting somewhat; not weird enough and not quite catchy enough either.
[6]

Brad Shoup: Honestly, going off the ledge may not be the worst thing for Indiana. The neatest thing she does here — turning her voice into a curling New Age flutey loop — gets buried after the intro. She steps out for the bridge, which scans like a worship chorus sung in high dudgeon, but otherwise it’s like listening to four Ellie Goulding songs at once.
[6]

Josh Love: She’s regressed from providing Cliff’s Notes to a Robyn song title (“Dancing On My Own” helpfully halved to “Solo Dancing”) to simply hijacking “With Every Heartbeat” and plopping it into the chorus. The distracting Grandmaster Flash nick doesn’t help considering Robyn’s also proven conversant with hip-hop. All that said, this is a sweetly kinetic pop song, with enough pulse to put over the guilelessness of the vocals. And at least she’s not Swedish.
[7]

Megan Harrington: I’ll cop to ownership of easily plied emotions, but even with a low bar set, Indiana’s “I begin to fly” false ending is soaring. It sails over that bar, it arches at the clouds, and it boomerangs Earthward with a shimmery, floating climax that sounds like the sea meeting the sky at the horizon line of a pink sunset.
[9]

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Dizzy Sunfist – Sulley

Via Tara, some Japanese pop/ska/punk for the season…


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Mark Sinker: In the video the logo on singer-guitarist Ayapeta’s T-shirt says “LBGB”, which I didn’t recognise and wanted to decode (it’s in the old CBGBs font). Indonesian pop-punkers Human Idiots have a song by this name — which may of course be totally irrelevant. It’s a puzzle, and diving into it reminded me of long ago, scouring for anything about my beloved long-lost Mummy the Peepshow – except now you quickly end up with way more than you can process; endless youtube rabbitholes, baffling and hilarious google-translated interviews; lists of names in ads for shows in cities you’ve never heard of… Probably I should ask a cap-E Expert (there’s a LOT of Pacific Rim Pop-Punk), but the hunt is half the joy. I’ve learnt (a) a year ago Dizzy Sunfist were less kiddy-punk powerpop than this seems; that (b) Ayapeta has a near-feral grin, which adds something unsettling to the infectious fizz here; that (c) they can kinda play; that (d) Dizzy Sunfist is a terrific nom de guerre
[8]

Jer Fairall: The most aptly named band ever.
[6]

Patrick St. Michel: Bands like this are all over the Japanese live-music scene, and the recent boom in summer music festivals in the country means only more and more of these sort of acts are going to come up, as the demand for energetic sounds people can bounce around to rises. Unlike other fest regulars from the Caffeine Bomb roster, Dizzy Sunfist avoid drama or empty political flexing in favor of pure good times. “Sulley” is all lovey-dovey devotion and shout-along choruses, channeling all sorts of Japanese ska-punk bands without having to bust out a horn section.
[7]

Brad Shoup: Ska-punk, so loose and technical. It’s hard to have both, but it’s harder to hear this kind of thing anymore. Total posi approach over roll-filled breakdowns, Less Than Jake-style barre chords, and a points-for-trying chorded rockabilly solo. Give me horns and this wrecks the curve.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: I own too many Dollyrots mp3s not to like this.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Their enthusiasm puts over this OK tune, and it’s easy to imagine this playing in Lucas Moodysson’s We Are the Best, albeit with the curse words substituting for “sulley.”
[6]

Megan Harrington: I require a heat so intense my eyeballs sweat if I’m going to unreservedly rattle my head to sunny ska-punk. I’m unfortunately in the midst of a summertime polar vortex, and “Sulley” ricochets past me on its way to the party. 
[6]

Hazel Robinson: I think I’d like to be the sort of person who a) owns a pair of jeans and b) likes this sort of music. It seems like a good time. I want to be totally into charming, sunny, all-girl ska’n’roll (or something?) groups who sound like a bottle of fizzy pop getting shaken up, I bet their knees aren’t too dodgy to go skateboarding and they can wear Converse without their feet curling up and dying. It’s straightforward and direct and, like buying one of those chequerboard belts and a few thong necklaces, it’s not pretending to be anything but a very particular identity. And it does it adorably, it’s not the song’s fault my heart is cold and charred and incapable of feeling excitement about having just totally got some Blink tickets, man.
[6]

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Alt-J – Hunger of the Pine

I don’t know anymore whether it’s OK to like them yet or not, so here’s a 5…


[Video][Website]
[5.60]

Iain Mew: Alt-J made my favourite album of 2012, but I failed at putting my finger on why they stood out. Then I saw them live and something clicked, not from their careful recreation of the album but from a cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Slow”. It clearly wasn’t a novelty cover, not just because it was a meticulous version of a song with relatively low recognition value but because the lines through from “Slow” to their own slow and seductive “Tessellate” became so obvious. I realised that they’re a band who tried to marry together ’00s Kylie and These New Puritans, and from the barely compatible parts somehow fused a looking glass version of mainstream indie, familiar but reinvigorated. “Hunger of the Pine” both offers further evidence for a pop-incorporating approach and stretches it toward the breaking point. Indie dudes using a sample of Miley Cyrus singing “I’m a female rebel” is a big step up from Kylie covers in uncomfortable implications — are they supporting Miley? Mocking? Taking claim? Just using her for clickbait? Is there any good answer? The way they use the sample to add force to the song’s dark slither, though, a hook to poke through like a spikier version of the saxophone blasts elsewhere, is effective.
[7]

Alfred Soto: A minute and a half of Kid A-era keyboards get tiresome. Then the singer gets sensitive over a pulsating backbeat. Imagine an Urban Hang Suite track given the electro-indie treatment — which was what most of UHS prefigured, to be honest.
[5]

Hazel Robinson: I am a thousand years old and get all my new music by looking at what’s trending on Spotify, which is why I thought Alt-J was some sort of young person’s what-young-people-who-aren’t-from-south-London-call-dubstep artist. Not that I’m against that sort of thing. But I wasn’t expecting arboreal, soft lushness; this does actually sound like the muffled noises and creaks of a pine forest. I mean, it’s kind of crappy, I suspect — it’s not trying especially hard to do anything more than create the effect of a pause, and the use of the phrase “female rebel” makes me want to slap them with a dick enough that this isn’t going on any of my ‘interesting enough to merit further investigation’ playlists, BUT if you happen to be stoned out of your tree right now, this is gonna make you feel a lot of weird thrum-y things. 
[7]

Brad Shoup: It’s a lovesickness song, so “pine” is only sorta about wood. It’s also about poorly disguising your abstractions. The keyboard layering is fantastic, a vista of awakening. And BOOM comes the Miley swipe, turning this into someone’s first mashup post on Soundcloud. Mind you, if I’d mixed Kid A and Bangerz at 17, I’d still be listening to it, regardless of thematic cohesion or clashing rhythms. But I was mostly worried about melding intros and outros, so I dodged a bullet there.
[5]

Juana Giaimo: “Hunger of the Pine” is a lot more than a Miley Cyrus sample, but it also deeply depends on it. It shows Alt-J exploring new territories. They don’t rely on the bass anymore since Gwil Sainsbury’s departure, but they find its smoothness in the electronics while the lonely saxophone adds a hypnotizing nocturne atmosphere. Still, they knew how to keep their subtle pop essence — and that’s when the Miley sample comes in, her provocative vocals adding a completely different texture. As always, it’s impossible not to pay attention to her. 
[9]

Thomas Inskeep: Minor-league, pre-free jazz Radiohead. Subtle and nice and a grower.
[6]

Cédric Le Merrer: Listened to this as well as several other upcoming Jukebox songs on a sleepy train trip, which is probably the best circumstances you can dream up for Alt-J: the sleepiness makes you appreciate the pretty textures, and the relative stillness of the track is given a dramatic dimension when contrasted with the moving scenery. For the first time, I kinda get their appeal as new Radioheads for sleepy people. Which doesn’t mean that their supposedly daring use of vocal samples becomes less jarring, nor that I can tolerate meaningless French gibberish when used in such a serious context.
[4]

Anthony Easton: I was talking to a musician buddy lately about pretty but blank music that was so absent of content, that any sign that one wanted to could slide into it. The classic example ended up being “Holocene,” which I also find quite tender and lovely. The synth break and the hip hop chorus, a kind of chilled out reworking of Avicii’s instincts towards earnestness, would suggest that this was weird enough not to be that blankness. But every time I try to write about this, it kind of melts away from any critical grasp I might have. So maybe it is a good example. 
[5]

Megan Harrington: For most of my life I preferred the taste of Coke to any other soft drink. It was luscious, caramelly, and sophisticated in a life where RC Cola was a treat. During college, surrounded by canny subliminal advertisements and Cosmopolitan magazine, I taught myself to prefer the taste of Diet Coke, light, fizzy, and refreshing. Some handful of years removed from that insecurity, I’ve stopped drinking anything manufactured by Coca Cola. Are Alt-J Diet Radiohead? It hardly matters, neither is hydrating or nutritious. 
[4]

Patrick St. Michel: One of the perks of being a teenager who routinely used Hail To The Thief lyrics as AIM away messages was becoming really good at sniffing out empty comparisons to Radiohead. Rarely were the artists themselves chasing this distinction – as is the case with Alt-J — but rather the media lazily declaring “these guys are the (insert nationality) Radiohead!” Listening to “Hunger of the Pine,” I could at least see where one would get the idea to write that sentence. Beyond lead-singer dude sounding like Thom Yorke, the song is shifty and heady — read: the lyrics were built for message board debate, not like, screaming out a car window. But that’s all it really is — an exercise in “experimental music” that works better as soundtrack than anything else. Let me summon that adolescent me: “Radiohead would totally write a song, man, not peter about.”
[4]

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

The Neighbourhood – Afraid

Dude what if my FACE was the ID?


[Video][Website]
[3.88]

Megan Harrington: Songs where (even dubious) rock stars complain about how hard it is to be a successful rock star are always putrid. Jesse Rutherford doesn’t elaborate on what drives his anxiety and unhappiness. If he’s not going to soul search, why should I? 
[3]

Iain Mew: They’ve got an expansive rock sound that surpasses their peers, this time featuring peals of guitar gathering like dark clouds and a sense of luxury that they wear lightly. They still don’t have a song that does much with it. Neither self-pity or “fuck you” are automatically appealing lyrical modes, and they don’t flesh either out enough.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: Seethes, throbs, broods, all of which would do perfectly well by me if dude hadn’t first scuppered his credibility by wheedling tummy/honey/funny. It’s like Nine Inch Nails fronted by Winnie-the-Pooh.
[2]

Hazel Robinson: I didn’t live through nu-metal for this. “I won’t bite you, you suck anyway” is a good line, but this is in that Imagine Dragons angsty pompcore zone. Needs about 20,000 more guitars, a sense of pace and a boot up the arse.
[3]

David Sheffieck: The production’s immaculately undistinguished, the sort of thing I might play for someone if I needed to encapsulate every trend from 2000s American indie in a few minutes. The vocals, on the other hand, are so shrilly grating that I may have to return to Arcade Fire as my go-to demonstration of the form.
[2]

Will Adams: There’s something so dramatic about “Afraid” — the way the verses feign confidence, tossing weak jeers of “fuck you” and “you suck” only to fall into the chorus’ harrowing admission: “When I wake up, I’m afraid.” And thanks to the wide sonic field from Emile Haynie, deploying the same dusty drum loops and vocal shouts as Born to Die, that drama is all the more palpable.
[7]

Brad Shoup: They splice in modern hip-hop vibes about as well as Del Rey. They’re just awful at everything else.
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: It always feels unfair to consider an overlap between insecurity and narcissism, but given the lack of reasons for the immense paranoia here such thoughts arise. Don’t worry, Neighbourhood Man! It might be that one root to security is recognising your general lack of importance. Obviously you should always contemplate, because certainty is wrong, but your friends probably like you fine and probably aren’t so hung up on your acceptance. They probably even enjoy your music, a bit.
[5]

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Marsha Ambrosius ft. Dr. Dre – Stronger

Must resist urge… to purchase Beats™ brand products… at my local consumer electronics store…


[Video][Website]
[5.33]

Alfred Soto: Exquisite without labor, Ambrosius occasionally at her slackest sounds etherized by passion. On paper Dre’s presence administers the right shocks and laughs, and it’s nice to hear from the male responsible for her orgasmic feints, but the Sade interpolation, pizzicatos, and horns do too much filler work. “Stronger,” Marsha, not “Longer.”
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Well, this is an interesting assemblage of elements: a cover of Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride” set to an iconic sample from Jeru the Damaja’s “Come Clean,” sung by Marsha Ambrosius, and with a guest verse by none other than Dr. Dre. Unfortunately, it all kind of feels like a soufflé that hasn’t quite set. The Jeru sample doesn’t actually add anything to the song; Dre’s verse is completely limp (dude, just quit rapping — at this point you’re like Gramps grabbing the mic at an 8 year old’s birthday party); and while Ambrosius of course sings it all beautifully, I just don’t get the point, because she didn’t do anything particularly notable with it. I want to like this much, much more than I actually do, but it doesn’t deserve any better.
[5]

Hazel Robinson: This is blissfully… I don’t wanna say “retro” because I’m talking about the late 90s but you know, that. And it’s got some really strong emotional shit going on, for about the first two minutes — unfortunately, it doesn’t capitalise on either of these aspects enough to actually get a hook in, somehow, and the end peters out completely.
[6]

Anthony Easton: The introduction is pure atmospheric gorgeousness, like fireflies at dusk. The rest I can take or leave. 
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: So near but yet so far, this hints at something exquisite. The heavenly layering over darkness of “I’m Not In Love”, the ambient bliss of “Lovin’ You” — it’s almost a diurnal counterpoint to the warm summer nights of “Human Nature”. It just doesn’t sound finished. Dre almost leaves the opening two minutes a writeoff, needlessly trampling all over the atmosphere, while Ambrosius is sometimes too low in the mix, blending with it to a degree that the song as a whole would have transcended in replicating.
[5]

Brad Shoup: On the scale of ridiculous things an obscenely rich guy could throw money at, a Marsha Ambrosius single is somewhere between the Freedom Partners Action Fund and a yacht helipad. Not that there aren’t signs of thriftiness — Dre’s rhymes arrived in a doggy bag labeled “The Recipe”, and the intro was scavenged from the Soft Bulletin floor. Around all that is Ambrosius, singing like the fever broke over a broken-rhythm trip-hop track. 
[7]

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Migos – Fight Night

Hannah Montana, Hannah Mont… oh…


[Video][Website]
[5.57]

Crystal Leww: I don’t hear a lot of Migos flow here, but I do hear a lot of Migos’ grrrs, whatwhats, and welps. Lyrically, this is similar to what LoveRance did two years ago with “Up!”, but like that track, it’s grounded in a regional beat. For all the bragging about knocking out pussy, this is not sexy, but it’s not meant to be sexy! It sounds like it’s going for massive summer rap jam, to get people moving on a dance floor. It sounds remarkably similar to “Move that Dope,” so much that DJs could easily drop them close to one another as two 2014 monster rap tracks that get people hype. I can’t remember if that’s what DJ Mustard did on Saturday, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I was dancing during this anyway.
[7]

Brad Shoup: Yo, up in the M.G.M. coked up — psych! Twaun stacks the claps dynamically; sometimes it’s fascist applause for goofy-ass jokes. Quavo’s channeling Eazy doing nursery rhymes, Offset’s verse is actually funnier butchered by the radio edit, Takeoff hacks off his first four lines for the hook, and there’s none of that Migos flow. And yet I’m thoroughly entertained.
[8]

David Sheffieck: Migos continue their 2014 quest to expand the sound they established last year, and they continue to be surprisingly successful in doing so. Having started out with the simplest hooks possible helps, but they seem set on being one of the rare artists who turn seeming one-hit-wonderdom into an actual career.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Yet another excuse for Migos to prattle over a wonderful bass sequencer. They still have nothing to say and sound like they practice to their Chief Keef and Mystikal records every night but it’s not charmless.
[6]

Hazel Robinson: Uuuuuhn not this same beat again, wasn’t this like 2012′s? This is exhaustingly boring and for fuck’s sake, chum, you are not due a Nate Dogg shout out, stop repeating it right now. You’re gonna “knock the pussy out like fight night,” are you, eh? “Hit it with the left, hit it with the right”? Christ, this is the precise sound of someone who thinks they’ve got moves and really doesn’t, and you’re trying to assess whether enduring their inept effort beats paying for a cab.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: “I’m’a knock the pussy out like fight night,” really? Pretty sure that the “lil mama” does not, in fact, “want a nigga like [you] in the sheets.” A shame, really — this beat is seductively stripped-down, and if this song had lyrics worth any kind of damn, I’d likely give this at least a [5]. But it doesn’t.
[2]

Patrick St. Michel: It really speaks to the poor state of professional boxing that this song features zero references to anything in the sport over the past decade, the only direct reference being to Muhammad Ali. I mean, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg and Oprah get in instead of any actual pugilists. Sorta weird too, since these guys actually said “Pacquiao” on “China Town.” Migos stumble here and there — “your language Brokeanese,” yeesh — but for the most part this is forceful stuff peppered with some great delivery (the way dude says “bee!”).
[6]

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

August Alsina ft. Pusha T – FML

For you olds out of the know, it’s an abbreviation of a Latin expression meaning “From the stars, knowledge.”


[Video][Website]
[4.67]

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: AND NOW, BIG FREDDY FEBREZE IS FEELING FOUL! Now that I’ve got that out of my system, what a weird song. I’m always happy to see people pulling the most paranoid impulses of Drumma Boy’s productions, but this nervously toes a thin line between pure sincerity and insincerity. Perhaps it’s down to the title looming over the performance — you can’t outrun memes, but you usually become them.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Pusha does his asshole’s lament, confessing to “overcompensating” while Alsina performs the sensitivity that Ne-Yo was once hired to do.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Pusha T can rap anything and I’ll listen, but his flow can only carry him so far — and since he’s not got much to say on his verse here, his flow is all that he’s got going for him. August Alsina doesn’t have much to say, either, and therein lies the problem, because the song is of course built around him. He’s got a creamy voice, but again, that’s it. I don’t really have the need nor desire to listen to a song called “Fuck My Life”: listen, buddy, we all got problems. 
[3]

Hazel Robinson: This is some Drake-level bullshit moaning. I’d like to think the “fuck my life” refrain means it’s faintly self-aware but… I fear it is not. On the other hand, it is hella pretty; I mean, if it was an OKCupid profile it’s not selling itself well and I sure as fuck don’t wanna date it but I can fairly precisely measure the amount of white wine when I’d think “eh, good eyelashes, go on then.”
[4]

W.B. Swygart: Deeply, deeply inarticulate speech of the heart, from the misjudged usage of the Twitterspeak for “I cannot find my socks” to the bit in the video where he’s singing while hanging from a noose, which is presumably meant to be the “graphic content” you get warned about at the start but just seems like evidence of Ronan Keating’s influence still being very much felt in the modern pop arena.
[4]

Anthony Easton: The guttural, processed, rough, and artificial way he says “fuck my life” is profoundly abject; it breaks the whole song apart, tragically. 
[7]

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Alizée – Alcaline

Gold passion…


[Video][Website]
[6.89]

Hazel Robinson: I really like this, it’s sad and soft and sunlit in exactly the moderately-thumping synth-heavy emo-in-disguise way I fucking love. Which is convenient, since feeling like a sucker for a song is exactly what it’s about — closed-eyes euphoria even as you deconstruct that this isn’t the greatest piece of music ever but right now it’s filling up your heart like drug.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: The squall of that backing brings to mind a discharge of current. The bass brings to mind New Order. Alizée romps playfully over the top of both; she is not commanding, but she is slyly smooth. Indeed, this is her best single since her second album, before she split with Farmer/Bouttonat — only a minor delicacy, but a delicacy regardless.
[7]

Will Adams: For almost fifteen years, Alizée has made the most of her thin voice, producing disposable (and deceptively bubblegum) pop. “Alcaline” is right up that alley: tissue-paper thin with smeared backing vocals and a da-dum hook. But it lacks the kick of her previous hits, skating by on its just-okay chorus, which almost makes up for the dull music-as-life lyrics.
[6]

Alfred Soto: In the tradition of Eighth Wonder’s “I’m Not Scared” — wispy singers using French in kittenish pursuits, with synbeats as catnip. Works every time.
[6]

Abby Waysdorf: Delightfully frothy Eurodisco, something I’d be pleased to find in a compilation randomly purchased in a foreign record store and include in mixes for the next year. It’s the chorus that particularly pleases: bouncy and cutesy without tipping over into cloying. It’s something French pop has always been good at and it’s great to see that it’s still capable of doing so. 
[8]

Brad Shoup: Reminds me of the effervescent psychedelia of Zedd’s “Spectrum,” with the mournful zags in Matthew Koma’s vocal melody swapped out for a radioactive one-string guitar low. In her higher, more Auto-Tuned moments, she sounds like a sterling Japanese pop idol.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: A so-so electro-pop skip boosted up when the vocals get smothered in sweet, sweet Auto-Tune — should have just dunked the whole song in. 
[6]

Mark Sinker: The song is strangely wispy-pretty and fragile for a declaration that music is an “alkaline battery which runs on adrenaline” (pardon my English). Back back back (blonde blonde blonde). 
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: Wispy, throbby pop that wavers between chart dancepop from four years ago and, I dunno, Ladytron. I like the latter better.
[6]