Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Thea & The Wild – City of Gold

Reader Ian takes us into less controversial territory.


[Video][Website]
[7.62]

Ian Lefkowitz: Of all the feelings kicked up by 2017 — anger, resistance– among the most profound for me is that of disillusionment. The insidious thing about disillusionment is how it rewards your most cynical internal voice, preying upon your memories to make you feel foolish and privileged for ever having had hope in the first place. I don’t recommend staying in this headspace long, but if you need it to be soundtracked, I recommend Thea Raknes’ lonely indie-disco single about a relationship that may have been lost, or may have never really existed in the first place. “City of Gold” isn’t as relentless as some of Thea’s other singles, but she always has a propulsive energy to her work, deftly reaching into her yearning head voice with restraint. It’s a song built for twilights, when you can best pair the city of gold with a sky of vermillion.
[9]

Alfred Soto: Haim-like in its electronic gloss, the steadiness of its pulse, and the commitment to beguiling surfaces, “City of Gold” begins as relationship trauma and ends as a sigh — the world’s fucked up and it ain’t getting better, but at least we have our machines.
[7]

Iain Mew: The moody setup and impeccable production are a fine start, but the song leaves me unsatisfied in the end. It’s something about how tamely it progresses; there is never enough of a sense of any kind of wonder, glimpsed and lost or otherwise.
[5]

Tim de Reuse: Clunky, dreamy ear candy; gorgeous to half-listen to, but when you pay too much attention you might start getting irritated at the sheer weight of the formless, downy fluff that comes to rest on top of the big finale like a snow bank.
[7]

Claire Biddles: With shades of MUNA and Solange’s “Losing You,” “City of Gold” is an 80s-influenced track that has the melodic charm and intensity of feeling to elevate it past genre pastiche and towards the stars. There’s something magical about the emotional complexity that is deftly wrung from such a deceptively simple hook.
[9]

Olivia Rafferty: So endearing is that climb up and down melodic hillsides with a steady, unrelenting pace. These fuzzy synths and hopeful vocals just beg for a sheer blouse and a moonlit night. “City of Gold” is real dancing-on-my-own pop music, for sure.
[8]

Julian de Valliere: “City of Gold” is essentially a song about torment — how a person can find themselves trapped in a cycle of revisiting past memories, rekindling old emotions, constantly wishing to rewrite history until every cliff-hanger is turned into a happy ending. It’s also a song about transition, and how that can be a special kind of torment on its own — being not quite far enough along to find fresh happiness in the new, but too far removed to find any comfort in the old.
[8]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The title leads me to believe that what we’re hearing in the intro is the sound of people digging for gold (and specifically, it sounds like something that could have soundtracked Bill Morrison’s Dawson City: Frozen Time). As it fades into the actual instrumentation, the snares clang like pickaxes: a cruel reminder of all the hope and excitement and work that defined this relationship. Thea Raknes is left grieving, in disbelief of how something — someone — could leave her like this. The instrumentation is appropriately repetitive, creating a space in which she can reside. As she reflects and processes, the warmth of these synths embrace her like a close friend. Even the shaker, placed rather forward in the mix, acts as a source of appreciated support; its sense of constant movement is vital for someone who feels so paralyzed. Those spurts of guitar in the second verse are like a sudden burst into tears, but it’s Raknes’s warbling cries in the outro that truly help us understand that she’s not just hurting, but healing.
[8]

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Clipping. – The Deep

Recommended to us by Kamal, it’s our second run in with Daveed Diggs and co.


[Video][Website]
[6.88]

Nortey Dowuona: Daveed is such a great writer. Just…listen. I can’t describe this. Just listen.
[10]

Tim de Reuse: Splendor and Misery is now the second-most out-there story that Daveed Diggs has narrated recently, I guess. But that was a full album with room to stretch out and poke at various facets of its relatively simple narrative; this one song tries to fit twice as many story beats into five scant minutes. It’s corny as hell, too — and that’s fine! The problem is that it spends way too much time hurrying through exposition and so little on using this outlandish setting to get at some kind of thematic center. Diggs is as lovely as always when he finally gets going, and the creeping build in intensity is a neat gimmick, but I can’t shake the feeling that this would’ve been more affecting if they’d just resisted the urge to explain everything and let the imagery unnerve us. 
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The legacy of Drexciya is a problematic one, more problematic than many of those who tip the hat like to admit. While conceptually, the group has enjoyed a benevolent status due to such a singular vision and imagination, sonically they’ve become almost fetishized and weaponized against their peers. I don’t think Gerald Donald necessarily minds his canonization, but do you think he occasionally wonders how his music is treated with a greater reverence than the works of some of his peers and influences? “The Deep” is funny to me because its themes, design and concept are so indebted to the aquatic afro-futurism of Drexciya. Granted, there are tips of the hat in approach here by Clipping. to as disparate a palette of taste as Cash Money, Outkast, and even label-mates Shabazz Palaces, but their humor is a studious one that betrays a certain self-serious stiffness. Their aquatic pursuits don’t have the specular Narcissal navel-gazing of Hendrix or A.R. Kane, or the tricknowledgery of George Clinton or CVE’s NGA Fsh but instead end up at a series of re-enactment through tribute pieces to fantasies, turning to metaphors as totems of truth. Its competency in connecting legacies over such formal threads in so many ways makes it seem as if they’ve failed to consider how to be themselves more than their inspirations for the day.
[4]

Iain Mew: A story told in a series of increasingly frenzied impressionistic parts, complete with chapter breaks. The build works better musically than narratively but I was on side as soon as they gave a delicious new turn to the words “started from the bottom.” And by the time they bring in the Final Fantasy VII arpeggios, the deep lost world feel is irresistable.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: A mighty impressive bit of performance poetry, and I don’t mean that as an insult; a really good piece of poetry recital can be utterly spellbinding. This is definitely compelling, but I find the actual music a bit of a turn-off and a distraction, detracting from Daveed Diggs’ commanding reading.
[7]

Anthony Easton: I feel uncomfortable writing about this — like how “Formation” was for, by and about Black Women, Clipping’s genius Afrofuturist production, leaning through Butler and Delaney, arguing for a timeless elliptic black time, claims hip-hop as originating on the middle passage, saying that the politics of dance was a way not to drown. Literally drown, the ships bells, the sound of water (this is the motion of sound on water), the samples of submarine noise and that hint of a trap beat — made more so by the hopeful possibility of surfacing. 
[10]

Alfred Soto: A better lecture than as a piece of music, even musique concrète 
[4]

Will Adams: “The Deep” rises to the surface like leveling up, each verse faster than the previous, intercut with cutscenes that set the sci-fi atmosphere. The payoff comes in the land level, a romp through a desolate wasteland. Our narrator Daveed Diggs is with us the whole way, guiding with a firm hand that lets us take in the beauty of the surroundings while also making sure we’re paying attention to the story.
[7]

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Kirin J Callinan ft. Alex Cameron, Molly Lewis & Jimmy Barnes – Big Enough

Via Asher, here’s this complete dickhead (trust me, he’d take it as a compliment).


[Video][Website]
[3.30]

William John: Larrikinism — the idea that one can be excused from idiocy because of one’s outward goodness — is one of the many unfortunate legacies of Australia’s colonial history, and it lives and breathes in Kirin J Callinan, Sydney-based musician and self-proclaimed provocateur. Callinan’s curriculum vitae includes conducting a “stunt” during his set at a Melbourne music festival in which an actor playing an epileptic was subjected to strobe lighting, ostensibly then inducing a seizure, and leaving an audience mostly confused and disgusted. As recently as last month, he flashed his genitalia on a red carpet in front of teenagers waiting to get a glimpse of Harry Styles; he’s also faced criticism for engaging in blackface and transphobia. His modus operandi is not too far off that of recent visitor to Australia Milo Yiannopoulos — shitpost at the expense of disenfranchised, then sit back and enjoy the attention. We’re supposed to ignore these transgressions because Callinan’s an artist; he’s a larrikin. Not on the evidence of this horrible song, which pairs cereal-box EDM templates with winking, gormless vocals, employs a Jimmy Barnes scream or two for memeability, takes a trip through an atlas’ index, and finishes with a needlessly long passage of whistles. It’s performativity dressed up as auteur absurdism, “irony” and “satire” from someone whose identity prevents them from ever being truly marginalised by those techniques, and an unwitting submission for Best Newcomer at the Milkshake Duck of the Year Awards.
[0]

Iain Mew: The voice and the style are both just close enough for me to imagine Callinan’s bits as if they were Patrick Wolf really leaning into kitsch, and now I can’t stop laughing.
[7]

Katie Gill: I don’t think Kirin J. Callinan knows how to structure a joke. Because obviously this song is a joke song, anything that starts off with a whistle chorus then morphs to a pseudo-cowboy pseudo-EDM feel then changes to Jimmy Barnes screaming his lungs out and ends with a “Dancing in the Street” roll call of countries HAS to be a joke. But again: the structure is weird. The punchline’s going to be seen as Jimmy Barnes screaming his lungs out, as it straight up overshadows the purposefully ridiculous lyrics but then…there’s another two minutes of a song that’s too sincere to be entirely absurd and too absurd to be entirely sincere. Either go full tilt “Jackson Park Express” and fully commit to Jimmy Barnes screaming throughout the entire song or go home.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Solid, loping drums, indistinct guitars at the fringes of the mix while tinny synths whir and pulse W while the two singers sing in weirdly stylized voices reminiscent of Western theme songs while Mrs. Lewis provides a cooing whistle HOLY SHIT SCREAMING COWBOY THEY NAMEDROPPPED GHANA YESSSSS.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: God I’m sick of this shitty Australian irony that thinks there’s wit in replacing any kind of sentiment with a smirk, the sort of shitty irony that leads a jack-ass Northern Beaches kid to think it’s a good idea to get his dick out at an award ceremony in the same week that, in his country, major entertainment figures were being exposed as sex creeps and workplace psychopaths. His is an all-too-familiar parody of Australian masculinity that asserts remove at the same time it demands distance, indulging in crassness not so much as critique but as a way to soften, to reposition, and to make newly palatable old patterns of power. Which could well account for the Chisel: I have never cared for Jimmy Barnes, but his career of stolid blue-collar sincerity deserves better than the memeification to which he’s subject here, amidst dumb synths that are only supposed to suggest grandeur in the way a really elaborate shitpost is. You could compare Callinan to Brandon Flowers to find how exactly he’s wanting: where The Killers mine the gaucheness of classic rock to discover the ex-frontier’s embarrassed romanticism, Callinan is a dumb troll doing panto Peter Allen (“I’ve lived in lonely cities…”) as if, by winking hard enough, he might will Capital-A Art into being. I’ve liked things this guy has done in the past, but “Big Enough” is a shit song and Kirin J. Callinan is increasingly proving himself a shit performer whom Australian music can do without.
[1]

Alex Clifton: Somehow “electropop parody screaming maybe-gay cowboy call for unity” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this delight — and yes, it’s a delight, unnecessary key change and all. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian cowboy living in India or a Muslim cowboy living in Australia; this gang really, really wants you to come join them. The mix of genres itself is admittedly weird, but there’s a heart to this song, an emotional core that strikes past the memed videos of the screaming cowboy. “Big Enough” is more moving than some of the more overtly tear-jerking songs of 2017, parody or not. The performers genuinely care about the source materials; everything feels affectionate and full of heart. Moreover, sometimes screaming is the only way to fully convey that emotion. I found myself crying with laughter when it first hit around the 2:25 mark, but it also acts as a genuine emotional release. Words fail us across cultures and can lose their nuance in translation; screaming, however, is universal. Hats off.
[8]

Will Adams: But like, even the meme part of this song isn’t even in the top fifty memes of this year.
[2]

Alfred Soto: I wish I had a clue what the four names intended by being involved in this unappealing mishmash other than scoring future soft drink commercials.
[2]

Stephen Eisermann: I was one of those over-eager students who always raised their hands in class even if they weren’t one-hundred percent sure of the answer. It was so bad, in fact, that I still cringe when people use a word in its definition when they are asked what said word means. “Don’t use a word if you don’t know its definition,” they always said, but some words are just so goddamn hard to explain. And yeah, I’m sure it’s bad practice to use a song’s lyrics to review its artistry, but I’m just at a loss for words otherwise. Thus, my thoughts on this song can be summed up with the following excerpt from the aforementioned song: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.”
[0]

Edward Okulicz: This is a spectacularly awful song, created and performed with an insufferable, irreverent smirk by someone patting themselves on their back for crawling out of their privilege with the barest minimum level of wokeness. Cheap in sound, cheap in sentiment, built on gimmicks but lacking anything memorable other than the wail of Jimmy Barnes used for cheap lols, and a shit dance bit for bros who probably think dance music is for fags. Well fuck them and fuck Kirin J Callinan too. This song says and means nothing and I hope nobody else is fooled.
[1]

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Mabel Matiz – Ya Bu İşler Ne

And finally, via Rui, a Turkish artist and chart-topper…


[Video][Website]
[6.17]

Alfred Soto: With a hint of “Solsbury Hill” in the riff, Mabel Matiz takes this Turkish pop song with hints of folk to unexpected places — a track that balks against its limits.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: Solid and indistinct drums, a nice fog of synths rumbling with a lumbering bass and a cast-off guitar and a trumpet somewhere in here. Matiz sings softly and indistinctly and leaves the spaces open.
[4]

Edward Okulicz: Definitely a lot to take in, but Turkish elements crept into the fringes of Western pop years ago, which means its tropes are comfortable while still being a nice change when you listen. The string sweeps bring up the curtain on some quality despair, and the effect is that of a poem I can’t understand on top of a delicate riff that I can.
[6]

Leonel Manzanares: Clever guitar/electrified oud playing aside, what makes this quite intriguing is the almost deep house-like gradual sense of release — the production space stars growing into the ether after the first pre-chorus, taking the main vocal into another dimension. It’s also a matter of finding the right tempo; the slightest bpm difference, in any direction, wouldn’t make it this enthralling. 
[8]

Madeleine Lee: Matiz is a magnetic presence, and his delivery of the cryptic lyrics keeps a light hand as he winds through the beat in complement to the rise and fall of the other instrumentation. As much as I like listening to this, though, I still think the instrumental break and outro are both twice as long as they need to be.
[7]

Alex Clifton: The video had me at the marble bust with the Bowie makeup; the song took a little longer to grow on me. However, it’s a slow build that’s worth it; the last minute crashes in all at once, becoming intoxicating. With lines like “the world falls apart,” this the sort of melancholic banger I can handle this year. A bit repetitive overall, but I care less about that when I’m dancing through the flames.
[6]

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Pabllo Vittar – K.O.

Via Luca, a Brazilian drag queen who broke out with a Portuguese-language cover of “Lean On,” is now thankfully more original than that…


[Video][Website]
[6.83]

Luca Zingali Meira: Pabllo’s ascension from just one of many drag queens having a big moment after Drag Race got popular to one of Brazil’s biggest stars still surprises me a bit. The rise of reactionary thought has hit us as much as anywhere else, and it feels important to have a popular voice pointing in another direction. But it was unavoidable: “K.O.” is a giddy song about finding love and being shocked by it’s power. It’s loud, it’s showing of and it’s got the horns to match. The ones knocked out were everyone else.
[10]

Iain Mew: Streaming numbers just keep on getting absurdly bigger, from the top on down. That includes the number of views a video can now reach without even someone like me on the lookout for hits ever encountering it — 450 million, it turns out. That count is the most notable thing about “K.O.” for exactly as long as it takes to reach Pabllo Vittar’s vocal performance, piercing and dramatic and controlled and winsome. With a buoyant but unspectacular arrangement, it’s that performance that turns the song catchy even beyond melody. It’s not the tune, but the precise weaving of her tone across it in the chorus that has been looping round in my head for days.
[8]

Alfred Soto: She’s a Brazilian drag queen, but the polite horn chart gives no indication. 
[4]

Will Adams: It’s wild to think how much more impactful Pabllo Vittar was in her brief appearance on “Sua Cara” than she is in the entirety of “K.O.” No matter how hard she tries, the enervated samba backing her turns what might have been a slow jam into a slog.
[4]

Juana Giaimo: Pabllo Vittar doesn’t need Major Lazer to show the great potential of such a strong and smooth voice. Joined by the the brass and a warm rhythm, “K.O.” perfectly suits a sunset summer party. 
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: This had average pad synths going in, but then decent if flattened drums flush with cotton candy bass, indistinct piano, an air horn passing the studio and a smooth, well-cut trumpet. But Vittar’s such a full presence that Vittar fills in all the spaces Vittar needs to.
[7]

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Laurel Halo – Jelly

Via Tomás, an experimental pop track and some controversy…


[Video][Website]
[5.55]

Tomás Gauna: Laurel Halo is known for using vocals in inventive ways that transcend the concepts of “pop music,” but her 2013 album Chance of Rain was an interesting yet completely instrumental take on Berlin ambient-techno. So it surprised me when the first single of her following record, Dust, not only had vocals but had them at the forefront of the poppiest song she’s done so far. Having said that, the production on “Jelly” remains experimental and unpredictable, befitting the track’s title. Klein and Lafawndah harmonize with Halo in odd ways, highlighting the lyrics that describe, in a lighthearted and almost humorous way, a friend’s bad attitude. While it is not representative of the rest of the music on Dust, it is still one of its highlights, and an excellent example of how the mix of experimental, electronic and pop music is as exciting as it always was.
[10]

Julian de Valliere: I think this gave me motion sickness.
[2]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Laurel Halo’s Quarantine and her instrumental works are an awkward fit. “Jelly” is drifting and confounding in a way that makes it fun to chase after, but it’s hard to sit down and get a proper feeling for unless settled enough to let the record crest alongside you. Any chance of that is a bit hampered by the fidgety leans into dancelike energy and percussion. You never ease into a natural ebb and flow, leaving the listener unable to settle in to try and understand Halo’s warped utterances.
[4]

Ryo Miyauchi: The message is awfully sincere: “you don’t meet my ideal standards of a friend!” Yet “Jelly” seems as though it stumbled upon such honesty by accident, its choppy lyrics presented like auto-complete poetry. Laurel Halo obscures it even further by swishing her synths around like mouthwash and shooting her voice up with helium. It’s as though her warning about a thief and drunkard can’t be just out there in plain sight.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: Somewhere in here is a futuristic-R&B track, like a probably-better Kelela song after several dozen rounds of the Xerox bug. If nothing else, it’ll make very farcical background music for the friend-breakup described.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: Limp, unimposing drums struggle underneath discordant synths, awkward bass, calming synth chords and Halo’s metallic, hollowed voice. Then a loop of voices interrupts, then the beginning resumes and the bongos come in, leaving a trail of pebbles through the mess of the song. Suddenly, another whirring synth appears with some more slick chords, and the bongo hops right back out, with piano dropping in the mix while everything drops and the chords remain. Then another discordant voice falls in while Halo’s voice drifts around. Then it stops.
[8]

Crystal Leww: One of the people in my music people group text chain is in her early 20s and works in dance music. A couple of days ago, we got into a discussion about Spotify’s “Women Producers” playlist, and she pointed out that it features much more experimental producers than any other dance music playlist. While I objected for the house and techno stuff, I will say that there is something less than ideal about the fact that a lot of “Women Producers” make weird stuff. I know a lot of people who are genuinely into Laurel Halo and like, bop to this or whatever. However, there is something harrowing about the fact that so many critically hailed women in dance music make the sonic equivalent of throwing bird sounds with a random drum pack into a blender and then hitting the pulse button on random intervals. 
[4]

Alfred Soto: Arch and amateurish is an unlikely combo.
[3]

Rebecca A. Gowns: You know, I’m usually not a fan of dissonance in music. My aversion feels a little childlike, but undeniable, much like my dislike of coffee — a bitter taste that can be enjoyable for many people in many contexts, but just a hint of it in anything makes me blanch. Laurel Halo’s use of dissonance here is multi-layered, and the result is a soundscape that draws you into the dark woods, deeper and deeper, whether you like it or not. Hypnotic in a strange, dissociative way, like finding myself at the bottom of a coffee cup without any recollection of drinking it.
[8]

Alex Clifton: This is the aural equivalent to that one Spongebob episode where Squidward ends up in an entirely white room where his words pile up around him and minimize. I guess this is the future, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it. 
[3]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: While album cut “Moontalk” would have been better-received–it’s more accessible and bears a strong resemblance to the ’80s Japanese new wave/pop that has become increasingly popular since the turn of the decade–“Jelly” is more emblematic of Laurel Halo’s approach to sound design on Dust and the role that her collaborators played. At its core, “Jelly” consists of layered drum patterns that can be appreciated both in isolation and as pieces in a tableau of creeping anxiety and shame. This assemblage of sound is different from the arresting ambient soundscapes that defined Quarantine, but it is similar to her dance-oriented tracks and the controlled cacophony that defines contributor Eli Keszler’s works. Klein and Lafawndah provide more depth and range to Halo’s own outré vocalizations, and Klein in particular is a perfect fit, considering her Tommy EP featured James Blake-isms stretched to their turbulent extreme. In an interview with Fader, Halo explained that “Jelly” involves “the process of dismantling and defusing negative voices.” This is crucial, as it renders Halo’s exclamation of “You don’t meet my ideal standards for a friend!” as an incessant voice of self-condemnation, confirmed by the line’s unsettling vocal processing and the lyrics’ recurring references to mirrors. As the song progresses, there’s a sense of serenity obtained from the shimmering keys, and it’s as if Halo has come to an acceptance of never reaching perfection. She reconciles that these voices of disapproval–from others and herself–are also just that. They don’t define who she is, or who she’s capable of being.
[8]

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Darin – Tvillingen

In which your astrology-ignorant editor wonders if naming a song after one’s sign is a total Gemini move or not (also, thanks to Andreas for this one!)…


[Video][Website]
[6.67]

Andreas Stahl: Judging by the length of the track, this was meant to be a Melodifestivalen entry for next year. I can see why that didn’t work out here despite the fact that Darin has sustained a bit of a career high after his appearance on Så Mycket Bättre and subsequent album: the producers of the Eurovision selection in Sweden like to showcase as a big a variety of songs with a clearly recognizable sound or genre as possible (this year they are allegedly hunting for a Melfest-“Despacito”). This has somewhat somber Swedish lyrics, and it’s musically a blend of Ed Sheeran and Darin’s previous acoustic album: a bit more built for sustained and repeated airplay than an impactful three minute stage performance. Consequently, I have played this a lot, and I’m not yet tired of it (though the same can not be said of any of the tunes of the ginger menace.)
[9]

Will Adams: Middle of the road Eurovision-ready pop for two minutes and forty seconds, intriguing bridge made up of hiccuping vocals for the remaining twenty.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Its smooth anonymity a plus, “Tvillingen” puts several regnant pop styles in its mission to recall 2002. 
[6]

Edward Okulicz: I’m somewhat amused that Darin’s own fansite says this is one of his most personal songs to date, because the idea of someone having another side (“the Gemini in me,” or perhaps “the twin in me,” the word could mean either) seems pretty banal, and the wild personality he sings about in the verses seems pretty average too. It’s a minor bop though; if Enrique Iglesias had been Swedish, this might have been what he’d have been doing in the early 2000s.
[6]

Katie Gill: This is a bop! It’s bright pop perfection, a beautiful mix of deliciously earnest and deliberately crafted. It somehow sounds like a nostalgic 2000s boyband throwback (the vocal layering, the bombastic chorus) despite the obvious modern touches (those first ten seconds, that Auto-tuned break). Add in the fact that I’m a sucker for any song with a good “HEY!” and this has definitely shot to the top of my listen-to list.
[8]

Ryo Miyauchi: Darin gets more mileage than expected from his astrology joke written to show off his actually-multi-faceted character. Where his proofs go too corny in service of his argument, the secondhand import of a tropic dance beat picks up the slack. And fortunately, the punchline is more of a pretty little bow tying the package.
[6]

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Putochinomaricón – Gente de Mierda

And the award for Most Succinct Summary Of 2017 Via Song Title goes to this pick from Ewan…


[Video][Website]
[7.71]

Ewan Bleiman: If you judged Spain on the quality of its mainstream music industry, the verdict would be atrocious: dreadful singer-songwriters, ten-years-out-of-date indie groups, the least interesting interpretations of reggaetón you can imagine, a white and straight panorama that totally fails to reflect the changes that have happened in Spanish society over the last twenty years. Spanish YouTube, on the other hand, is fucking amazing: cumbia-tinged reggaetón by way of Argentina; comic feminist electroclash critiques of art history; Nigerian-Spanish moody trap; drag queen parodies better than anything the Ru Girls do; drag queen original songs better than anything the Ru Girls do; pummelling anthems about dick pics. This is Spain in 2017, or at least the version of Spain I want to live in. Putochinomaricón, as his name suggests, is a gay, activist Madrileño from a Chinese family with a sweet voice and a great ear for perfect melodies which often contrasts with brutal satire, seeming banalities about WiFi or barbed political assaults. “Gente de Mierda” does one of my absolute favourite things in pop: turning on pronoun ambiguity. You’re never quite sure whether it’s an empowering banger about throwing off toxic people in your life, a critique about how we blame everyone around us in life when we’re the problem, or an act of self-loathing. Maybe everyone, and everything, is shit. But more than anything else, what a chorus. This is what PC Music wants to be. One point removed for not being longer, but otherwise perfect.
[9]

Nortey Dowuona: Thick, raspy synth bass bounces alongside loping drum patterns while disappearing into a small yet foggy cloud of synths, releasing the tension built up during the verses. A perfect, simple little gem.
[10]

Alfred Soto: The nattering hornet of an electrobeat enters when I need it most, and the splendid diffidence of the vocal and lyrics was the right choice. Transplant Chenta Tsai to the States. Being a Chinesefagwhore would require splendid diffidence as survival strategy.
[7]

Crystal Leww: This reminds me of the late-aughts electronic indie music — sonically, the production reminds me of those kinds of loop-heavy and subdued bleeps, and Putochinomaricón even has the disaffected irony and sarcasm of Carles naming his track “Shitty People.” I don’t know if it’s aged particularly well, necessarily, but there’s enough for a nostalgia trip.
[6]

Will Adams: Nostalgia’s fine until its wires get crossed. So while the chipper pace keeps this light ‘n’ fun, the verse melody evokes “I Want You Back,” the chorus some long lost Euro-trance single from 1997, the vocal affect late-’00s electro-quirk like Hot Chip or Cut Copy, and I’m left confused.
[5]

Rebecca A. Gowns: Lovely and weird and friendly. Like a passed note written in code with hearts in the margins.
[10]

Madeleine Lee: With a title like that paired with a gentle, pretty melody like this, I expected this song to roast me alive. The lyrics are accusatory, but unlike the scathing “Tú no eres Activista” or The Barcelona Pavilion’s lo-fi barking, it feels like a song where you can join in too. The sweetness of the music isn’t only there for irony’s sake; it evokes the glee that comes from being able to tell a piece of shit person that they’re a piece of shit.
[7]

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Billie Eilish – Bellyache

Your daily dose of “Feel Old Yet?” comes from a singer born in 2001, suggested by Joshua…


[Video][Website]
[6.88]

Alex Clifton: As a teenager, my favourite book was The Basic Eight. It’s the story of a high-school senior who loves a boy so much that she kills him by bashing in his head with a croquet mallet. (That’s not a spoiler.) I normally can’t do gore, but I loved that book as a sixteen-year-old because it tapped into a truth rarely acknowledged: teenage girls can be dark and cruel and brutal. Not just in the Mean Girls passive-aggressive way, but in the depths of their anger. Teenage girls go through a lot, saddled with the weight of impossible societal expectations force-fed through the media, both mainstream & social. It’s hard. So I always like it when artists –especially teen girls themselves — explore that darker side and use that quiet anger to spark a storm. “Bellyache” fits with that theme, a story of murder and robbery and suicide and gnawing guilt. Eilish stated in an interview that “the character [in the song] isn’t me — but it also is,” a fascinating comment from a fifteen-year-old. Eilish herself is certainly not a psychopath, but she gets to the heart of that darker side of teenage life very quickly, how you can have both gum in your mouth and murder in your heart. Teenage life is rarely a case of and/or but often a case of both/and, having disparate ideas locked at war within you. And in 2017, a year that’s seen women that are angry, brave, powerful, and unbeaten, it’s neat to have a dark pop tune that encapsulates some of those same feelings.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: The song’s narrator speaks of horror like it means nothing but a little rumble, like the details of her actions are mere details. But you feel as if the walls are closing in, and the song bumps and grinds gently, as if not to tip off someone waiting outside the door. The numb understatement with which this song is performed by Eilish makes it incredibly captivating, and the backing vocals are just perfect.
[9]

Alfred Soto: John Grant would appreciate how this folkie figures out how to wrap her acoustic guitar around beats, not to mention the kind of savoir faire that shows no sign of slackening even when she admits to having a mind in the gutter.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: Soft, pulling guitar and woodcuts off in the distance solidly center Ellish while a rush of bass and synths pulls up, then drops softly with heaving chipmunk vocals and topped off by her soaring background vocals.
[7]

Will Adams: The verses hit a sweet spot between calm assuredness and eyebrow-raised smirk that reminds me of Whoa, Nelly! before it veers into a bloopy drop, a switch that doesn’t quite work.
[6]

Julian de Valliere: With zingers like “my V is for Vendetta” and “I wear my noose like a necklace,” “Bellyache” is more reminiscent of Team Rocket than Michael Myers, but the track’s resulting cartoon-creepiness is an amalgamation that works.
[6]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Billie Eilish is precocious and devilish, yes, but these lyrics are ultimately too familiar to have much impact. “Bellyache” rises above its tropes though thanks to a gelatinous chorus, carrying with it a reserved cool and sinister undertone. But if I want something recent that’s along the same lines, I’ll take Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds.
[5]

Rebecca A. Gowns: As simple as platinum blonde dye and dark sunglasses, and just as typical. You know, typical, like expected, cliche — like all the expressions in this song — and yet, still cool.
[8]

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Alex Lahey – Every Day’s the Weekend

Except today. Today is Monday. (Thanks to John for this suggestion!)


[Video][Website]
[6.94]

Will Adams: There’s a heavy sadness in the realization of just how much working to the bone in order to survive drains us of the opportunity to create meaningful relationships out of the half-hour scraps we have left after the workday. But the sadness doesn’t need to last forever: with sun-blasted rock and a killer motto — “Fuck work, you’re here/Every day’s the weekend” — Alex Lahey creates a world that’s fueled by our own exhilaration.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Finally — a performer who gets that celebrating weekends implicitly honors the sanctity of capitalism. Not only are Monday and Tuesday perfectly fine day to act as if we have lives apart from work, but as the financial chasm between haves and have-nots widens most of us can’t afford weekends anyway. The rush of “Every Day’s the Weekend,” anchored by Alex Lahey’s thick mocking voice, acknowledges no chasm.
[7]

Alex Clifton: There are some songs that make you feel alive; they pound with energy and fill you with the impulse to move, dance, scream. “Every Day’s the Weekend” accomplishes that with ease. I want to blast this out my window, in cars with my friends, and yell along with the lyrics. There are some lyrical quirks here I know would irritate me in other songs — naming the days of the week (which is sometimes successful and, well, sometimes not), the slight awkwardness of “if I had it my way, your stay here would be prolonged” — but then we get a line like “you’ve got things like a family” which hints at a whole, less glamorous story in six words. Even with the darker read of an affair going wrong, this is still three minutes of raw, jittery joy. Props from one Alex to another.
[8]

Claire Biddles: “Every Day’s the Weekend” has that caution-to-the-wind drive that makes every moment it soundtracks feel like the closing credits to your own film. It’s joyful and triumphant and I’ve played it to death in the last six months and it will probably always remind me of the few treasured in-the-face-of-adversity moments of this shitty year.
[9]

Stephen Eisermann: Catchy riffs, guitar licks, and lyrics throughout: Alex Lahey has managed to make peppy rock more enjoyable than I thought possible. With “Every Day…” Alex crafted a song that sounds exactly like what infatuation feels like, and it’s both exhilarating and nerve-wracking to listen to.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: The drumming and guitar on this song are both so peppy and excitable that it feels like an extremely friendly dog jumping on your lap when you come home from work and squealing with infinite glee. Which, given the subject matter, is entirely appropriate. The rest of the song walks a line between throwaway punk-pop and indesctructible power-pop of a high calibre, and Lahey sings it with a giddy mix of anxiety and glee.
[8]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Being romantically involved with someone such that every day feels like the weekend sounds like a good thing, but Alex Lahey proposes that it’s not so simple. You want to make the most of every moment, and that can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. To make it worse, your brain’s constantly nagging you about how it all won’t last forever. When Lahey rattles off the titular line and the individual weekdays, is she merely denying the reality of something good coming to an end? Despite all the energy Lahey channels, the chorus doesn’t quite stick the landing. Its tedium feels appropriate, though, since the lyrics reveal just how levelheaded she is throughout this celebration. She just wants to “ride this wave to shore,” tacked-on “whoa’s” and all.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: This is one impressive shrug as response, dressed up in killer riffs and sugar-sweet hooks. The elementary rhyme schemes only draw out more of the teenage mentality behind this slacker power-pop.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: Solid, chugging guitars; flat, near invisible bass; thudding drums; Lahey’s soft yet powerful voice — all undone by a cluttered chorus gumming up the song’s momentum.
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The nicest thing you can say is that it never overstays its welcome. The worst thing you can say is that for three minutes of your life, you’d be hard pressed to find a single memorable quality to the song. I suppose it’s fine to say Alex joins a lot of semi-serviceable rock strummers in being able to make a slightly more energetic chorus that feels like a slight development from her verses, and that this isn’t any big tragedy to a field as dire as rock in the 21st century. Doesn’t make it good though.
[2]

Crystal Leww: The only good songs made with guitars these days are either country songs or pop punk songs. The only good pop punk songs are the ones made by loud ladies like Alex Lahey. “Every Day’s the Weekend” contains hooks for days, and Lahey’s got a delivery to match its exuberance. 
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: Lahey presents as a worthy inheritor of a recent and welcome Australian tradition of sharp and plain-wrought punk bands with alarum immediacy and pop melody. Trace this contemporary manifestation from An Horse to Camp Cope: the sound of inner-suburban slacker youth in every state capital across the country. “You’ve got things like a family,” Lahey sings, “they’re a bigger deal than I’ll ever be,” and her diffidence, delivered over charged guitar lines, sounds exactly right. Bonus points for the “whoah-oh”s and organ runs: things no pop-punk number should go with out.
[8]

Joshua Copperman: A friend described Lahey to me as “Courtney Barnett with singing lessons,” not meant as an insult to Barnett but as a reference to Lahey’s polish as a singer and a musician. This extends to the production as well — those “whah-oh”s sound gigantic, and everything from the handclaps to the walls of guitar riffs contrast the somewhat grounded lyrical subject matter in a wonderful way. I initially misinterpreted the lyrics as being about an affair (“You’ve got things like a family/they’re a bigger deal than I’ll ever be”), but there’s too much genuine joy in the performance for any darker subtext. It’s just enjoyable and near-perfectly crafted.
[8]

John Ezekowitz: Alex Lahey’s debut full length album I  Love You Like a Brother is filled with songs about relationships, both  romantic and familial. Oftentimes, things are falling apart or have  fallen apart, but on “Every Day’s The Weekend,” Lahey exults in the joy of  newfound romance. Will this love last? Is it even love? Longer term  consequences are swept aside in the desire to convince her partner to  live in the moment. This sentiment is best summed up by the end of the  chorus: “You’ve got things like your family/they’re a bigger deal than  I’ll ever be/I know that’s okay; we should ride this wave to shore.”  Lahey has written three minutes of tight, relatable, excellent rock  music.
[8]

Eleanor Graham: I gotta say I’m in the mood for a little bit moooore of that. Gorgeous, head-first, angry-in-love indie pop-rock catharsis, making up in racing guitar and an expertly-placed WOAH-OH-WOAH-OH what it lacks in lyrical ingenuity. Did you guys know that I actually loved the first Catfish and the Bottlemen album? Don’t tell anyone.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: Female-fronted pop-punk is still among the greatest genres ever, but this is mid-scale and flat in the same way Chairlift’s “Romeo” was.
[6]

Josh Langhoff: Such smart writing here. Lahey’s lover turns every day into the weekend, but Lahey’s notion of “weekend” includes not just its ecstatic Loverboy implications — “forget your inhibitions” and “Whoa-oh! Whoa-oh!” and whatnot — but also the dread that coils in the pit of the weekender’s stomach each time she remembers her idyllic escape will soon end. How exhausting to live each day like it was Sunday night! Jittery staccato guitars and a whipcrack rhythm section embody the tension but also barrel past it, as though Lahey’s weekend love, like a Mission: Impossible message or Republican claims to moral integrity, would dissolve upon inspection.
[7]