Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Gabrielle – 5 Fine Frøkner

“Cadence, but not power” is my new favorite aesthetic.


[Video][Website]
[5.88]

Iain Mew: Have I talked about how much I love Gabrielle Leithaug’s voice? Go back to her breakthrough “Ring Meg” and its laughs and sunny melodic overflows — she sounds like Natasha Bedingfield, and she was really good at that. Every move since has taken that force and personality into darker and harder territory, but the results have got more spectacular. “5 Fine Frøkner” is musically ungainly sometimes, but it’s worth it for Gabrielle: her stretching out of unease before the storm, her rapid firing words, and above all the rush of her spitting out the harsh alliteration of the title phrase.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: A vocal ditty gives way to submerged Rihanna verses, then a stomping pop march. Solid, and not much more.
[6]

Dorian Sinclair: I complain a lot about songs getting too repetitive over their runtime. “5 Fine Frøkner” certainly doesn’t have that problem. It’s a hell of a fun-sounding song, and there are some great flourishes — I like the strange robochorus near the end. Gabrielle’s got an excellent alto voice that she uses to great effect, employing a bunch of nifty vocal tricks. The major flaw is that it feels a little too compositionally far-ranging — there’s enough interesting material in here that it easily could have been made into two separate songs without either feeling underwritten.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: There are a lot of nice parts here, like a lot of strong bones ready to prop up a towering figure. But this song lacks the required ligaments.
[5]

Alfred Soto: The quiet verses glide into the powerhouse chorus like everyone involved thought “Latch” made a good template; even the melodies are similar.
[5]

Anthony Easton: The music underneath the vocals has a spiderweb delicacy until it collapses into the percussion-heavy dance beat. Her vocals float almost unrelated to the other sounds in the music, often off tune, sometimes speaking and sometimes singing. The handclaps are nice, though. 
[3]

Josh Winters: That 15 seconds of Gabrielle assembling with her robot clones in the dead of darkness is the most terrifying thing I’ve heard in ages. The sonic sledgehammering that both precedes and follows that moment is more than enough reason to sit through the brief suspense.
[8]

Brad Shoup: I like the half of the chorus given over to house, instead of the rippling EDM buccaneer beat. Maybe it’s because she has cadence but not power.
[5]

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Alina Devecerski – Armé

There is basically no news context today in which a video made of MASSIVE FUCK-OFF TANKS would fly well, but pop’s gonna pop…


[Video][Website]
[5.67]

Iain Mew: “Flytta På Dej” attacked and attacked, so going full-on combat is a logical enough new route. “Armé” is built like a tank: metallic and rolling over everything, bangs of drum fire, Alina barking orders from on top. It’s impressive, but the harshness doesn’t include any fun or variation. Without proceeding to a fight, it comes off as a meaningless show of force, a parade stuck moving on one track.
[5]

Cédric Le Merrer: If military music is known for one thing, it’s probably that it’s not good. Actually, the objectives of military music are such that most of what makes most other kind of music good could make a military piece less good. That’s why “Run the World (Girls)” never completely worked, and why military beats are best left as deep new wave album cuts. I understand the sentiment to reclaim the military, but how are we supposed to dance to or enjoy this if we’re not marching up the Champs Elysées?
[3]

David Sheffieck: It’ll take more than this and “Salute” to turn militant (or military?) pop into a thing, but I am absolutely here for every rousing snare, shrilly chanted chorus, and commanding brass flourish that Devecerski deploys in service of making it happen.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Shouty glam chorus and martial beats grace this Swedish singer-songwriter’s effort. Although it sports one tempo change more than Wizkid’s, it also has nowhere to go once it announces itself.
[5]

Brad Shoup: Like “The Power”, the organ fries and it’s all too short. Devecerski mashes the Inception BONG button while a drum-corps horde salutes from the depths of the valley. This is the sort of mayhem normally given to South Korean acts.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: It’s good to see how little a stylistic diversion this is from Maraton, because that had a sound with miles left to run. It had a fair amount of more muted angst — and right enough, this begins like an extra-wrought “Jag svär” — but the bulk is a manifesto for Devecerski’s #nopyronoparty attitude to pop music. She’s not just full of Big Emotions, she is the Big Emotions; the voice of unvocalisable intensity.
[7]

Anthony Easton: Devecerski’s voice is ugly and ego-less, yelling against an abrasive electronic core in ways that are intimidating and beautiful. I love when EDM moves into pure punk performance. 
[7]

Dorian Sinclair: This song is overwhelming, frankly, and what melody there is doesn’t rise above the general chaos of the production. Mostly I come away feeling shaken and a bit intimidated, because I am a small and delicate flower with small and delicate sensibilities.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: The airhorns harmonize with Devecerski, who shouts the chorus forward like she’s sending her vocal cords to the front lines. It’s revved-up reveille, drill sergeant as diva — and unlike too many pop stars in military camo, Devecerski both fully grasps her metaphor and delivers it like she wants casualties. If that’s good.
[6]

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Wizkid – Show You the Money

The title might put a Nelly song in your head, but the video might put another Nelly song in your head…


[Video][Website]
[6.00]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The beat is sick, but this kid makes me flatline.
[4]

Alfred Soto: A decent disco track that’s also frictionless. Blame a busy vocalist and a track whose tempo and rhythm doesn’t change.
[4]

Anthony Easton: The phrasing and the instrumentation are Fela. The child can never quite race past the son (almost literally — see his 2013 track “Jaiye Jaiye” with Femi Kuti), but unlike other Nigerian hip hop stars, he moves between London and Lagos, with some time in Beirut — which ties this more into a garage/grime beat and less into American excess (Ice Prince with French Montana comes to mind). It does make me curious about what he would do with Chief Keef, though.
[9]

Juana Giaimo: I sometimes wonder if artists still think tiresome repetition is the only way to make a catchy song, and if they realize that, most times, it actually fails.
[5]

Brad Shoup: The Auto-Tune runs him ragged now; when he asks about showing her money he sounds like Farrah Abraham, singing dry from the basement. There’s not much distinguishing the chorus and verses, which makes this one big teetering exercise in elongation. Love the drawn synth streaks constantly establishing the drama.
[8]

Dorian Sinclair: I’m really into the instrumental on this — the rattly percussion has a cool friction with the sparseness of the synth, and the minor key makes the whole thing feel tense in an interesting way. And the video’s delightful. I’m a sucker for videos featuring a broad cross-section of a community all dancing and contributing, rather than as a faceless backdrop to the performer. Unfortunately I find the melody gets repetitive after a couple of minutes, I would really love for there to be a bridge or something to maintain interest on that level.
[6]

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Crystal Kay – Dum Ditty Dumb

Finally, a genre name to rival “Hollywood sadcore” in the “wtf no” stakes.


[Video][Website]
[5.82]

Maxwell Cavaseno: “Yokohama Ratchet Pop.” If you could come up with a phrase to make my stomach try to jettison itself from my whole body better than that, I’d be surprised! But no, these are nothing but stock parts and cheap gimmicks that make you feel like the studio must be located at the back of a party store, where Crystal, who serves as manager, constantly harasses her employees with “O.M.G. GUISE. I HAVE A BRILLIANT IDEA.” If you can mentally conjure up the face you’d respond with, and it matches your reaction to this video, then you can see my point.
[0]

Anthony Easton: This is so anxious — the manic chorus, the speed up lyrics, those drums that just push the narrative past any point of reason — that one wants it to end completely in fireworks, but it just phases out without much commitment. 
[4]

Alfred Soto: Not a ditty and far from dumb, this collection of percussion from many lands boasts a cool, knowing vocal in the Ciara vein. She states but doesn’t insist. That might be the track’s problem too — I’ll see if it survives replay — but for the moment it fulfills its mission.
[7]

Sonia Yang: I’m sad that Crystal Kay never reached the scale of international fame I thought she deserved. I listened to her avidly throughout high school and I always believed she had the formula down to appeal to both Japanese audiences (with schmaltzy anime tie-ins) and Western ones (with feel-good party pop tracks). This song seems to be a stab at mixing both of her worlds – sultry hip-hop laced with a traditional Japanese element (that shamisen really sells it) packaged as a new pseudo-genre called “Yokohama ratchet pop” — and it works. It’s fresh and unusual and I still love it as much as when I heard the leak several months ago. The trippy video is something I’d expect more from Passepied, but I’m not complaining. Crystal Kay has set the stage for a potentially great comeback and let’s all pray that she delivers and doesn’t end up gimmicky.
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: At this point, Crystal Kay could call it a day (and in Japan, she pretty much has) and have a museum-worthy legacy all her own. She survived and thrived in a music industry that’s long been hesitant of Japanese performers who don’t look Japanese (and in a place where blackface still sometimes pops up on TV), and blazed a path for performers of mixed and different ethnicities going forward. At this point, Kay isn’t a player in her native Japan, but “Dum Ditty Dumb” pulls some interesting tricks that manage to make it stick out on both sides of the Pacific. “Yokohama ratchet pop” sounds like a late-career hail mary, but Kay has earnestly introduced koto into her trap-pop, which Stateside makes it stand out amongst a genre unafraid of sonic exotica. And in Japan, where EDM/trap is just whatever America is doing, this actually tries to put a new twist on it. Kay isn’t going to see a surge where she grow up and she’s probably not breaking into America, but she can add one more sonic surprise to her legacy.  
[7]

Iain Mew: “Dum Ditty Dumb” reminds me of Misha B’s “Home Run,” not so much in its sound but in the way that it places such emphasis on the genre flexibility of its singer, even at the expense of structure. Crystal Kay doesn’t need to establish her ability in the same way, but it’s her ability that provides the constant that holds the song together, at least up until the abrupt fade-out. And rather than hoping for her to get songs that make use of her abilities, she already has.
[7]

Megan Harrington: The language of love is pure, alliterative nonsense. Where Greil Marcus might get chuffed listening to the right word, delivered the right way, I’m fascinated by the way “ditty dum(b)” is, even half a century and several continents removed from its first conception, the sound of a heart in motion. Crystal Kay is less sweetly starstruck by love but her retort is twitterpated all the same. 
[8]

Thomas Inskeep: Whatever I think of the merits of this single, I just appreciate that she asked “Am I enticing to you?” Crystal’s verses are sung/talked in a very sexy register, and the tabla-esque stuff is mighty effective. This is my first run-in with her, and she’s weird. Like Shakira-level-weird. Which is awesome. 
[6]

Edward Okulicz: Pretty annoying, especially that thing which sounds like a talking parrot interjecting, but the way she shrieks reminds me of that one amazing “braaaa!” noise Missy Elliott makes on “Lick Shots,” so it’s not a complete disaster. It also at least has brevity on its side.
[5]

Brad Shoup: The voices mock and she mocks right back. I’m a fool for a bunch of vocal looks — finally figured that shit out — and hers are as much a bedrock of this track as the koto funk. Another artist might’ve dumped out the playbin. (To be fair, they might’ve also found another thirty seconds of runtime.)
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: Evokes a more sedate “London Bridge” in its kitchen-sink swag and sass-flirt chorus. I thought pop was incoherent back then too.
[5]

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Juicy J ft. Nicki Minaj, Lil Bibby, & Young Thug – Low

Your search for “singles jukebox” “nicki minaj” returned 1,000,000 results.


[Video][Website]
[7.00]

Crystal Leww: There’s the crossover rap producer, but very rarely do we see pop producers suddenly producing songs for urban radio. Potentially motivated by how absolutely massive “Dark Horse” was, Dr. Luke has spent part of 2014 producing songs for rap radio. There was Usher’s August Alsina-imitating stripper anthem “I Don’t Mind” (a wonky pitched version can still be found on the internet because duh), there was that Nicki Minaj track that straddled that line between pop and rap, and of course, there’s “Low”, which is a straight up rap track, from that wonderfully grounded trap beat to chopped and screwed vocals to the star-studded cast that all turn in really compelling work full of quotables. As a bit of personal bias, “Low” combines two of my favorite things in the world: 90s basketball (which all three verses contain references to!) and rap music. This is how you do an all-star rap anthem correctly.
[8]

Andy Hutchins: Juicy’s not trying (what else is new?), though he has the courtesy to deliver the most laughable bars off the top. Thugger’s regrettably barely here because someone decided Juicy needed half of the hook. But Imperial Nicki reigns on — she rhymed a bar that is naught but a blatant plug for her moscato with the bracing “I keep a pillow wit’ me just because I’m tired ‘a niggas,” and this should be praised — and Bibby’s flow is an avalanche spilling downhill on the propulsive Dr. Luke beat. And, hey: Dr. Luke did the beat! He can gentrify even drill! Bless his opportunistic ass.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Imagine Minaj’s own “Chiraq” recast as a mixtape special, with Young Thug’s free associating a dumb-great hook with the skill that’s made him 2014’s most essential supporting player and Juicy J and Minaj reenacting the scenario in “Leather and Lace” as a comedy (J loves what her omnisexuality has done for their sex). Bibby, take notes.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Juicy hijacks Nicki’s “Chiraq” and turns it prog, swapping out Lil’ Herb with his friend/rival Lil’ Bibby, and bolsters it with Young Thug’s parrot shrieks and warbles. Juicy maintains his streak of striving to proficiency, Nicki displays a subdued yet still acceptable guest verse, but it’s truly Bibby, who’s voice commands the respect that his public Snagglepuss-type antics erode, who works the track to the bone. All in all, nothing essential, but the same way the beat feels like a pulse’s electronic ring bouncing from the inside of a chrome muffler, it’s good to see signs of life in all these combatants. 
[6]

David Sheffieck: Juicy J is way off here, delivering possibly the least effective pre-hook of the year, and the production’s hollow. But Nicki’s continuing a killer hot streak and Lil Bibby comes close to matching her. They’re enough to keep things interesting, but ultimately they just seem better than this beat deserves.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: When a build refuses to lead to a drop, is it still a build? “Low”‘s promises an electrical storm; Juicy J circling then releasing a fervent Young Thug, only for someone else (Nicki adeptly, Lil Bibby unnecessarily) to start over the top of what follows. Cut out Bibby’s verse for brevity and there’ll also be an extra chance to hear it unadorned.
[6]

Luisa Lopez: In a song where Nicki Minaj is once again the delightful pin poked through a male-dominated space, it’s surprising that Young Thug’s chorus is the part that, if not the wickedest or the worst, is at least the most fun. He gives it a mania that the song never really rises to otherwise, though it deserves to.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: While I find it genuinely shocking that a producer who’s often as boilerplate as Dr. Luke had a hand in this track, this absolutely works. Juicy J is Juicy J: never been the world’s best rapper, but has an awesome flow. But the real spark to this single, as it often is when she guests, is Minaj, who I can’t stand when she makes pop records but LOVE as a rapper. When she starts rapping double-time, I damned near squeal. She’s. So. Good. And then Lil Bibby’s crazy-Barry-White voice is so, whaddaya know, low. “Low” is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts, and its parts are damned great.
[8]

Brad Shoup: Young Thug absolutely wrecks the energy level: not an achievement for the yearbook but it’s funny. The lack of momentum from verse to hook to verse is pretty damning, but if you take out Thugger, the line goes from chill to frantic. Still, there’s a lack of bass and there’s the whole bizarre ’98 Lakers shoutout, so this whole thing’s falling apart on me.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: Fuck me dead, Nicki Minaj just said “ice all around me like a peng-WEEEEEEN.” All arguments against this are invalid.
[8]

Megan Harrington: Nicki’s heading into October with a batting average north of .500; Myx Moscato for life!
[9]

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Winner – Empty

As far as names go, we side with that of the title over that of the artist…


[Video][Website]
[4.38]

Sonia Yang: Oh look, a song with more uncomfortable falsetto than “Chandelier”! Between the familiar synths ‘n snaps, the hollow-faced posturing, and abuse of Instagram filters, “Empty” leaves me just as empty as these boys are supposed to feel, so I guess I’ll give it that at least.
[3]

Madeleine Lee: Winner started as the scrappy, artsy Team A on a reality show called YG’s WIN: Who Is Next, and were chosen by audience vote to debut over the more hip-hop focused Team B. Team B generally performed better on the show, but for the most part were not very memorable, and Team A had an X-factor in their blend of personalities and musical styles (three members are songwriters; one likes rock, one likes rap, and one likes electro) that audiences preferred. But you wouldn’t know it from the boringly competent “Empty.” It could be that it wasn’t written by them (in fact, it was written by two members of Team B, but let’s save the favouritism accusations for the message boards), but the Winner-composed second title track, “Color Ring,” is just as bland, only it’s bland rock melodrama instead of bland laid-back beats. Honestly, “Empty” is better with the (self-choreographed) dance; as goofy as the moves are, they lighten the otherwise drab mood of the song and bring out its sweetness.
[5]

Alfred Soto: This contest winner sounds like K’naan given a per diem and recording budget. The hooks are cloying and explicit though.
[4]

Brad Shoup: On the face of it, it’s a JT-style ballad, light blue and weightless. But that falsetto chorus is finely wrought and a lot less performative; it sounds like a reverie. I’m still not a fan of the basic form, but Winner throws a lot of voices at it; I’m sure some will stick.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: You know those annoying Justin Timberlake tracks where he busts out the acoustic to prove… whatever it is he thinks he’s proving — that’s he’s a “musician” or something? Imagine one of those with T.I. rapping on it, only the track is in Korean, and you pretty much get what this sounds like, i.e., not a damn thing special. 
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: “Empty” attempts to plunge one knee into R&B as a simple dip, and thuds a little heavier than it seems. The “da-da-da-da” bridge and the toybox hiccups seem a bit too cartoony, and brief geysers of organ and somber rapping keep the song in a glum rut. There’s too much of a tug of war here to convey true seriousness or dissolve into poppy delight, so instead we get a sort of half-melted grey crayon, both too soupy and chunky to mean much to anyone.
[4]

Patrick St. Michel: It does just enough sonically to be interesting, and all of the best details come via messed-around-with voices. Yet a handful of unorthodox sounds isn’t enough to elevate this beyond what it is: a standard-issue ballad that’s not all that special.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: A little like the “My Sweet Summer” of R&B, except even less substantial.
[5]

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Flo Rida ft. Sage the Gemini – GDFR

Your editor doesn’t know enough about professional wrestling to write a witty caption, so take it away Dan…


[Video][Website]
[4.25]

Dan MacRae: I’m still waiting for Heath Slater to sock this dude square in the nose.
[1]

Patrick St. Michel: This song gave me the mental image of Flo Rida surfing, so it’s worth something.
[4]

David Sheffieck: Gloriously dumb — if this doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Can’t Believe It,” it’s a big step up from “How I Feel” — peaking with Sage’s “Double entendre, double entendre.” And whoever decided to lift that sax riff deserves credit for the extra two points that make this an
[8]

Anthony Easton: Can we replace the horns on “Shake It Off” with the horns on this? Because the horns on this might be this year’s brass highlight. I love them so much that I feel like I can ignore the Katrina line. 
[6]

Megan Harrington: That sax arrangement — is it a clown car? Snake charmer? Jack-in-the-box? As a tool to wind the tension of the song and underscore the imminent reality of it going down, it’s effective. As a sound I’m uninterested in ever hearing again, it’s also effective. In balancing the scales, the strongest counterweight is Flo Rida’s delightfully lazy hook. He’s both authoritative and nonchalant amid the chaos. 
[5]

Alfred Soto: A hook! Flo hasn’t stumbled over one this insistent in years. Sage keeps up. 
[6]

Brad Shoup: Lookas’s flip turns the horn into a gasping, asthmatic thing, which works especially well since Flo Rida’s not sucking the air out of the room for once. His flow’s choppier, his slang sense is on the fritz, and he’s generous to cede all the hooks to another capable set of deep pipes. It’s been nice having Mr. Rida around, but we could use Sage’s approach to pop-rap melody on the charts.
[6]

Crystal Leww: As joyful as hearing “mussardonthebeatho” this year has been hearing the DJ drops of Young California’s premiere tastemakers: “DJ Amen World Premiere” followed by “Cuhrisssssmaaaaa!” The two of them have been putting their co-signs on a steady stream of hits that have been criminally unnoticed outside of the West Coast. “GDFR” is not new ground; producer Lookas made a trap remix of War’s “Low Rider” and Flo Rida decided to hop all over it. That’s right: those horns aren’t even “Talk Dirty”-horns, they are “Low Rider” horns! Flo Rida and Sage the Gemini are at their best, too. Flo Rida gives his guest star the appropriate space to shine, turning in a perfectly fine verse before peacing out. Sage the Gemini is maybe the only one who can rap that much about butts and get away with it, but there’s something magnetic about how sinister that deep voice can seem. That mini-bridge is perfect, with Sage doling out commands like “lift it, drop it, shake it, pop it.” I hope this is a hit.
[7]

Maxwell Cavaseno: If you haven’t been paying attention, Sage the Gemini might be one of the top five young rappers in the game right now. Ignore his ability to forge earworms that become Vine staples corrupting youth, or his brilliant production that puts peers like Mustard, The Invasion, and League of Starz to shame. (Have you heard the kick on “Panoramic” or the mutation synth he calls “Bad Girls”?!? MY GOD.) Sage has a way of effortlessly displaying uncommon virtuosity as a rapper with an eccentric sense of humor (“low like femurs”/”wetter than Katrina” ) that makes him just as much his generation’s Saafir as their Nelly. Tragically, he’s riding an OK beat that he didn’t helm and is pinch hitting for pop-rap dullard Flo Rida, so unless this becomes a big hit, this doesn’t do S-A-G-E many favors. However, with rumors of collaborations with Bieber, one can hope he maintains his sidewinding path through the game to new heights while he’s still so fresh-faced and creative.
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: Flo Rida puts on fake Mustard like your dad trying to be edgy. At 11 p.m. his friend makes an awkward Katrina joke and your mom spends the next half-hour coaxing the family friends out the door.
[2]

Thomas Inskeep: Flo Rida: will.i.am without the cred. Also, I didn’t expect that Macklemore’s most enduring legacy would be those obnoxious “Thrift Shop” horns, but they’ve been all over pop and would-be-hip-hop in 2014, haven’t they? Oh, and one more thing, Flo Rida: perhaps “girls get wetter than Katrina” isn’t the best turn of phrase, asshole. And just one other thing: I’ll place $5 that he doesn’t even know what “double entendre” means.
[1]

Luisa Lopez: The only thing that ever made Flo Rida bearable was the balls-out absurdity of the “Low” era, and the possibility that a phrase like apple bottom jeans could ever summon desire, or laughter, or both. This new effort is too boring to even bother writing out the full title.
[1]

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Dirty Heads – My Sweet Summer

Get ready for the fall…


[Video][Website]
[3.50]

Luisa Lopez: Conceptualizing people as seasons, and love as passing through, always comes across as stupidly effortless, but rarely so skilfully as here. It’s an easy way out, but never fails. One of the most keenly felt turns — culturally, sensationally — is the way heat twists slowly into autumn, which is never cause for regret, or melancholy — not exactly. Instead it’s more of a deadening breath that comes with the recognition of something sweet taking on the skin of something deadly. Perfect for echoes, whimpered harmonies, and messy verses, and this song provides them all in spades.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: “Seasonal” is how we compartmentalize those life experiences that are pleasant but maybe gauche or off-brand: laying out with tabloids, accessorizing with grubby old Rainbows, drinking cider made from multiple kinds of berry, eating deep-fried cod tacos, and liking deeply silly cod reggae. And for something that mashes up the premises of 500 Days of Summer and “I Just Had Sex” as puka-shell rap, “Summer” is remarkably pleasant, wistful like the beginning of Grease. I’m not going to admit to this outside this blog, though.
[6]

Dan MacRae: I shit my pants once on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the Carman Country Fair. “My Sweet Summer” somehow left me feeling way more grossed out and embarrassed than that mortifying experience from my childhood ever could.
[0]

Alfred Soto: or: Brad Nowell and Adam Levine fucking on an immaculate bed. 
[1]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Brad Nowell gets revived, turns into a cyborg, and used to terrorize all of America. I always preferred the cold myself, so while this pummels a probably already inebriated audience into senseless oblivion before victimizing them, I’ll be doing my best to make a trip to somewhere they have permafrost and the chances of hearing this at parties will be slim.
[1]

Megan Harrington: Applying a subjective rating system to a song this utilitarian feels a bit perverse. “My Sweet Summer” is skunky, the sort of song that should come packaged with a stick of patchouli incense and a bottle of red-eye drops. It has no pretenses where art or even popular culture are concerned and it succeeds thrillingly as a weed jam for Cali stoners. 
[7]

Patrick St. Michel: I love Southern California, and the older I get the more I appreciate all the great aspects of my home. However, some of the things I couldn’t get into when I was 14 still make me roll my eyes mighty hard. This song touches on at least three things I hate about the greater Los Angeles area.
[1]

Josh Winters: California, here I go.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: Vaguely reggae-ish alt-pop with an EDM twist? Well, it’s not as bad as MAGIC! at least, so there’s that. This makes me think of downtown Santa Cruz.
[4]

Brad Shoup: “Sand in my bed”?! Not “sand in my beer” or “sand in my beard” to pair with “she left me here”? Absolutely thoughtless; I’m too put off to drag anything out of this lead-weighted reggae-rock number.
[2]

Anthony Easton: Tight little chorus — a little affected, but compared to the rest of the track, seems to have a solid idea at least. 
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: Between the reggae rhythm and distorted distress, this could almost be Romanian — even the title is in the classic mould of vague signifiers like “Shining Heart” or “Midnight Sun.” Were it Romanian the lyrics wouldn’t overstretch themselves like this though: not in scope so much as quantity. Banal is fine in moderation; the extension of it to some kind of story here feels like a delusion of grandeur.
[5]

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Majid Jordan – A Place Like This

I can’t top Patrick’s line.


[Video][Website]
[4.86]

Patrick St. Michel: Hold on, we’re going nowhere. 
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: OVO world is often tormented by its sketchiness. Not in the quality of the characters who’ve emerged, but their actual admission of who they really are. Drake’s been rapping for half a decade, but he’s perennially vague and fails to describe with success anything beyond a series of images, situations and vague feelings. He never fits inside. Likewise Majid and their friend PartyNextDoor (The Weeknd, an outsider groomed by producers long before Drakkula’s Kiss, never belonged in the camp) are masters of the sonics of evocation, a trick they’ve learned from Drake’s 40 and Weeknd’s Illangelo, the inheritors of a mood music. Majid are playing specifically with the sounds of James Blake’s discography, and they manage to say nothing on this track (much like Blake’s debut album contained nothing beyond some warbly ramblings, a post-808s plague that spreads like wildfire in music). But they’ve stewed up a specific kind of interzonal unease. Something that really tunnels within its shoes while it debates making the next step, unable or unwilling to commit itself to the confines of a future. OVO do not live in Toronto; they appear to live in hollow gestures of self-belief, a desperate attempt to undo the anxieties of life. OVO are rap’s eternal scream of “I DESERVE THIS.”
[7]

Alfred Soto: Imagine the Burial trick of unearthing a slurred vocal from several layers of percussive substrata but with tuneless Miguel mimicry.
[4]

Megan Harrington: I challenge you to play this song for a friend and ask afterwards who the artist is. Twenty different friends, twenty different answers, I promise. Majid Jordan provide a serviceable four and a half minutes, but they’re eclipsed by their own generic, faceless desire. 
[6]

Brad Shoup: A place like this has to be a McMansion. Static goes off like the hissing of nighttime lawns; voices ping off the tile of an empty foyer. The architecture haunts the song, but Majid Jordan do not themselves haunt. It’s cinematic despite them.
[6]

Luisa Lopez: Oddly compelling, despite the synths going in and out like weary waves which makes this lament less impressive than it means to be, but sometimes sound is cradled by mood and that’s the case here, like Childish Gambino suddenly woke up in the floodlights and left a lesser shadow.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: It’s nice that Drake’s ears are open to alt-R&B like Majid Jordan and the Weeknd. It’d be nicer if he was into alt-R&B that was actually, y’know, interesting. As snoozy as Nyquil, all smooth surfaces, no texture. Imagine Ghostly International releasing an R&B record in 2004.
[3]

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Rayven Justice – Might As Well

Single of the year.


[Video][Website]
[2.90]

David Sheffieck: Even without the contrast to the self-promotion of the verses, “Might as well fuck me/ Why not?” is easily the weirdest pickup line I’ve heard recently. It’s not just hard to imagine it working, it’s hard to imagine the thinking that it’d work.
[4]

Hazel Robinson: Son, just don’t.
[4]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Since its emergence as a subunit of rap in the last few years, Ratchet has given us what Jerk, Snap, Crunk, Hyphy, Trap and others failed to: a massive movement of R&B acts. From TY$’ post-Weeknd scumbag piracy, TeeFlii’s slurry self-development, and a cast of characters that include John Hart, Eric Bellinger, Adrian Marcel and others; we now have a whole sub-movement of young talent. Noteworthy for his recent efforts is Rayven Justice, a bay area youth who looks like Frank Ocean gone varsity jock, and abandons traditional R&B song structure for an auto-tune guided rap freestyle technique. “Might As Well” sounds like a toxic sludge dissolving a glass factory from the inside, with Rayven’s voice cyber-piped into the listener’s ears while the brittle beat dissolves besides him, gas bubbles leaking out ghosts of Nelly’s “Dilemma” in morbid wails. He’s a rude bastard, but his desire to inform me of a certain someone’s cold mouth, and the relentless laser intensity of his hook scouring the life from the land suggest more than a hot summer in the Bay for this kid.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Shut the fuck up, bitch, and get down to bizness. Check out my cool electrostutters. Excited yet?
[0]

Crystal Leww: I love rnbass music, the sub-genre of R&B that has blanketed contemporary rap radio this year after being popularized by DJ Mustard. While the icy minimalism of its beats sounds fresh, it also  exposes its vocalists, putting the responsibility squarely on their shoulders to sound charming rather than being swallowed by the repetitive pings of the production. This works well for artists like Tinashe and Jeremih, and less so for the Trey Songz of the world. Rayven Justice is somewhere in the middle. He can be compelling like on “Slide Thru,” but despite the best attempts of J Maine and his Young California beat and production, Rayven Justice sounds lazy, just like his game. Probably shouldn’t have asked “Why not?” in your hook, bro because “might as well fuck me” is like the fifth worst way a guy has come onto me.
[4]

Ashley Ellerson: A Chris Brown wannabe who offends you AND still expects you to give up the goods? Only for the desperate. 
[1]

Edward Okulicz: The grossness of this would be justified if it came through with any degree of carnality, like the fucking might be as good for the girl Rayven’s negging as it is for him. But it’s pretty clear who the favour’s for, this is basically a song about begging for pity sex. “Pity,” like the word “city,” also fits in as a rhyme for “titties.” Missed opportunity there.
[3]

Brad Shoup: Two things happening here. First, the “hell yeah” grunts — substituted for Mustard’s “hey”s, clearly — sound like the bass in a doo-wop group. Second, even though this thing is a total clone, it sounds a little faster than its antecedents. Phrases are swapped out before the punchlines get a chance to die.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: It’s like the guys in this video made a rap record, only there’s no inadvertent humor. This is without question the grossest record we’ve reviewed this year. What do people – especially women – see in this shit? (Also, take away the mind-boggling lyrics and it’s still only about a 2, because this track is some dull DJ Mustard-carbon-copy bullshit.)
[0]

David Lee: Remember Lizzie McGuire?
[1]