Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Bucie ft. Black Motion – Rejoice

You don’t need to tell us twice…


[Video][Website]
[7.43]

Alfred Soto: The sumptuousness of the arrangement is its own reward: the piano, that sampled string-spring, a marimba that bounces off the percussion. Atop is Bucie, honoring the title with a vocal that communicates fuss-free ebullience.
[8]

Jonathan Bogart: I’ve been a fan of Bucie, South Africa’s great house diva, for several years now, but producers Black Motion are new to me, and I love their slow-burn Afrohouse sound. (Because of where my head is at historically, I’m hearing the piano here as an echo of marabi, but of course that’s no more the case than US house piano is an echo of boogie-woogie.) Their collaboration is a slow-motion epic of romantic devotion, giving Bucie’s performance the space it needs to explode.
[8]

Iain Mew: Both the style and Bucie’s voice make me think of Katy B, but “Rejoice” is more sprawling than she’s ever gone. There’s a bit of slack in its five minutes, but that’s compensated by added, unpredictable power, especially in the reverberating twists on its string riff and when Bucie gets to really let loose.
[7]

Will Adams: Between the minor key house framing and palpable yearning in Bucie’s vocal, “Rejoice” very much reminds me of Katy B, so that’s all the convincing I need. At times the extended instrumental portions seem like they hog the run time, at others they seem like the ideal opportunity to get lost in dance.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: The unsettling loop makes the song hard to breathe, and that’s before Bucie lays her heart down. She sings of a cruel cycle of love like the tail-chasing beat. From her voice that sinks deep into thought, as well as the fading mentions of “never gonna let you go,” her relationship sounds suffocating in its closeness as it is fulfilling. It can sway either way, and how she dances in that undefined middle draws me close to see if it will all fall apart or if she will find some way to let the tension to resolve.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: I wracked my brains for hours trying to work out who Bucie sounded like and… Siobhan Donaghy? Or that her single voice sounds like an Sugababes harmonies? Either way, hers would be a terrific voice for any kind of house track, even one as low-key as this. Titling it “Rejoice” feels bitterly ironic, but I like my dance music to choke back the tears with irony from time to time.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: If ever a title was a red herring, it’s this one. It’s not that this is a profoundly negative record, it’s just that it is in no way joyful, instead exploring expanses of conflict right up to its contradictory conclusion. With that incessant, hammered twinkling it’s also, in the best possible way, like remixed game show music. “Rejoice”‘s pained, danceable tension surpasses even the Tipping Point theme tune.
[8]

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Eric Church ft. Rhiannon Giddens – Kill a Word

Turn your attention away from post-debate hot takes for some ruminations on American country music…


[Video][Website]
[4.14]

Alfred Soto: On an album replete with rueful ballads in which Eric Church’s relationship with his muse often doubles if not supercedes anything meaningful with a woman, “Kill a Word” stands out for the prettiness of its central guitar filigree and Rhiannon Giddens’ harmonies. Excellent use of drums in the second verses, though, which suggests Church is still learning how to make records as well as he’s learning how to kill a word. Speaking of: the title’s inversion of the Book of John allusion is one more clever trick. I deduct a point for the sticks-and-stones line, but so often skeptics miss how well he sings. To my ear, he turns the words in on himself: the key part is “if I could only” kill a word. He sings as if he knows he can’t. Unlike Kanye-the-rapper, Church-the-singer can inflect his writing.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: Eric Church’s overall downplay of persona in Mr. Misunderstood overall gets me good when it shows a man showing his soft side during the after hours, not so much as a portrait of humble realness. So his later attempts in this song to elevate it for a more noble cause is when his “kill a word” idea starts to show its creative writing cheese. The “stick and stones may break my bones” part stands out more on a personal note: even this guy can feel the blow of put down. Cliché as it is, it still sounds human.
[6]

Anthony Easton: Giddens is one of the most innovative banjo players in recent memory and a vocalist with a precise, wide-ranging style. She could have complicated this fairly simple narrative. Instead she is relegated to a background hook singer. I’m not even sure that she plays on this one. 
[4]

Edward Okulicz: “If I could kill a word,” Church ponders, before going a bit off the rails and detailing how much he’d relish a veritable word genocide. The chorus hints at the calm, meditative thoughtfulness of some of his best songs but the lyrics yank the song in awkward directions.
[5]

Katie Gill: Funnily enough, a song about stopping hate and heartbreak through metaphors of sheer unapologetic brutal violence just isn’t sitting right with me.
[2]

A.J. Cohn: Taking the sword to the pen, and sticks and stones to words themselves, Church graphically fantasizes about doing violence to language with the supposed intent of “turn[ing] ‘lies’ and ‘hate’ to ‘love’ and ‘truth.'” If his chosen methods seem a little ill suited to the task at hand, well whoever said that the tools of toxic masculinity can’t be used to dismantle hate?
[1]

Josh Langhoff: Congrats, Eric Church! Not only have you conjured a disturbing Grand Guignol episode of WordWorld, you’ve promised to make us all dumber in the process. I mean, some of these words are really useful! “Over”??? You really wanna consign yourself to a life of saying “above”? In this brave new society where nothing ever ends, how will your children know when to turn off their episodes of WordWorld? Remember, you poisoned “goodbye” a while back, so unless they’re waving “adios” or something at the TV screen, that little trick won’t work. And no offense, but I’m worried that if you turn all these words into “love” and “truth,” the only song left standing in your catalog will be “Love Your Love the Most,” up until now the most idiotic Eric Church list song. Aside from Rhiannon Giddens, “Kill a Word” has one thing going for it: The sheer variety of killing techniques, together with the logical conundrums, tells us more about your narrator than he intends. Which might make this song less of a disgrace. Oops.
[4]

Monday, September 26th, 2016

E-40 ft. Kamaiyah – Petty

Earl Stevens makes his first Jukebox appearance on the left side of the “ft.” tag since 2010…


[Video][Website]
[4.57]

Megan Harrington: Pettiness, like sarcasm, is a quality made by combining funny with mean. E-40 understands this, slinging barbs and then punctuating them with tiny, tossed off sound effects. It’s giggle worthy and it’s supposed to be. Kamaiyah takes “Petty” perhaps more seriously than the occasion requires, but not distractingly so. 
[6]

Will Adams: The thing about the word “petty” is that it’s come to signify a bit of self-awareness and sense of humor; people can acknowledge that they’re being petty but not care and go for it anyway. E-40 and Kamaiyah seem to have this in mind, though they each focus on different aspects: E-40 plays up the humor while Kamaiyah emphasizes the commitment to braggadocio and bite. The ambling production of “Petty” won’t make it an impactful listen without proper context, but it would certainly do well when you’re in the mood to embrace the petty.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Actually, it’s the song that’s kind of petty.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: “Petty” is right: an inconsequential shrug where one could be more vicious.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: The immediate obstacle to enjoying this is that, as trifling complaints go, “these bitches is petty” is one of the more small-minded. E-40 and Kamaiyah clearly have no interest in going high when their antagonists go low. On the plus side, E-40 has a chatty flow that is never messy — he gives instead the impression that he’s capable of squeezing words into extra dimensions not available to your average rapper — and he’s made risible sentiments engaging through technical inventiveness many times in his career. (One example.) He says nothing memorable here, though, and nor does Kamaiyah, a nonetheless engaging, consonant-slurring newcomer. It’s also good to hear a JHawk production again, but his characteristic minimalism lacks the kineticism he once provided to Pink Dollaz or The Rej3ctz. “Petty” is trivial.
[4]

Ryo Miyauchi: JHawk’s three-note jingle should be the kind of roomy production for E-40 and Kamaiyah to thrive in. But from the start, it doesn’t sound too fun to engage with. That’s no good for the rappers who are better at translating joy than bitterness. Kamaiyah fares better with her ability to make boasting an impressive sport no matter the sound. Even if they tried to liven it up, the dim melody would mute their effort. Commanding voices like theirs shouldn’t be so tied down like this.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Four years after the six-course meal called The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil, the West Coast rapper’s track relies on a sample that goes “Most of these bitches is petty” as its hook, which should indicate the extent of its imagination. His other stuff has a louche charm; “Petty” is louche.
[3]

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Florida Georgia Line ft. Tim McGraw – May We All

Let’s not, and say we did…


[Video][Website]
[4.62]

Jonathan Bradley: Florida Georgia Line is two goony guys with terrible haircuts and maybe one personality between the pair of them, and they’re at their best when they’re making big goony songs about dumb subjects like trucks and beer and girls. (It works because, at those moments, you don’t get the sense they’ve ever thought it possible to make songs about anything else.) The opening chords of “May We All” blow cold like the end of summer, which portends poorly for a band built for an endless July; when they get real, we get “H.O.L.Y.” But thank gosh, it still has stomps and handclaps, multiple references to an American-made car, and, yes, a ball-cap-bedecked love interest who exists for two non-consecutive lines. But it never quite shakes its melancholic feel — Tim McGraw, a singer who knows how to put the “…Dying” into “Live Like You Were…” helps with that — and I wonder: is Florida Georgia Line capable of fighting a culture war? “May we all get to grow up in our red, white, and blue little town” is that shivering opening lyric, and the prayer suggests we might not. Some listeners will hear this as a salute to an America of harvest moon marching bands and part-time tractor-driving jobs that is receding into the past, and while parts of a nostalgia-primed and conservative-friendly Nashville wouldn’t disagree, Florida Georgia Line’s ongoing outlook is innately optimistic. However these small towns change, they remain red, white, and blue; the jukeboxes just start mixing some Pac in with the Travis Tritt.
[7]

Katie Gill: May we all conform to Florida Georgia Line’s incredibly narrow view of growing up in idealized small-town Americana. I don’t know what’s more laughable, this play-by-play song or the idea that Travis Tritt and and 2Pac would be on the same jukebox in the first place. And didn’t we already hear this song from Tim earlier this year?
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: My beef with this song, and the exhausting hundreds like it, in eight words: “May we all … find a sweet little thing.” It would appear women are not included in “all.” Which is fine, because I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative of good ol’ boys who protest too much about fame and barely bother to sing.
[2]

Alfred Soto: Many Jukebox readers — indeed, members of our staff — regard country music with suspicion thanks to hokum like “May We All,” which has hair blowin’ out the window, marchin’ bands, harvest moons, juiced up and sexed up with “modern” touches. For this crime, Florida Georgia Line should be arrested and held without bond.
[3]

Anthony Easton: Generic is better than tonally offensive. 
[3]

Edward Okulicz: Lyrically it’s yet more bromides about small-town America, but it’s bright and enthusiastic. That guitar riff is kind of dreamy, in a “fall asleep looking up at clouds while the sun makes you hallucinate a bit” way. I can’t take it seriously but I can’t deny my toes tapping and that little bit of my brain that wonders what the house prices are in Anytown, South of the US.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: I’m not typically a fan of Joey Moi’s production work for FGL — in fact, I’m a pretty loudly avowed nonfan of FGL, period — but this one’s got a little something to it. The sweetly crying guitar lick that Moi runs through much of “May We All” gives it an almost painfully unique sound, and the chorus is Ford truck-sturdy, to better aid its lyrics. I love that almost none of the lines of this song rhyme; when’s the last time you heard a big country smash that pulled that trick? Lyrically this is essentially a midtempo “I Hope You Dance” or (hello, Tim!) “Live Like You Were Dying,” and it’s nearly as effective as those two acknowledged classics. Plus roping in McGraw for your single is never a bad idea, and his voice pairs nicely with those of the FGL guys. Best single they’ve ever released.
[7]

Josh Langhoff: Now this is impressive. Two prolific songwriters team up to write a scruffy Irish blessing whose first two verses are limericks — with zero rhymes. Either that took some doing or, more likely, it didn’t, bolstering suspicions that the audience depicted in lyrics like these will bite at whichever lazy small town signifiers drift their way. And yet… do I often miss living in a little town where people dream of fame and riches, know they probably won’t find either, and so learn to face their surroundings with outsize pride? Mais oui, y’all.
[6]

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Michael Bublé – Nobody But Me

…and also Black Thought.


[Video][Website]
[1.77]

Katie Gill: Michael Buble constantly exudes oily smarminess. He’s the sort of person that Hannibal Lecter wouldn’t really eat but could find a way to make a nice salad dressing out of, he’s that oily. I sat through his Christmas special, I know that no matter his actual personality, this man generally comes off like he is incapable of being a trustworthy human being. Singing a song that’s a good 80 per cent creepy possessiveness does not help that image in the slightest. The song’s not “it’s my right to be hellish” levels of creepy but man, it’s borderline.
[1]

A.J. Cohn: Last year, Bublé posted a creepshot of a stranger on Instagram, which was received with criticism. In response, he released a quasi-apology, remarking that he was sorry if anyone was offended but his intentions were nothing but good: “I was not brought up that way and it is not in my character … Women are to be celebrated, loved, respected, honored, and revered.” If, after all that, anyone thought Bublé really cared about women, he sets the record straight with “Nobody But Me” expressing his controlling, patronizing, and generally disrespectful attitudes towards his female subject with uncommonly revealing lines like “Oh my papa told me once or twice/Don’t be cruel, don’t be too nice.” Save for Black Thought’s sweetly clunky and notably uncredited verse, this track is pure sexist slime.
[0]

Joshua Copperman: In my Notes app, I have many different variations of this blurb with varying degrees of seriousness, all relating to how awful this particular possessive strand of toxic masculinity is. Anything from Laura Jane Grace’s pain at her male socialization in regards to seeing her ex with another man (“the idea of owning sombody … seemed like a very male thing. Where’s the line between anger and misogyny?“) to eschewing all that and making a joke about Nick Jonas’s not-dissimilar-in-theme “Jealous” comes to mind when hearing this. I could also write about how this kind of song can done well, using “Genghis Khan” as an example of how to do a “shitty clingy boyfriend song” with far more self-awareness and even playfulness. Yet I listen back to this song, I listen to how Bublé wants to keep his girl exclusively by his side, but expects her to put up with his shit when he gets “reckless,” and I hear Black Thought trying to do damage control but only coming up with “I’m proud of you/like a treasure,” then I hear those fratty horns backing up Bublé, and I think of another reference altogether: Christ, what an asshole.
[1]

Thomas Inskeep: Lyrically this adheres to Bublé’s usual themes, but musically this does him no favors, sounding like an overly busy 2009 Mika b-side. The production on this is seriously horrible. And Black Thought’s uncredited guest rap couldn’t be more awkwardly shoehorned in. 
[1]

Jonathan Bradley: Bublé has today tasked himself with levity, and in service of such ends has mustered pomaded charm and bitten-off syllables. It isn’t for lack of commitment that he winds up sounding cautious amidst the ensemble gang chants and finger-snaps, but more his innately conservative approach to his material: there is likely an unpleasant possessiveness to this lyric, but I can’t be bothered listening closely enough to find out and I’m not sure Bublé bothered to think about it either. “Nobody But Me” is the kind of song that, as a risk, includes a rap interlude: Black Thought is a versatile vocalist with a knack for sidestepping memorability, and he delivers exactly as little as was demanded of his contribution.  
[2]

Alfred Soto: Usher or Justin Timberlake might have cut dashing figures selling this soft shoe, but Michael Buble is determined that prove that his last name means “gormless” in Canadian.
[2]

Anthony Easton: This lacks his usual sense of humour, and doesn’t swing very much at all. It is much closer to Jack Johnson’s “Banana Pancakes,” but at least that had a whiff of the post-coital that refused the cuteness. This is just cloying. (And made worse by the completely out of place hip-hop break.)
[3]

Madeleine Lee: A fine entry in the “songs for moms and their children to dance in the kitchen to” genre, but not much use outside of it.
[3]

Will Adams: Since when did Michael Bublé become possessed by Jason Mraz?
[1]

Scott Mildenhall: For a man so imitated Michael Bublé is inimitable. He is, audibly — singularly — The Nicest Man In Showbiz. It’s thus perhaps easier for him than anyone else to get away with such disconcertingly cheerful possessiveness. “Nobody But Me” is pretty much entirely about monopoly over another person, and little actually about them. But it’s so amiable! As for Black Thought’s surprise cameo, the only plausible reason is the possibility of a one-off credit for “Thought Bublé,” but actually mentioning him may have spoilt the surprise. Like all the weirder Bublé songs, this doesn’t actually seem as weird as it is.
[5]

Edward Okulicz: One of those chirpy songs off Jason Mraz’s first major album minus involvement of The Matrix plus cornball winking lite entertainment revue stylings plus creepy lyrics about possesion and control minus any self-awareness of these that would make it silly or endearing. It does not swing, it does not code intimacy as his fanbase probably insists his voice does, and it does not need a rap verse. It doesn’t even drip with enough smarm to satisfy people who like smarm. If I felt the love and intimacy here, I’d be more worried about a length of rope going around my neck when I turn my back.
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: Michael Buble is the embodiment of the ironic :D. Don’t you dare wear that dress out in public, and hand me your cell phone right the fuck now — your looks and life only exist for me! :D Aren’t I such a good and real singer, despite expending zero effort and much processing? :D :D I’m saying “hell” and featuring a rapper — aren’t I so forward-thinking for blending [ahistorical glob of big-band, doo-wop, and soft-rock meant to signify the mythical time when Music was Real Unlike That Trash] with pop music, despite this being done by legions including Meghan Trainor and the entire year of 2003? :D :D :D
[0]

William John: Michael Buble’s voice is one of this earth’s most hideous sounds; always unnecessarily foregrounded, ponderous and slothful, gleaned of all surface, blander than boiled zucchini. On “Nobody But Me,” Michael attempts to serve us a bop with a guest rap, but a revolting voice grafted onto a jaunty arrangement does not a banger make, especially when the sentiment is so narcissistic and vainglorious as to presume that your partner needs nothing else in life but you.
[1]

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Jenny Hval – Conceptual Romance

Conceptually, not much controversy.


[Video][Website]
[6.33]

Leonel Manzanares: That quasi-droning bass acts as a Totem; it anchors both the shifting tectonic synth layers and Jenny’s exploration of the female voice as alchemy. It reminds us that, indeed, everything is operating within’ the same dimension. No matter that she’s meditating on the eternal, she remains stuck in her erotic self-oscillation. However, the bridge gives us a Jenny Hval that’s partially achieving trasmutation: When she goes “I don’t know who I am, but…”, she is divorcing from the confines of her own voice and fusing with her sonic surroundings. But inmediately then, as the words “i’m working on it” re-engage with this reality, she returns to that state of Dukkha. “Conceptual Romance” is her most accesible single yet; it is also the most commited to its message. She might call it “Abstract romanticism”, but this is Jenny Hval at her most concrete. 
[8]

Katie Gill: Haunting and meandering, Hval lightly trills through this odd speak-singing, her lyrics more poetry slam than expected. The music is light and ethereal, I find it hard to describe this. Considering my exceedingly poptimist taste palette, I know I’m in prime territory to hate this. But there’s just something so relaxing about this that I find myself losing myself in the music the way Hval loses herself in her musings and her holding patterns.
[8]

Jonathan Bogart: The clockwork patterns and tidal synths owe a lot to forebears like Laurie Anderson, but the scalpel precision of her lyrics is missing. Instead I’m reminded most of EMA’s similarly foggy soundscapes and shaggily-edited musings.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Conceptual song. I admire its precision, though.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: The problem with conceptual art is that it often just sits there. Like this song.
[3]

A.J. Cohn: There’s a small joke somewhere in that what sort of romance would an experimental singer-songwriter write a song about other than the conceptual. But if this song is heady, it’s full of heart too; it’s a tender, moving exploration of the interplay between conceptual and actual love, a carefully observed examination of a relationship and Hval’s place within it. Hval’s musings are beautifully complemented by her track, her voice floating, nearly suspended over shimmering, slowly building synths. But anyway: “But come with me, I want to show you something/The original holy origin of the world” is such a good come-on that how could this be any less than an [8].
[8]

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Local Natives – Fountain of Youth

An anthem!


[Video][Website]
[4.50]

Joshua Copperman: Now this is an anthem. They’re playing Terminal 5 in October, but they’re clearly aiming for Madison Square Garden with a song as big as this. After the depressing nature of the Aaron Dessner-produced previous album, this song’s “we can do whatever we want” chorus – which probably no one else could pull off ever – feels earned and stunningly defiant. “Fountain of Youth” has a way of reincarnating cliches throughout; The Simpsons already made fun of the whole “children are our future” thing decades ago, before I was even old enough to get it, but this song rejuvenates that idea, the once-unassuming indie upstarts knowingly passing the torch to a generation not quite as earnest. With that in mind, I’ll even forgive the Mrs. President lines for sounding too pandering because everything else works, basically in spite of itself. It’s the song that “New Americana” wanted to be, but where that misses the mark in defining young people as One Nation Under Biggie And Nirvana, this one attempts to just stand up for the young’uns, a self-appointed Lorax for Millenials (groan) and Generation Z (groan) alike. But as someone on the cusp between those two generations, there are far worse fates than having a song this gorgeously skyscraping speak for me. 
[8]

Alfred Soto: The usual influences — Radiohead, Mumford — with an electronic overlay. This galls me less than its infantilism. Kids are great and I listen to music targeted at adolescents for hours at a time, but I like being older and have no regard for my youth: it happened, it was fun, it’s over. I especially don’t like bands getting pompous about it too.
[3]

A.J. Cohn: Maybe it’s that the anthemic is anathema to me, but on first listen, I reacted to this much as I would to any zeitgeist-y festival-ready indie rock vaguely celebrating youth — allergically. On further consideration, I’ve realized that this song is something subtler and sadder — its chorus not a celebratory chant for bros so much as an ironic lament. The fountain of youth is, of course, fantasy. The dreamed-for world where “We can do whatever we want/We can say whatever we mean” is, unhappily, illusory too.
[5]

Crystal Leww: Local Natives need a damn fountain of youth for this bored, tired sound of 2010 to sound fresh again. Everyone is mad at twenty one pilots for being corny, but the olds of guitar music are busy recycling the same sounds of Pitchfork 2010 and singing ironic platitudes like “I think we better listen to these kids.” 
[2]

Jonathan Bogart: At this point I’m going to have to put my distaste for midtempo anthemic hyperverbal yelpalongs down to generational differences. There’s so much of this stuff that it’s clearly connecting with some audience or other, but I just remember how poorly the earnestness-rock of my own youth has aged, and wonder how prepared all these haircuts are for becoming Counting Crows.
[4]

Thomas Inskeep: The build, and the chorus, here are reasons “anthemic” is a word. More fun than fun., at least. Sounds like a great big Modern Rock hit.
[5]

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Puer Kim – Pearls

Spare or sleepy?


[Video][Website]
[6.29]
Anthony Easton: Wading through a landscape of almost too sparse electronics, and having her voice emerge — almost spoken, soft, negotiating, and on the blank side of flat — Kim doesn’t sell the vocals as much as let them lie in ambush.
[8]

Will Adams: “Pearls” is worth revisiting on the basis of its ear-tickling sounds alone: utensils clink and scrape, synths wobble like a thunder sheet, and bass blurts add exclamation points to the ends of phrases. It’s Puer Kim’s calm amid the commotion, though, that bespeaks a confidence that elevates “Pearls” above its too-smooth R&B contemporaries.
[7]

Crystal Leww: Puer Kim tries to capitalize on interesting dance pop production flourishes — I like the stutters and hits in the production — but this drags. Puer Kim sings like an easy coffeehouse performer, and by the time we hit the bridge I’m ready to go to the registry for another cup to stay awake.
[4]

Iain Mew: A downcast wisp of a song put together with powerful synth wobbles; it doesn’t get blown away thanks to the resistance that gradually becomes clear in Puer Kim’s voice, rich and precise and quietly hinting at greater depths still.
[7]

Jessica Doyle: In interviews Puer Kim has said that she gives herself more license when writing in English, which is how we ended up getting the spare, pointed, thrilling “It’s hard to be a daughter of a woman loved by God” and, here, images of pearls outgrowing their shells. Admittedly by the chorus the metaphors are running into each other, but she’s good at matching message to mood: slinky contempt in “Manyo Maash,” workmanlike (almost to the point of boring) in “Bank,” dreamy regret here. I could float on this for a long time.
[7]

Jonathan Bogart: I like her low key Eurojazz phrasing, lingering mush-mouthedly over the beat instead of snapping to it like more current r&b. Unfortunately the English lyrics let her down, a bunch of nonsense that not even one of the busier productions I’ve heard in a while can save.
[6]

Alfred Soto: I’m smitten with the idea of Hope Sandoval over a modern dance pop productionszzzzzzzz
[5]

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Young Thug & Travis Scott ft. Quavo – Pick Up the Phone

If you’d just stop calling me from a blocked number, guys…


[Video][Website]
[5.83]

Jibril Yassin: Props to Travis Scott for escaping Mike Dean’s dungeon and knowing not to get carried away on the track. Thugger’s 2015 collab with, ahem, Johnny X unwittingly set the stage for his show-stealing verse here, although Quavo comes very close to upending that by inventing new words on the fly and namedropping Macaulay Culkin. 
[9]

Ryo Miyauchi: Though it has a flash of classic love-struck Young Thug — “never will I cheat on you, never will I commit treason” — the heart of this alien serenade is Quavo. Travis emptily dials, Thug dances around words, but the Migos got business to settle. No heightened buzz of Auto-Tune can hit the emotions of his four bars about his fight-filled relationship.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Catchy beat, boring verses, too much fucking Auto-Tune.
[3]

Edward Okulicz: “Pick up the phone/I know you’re home” — aah, so we know where this one sits on continuum both the needy and creepy axes of songs about phone calls. That position is good for the stars, but not so much for the track. The schlocky horror-movie drone over the last 30 seconds of the song is terrific, aand perfect, and I wish they’d made more use of it because the rest of the track feels rather samey, with Thug and Quavo in particular trying to rouse up some feeling, any feeling, out of a track that would be better for the “before” in this narrative than the present.
[5]

Iain Mew: The other day at work my desk phone rang, I picked it up and nothing happened. It just carried on ringing. This song’s slow hypnosis gets to the same feeling of disorientation amidst the familiar but also to the same lack of end result, just carrying on.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: Thugga exhales his lines like they’ve been triggered by a sample: push a key, and out comes Jeffery slurry. Fittingly, the synth burble underpinning the beat behaves in exactly the same way. (So does Travis Scott; he’s a guest so at home he becomes part of the drapery.) The hook, in contrast with the rest of the track, is legible and romantic, and suggests sympathy with something like Future’s “Turn On the Lights.” This, however, is a generation advanced from that song’s open-hearted vulnerability: “Pick Up the Phone” squelches its emotions into sound so warped and plaintive it might be a dial tone.
[7]

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Dessa – Quinine

Yeah, I’d love a tonic, thanks.


[Video][Website]
[6.50]

Will Adams: Three nights in a row this week, I had nightmares so bad I couldn’t fall back asleep for at least a half hour after awaking in the early hours. “Quinine” illuminates the deep-seated fear I hold that there is something within me that makes me fundamentally unable to escape such terrifying thoughts, but it gives me calm in that I’m not the only one.
[8]

Iain Mew: “Qunine” tosses and turns like someone trying to throw off its unhappy dreams, slipping from section to section in a haze with its next direction never clear. It’s compelling but not great until its frantic finale that reveals its ultimate destiny as a dark mirror to the stomp of Dumblonde’s “Dreamsicle.”
[7]

Alfred Soto: Like Mitski and some of Sky Ferreira’s efforts, “Quinine” keeps its head while all around it everyone loses theirs; during other moments it drifts into the kind of demo into which one of the Knowles sisters would’ve breathed life.
[6]

William John: Even a radiant voice would struggle to elevate a beat so drab and plodding, and Dessa’s uncompelling turn here only multiplies the anaesthesia.
[2]

Edward Okulicz: I like lyrics, but I generally react more viscerally to sounds. Here, though, there a couple of little lyrical snippets that stand out as particularly vivid and interesting in a song that is melodically a bit bland: “we were hand to glove to cuff,” in particular suggests a kind of snug but uncomfortable tightness of fit. The atmosphere is terrific, and Dessa’s a transparent emoter and good lyricist, but the song doesn’t grab where it needs to close the deal — “nothing stops the dreams” and “still holding on” read as, and are sung as, cliches. It’s compelling, but in my mind the finished verison of the song this is a draft for is a 9 or a 10 and that makes me feel a bit frustrated.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: I stopped writing down my dreams in 2015. Nothing good happens there, and everything I want. In 2008 it happened by a conference table; I luged, supine into traffic. 2009, a New Orleans hotel: I lost him in a masquerade ball, died, and scraped trash forever in the afterlife. I lost him at a skyscraper at the Atlantic/Pacific station in June 2012, a too-tall shadow; a rendezvous at the same nonexistent skyscraper in October, where my hands bled out at the lifelines. I’ve been lounged with in garages, rhapsodized about over emails, commemorated, bitterly, in a Facebook event attended by half my friends. A morning-after walk down eighty flights of stairs with glass walls. A 3 a.m. Amtrak stop in a navy sweater dress, skulking around the maintenance sites. Hands touching, after some time’s silence, across a card table. Paired off in some ritual tango. A museum in Atlanta exhibiting all my secrets, which I fail to shut down in time. A room full of staircases and escalators — it’s in Chapel Hill, by Lenoir — that you must ascend, in public, among acquaintances, if the humiliating romantic thing engraved above ever happened to you. The final staircase is long and narrow: “I’m worried. He’s just fine.”
[9]