Saturday, December 17th, 2022

Amnesty 2022, Part Four

Phil Collins raises an eyebrow in front of a sky blue background to promote his autobiography Not Dead Yet

Flames to dust, lovers to friends, and so indeed Amnesty 2022 must come to an end. But our unexpected fourth day of reviews ends things on a high note. Read on for Bahia bass, an anime girl band and a diversion from Broadway. We’ll see you again when we see you. Thanks for stopping by!


MyGo!!!!! – Silhouette Dance


[Video]
[7.17]

Dorian Sinclair: There are a lot of bands in the BanG Dream! universe, and Bushiroad manages to pretty cleanly define the sonic niche for each. Lyrically, though, there’s a decided bias towards positivity. Lots of songs about coming together, moving forward with courage and as a group, and other generally optimistic subject matters. That is, until now. With the introduction of MyGo!!!!!, we finally have the sad bangers the public have been clamouring for. All three of their original songs are in Sad Banger territory, but “Silhouette Dance” might be my favourite for both its subject matter (I am a sucker for “dissociating at the club” songs) and its production; something about the guitar stabs, handclaps, and backing vocals really hits just right for me.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: The spin-kicking guitar is only able to leap and twirl thanks to the trim, strong drums — which slip in and out of heavy tom rolls without even blinking — the brightly soprano vocals of Tomori; and the loping, swirling bass, which lurks below the verses before leaping forward during the chorus. It allows Tomori to keen and run, a caterwauling guitar solo dropping in, before the sharply constructed mix closes, with Tomori doing cooing runs over the last two bars.
[10]

Alfred Soto: Fully bodied, dense, with a guitar riff that doesn’t stop, “Silhouette Dance” deserves sampling — if Americans hear it. 
[7]

Will Adams: Okay that one guitar riff is pretty bitchin’.
[6]

Taylor Alatorre: In terms of sound and presentation, this is a bit more in line with the roots of the Bandori franchise than whatever RAISE A SUILEN was supposed to be. Yet in spite of its relative tastefulness, I somehow feel more pandered to by this than the band with the cat-eared dubstep DJ. “Silhouette Dance” is a song about surrendering your ego to the ecstasies of live music, and under the right conditions I can certainly see myself surrendering to it — glowstick in hand, surrounded by ten thousand other shameless 30-year-old men. It’s an effective ad for the franchise’s increasingly lucrative concerts, and everything about its writing suggests this was the intention, from the constant pummeling beat to the carefully slotted moments of instrumental virtuosity. What does it matter if the chorus is less memorable than a single verse from Hello, Happy World! — your senses were suitably whelmed, were they not? In the words of Seta Kaoru, “how fleeting.”
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: I don’t hear silhouettes. Silhouettes don’t bang.
[7]


My Chemical Romance – The Foundations of Decay


[Video][Website]
[7.75]

Claire Biddles: Much like any band worth properly caring about, My Chemical Romance understand the importance of self-mythology. “The Foundations of Decay” — their first single in eight years, released in May with no prior warning — is almost entirely self-referential and self-instructing, the conscious prologue to the next book in the series, as though they were an ancient episodic fantasy story and not a rock band from New Jersey. Their last single, 2014’s “Fake Your Death”, talked of walking away from something that didn’t bring you pleasure anymore, choosing to end the rock star pretending before it fucks you up forever. A tired, sub-Black Parade power ballad, it was defeatist in its message and its medium. “The Foundations of Decay” references it, but is its opposite: a gradual, industrial churning-back-to-life, that begins with a recap of the story so far and goes on to lament the nihilism of inaction, ending with Gerard Way screeching at himself to “Get up coward!”. It’s intra-band lore reframed as grand biblical epic, with deadpan prog breakdowns, Frank Iero and Ray Toro’s ten-foot-tall twin guitars, and Gerard’s black metal screams. MCR opened almost every show on their 2022 tour with it, a carefully constructed call to arms. When Gerard sang it at the final show in Mexico last month he was dressed as Joan of Arc, entirely aware of the parallels between her faith existing as embers after her death and the band’s rebirth; entirely aware of the pomposity of such comparisons while being deathly serious about them. If “The Foundations of Decay” — and MCR’s return in general — was just this indulgence in mythology, just this righteous and expected bombast, it would still be a [10]. But there’s something stranger and more personal at its heart that gets to me even more. It’s in that odd moment where Gerard tosses out “you look stressed out!” before the guitar breakdown. It’s in the references to the weirdest moments in their back catalogue; the oddest ends of their tastes. It’s in “You must fix your heart”. It’s seeing all of them, but Gerard Way specifically, performing this strange, fantastical song about choosing to live despite it all while indulging everything anyone ever made fun of him for, or told him to hold back, or separate out. It’s how fixing your heart means fixing yourself so you can exist on your own terms, letting yourself be the freak that you are — and not in a 14-year-old nobody-understands-me emo way, but in a 45-year-old, gender-non-conforming true authentic insanity way. Gerard is ten years older than me and maybe it’s because I like to self-mythologise too, but seeing him perform this song in a fucking… nurse outfit on a livestream from Detroit a few months ago made me believe that some time in the next decade I could churn back into a new life too, once I figure out what my own terms are. Seven months on and I still can’t believe I have this song to listen to. What a miracle that I have this band back.
[10]

Taylor Alatorre: Given the length of the hiatus and the unexpected nature of this release, I was originally willing to evaluate it in a critical vacuum, free of any constant comparisons to the band’s past glories or those of its peers. However, every single lyric in “The Foundations of Decay” indicates that Gerard Way really, really doesn’t want me to do that. So in honor of his wishes, I offer up this: at least post-hiatus Fall Out Boy managed to make lofty self-mythologizing sound fun.
[2]

Nortey Dowuona: When the guitar slides in over the crinkling synths, it feels skittish, irritable, slightly apprehensive, as if it can’t believe its here either. But by the time the band launches into the heavy, hammering chorus, the guitar is loud, raging and furious, its fangs bared and flashing. It stops itself, but slinks back into its small, fragile state, then barrels again, its fangs open and biting, casting aside fear to sink its teeth into you. Then, wailing, it drops you, howling and screeching, refusing to accept what it has just done as you bleed and limp, wondering why you of all people were bitten. It bites down, hard, and your mind vanishes, the fangs now wet and slick with blood. The guitar devours and chugs, all thoughts gone. It consumes gleefully and and uninhibited, then looks down at its paws, then inches away, the blood following. Agonized and guilty, it bites into its own forearm, refusing to stop, loosen or breathe until it falls to the ground; you and its blood mixed so completely that one cannot tell which is which.
[10]

Ian Mathers: Look, some of us are never going to forget being in a windowless basement bar the first time the Goth Night DJ played “Vampires Will Never Hurt You” and we’re never going to get over it, either.
[9]


Reneé Rapp – Too Well


[Video]
[5.25]

Jackie Powell: At 22 years old, Reneé Rapp has accomplished something that her predecessors have not. Do you recognize her? You should. She plays Leighton Murray on Mindy Kaling’s incredibly relatable but maybe too quickly paced HBO Max comedy The Sex Lives of College Girls. She also played Regina George in Mean Girls on Broadway and is set to reprise that role in the film adaptation of the musical. On “Too Well,” a single off her EP Everything to Everyone, she’s playing a different character: herself. It’s a track about self-loathing and trying to get over someone who still has an magnet-like pull on your mind. While Rapp employed Blake Slatkin and Omer Fedi, two producers and writers that have been everywhere in pop music in the past 24 months, the track isn’t formulaic. It doesn’t sound like it was made in a machine. “Too Well” allows Rapp to express her emotions along with the dynamics of the song, a skill that not all performers who began on the stage have mastered. It begins with a twinkling intro that morphs into a smooth bassline running along its tempo-keeping snare. Each chorus is preceded by the phrase,”This shit never ends,” relatable, right? And is followed by a four-note run on the word “I.” That same run repeats four times in each chorus. It’s a device that she uses to evoke frustration, and the listener is drawn to that frustration every single time. It’s a really difficult song to sing because of that repeated run, and she knows it. Rapp has an ability to exude her emotions in a way that feels organic rather than plastic. The drama feels realistic and not pantomimed. I listened to others in Rapp’s discourse community. Lea Michele’s “Battlefield” and Ben Platt’s “Grow as We Go” feel like older versions of Rachel Berry and Evan Hansen. Rapp, however, isn’t Regina George on “Too Well.” That’s what she has accomplished that her predecessors haven’t. While Grande played the ditsy Cat Valentine and is known for on-point celebrity impressions, her stage presence has never impressed me. When she performs, she lacks the vulnerability and authenticity that is expected of someone with her level of stardom. (That’s why I didn’t love her casting as Glinda in Wicked.) Rapp has developed a small but mighty fanbase by embracing strengths that Grande but also Michele and Platt do not have. She has found separation from the iconic character that she’s played. The credibility that many on her path have strived for, but haven’t reached, she has. Her ceiling as a multi-faceted entertainer is so high, and her emotional intelligence places her as someone with the potential to be a generational talent.
[8]

Alfred Soto: We know this sound (all) too well: the polite synth chimes, the discreet rhythm loops, the lyrics that flirt with marketable self-loathing. Send this back to the writing workshop. 
[3]

Harlan Talib Ockey: If I hadn’t already heard of Reneé Rapp, my first guess would be that she was someone talented and successful in another field trying to write a formulaic pop hit. Unsurprisingly for a Broadway performer, she has obvious vocal skills, but “Too Well” is too anonymous to rise above average. The production is 2022 in a nutshell: the music box/glockenspiel riff is right on-trend with the mean nursery rhymes wave, the mandatory ’80s synths are everywhere, the bass is even arguably pop rock. The lyrics are clear and efficient, a point in Rapp’s favor that pairs nicely with her powerful vocals, although “I don’t forget too well” is a clunky turn of phrase. There’s certainly enough to like here, but not quite enough to stand out.
[6]

Nortey Dowuona: The lilting pianos make this song seem cutesy and sweet, but Reneé quickly drops the loping drums and spread-thin guitars and carries the bass guitar and synth as she yelps, then simpers through, mostly yelping as the chorus splinters the mix open, then sinks below a plush river of lush synths in the bridge — which simply leads to nowhere and she hops in the lake…
[6]

Michael Hong: There’s no one-upping an ex who’s “happy somewhere else,” no revelation of self-love that makes her move on. It’s bitter stasis in self-destruction that’s tough to attempt to turn into an anthem.
[3]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: A bitter, chipper version of “All Too Well” sans the essential small details and with some additional self-loathing feels perfectly perfunctory. 
[6]

Will Adams: “I don’t forget too well” somehow makes less sense to me than “I can’t remember to forget you”. That’s one thing. The other is an added vocal hook — to enliven the otherwise unremarkable track — of “ugh” that so desperately wishes it was “UNNHH!”
[3]

Ian Mathers: Kudos to Rapp for being one of the relatively rare Broadway people doing pop singles where I actually needed to be told she’s a Broadway person. I really wish “I heard you’re happy somewhere else/but I don’t forget too well” didn’t land so awkwardly for me because it’s a good chorus otherwise. She’s already sung about the way post-breakup rage gives way to sorrow, and how that’s almost harder to take so… what’s being forgotten exactly? Are we suddenly switching narratives? The glory of pop (or just of music) is that it sounds and feels right enough that I still mostly enjoy the song even though part of me insists on being baffled.
[7]


NewJeans – Hype Boy


[Video][Website]
[8.40]

Anjy Ou: Having a crush can be an excruciating experience — that push and pull between the desire for connection and the fear of being vulnerable isn’t always pleasant. But beyond the anxieties of whether your feelings are reciprocated, there’s the thrill of having someone brighten your day in unexpected ways with a smile or a joke, tugging at heartstrings dusty from lack of use. The potential for connection and the realization that you’re not in fact dead on the inside can be an amazing feeling in and of itself. “Hype Boy” is what I imagine the soundtrack is like for that bright side, with quirky, dreamy synths and the thumping moombahton bassline that turns the way your heart trips up when you see the object of your affections into a chill groove you can’t help but move to. It’s matched by the confident exuberance of five teenagers new to love and not yet jaded by heartbreak, as well as a catchy set of dance moves that has taken Korea by storm. If you’re looking for a spark in today’s K-pop landscape, look no further than NewJeans.
[10]

Michael Hong: “Hype Boy” is immediate, an enticing vocal loop that makes you want to chase. Its verses are vocally coy but lyrically direct, as Haerin confesses to chasing a daydream in a plainspoken manner. “Hype Boy” doesn’t resolve that disconnect in the chorus the way “Attention” did, where all tension dissolved as it slid into the chorus, but it feels like forcefully dragging an object of affection by the collar to some secluded space. It’s a confession that pays no mind to the outcome, simply overjoyed by the feeling of being alive and having a crush.
[9]

Crystal Leww: In an era of girl crush and Kwangya, NewJeans felt refreshing, even as it was a back-to-basics kind of move, reaching back to the days of Black girl groups. Specifically, the comparison I immediately hear is 3LW. A new friend from Seoul this year pointed out that NewJeans sound different because in an era of maximalist, “How much shit can we stuff into this?”, cut-and-paste production in K-pop, their mini was full of surprisingly even production. I think that’s true, but the vocal performance the girls give is a teenager’s performance — fittingly dramatic and full of emotion. As a result, the chorus of “Hype Boy” feels like a teenager’s crush — trying to play it cool on the outside but internally, floating on a cloud, hurling yourself off a cliff, like the best and worst rollercoaster ride of your life. Some of my favorite memories related to music this year were related to NewJeans. They managed to make some grown-ass adults revert back to teenagers — seeing Hojo drop a nightcore version of “Hype Boy” while a new friend did the full choreo, hearing different remixes in Cakeshop in Seoul pretty much every night I was there, and seeing the happy yelps of the crowd during Bias NYC when all four songs were played at different points in the night. We all just wanna feel a little something, bro
[10]

Scott Mildenhall: Gesturing towards high spirits, NewJeans themselves sound unenthused. There’s a lack of vitality to “Hype Boy” that allows it to wash over the ear, with vocalic repetition so rudimentary that it might as well be a glitch.
[6]

Kayla Beardslee: NewJeans literally only have four songs, yet I’ve already managed to form a contrarian opinion about their discography; the speed of the K-pop industry is matched only by the speed of annoying music critic takes. Of their three singles to date, “Hype Boy” has raked in the most acclaim and commercial longevity… but guys, I actually think “Attention” is way more interesting. It makes a ton of sense that “Hype Boy” has pushed through to become the defining track of NewJean’s debut. The topline writing is insane — those two words of “Cause I-I-I-I” are one of the stickiest hooks of the year, practically every phrase around it is a runner-up for the same prize, and the vocals are refreshingly raw. It’s the song that lingers in your head and the song that people want to cover to feel cool, both in terms of vocal attitude and the many memorable bits of choreo. But after you’ve heard it once, there’s not much more to discover, and the production just kind of sits there being simple and fresh in the background and doesn’t interact with the topline as interestingly as “Attention.” The stylistic choices of “Hype Boy” are the best representation of why NewJeans’ music has immediately made such waves, but nothing in it gets me as, uh, hyped as those first few seconds of the chopped-up noise sample at the beginning of “Attention,” or the playful rhythmic back-and-forth between melody and arrangement in its second verse (and I find the sound design choices more interesting and diversely textured as well). But hey, at least neither of their first two tracks made us wonder whether their lyrics were blatantly sexualizing a group of just-debuted teenagers, right? (Humorless laughter in distance.)
[7]


The Wonder Years – Wyatt’s Song (Your Name)


[Video]
[6.33]

Taylor Alatorre: The dirty little secret of pop punk is that its biggest turn-of-the-millennium hits were really just power pop songs in disguise. It was a brute fact that if a bunch of NOFX-worshipping teens from Oxnard, or Jawbreaker devotees from Jersey wanted the airwaves, they had to borrow chord progressions from Cheap Trick and seek production secrets from Butch Walker or Jerry Finn. Both out of choice and out of necessity, the Wonder Years never really operated in this mode, preferring instead to connect the dots between New Found Glory’s sugar-infused hardcore, the class-conscious ramshackle of “orgcore,” and the wired self-reflexivity of John Darnielle and Craig Finn. In Recession-era America, this was a recipe for a cult, but not so much a revival of a then-benighted genre. “Wyatt’s Song,” even more so than 2013’s “Dismantling Summer,” is a rare exception — its oozin-aahs harmonies, suitably broad chorus lyric, and Mark Hoppus co-credit all mark it as ripe for KROQ airplay. Also like “Dismantling Summer,” its lyrics can easily be read as a deconstruction of the genre’s fabled immaturity, a fact which compelled Pitchfork to write an overdue feature about the band. But the true genius of “Wyatt’s Song” is how it portrays the fists-in-the-air punk anthem not as an enemy of mature adulthood or even fatherhood, but as a potential complement to it — an emblem of stability and familiarity in a precarious world. “God Only Knows” gets name-checked here, but there’s no doubt that other parents Dan Campbell’s age are blasting “Ocean Avenue” in the carpool lane. Against all odds, mostly in spite of itself, pop punk is music with the proven power to unite generations, and the Wonder Years are leaning into that tendency. The biggest vote of confidence in the song, according to Campbell’s Instagram, comes from Wyatt himself — “we get in the car and he says ‘I want my song.'”
[9]

Leah Isobel: I’m kind of a sucker for this stuff — contrasting a deep, measured adult anxiety with a 2003 sugar-rush guitar attack is an easy way to my heart. If that ebullience occasionally overpowers the real terror at the heart of the song, so what?
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: My high school bandmates and I were really into Get Stoked on It!, the 2007 easycore debut from the Wonder Years. By the time the Pennsylvanian act released their next three albums to sizable acclaim, I’d largely moved on from the scene. I remember thinking the Dangerous Summer’s Reach for the Sun (2009) would be the last pop punk album I’d love; that they sounded like an Adult version of the Starting Line appealed to me. And then Relient K, a band so tethered to my Christian upbringing, released an album shortly after and proved that lovable, juvenile youth group kids could age gracefully. But things began to change: I’d attend college the next year, stop reading the absolutepunk.net forums, and see my tastes expand exponentially. The appeal of the Wonder Years’ latest album is that it’s “mature” but the revelations are obvious: self-discovery isn’t restricted to our awkward formative years. In this case, singer Dan Campbell thinks about his newborn son Wyatt and considers how much his views on the world have changed. It’s a sweet sentiment, but I can’t help but feel the profundity loses meaning when the music is a mellower, anesthetized version of the work they’ve always made. All the signposts of GROWTH are here, but they’re straightforward and expected (if you’re an adult, you’ve only reached this point in life because you recognize there are lessons to be learned at every point). The music follows suit, and “Wyatt’s Song” doesn’t have the electricity of discovering kernels of truth in snotty, angst-ridden, anxious lyrics. I’m happy for them, but it’s unfortunately “their most personal work to date.”
[3]


MC Danny, Turma da Bregadeira – Soca Tudo


[Video]
[7.75]

Frank Kogan: Hoppin’ little number fusing Bahia bass and funk delivery; the cheery video is shot in the happy Brazilian rain; features three fashionably well-adorned bicyclists, though they seem to be missing a significant accessory.
[9]

Ian Mathers: The one guy sounds like he’s singing through a baffle, or a head cold, and her vocal timbre is as wonderfully, one-note powerful as that stiff-enough-to-dance-to beat. The combined result is a great melding of things that seem like they shouldn’t quite work into a whole that really, really does.
[9]

Nortey Dowuona: Liking the bassline on this, the kicks are heavy, the percussion is airborne and frizzing, the snares are silently holding the whole thing from tipping over due to MC Danny’s awkward, clumsy flow, while Turma pushes the song forward with her light, sharp chant.
[7]

Scott Mildenhall: Even while that four-point popping noise returns with regularity, it comes as a surprise every time. It’s an odd sensation, because while the rest of “Soca Tudo”‘s moving parts fit together with an improbability that can only be overcome by skill, they form a flinch-inducing distraction. They sound like the unwelcome notification of a chatbot on a business website, repeatedly asking you if you need any help. Otherwise unblemished, “Soca Tudo” did not need that help.
[6]


TreaZon – Tinted Windows


[Video]
[8.33]

Nortey Dowuona: The thing about TreaZon is that he’s both a deeply emotive writer with a expressive, silvery voice, and a clumsy, tender-headed goof who occasionally threatens to swing on anybody who gets close. Unfortunately, these two personas conflict, because the first has a genuinely interesting perspective, saying smart and sharp things like “negroes violate and cross you deliberately/then be victims when you offer a penalty”, while the second has smart-dumb wit like “had to be a gorilla or I fall into guillotine”. It’s also helped him hold my attention, especially with the washed-out Hans Zimmer bass synths and synth patch sax he floats over courtesy of OH GENIUS, plus the uncredited vocals from GATS, and a spinning kick drum which he rides without stopping. There are flaws in this: the second verse is well wedded to the kick until the pre-chorus snare/kick tunes til it sounds like a bark; and he struggles sloppily to the chorus. He does pick the slack up in the last verse, peeling off a smooth and tangled flow that even stops off to pay homage to the Bone Thugs who inspired it, before dipping right off as the song ebbs away. This might be the last song from the last album we hear from TreaZon, and that would be a shame, but he’s got a kid, and not every no-hoper can ride on Cudi’s coattails. 
[9]

Frank Kogan: Needs love like it’s still ’87, but if we try to look at the mess that’s in there, his eyes film over like shades.
[7]

Ian Mathers: I’ve heard songs in the last few years that have made me miss being at concerts, miss being out dancing, miss being sat in the pub with friends and beer, but this might be the first one I’ve heard the whole time that’s made me miss the quiet taxi home, crawling through Toronto traffic watching people on the street with earbuds in; a totally different mood than any number of different kinds of night that could have preceded those minutes.
[9]

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3 Responses to “Amnesty 2022, Part Four”

  1. Amnesty is the best time of the year fr

  2. taylor’s blurb after my blurb already entering the hall of fame of [2] after my [10] which is a crowded field tbh

  3. Can you fix your RSS feeds please

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