Singles Round-up, March 10

Pallbearer | “I Saw The End”
Both this and previous single “Thorns” from Heartless are under seven minutes, suggesting the doom metal quartet might have taken a (relatively) radio-friendly turn. They still retain what makes them great, though: Spiraling leads over “Tokyo-destroying downstrokes and cannon-fire percussion” and vocals that express sorrow better than films. Look for these guys to go 3-for-3 when Heartless drops.

Mastodon | “Andromeda”
This is more like it. “Andromeda” is closer to classic Mastodon (read: more metal) than the previous two offerings from Emperor of Sand, including a riff that drunkenly lurches around the rhythm section. The song also features some prog elements from their first couple of records in the bridge, suggesting this record is a return to their early days, as well as being their most varied to date. Time is apparently a main theme of Sand, and it’s fitting because these guys sound ageless.

Fastball |”I Will Never Let You Down”
The guys in Fastball – Tony Scalzo in particular – have always been underrated songwriters, so it should come as no surprise that “Let You Down” has a smart, if repetitive, arrangement. Its aww shucks lyrics (“It may sound funny, I don’t have lots of money/ But I will never let you down”) and hummable melody are pretty standard fare for Fastball, but the song is certainly better than expected from a band that peaked 20 years ago. Call this a win.

Fleet Foxes | “Third of May / Ōdaigahara”
FF’s first release in six years is nine minutes, most of which exist in a near-perpetual climactic swell. Its California sun-kissed – production, vocals and all – is like everything else they’ve done. As to whether “Third” needs to be this length, that depends on how much you like the self-indulgent side of FF.

Obituary | “A Lesson in Vengeance”
These guys, much like Cannibal Corpse, haven’t changed their approach at all in 30 years. The groovy swaying riffs and Chuck Schuldiner-borrowed snarled vocals are intact after all this time, and that throwback ’90s metal reverb production just adds to the evil atmosphere. Why fix what ain’t broke?

Nicki Minaj, Drake, Lil Wayne | “No Frauds”
The first thing you notice about this Young Money group cut is that the order of artists goes best to worst. Battle Nicki responds to Rema Ma and kills it (“Sheneneh, you a fraud committin’ perjury/ I got before-and-after pictures of your surgery/ Rah took you to her doc, but you don’t look like Rah/ Left the operating table, still look like ‘nah'”) over swirling ice-cold synths. Meanwhile, Drake does his Drake thing of borrowing whatever is currently popular in rap, and Wayne brings up the rear with a phoned-in effort (“Blunt be tight as biker shorts, twisted like some handlebars”). Despite only one of three rappers actually trying, that effort alone saves this song.

Lorde | “Liability”
After the anthemic “Green Light,” Lorde follows up with a sparse piano ballad featuring some blunt self-criticism (“The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy/ ‘Til all of the tricks don’t work anymore”) and a tumbling vocal melody that adds to the doubtful nature of the track. Lorde may have let mainstream ideas slip into her work, but that isn’t preventing her from making great music.

311 | “Too Much To Think”
It’s 311. You know what this sounds like before you hear it: music played on the beach while sipping on a Corona and making sure your tribal arm band is in full view of the hottie next to you.

Singles Round-up, February 3

Lotta polically-tinged singles released this week, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

Depeche Mode | “Where’s The Revolution”
Because of course they wrote this song. Not that we didn’t need it (or need the question asked), but c’mon. That’s maybe a little too on-the-nose for you guys. And this is all despite the fact that it’s a great song. Their best offerings haunt you to the core, and the ghostly vocals and paranoid, itchy production here do not disappoint. Martin Gore’s lyrics are eerily descriptive, too: “They manipulate and threaten/ With terror as a weapon/ Scare you till you’re stupefied/ Wear you down until you’re on their side”.

Havok | “Ingsoc”
Not only is this a seven-minute single, it’s the band’s longest song to date. It’s also better than anything on their last record. David Sanchez’s snarl gives the 1984-inspired lyrics some serious venom. Previous single “Hang ‘Em High” was a rousing cry for action, but here Sanchez sound like a cornered animal. 2017 will likely gonna produce a lot of angry music, and (literal) thrashers like Havok will lead the way.

Vince Staples | “BagBak”
What a run: Hell Can Wait EP, Summertime ’06, Prima Donna EP, and now this – a three-minute banger with no fat. Over a pulsing beat from Ray Brady, Staples bluntly avoids his civic duty on some reasonable grounds (Prison system broken, racial war commotion/ Until the president get ashy, Vincent won’t be votin'”), and opines for a companion with his undercutting humor (“This is for my future baby mama/ Hope your skin is black as midnight”). Vince Staples is on a goddamn roll, and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Mastodon | “Show Yourself”
So yeah, the band that made Remission and Leviathan isn’t coming back. The second single released from the upcoming Emperor of Sand LP is further proof that metal just isn’t what Mastodon does anymore. They’re still great songwriters, they can still write a killer melody when they feel like it, and Brann Dailor is still rock’s best drummer. But that doesn’t lessen the pain of losing the band that was once capable of knocking down a fucking brick wall.

Nickelback | “Feed The Machine”
I was surprised they were still a thing, too. The chugga-chugga riff is heavier than I expected, given that rock music of the ’10s isn’t exactly loud. It’s a welcome change of pace, if only for that reason. Lyrically, the song can be read as a comment on current events with somewhat sharp lines like, “Baiting every hook with filthy lies/ Another charlatan to idolize”. But this is a Nickelback song, so it’s also got this: “But now it’s your turn/ The ashes will burn/ And wither away”. Basically it’s big, dumb, arena rock ear candy requiring no thought, and no one does that better than these guys.