Singles Round-up, May week three

Mutoid Man | “Bandages”
It’s a twin (or sorts) to Bleeder‘s title track, though this is the gentlest thing MM have ever written. Features contemplative, wandering guitar, “Bandages” still manages to be MM by having a memorable melody and rocking out at the end with a sorta flashy solo. The song appears to be about heartbreak, which is in line with the overall theme of War Moans (and its cover).  Moans looks to be every bit as solid as its precessor.

Rancid | “Telegraph Avenue”
Much like their first single – and, really, their whole career – it’s another earnest punk offering. This time, though, you get a sing-songy, rockabilly tune complete with handclaps and a na-na-na chorus. It’s more mindless fun (and typically left-of-center, shout-along politicking) from one of the truly great veteran punk acts.

Grizzly Bear | “Mourning Sound”
With “Mourning” picking up from where the spacier aspects of Shields left off, it’s like they never left. GB continue to make the prettiest indie-rock around, though “Mourning” feels a bit odd. A nervously pulsing bassline attempts to ride an uneasy synth wave, while Ed Droste’s verses and Daniel Rossen’s chorus don’t so much work together as walk beside each other.  This is a rare miss for them.

Muse | “Dig Down”
This stand-alone single sees Muse return to electronic experimentation. “Dig” slinks around on a stuttering belch of a synth while Bellamy offers optimistic pap like, “We won’t let them divide/ We will never abide/ We will find a way”. Bellamy’s vocals almost save the song singlehandedly – almost. At this point, Muse make music for its own sake, since they can’t piss off their fans or convert detractors.

Danger Mouse feat. Big Boi and Run the Jewels | “Chase Me”
A Danger Mouse beat that basically rides the guitar jabs of “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion allows El-P, Killer Mike, and Big Boi to do what they do best: talk shit. El dazzles with his assonance (“Small talkers get launched on, clobbered and tossed off/ Knock ’em on just to get rocks off/ Put a pause on all of that soft talk, chop chop”); Mike, as usual, pairs an odd pop culture reference with sex (“A bad bitch gave me bomb head to Bad Brains”); and Big Boi slings his usual braggadocio nonsense (“Made man, I’m made already, nobody safe from petty/ 450 horse up in the Porsche, 600 in the Chevy”). The point is just to have fun, and nobody does it better than this trio.

Katy Perry featuring Nicki Minaj | “Swish Swish”
Given the singles she’s released in 2017, I have to assume it’s Perry’s goal to continually find new ways to lower the bar, because Jesus Christ, this is shit. The production is awkward pairing of strutting EDM nonsense and a shoehorned Fatboy Slim sample. Minaj comes damn close to saving the song by herself, despite dumbing down her rapping abilities to match the song (and that unncessary “Juicy” reference). There’s nothing to suggest Witness will be anything but soulless, trend-chasing pap for the masses, and I don’t see that changing.

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 24

Lana Del Rey | “Love”
Her comeback single is about as LDR as you can get: a sweeping, cinematic arrangment; left-of-center, yet relatable, thoughts on life (“Look at you kids with your vintage music/ Comin’ through satellites while cruisin'”); dreamily hushed singing; and a me-against-the-world urgency. Basically, you’ll know before you hear this if you’re gonna like it. And you should, as it might be the best thing she’s ever done. Hell, that bridge alone is worth the price of admisson.

Spoon | “Can I Sit Next To You”
Given the title track and this new one, Hot Thoughts looks to be Spoon’s funkiest album to date. It’s an interesting shift, as their last record had some of the most beautiful music of their career. But as I’ve said before, no songwriter can do more with less than Britt Daniel so it all works out. Spoon have few weak songs in their catalogue – every great band does – but this ain’t one of ’em. I once called Spoon “maddeningly consistent”, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

At The Drive-In | “Incurably Innocent”
17 years later, they haven’t lost the ability to write and play arena-ready post-hardcore. Similarly, Cedric Bixler-Zavala is still using technology-as-metapor as a jumping-off point; thankfully, it isn’t impenetrable here: “A blank tape that couldn’t remember/ But you can never erase the hurt”. Much like previous single “Governed By Contagions,” “Innocent” is closer to Relationship of Command than Acrobatic Tenement in sound and structure, so don’t expect anything too wild or too raw from the forthcoming in•ter a•li•a LP.

The Chainsmokers & Coldplay | “Something Just Like This”
Kudos to this pairing for creating what might be 2017’s most numbingly milquetoast EDM pop single. The Chainsmokers continue to cynically mine the Top 40 for ideas (even recycling their own), and Chris Martin continues to draw from his seemingly inexhaustible well of lyrical vapidity. None of this, however, will stop its preordained success. Ugh.

Arca | “Piel”
You know going in that this is gonna be weird. “Piel” (Spanish for ‘skin’) is eerie as fuck, especially that vocal melody. No one makes music quite as mood-perfect as Arca, and no one can soundtrack a nightmare quite as effectively, either. How many producers can make a song that’s fascinating during the day and terrifying at night?

Seether | “Let You Down”
The lead single from the post-grunge stalwarts’ seventh* album sticks with Isolate and Medicate‘s return to their heavy side of the 2000’s (especially the bridge). The seasick swaying riff is memorable enough and the melody works, but the title alone indicates they have no desire to swim in uncharted waters for any meaningful amount of time, musically or lyrically. Call it a wash, I guess.

Art of Anarchy | “No Surrender”
Fact: any guitar-based music Scott Stapp sings over will never not have at least a passing resemblance to Creed. So, here we are with Stapp replacing the late Scott Weiland for AoA’s (likely heavier) sophomore LP. On the one hand, he seems more interested in the project than Weiland did. On the other, it’s Scott Stapp fronting a WJJO-approved rock band. Meh.

Gucci Mane & Nicki Minaj | “Make Love”
Oh, what a joy this song is. You got classic battle rap Nicki trading bars with singsong Gucci over a sub-zero Casio trap beat. It’s hard to pick a favorite line, but here are two of the best: “She ain’t eatin’ but I swear she got some bum-ass taste/ Text her man like, ‘Dawg, how that bum ass taste?’/ Pay your rent! And stay in your bum-ass place” (Nicki), and “Damn, who colder than me?/ You think he colder than me?/ You more bipolar than me” (Gucci). More of this, please.


*It’s actually their sixth album, but Disclaimer II is counted as it own thing for some reason.