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, March 3

Warbringer | “Shellfire”
Warbringer are one of the few rethrash bands getting it right, and songs like this are why. The band claims this is the fastest song in their catalogue, and it’s hard to argue. This motherfucker sprints from the outset. Even with the atmospheric break in the middle, this is nonstop redlining madness. They don’t fuck with their death metal-tinged thrash formula often enough, but this is fun anyhow.

White Reaper | “The World’s Best American Band”
Until now, White Reaper’s basically been a garage punk Cars. It seems now they’ve embraced more of the standard classic rock radio rotation: If you’ve wondered what White Reaper doing a Grand Funk impression would sound like, here’s your answer. Based on this and previous single “Judy French,” it sounds as if The World’s Best American Band might sonically follow “Ohh (Yeah)” from the band’s debut EP (which I enjoyed). This is easily the most pop-flavored (and most produced) song they’ve ever released.

John Frum | “Presage of Emptiness”
Debut single from the prog-metal supergroup. The band consists of the former vocalist for The Faceless, DEP’s bassist, John Zorn’s guitarist, and Intensus’s drummer. It’s got everything you’d expect: lurching liquid bass, tech-death riffs that’ll knock you on your ass, tumbling drums, and ’90s death metal vocals. Also, the solo is flashy without devolving into guitar wankery (thankfully). Given its members, I’m curious to see what else this band has to offer.

Lorde | “Green Light”
Lorde’s comeback single contains the lyrics, “But I hear sounds in my mind/ Brand new sounds in my mind”, and apparently those sounds are a mish-mash of club EDM synths. This is sugary to be sure, but this is Lorde so it’s oddball-sugary. Yet, none of this stops “Green Light” from being fantastic, and it’s easily the most anthemic (musically, anyway) song of her career. If you’re gonna borrow from Top 40, this is how you do it.

Bush | “The Beat of Your Heart”
Bush’s last single was boring and largely forgettable; this is slightly better. The melody is an improvement and the chorus actually works, but this isn’t anywhere near the quality of their early work. Meanwhile, Gavin Rossdale sounds like he’s bored with Bush; given their last few records, I don’t blame him. This would fit perfectly right in between Matcbox 20 and Ed Sheeran on an adult contemporary station. Pass.

Coldplay | “Hypnotised”
Nope. Guess again.