Singles Round-up, April 21

Paramore | “Hard Times”
The current worship of ’80s pop culture continues with Paramore’s tropical-flavored comeback single from the band’s new record, After Laughter. It’s an understated ear-worm (with fitting lyrics like “Where do I go?/ Gimme some sort of sign/ Hit me with lightning!/ Maybe I’ll come alive”), and doesn’t reach for the cheap seats like “Ain’t It Fun” or “Misery Business”. Still, “Hard Times” shows that even when Hayley Williams follows a trend, she makes it her own.

Papa Roach | “American Dreams”
Yup, they’re still a thing and they’ve decided to bring back the quasi-rapping of Jacoby Shaddix, which is as awkward as ever. The same goes for his sort of indictment of the reality of the American Dream by today’s standards. The chorus, though, plays to their strengths by being almost cynically anthemic. Judged by Papa Roach standards (which is how it should be), this ain’t terrible.

Big Boi feat. Killer Mike and Jeezy | “Kill Jill”
Big Boi returns with a Japanese-flavored, Hatsune Miku-sampling beat and one of the best rappers alive having a fucking blast on the mic. Hearing these two chew through scenery with absurd braggadocio is a joy the world needs more of right now.

Big Boi feat. Adam Levine | “Mic Jack”
A Big Boi song made to make you dance featuring Adam Levine, huh? OK, sure. “Mic Jack” features more of Big Boi’s (practically trademark) lecherousness, something that (sadly) seems inexhaustible at this point. Meanwhile, Levine phones in a sorta-catchy chorus with embarassing lyrics. It’s a lotta fluff, honestly, and it’s kinda fun. Eh, whatever.

DJ Shadow feat. Nas | “Systematic”
Shadow’s collaboration with Run the Jewels last year was fantastic, and he’s done it again here with Nas. He has an inate gift for coaxing out great performances from rappers. The nervous, twitchy beat bounces around with immediacy, while Nas raps like he still has something to prove. We could have one new song between Shadow and a rapper once per year and I’d have no problem with that.

Singles Round-up, April 14

DragonForce | “Curse of Darkness”
It’s not as whiplash-inducing as other DF songs, but it’s also not any kind of a surprise, either. At five and a half minutes, it’s a (relatively) manageable song, too. Naturally,  the solo is flashy and little else, and the chorus is POWER METAL (!). What I’m saying is, you don’t need to hear this to know what it sounds like.

Suffocation | “Your Last Breaths”
First single from death metal vets’ eighth record, …Of The Dark Light, offers nothing special or any shocking reinvention here, just fantastically punishing NYDM. In this case, an ominously plodding opening leads right into a headlong sprint of brutality with guitar heroics. Newer death metal bands, take note: this is how it’s done.

DREAMCAR | “All of the Dead Girls”
Fun ditty from ’80s worshippers, complete with a bouncy bass line, playful guitar stabs, and Davey Havok’s come-hither vocals. Based on the three songs released so far, their debut LP should be an enjoyable, though likely superficial, romp through ’80s pop just in time for summer.

Linkin Park feat. Pusha T and Stormzy | “Good Goodbye”
Talk about playing it safe: this fits right in beside The Chainsmokers in terms of vapidity. On the plus side, Mike Shinoda surprisingly holds his own against two rappers who are out of his league even if neither is trying all that hard, so there’s that. Meanwhile, the blasé chorus makes the song fade into an already-crowded field of down-tempo EDM pop. Shinoda stated that “Good” is not representative of the record…yet, it’s a single. Take that how you will. Linkin Park can do better, and they should.

TLC feat. Snoop Dogg | “Way Back”
Their breezy comeback single is an attempt at throwback R&B in every possible sense (even lyrically: “James Brown and Michael J/ Like them high school parties”), though it’s less throwback than nostalgia worship. If I wanted to be reminded of how great CrazySexyCool is, I’d go listen to it, so I’m not sure why this exists. Serious question: Was anyone really clammoring for another TLC record?

Singles Round-up, April 7

At The Drive-In | “Hostage Stamps”
Third single from in·ter a·li·a is less arena-ready and radio-friendly than previous ones, and is also the strongest by keeping the nervous, itchy guitar and tense rhythm section. Meanwhile, Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics continue to be so dense, they’re practically word salad: “Slid down the bank, choking on sherm/ A new tactile cremation attested/ To opaque spurs, contemplative Mayhem keeps us together”. You get used to ignoring what he’s saying after a while anyway when the music is this good.

Mutoid Man | “Melt Your Mind”
Mutoid Man is a lotta fuckin’ fun and just as on their debut LP, “Melt Your Mind” is heavy, psychedelic, spastic, and catchy. Actually, it’s the catcheist thing Stephen Brodsky has written since Cave In’s “Anchor”. Add oddball lyrics about not letting stress get to you (I think), and you’ve got a real winner here.

Gorillaz feat. Pusha T and Mavis Staples | “Let Me Out”
Fatalism envelops the paranoid production here, including a typically great Pusha T where he sounds like a cornered animal (“Tell me there’s a heaven in the sky where there is peace/ But until then, I keep my piece in arm’s reach”). It’s been a long wait for Gorillaz’s return, and Humanz is shaping up to be their (his?) best record yet.

Kevin Gates | “What If”
I guess prison makes every rapper a naval-gazer; naturally, then, Kevin Gates uses a a hazy trap beat that interpolates Joan Osbourne’s “One of Us” in an attempt to explain his lifestyle with his ear candy, sing-songy flow. But this is KG we’re talking about, so he imagines that if God were one of us, he’d be “making calls to the plug like one of us”.  The song is a tad cartoon-y, yes, but any KG is better than no KG.

DREAMCAR | “Born To Lie”
“Born” is the second single from a supergroup comprised of the members of No Doubt not named Gwen with Davey Havok in her place. Much like “Kill for Candy,” this is so ’80s, the 7” comes with coke residue. Havok’s goth-drenched kabuki theater posturing (“I watch you tearing the place apart/ Tell me if you see my heart”) is perfect for the dark crevices of new wave. Talk about playing to your strengths. Think The Cure if they decided to rip off Erasure and you’re close.