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, 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.