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, February 17

Animal Collective | “Kinda Bonkers”
They have to be fucking with us at this point. Seriously, who opens a song with, “Life is so French toast to me/ If you wait too long, it gets black and weak”? And just so we’re clear, the meta self-awareness of the title (or the “What the fuck is happening?” line) doesn’t improve the track’s quality. This song (and The Painters EP it’s on) was written during the Painting With sessions, meaning if you liked that record you’ll enjoy this.

Thundercat | “Friend Zone”
Thundercat continues his winning streak with this space-y gem, which name-checks videogames and references Kendrick Lamar. The bubbly vibe from Mono/Poly’s production is fittingly remniscentof FF7’s Forgotten City theme, while ‘Cat’s basslines pogostick around the track. Keep it up, dude.

Maroon 5 | “Cold”
A breakup song released on Valentine’s Day, because why the fuck not? The hook and dancehall-infused production (thanks, Rihanna) aren’t as sugary as previous M5 outings, so take that how you will. They had Kendrick phone in a verse on their last single, so it only makes sense to have Future do the same here; he’s cringeworthy throughout, but the worst line is probably this: “I just spent a half a mil on a chandelier/ Now you tryna cut me off like a light switch”. Can we have the Maroon 5 that made “This Love” back now?

New Found Glory | “Happy Being Miserable”
High school nostalgia is in full effect with candy-coated 2000’s pop-punk complete with whiny lyrics like, “When you throw me under the bus/ Back it up and run me over”. In other words, NFG haven’t changed at all. But their songwriting has been (and still is) better than most of their peers, so it’s probably for the best. If nothing else they still use power chords, so I’ll take it.

Papa Roach | “Help”
Kudos to Papa Roach for sticking with their own brand of inoffensive radio rock. This new arena ballad has a surprisingly strong melody, but suffers from their typically banal lyricism: “‘Cause I’m cut deep, my heart won’t beat/ Deep down low it’s killing me”. Despite that, it’s a success because it’s easy to drunkenly sing along to.

Immolation | “Fostering The Divide”
They’ve gotten better as they’ve progressed both as musicians and songwriters, the latter of which is quite rare in death metal. Ross Dolan’s gutteral bark hasn’t lost any of its potency after 30 years, either. Majesty and Decay is still their finest effort, but the stutter-stomp of “Fostering” and the bulldozing fury of previous single “Destructive Currents,” both from their upcoming LP Atonement, suggest it could be just as good. As with their best material, this is smart and heavy.

Body Count | “No Lives Matter”
Yeah, that Body Count, the one with Ice-T. Rap metal in 2017 is a fascinating anachronism, but he doesn’t give a shit. Add to that such insightful observations as, “And racism is real as fuck/ Ain’t no way to play that off,” and you’ve got…well, you’ve got a Body Count song.