@@@ Park Hye Jin: Before I Die (Ninja Tune, 2021) A self admitted mashup of many different music styles — techno, hip hop, dance business sung and rapped in English and Korean. The first tune, Let’s Sing Let’s Dance has a really nice feel to it when Jin hits the mic with her vocals. Her English is way better than my Korean and the plainness of her style contrasts well with the beats and the piano/keys. I think if you’re looking for a huge statement record you might find different statements here — from the opener of Let’s Sing Let’s Dance to I Need You to Good Morning Good Night to Can I Get Your Number. I like the beats here, they’re lively and tend to the skittery. Both of the tracks I’ve checked have fully fleshed out piano chord progressions at their core. I’m not usually a fan of that but I dig it here. I like this, I’m not jumping up and down but it’s interesting and fresh.
@@@ Halsey: The Tradition (Capitol/UMG, 2021). Halsey’s new record is getting quite a bit of ink out there, is it a massive artistic statement? We shall see! HIstory would say it’s more of a marketing effort rather than a true statement. The opening track of her new record, it starts up with piano and Halsey singing. It grows with more vocal tracks, an understated string part and then back to the verse. Aargh, I don’t know if I should click to the next track cuz I’m not feeling this, it’s collapsing under the weight of its own whatevs. The second track Bells in Santa Fe, starts differently, oh not really it just takes out the piano, nope it doesn’t even do that. Yikes I could use some beats to distract from all the whatevs. It’s Sunday and maybe I just suck today but I will check out one more track tomorrow and see if it fits me any better but the first two tracks are not encouraging. It’s Monday and I promised a second listen so here we are! The production signals an epicness I don’t find in the track itself. The lyrics are interesting for a mainstream track, highlighting the mistreatment of women and how that’s just a tradition. I like the segue with about 90 seconds left but I could use more anger and less drama or something more sonically. In its way it’s very conservative and traditional.
@@@ Lorde: Solar Power (UMG New Zealand, 2021). It’s mainstream female musician day! I saw somebody on the Twatter taking down Lorde for her condescending to normal people. Oy, I can’t believe listen to this mainstream shit as real music, the vibe here is quite manipulative and so shallow as to trigger a depression. On the surface (and that’s about how deep it all goes) it’s a breezy ode to going to the beach. It’s 2/3s done by the time the drums kick in and at that point I want to drive my car into the ocean. The outro consists of stacks of vocals singing the word ‘solar’ over a rockin’ beat and a little melody at the end. It’s hard to convey how something put together in such a manner, so exquisitely manicured and groomed before release can still be trash but that’s the view from here. This is straight pop music trash. I’m not sure if Lorde is guilty of any condescending to normal people but she sure as shit took that three minutes and I’ll never get that back. Beware the zombie pop!
@@@ Kacey Musgraves: star-crossed (Interscope, 2021) Folks just love motherfuckin’ Kacey Musgraves. I have nothing against her, I just haven’t witnessed the genius quite yet. I keep an open mind and peep this pre-release track from a full length coming out in September. It opens with a nylon string harp type thing and a huge vocal sound before a kick drum comes, then a shushing type shaker and an outstanding synth bass which is my favorite element of the track, it fits like a key in a lock!. It’s a love track burger with plenty of cheesy epic-ness. Don’t love the arpeggiated synth sound that approximates a guitar. I hate to be a finicky prick (not really) but that harp-y sound and the arpeggiated synth aren’t the most creative things I’ve heard. Still a big fan of the bass. It’s all manicured and arranged professionally, I just don’t encounter that much passion in it.
@@@ Meek Mill: Sharing Locations (Maybach/Atlantic, 2021) I don’t have the greatest view of the hip hop that appears up on the hot tracks section of Apple Music but I remain open minded. Three MCs, a brisk tempo, a fairly generic trap beat that sounds a bit toy like as it comes out of my monitors. I like the bass and the bounce. I’m paying all the lawyers for the murderers, there’s a lot of murderers up in this track, that’s the vocal hook. Not sure on that, not sure if I dig that or even understand that. I know folks love Meek Mill and I have nothing against him but this sounds kinda disposable. The all vocal arrangement (meaning the sounds outside of drum, bass and rhymes) sounds a bit cheap.
@@@ Hana Vu: Everybody’s Birthdays (Ghostly, 2021) I got to this track via the Twatter and the listen below via a music publicist email. This is getting the big pre-release push with the full length banger not out ’til November of this year. The track opens with a little cloud synth action and an ’80s gated snare sound and female singer comin’ on in a wavy, a bit all over the place vocal style before shit firms up in the chorus. Now I was half hearted on this til I heard the cowbell tucked in the back of the mix in the chorus. Fucking cowbell, you can’t deny the power of that can you? Who can fuck with cowbell? Nobody, that’s who. I appreciate the sonic delineations between the verse and the chorus, it’s not like the track doesn’t move as a lot of indie business does kind just opens up with a vibe and then power flounders. Not a huge fan of these sounds, if you like them then good on you and have at it.
@@@ Alice Longyu Gao: KANPAI (Self-released, 2021) This is an insteresting smash up of Japanese melodies and right now dancefloor pop banger sounds. By the time the chorus comes around she’s chanting Kanpai….kanpai….kanpai. This track is jam packed with kinetic energy. Sharp vocal rhythmic delivery and each sounds seems to be chosen to elevate the energy. Now the point of the song? Not quite sure. Google the title, check. Kanpai is a drinking toast and that clarifies a lot of what might be going on here. It’s got sort of a manic drunken feel to it, I most definitely get that. At first I thought Ms. Gao might be satirizing her own culture with the sped up off kilter flavors of the track, and she might be, but the alcohol explanation makes more sense.
@@@ Remi Wolf: Liquor Store (UMG, 2021) A saucy, pottymouth rock/funk/pop track I got to via a music publicist email. I always want more when I enter the liquor store, that’s the main vocal hook. It’s fully pimped out major label production with Prince style guitar shredding, stacks of vocals all swirled up with bright production. Most notable are the lyrics which are pretty raw for this kind of track. There are fragments about having sex like an animal and you got an ice cream on your leg motherfucker and you have two fish pressing on my clit (or some suchness). I’m not protesting what some evangelicals would call ‘obscenity’ it’s just notable for a pop track and frankly if the beat was swinging more I would be into it more. Nice guitar, tone down the singer, funkafy the beats, that’s my view.
@@@ Xenia Rubinos: Sacude (Anti-, 2021) I’m not fully a fanboy but I like the area where Rubinos works. Latin music with intricate electronic arrangements, sign me up! This I think is the fourth advance track off an upcoming full length banger and it’s a hand percussion, a janky half loop and Rubinos singing over that. The comes a guitar, then a synth bass swell and she switches to Spanish with some haunting synth sounds floating out there. I hope the rest of the record is as hot, she’s got it going on here as far as I’m concerned. I find a little bit of the epicness of the sounds to distract a little bit and think a bit of grit might make this more driving but that’s just me and I’m a freak. There are points where the Latin music pokes through more and I like how that comes and goes. It goes out on a pretty massive stack of vocals in Spanish. This is a what a creative musician sounds like, it’s not the only way a creative musician sounds but this has flow and shape and evolution.
@@@ Desire Marea: Tavern Kween (Mute, 2021) Super lush diva style dancefloor bangin’ that I got to via the All Music notable release email. A long intro (including cowbell) that expands out into a pretty straight beat with a lot of percussion layers and some sleek synth sounds and visceral oohs and aaaahs. You are supposed to feel the passion! By the midpoint it’s a thick stew including a small synth horn figure I like a whole bunch, a call and response in the vocals but overriding that for my ears is the straight beat. If it was funkier I would like this track much more. Nice and rare guitar solo, very understated. There’s a lot here I like including the falsetto vocals but the beat, oy the beat. I clicked over to the track You Think I’m Horny which I thought was going to be an over the top booty shaker but is in reality an over the top, super dramatical love song which I like a whole bunch. Its emotional excesses are perfectly framed here and the romantic feels in contrast to the song the title is very creative, imho.
@@@ Ty Segall: Harmonizer (Drag City, 2021) I’ve checked out Ty Segall’s music repeatedly and while I understand that he’s an indie darling I’ve never really felt the genius for myself. This is supposed to be Segall’s synth period and I hear it a bit here but the garnish ends up producing a surprisingly classic rock feel, which in the end is completely appropriate if you think like me that indie rock isn’t much more than a branch of the classic rock tree. Seagall is most definitly an experienced arranger/performer and that’s on full display. He takes a long guitar riff and builds a whole track around it and keeps it fresh and engaging without dulling the mind with repetition. Segall builds a giant outro with multiple guitar tracks and a dance rock beat with synth stabs at the end of the track. Solid B+.
@@@ Joel Culpepper: Thought About You (Pepper, 2021) A blend of funk and smooth r&b that really caught my ear in the chorus when he hits the ‘thought about you’ hook. Culpepper kills it on the microphone, falsetto, funky and engaging. I don’t love the guitar sound but I’ll trade that for the hook in the chorus. Lots of Curtis Mayfield lush arrangement feels here as well as Prince style pop funk on the docket. I looked him up and he’s a Brit which I think is a bit surprising as well as impressive as he has a real knack for American style ’70s soul and funk music. If you enjoy these genres you should check out this record and I will be doing the same.
@@@ Attawalpa: Killer (Attawalpa, 2021) All three of today’s listens are off this week’s Line of Best Fit email. This track is a slotted at mainstream but sounds very mainstream in both its arrangement and intent. The singer is a low voice male who provides some contrast to a fairly energetic arrangement. I can’t clearly hear the vocal hook so I don’t really know what the song is about — I found the lyrics on their bandcamp page and it’s we all drop dead, we all down dead it’s in that vein. I like the production, it’s very well done, but I’m less enthused about the lyrics and the vocal performance.
@@@ Anne-Marie: Therapy (Warner UK, 2021) I don’t know what to say about the number of mainstream confessional pop songs about mental illness. I can’t tell if they’re genuine statements or something pre-planned as a topic that resonates with listeners. It’s weird to hear cheerful sounds tied to this set of emotions — not saying it shouldn’t be done, but it’s a strange listening experience. Production here is medium bounce focused mostly on electro sounds. Anne Marie is a good singer and overall it’s a restrained sad dancefloor banger.
@@@ Mashd N Kutcher: Get on the Beers (Brewery Records, 2020) Stupid and brilliant at the same time — some clown ass down Under spliced up some news broadcast footage about Covid and turned it into a celebration of beer and pub culture all served up over trashy dancefloor banging. Take this seriously, get on the beers, you can’t beat that shit. Classic unt-tss drum machine action, an appearance by the Orange Chaos Pig, and some super fat arena style synth action. Very funny and stupid.
@@@ Hermitude: Don’t Forget Me (Nettwerk, 2021) This is a breezy world music infused dancefloor slider with a G rated hook and a loverboy singer. It’s pretty straightforward with it’s boombaton/reggaeton beat and friendly sounds so I’m going to peep a couple of other tracks. Lots of guest vocalists, mainstream electro sounds, it’s a suburban/normie/cubicle dance thing. Not really for freaks like me.
@@@ Backxwash: I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS and DRESSES (Ugly Hag, 2021) Slotted as hip hop on the Apple Music to my ears it’s more of a rhythmic metal smashed into hip hop. It’s a very crunchy mix, super compressed which is not uncommon but I don’t love it. Lots of guest vocalists so I’m guessing Backxwash is the producer and she/he/they have tons of guests as sprinkles on the ice cream cone. Let me peep another track. If the beats were funkier I would be more into these arrangements, the beats are pretty straight and tilt it white for loss of a better word. Shit does get funkier on the fourth tune, Terror Packets, where the lyrics revolve around a person transitioning from one gender to another. I like this best of what I heard and I got to this via a music festival announcement where Backxwash will be appearing.
@@@ DJ Shub: War Club (Shub Music, 2020) On the same festival announcement DJ Shub, inventor of an electronic subgenre that combines indigenous business with electronic music. I’m intrigued by the first tune intro, where the keyboard could be something off a 1970’s Who record while trap beats and big drums thunder. Also some turntablism. Yowsa, the second tune (clipped below) hits and it’s bombastic and overwhelming with gigantic synth patches, MCs, and an overall pumped feel. I didn’t want to reflexively compare this music to that of a Tribe Called Red, but there are personnel connections between the two projects so I will give a shout to that outfit as they really dropped some fire. There’s a lot of sound stuffed into these tracks and it is its own special brand of funky. I will be checking it out more deeply when I have a chance and if you like super rhythmic music you might find a home with this record.
@@@ Laura Mvula: Got Me (Warner, 2021) Some major label dancefloor bangin’ straight out of the 1980’s gated snare, four on the floor playbook. She evokes Prince’s synth sound, a little Nile Rodgers, and then plenty of 1980’s whoo hoo and other vocal melodies. I’m down with plenty of it save for the mainstream pop arrangement which kinda doesn’t work for me. I know folks love this kind of jam but those are people with jobs and who don’t really expect much. A minute away from the end she breaks out of the groove and it works wonderfully before she starts to build it all back. She shoulda moved that forward to much earlier in the tune. I enjoy her vocal work but could use more dynamism in the arrangement.
@@@ Mimi Webb: Dumb Love (Sony, 2021) We’re out of the frying pan into the fire as this is a torchy, epic mainstream pop banger. Fingersnaps and more importantly the reverb patch on her voice is just a bit much. Too big and she’s not a good enough singer to fill that space. The lyrics are fine but who’s tuning in for fine? Not me. In tunes like this I hear the Sam Smith emotionally overwrought influence and I don’t like it. Too cheesy and over the top dramatical.
@@@ Aziya: Heaven For Me (Osmo-sis, 2021) Another variation on a theme. While we switch to a rock palette it still refers back to an epic dancefloor banger vibe a bit. Again, a bit much on the reverb patch on the vocals, she does a better job in the chorus than in the verse. I guess there must be listeners that enjoy the mashing together of rock sounds and dance sounds but they don’t go well for me. Just sayin’. I love me some rock in my funk, I love that, but rock guitar over such a straight beat, meh not so much. She’s the most soaring vocalist of today but that’s a little unfair as the Ms. Mvula in the first tune had different aspirations for her music and was going for a more sultry flow than the epic meteoric cheese bomb.