Tag Archives: 2022

JID – The Forever Story

17 Sep

Sometimes rap can just be fun. JID is fluid and agile. He just pops off in “Raydar” and whispering the second half of “I got the shit you could play for your mama / I got the shit you could play for your hoes” is hilarious. Similarly, “Dance Now” is good fun and the beat suits the raps well. Also, “RIP, I miss my dogs like Mike Vick” in “Crack Sandwich” always makes me laugh, even if the sportscaster references don’t do much for me. This free-flowing playfulness makes Weezy a good match for him in “Just In Time” even if the beat is mediocre.

He even does well with Mos Def in the Danger Mouse-y “Stars” but “Sistanem” doesn’t have enough in the storytelling or the lyrics to make the sober cut it wants to be. A couple of other filler tracks like “Money” bring the album down, but overall it’s an album of clean fun and ends up being quite a good time.

Monthly Playlist: Aug. 2022

6 Sep

Our playlist for August 2022 is an eclectic mix of artists you definitely know about and those that you probably should know about. Come along with us for a spin of the top five tracks last month – read on below!

“STEPMOM” by DACEY

DACEY is a Canadian duo consisting of the eponymous lead singer Dacey Andrada and instrumentalist Justin Tecson. The duo has had a few minor hits in the flavor of indie / R&B, including “Sidewalks” (2019) and the mellower “Broccoli’s Keeper” (2020), culminating in a short album including those two songs in 2021 called Satin’s Keeper. They’ve had a few tracks since then, but “STEPMOM” immediately stands out with its Hot Chip-esque opening beats and frantic pace. The tempo hardly slows down for the rest of the fun three-minute track, showcasing Dacey’s expressive vocals and the drum machine-like beats in particular.

“strawberry chainsaw” by JAWNY

Indie pop singer-songwriter JAWNY first gained prominence with 2019’s “Honeypie” – one of those inherently catchy pop songs that you’ve likely heard on one of countless Spotify-created playlists. He parlayed that track into a signing with Interscope Records and a major label debut (2020’s mixtape For Abby) which saw moderate success as well. Now he’s back with “strawberry chainsaw”, a jangly, feel-good pop track that immediately evokes summery nostalgia. Imagine this song on the soundtrack for the Gen Z coming-of-age teenage movie like Juno, and you’ll have a good idea of the vibes on these two-and-a-half minutes. 

“New Gold” by Gorillaz feat. Tame Impala and Bootie Brown

We already loved the first new Gorillaz track “Cracker Island” back when it came out in June. Last month, Gorillaz announced that the song was actually the starting point for an entire album (also called Cracker Island) which is expected to be released in Feb. 2023. As part of the announcement, the virtual band released “New Gold” featuring psychedelic rock act Tame Impala and longtime Gorillaz collaborator, American rapper Bootie Brown. “New Gold” is an old-school Gorillaz song with equal measures of deft beats, peppy rap verses, and an air of psychedelia – naturally helped along by the masterful Kevin Parker. We’ll see whether Cracker Island matches the brilliance of 2020’s Song Machine – but with a track like this, signs sure are positive.

“SEX APPEAL” by BLACKSTARKIDS

BLACKSTARKIDS are an alternative hip-hop trio from Kansas City consisting of TheBabeGabe, TyFaizon, and Deiondre. They gained some prominence with the more pop-rock track “FRANKIE MUNIZ” on their third mixtape Whatever, Man (2020), but the sounds on their new “SEX APPEAL” blow that previous song out of the water. The track starts off with a bouncy, fun intro that’s almost reminiscent of Black Eyed Peas, and the siren-based beats and jagged rap verses remind the listener of The Neptunes – in a great way. Take it from us: BLACKSTARKIDS are about to make it big.

“Sweet Tooth” by Maya Hawke

Actor Maya Hawke is not just your favorite member of the older kid crew on Stranger Things. She’s also a singer-songwriter with decent indie pop credentials to her name – and she showcases that beautifully on the lilting, gentle “Sweet Tooth”. Maya’s vocals may be radio-ready, but the lyrics on closer inspection are wackier than your typical pop song. They center around teeth, as the title suggests, but there are plastic teeth, cherries replacing the gap where her molar used to be, and all sorts of other stream-of-consciousness thoughts. The fact that all this weirdness seems endearing is a testament to the sweetness of her voice and jangly guitars. 

Harish Raghavan – In Tense

28 Aug

It’s always nice when an album starts with its best foot forward. “AMA” is In Tense at its strongest. There’s a great bass solo right at the beginning and the backing adds an arboreal element. It’s a verdant and lush sound as the bass puts in energetic work and a very clean vibraphone follows suit.

That vibraphone later finds an excellent groove in “In Tense” and has another excellent solo in “Eight-Thirteen.” This is a very pleasantly concise album and it takes the effort to say what it wants to say well. “Prayer” adds in a great tenor solo and “s2020” trips over itself delightfully.

However, there’s just not enough to provoke thought in this album. The songs are all very well done but tend to very predictable resolutions. Even “Circus Music,” the most complex of the tracks, could really have done with some of the whimsy of the title. It keeps a lot of balls in the air and watching the patterns they make as they cross each other is fascinating, but a little more of the unexpected would have brought in a much-needed lift.

However, In Tense gets too much right to worry about the little it gets wrong. This is an album put together with skill and care. It is clear about what it has to say and always well worth listening to.

Soccer Mommy – Sometimes, Forever

14 Aug

Sometimes, Forever makes a habit of sliding right through you. At its best, it does so smooth as razor, leaving you with lacerations as it passes through. At its worst, it does so like aether, completely beneath your perception. It is strong more often than it is weak, but the end result is nevertheless a little mixed.

It’s never anything less than solid though and there’s a decent amount here that stands out. “Still” cuts into you with a very simple guitar base. “Following Eyes” is very good lo-fi indie rock. It’s just a few simple elements but deep enough to drown in. “Feel It All The Time” is very good shoegaze-y music. It’s not the most innovative lo-fi but it is very good.

However, these are balanced by cuts like “With U,” a perfectly acceptable indie rock song. It’s competent, but forgettable for that. I’ve heard countless songs just like it and without any particular piece to elevate it, the song just slips past your notice every time.

“Shotgun” though is nothing short of spectacular. It’s got a delightful fuzz running through it and painfully smart lyrics. It’s a fantastic song and Sometimes, Forever at its best and with peaks like this, it becomes very easy to forgive an occasional song that falls short of distinction

Monthly Playlist: Jul. 2022

8 Aug

We are back with our best tracks from the month that was. Read on to hear some great tracks from Billie Eilish, Beyonce and more. And let us know your thoughts in the comments!

“TV” by Billie Eilish

After her sophomore album in 2021, Billie Eilish is back with her first pair of new tracks from a short EP entitled Guitar Songs. “TV”, one of these two tracks, is a haunting ode to Billie’s disappointment and depression about the current state of political reality, particularly in the US. She doesn’t want to much beyond watching TV (which no doubt exacerbates the problem), and bemoans how the American people around her are focusing on the Depp-Heard trial and other trivial things rather than on fundamental rights being revoked. The depressive, guitar-driven “TV” continues the tonal shift transition away from the electro-pop of her debut album and further into the more introspective journey that she’s been on since Happier than Ever.

“Free Yourself” by Jessie Ware

Modern-day British disco queen Jessie Ware is back with another banger after 2020’s excellent What’s Your Pleasure? “Free Yourself” – the lead single from her upcoming fifth album – is a funky, synth-driven modern disco track, complete with dramatic violin-note accentuations. Jessie’s vocals are as powerful as ever, ranging from soul on the chorus bits to sweet and sultry on the verses. Catchy as ever from the London-based singer-songwriter.

“Bitch I’m Nice” by Doechii

July presented a double-whammy from the up-and-coming Florida rapper Doechii (real name Jaylah Hickmon) whose rap style runs somewhere between Nicki’s loudmouthed arrogance, Little Simz’s beat-heavy flow and Doja Cat’s ability to turn a melody anywhere. “Bitch I’m Nice” starts strong and doesn’t let down anywhere on its short one-and-a-half runtime. Doechii’s monotone chorus is vaguely menacing, especially when paired against the oscillating synth staccatos in the background. Then in the same month, there was also “Persuasive”, a track featuring none other than SZA. That track showcased her sweeter R&B style vibe interspersed with the rap chops displayed on “Bitch I’m Nice”. Overall, July 2022 proved that Doechii is one to keep an eye on for sure.

“2 Be Loved” by Lizzo

In July 2022, Lizzo released her fourth studio album Special to moderate fanfare. The lion’s share of attention from the album has of course been on the mega-hit “About Damn Time” (we challenge you to turn on a popular radio station without the song coming up within the hour), but second and final single “2 Be Loved” is another notable track from the new album. “2 Be Loved” is a fun, synth-pop track that belies a darker undertone – lyrically, it’s about Lizzo’s journey of self-love that runs through embarrassment, low self-worth, shyness and more. Interesting track and probably the second highlight from the largely mediocre Special.

“Hold the Girl” by Rina Sawayama

“Hold the Girl” is the third single from Rina Sawayama’s sophomore album, entitled Hold the Girl, set to release in September 2022. The track is trademark-Rina – a mix of 90s and 00s music trends paired with Rina’s powerful vocals. This song in particular pays homage to early 00s pop with recognizable elements like dramatic violin-and-piano interludes and a dance-pop break-down in the chorus. Rina sounds more confident in her own skin on this track, and even more skilled at melding her own style with the early aughts vibes that she seeks to emulate. Good signs for the upcoming album! 

Harry Styles – Harry’s House

1 Aug

Of all the solo careers coming out of One Direction, there’s no doubt that Harry Styles is just a notch above. He didn’t necessarily start out that way: his eponymous debut album showed promise with its 60s-tinged classic pop sounds, but ultimately proved to be fairly mediocre. Things got better with his second album Fine Line (2019) which featured earworm-of-the-decade “Watermelon Sugar” and bagged Styles his first Grammy (for the same track). 

In the years since that album and third album Harry’s House (2022), a lot has happened in Styles’ personal life. Most notably: actress and now award-winning director Olivia Wilde famously left her partner and father of her two children for Harry Styles. Olivia’s presence features subtly throughout the album’s lyrics – appropriately so, since Harry’s House is apparently meant to be about a day in his brain. 

“Late Night Talking”, the album’s second single, is a bright R&B track with a ridiculously catchy chorus that features the title words. With the references to breaking cameras and following his lady to Hollywood, we guess that the late night talks in question were with Ms. Wilde. If “Late Night Talking” bases itself on oblique references, “Cinema” gives it to us straight as the most direct ode to Olivia. The track lays bare the equation between them – she, the worldly cool older woman and he, the eager-to-please and madly in love. “I just think you’re cool, I dig your cinema / Do you think I’m cool, too? Or am I too into you?” he simpers. Also notable: his voice may be sweet may be sweet but the lyrics on this track definitely veer into some spicy territory with his thoughts about her.  

There are other tracks on this album that are great outside of referencing his new lady love, though. Opening track “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” immediately grabs your attention with the heavy bass lines and Styles’ charming falsetto. The bright and brassy chorus makes for an altogether irresistible track – one can even call it a “song of the summer”. Of course, it would have to share that title with Styles’ other big hit from the album – first single “As It Was”. It’s not “Watermelon Sugar” in terms of sheer virality but it’s as great of an addition to his discography. The instrumentals are bright but muted, and his vocals have a melancholy edge to them – if the whole album is about a day in the life in his brain, this is about a not-so-good day where he’s sitting at home, alone, on the floor, and possibly with drugs, to numb his loneliness. 

Daydreaming” is another sunny and bright track with horns, a thick bass and almost a disco feel in its exuberance, while “Satellite” is a decent track with some interesting drums and a space analogy to the distance between two individuals – kind of in the same spiritual tone as Ariana Grande’s “NASA”. Finally, “Matilda” is a sweet track ostensibly written for the title character of Roald Dahl’s classic novel (or at least someone like her). The quality of his vocals shines in its warmth and understanding on the chorus: “You can let it go, you can throw a party full of everyone you know / And not invite your family ’cause they never showed you love, you don’t have to be sorry for leavin’ and growin’ up”.

Beyond these tracks, though, the album has its fair share of weaker tracks – not duds, especially, but low on the notability scale. A lot of these tracks seem to be about a failed romance that, in retrospect, judging by the relative quality of these tracks, hasn’t provided the best inspiration for him. “Daylight” is a largely forgettable track about a withholding girlfriend while “Grapejuice”, “Little Freak” and “Keep Driving” are mild, vague tracks about the missed love interest, albeit with some interesting visual cues (red wine; ginger ale; tracksuits hiding a yoga-toned body). Album closer “Love of My Life” caps off this series of tracks with a final ode to this lost love; distance seemed to have been the death knell (“It’s unfortunate / Just coordinates”) so at least we have the full story there.

All in all, Harry’s House opens invitingly enough with some bright, brassy hits, but things get milder and less interesting the deeper you go in. To stick with his chosen house-as-mind analogy, perhaps there’s some finetuning and self-work that’s still pending on Styles’ end – and hopefully the next album will be even better.

Rating: 7/10

Best tracks: “Music for a Sushi Restaurant”, “As It Was”, “Late Night Talking”

Yaya Bey – Remember Your North Star

1 Aug

The first things that sticks with you from Remember Your North Star are a couple of razor blades embedded in the candyfloss. The album has a lot of the cloud-like consistency of candyfloss; the music is soft, gentle and jazzy. It’s ever so mildly effervescent. It provides the softest of velvet to envelop the iron of “mama loves her son” and of “i’m certain she’s there.” These snippets of her personal suffering and the universal pain that they mirror are storytelling of the absolute highest caliber.

She’s also a lot of fun when she stunts though. The swagger in “big daddy ya” is as infectious as the music. It’s empowering to sing along to. Similarly, her bragging in “keisha” is impeccable. You’re as puzzled as she is at someone unable to appreciate how good she is.

The only issue here is that sometimes in between all of these strengths, she can take the relaxation of the music and slip too far into languor. The jazz of “reprise” is mostly strong, but in places like the chorus become a little too smooth for even her vocals to save. It’s a great album, albeit one that would have been elevated by a little more energy. Still, I’m certainly not churlish enough not to like nice things.

Monthly Playlist: Jun. 2022

11 Jul

Hello, and welcome to the Monthly Playlist for June 2022! We are halfway through the year and have had some big album releases already. Kendrick Lamar dropped his much-awaited new album, as did Bad Bunny. There were big albums from Radiohead-side project The Smile, superstar The Weeknd and hyped newcomers Wet Leg. For now, read on for our top picks for the sixth month of the year – and look for a mid-year list soon!

“BRAND NEW BITCH” by COBRAH

COBRAH is a Swedish musician specializing in the genre of hyperpop. If that makes you think of Charli XCX (side note: check out our album review of Charli’s latest!), you’re spot-on – COBRAH’s music falls in the same vein of pulsing, club-ready bangers that blur the line between pop and EDM. “BRAND NEW BITCH” is a party track about COBRAH’s ability to switch between fashionable looks – whether it’s Mugler or Versace – but always looking new, shiny, polished and (use your imagination) slimy. Of course the lyrics don’t really matter because ultimately this song is about the beat and how COBRAH’s vocal-fry pronouncements add a layer of freneticism that perfectly suits the post-COVID club scene. 

“<maybe> it’s my fault” by WILLOW

We’ll be honest – we haven’t been giving WILLOW her musical due. The singer-songwriter (and daughter of a famous and dare we say infamous couple) has been steadily coming into her own, especially over the past year or so. She had a feature from resurgent pop-princess Avril Lavigne on last year’s Lately I Feel Everything, and also put together a great track (“psychofreak”) with Camila Cabello earlier this year. With “<maybe> it’s my fault”, WILLOW has expertly combined a few of those elements, and the result is a pop-punk track about the confusion and angst of early-adulthood relationships. “It’s all in my mind, it’s all in my mind, I try to rewind and all of the while / I’m hurtin’ inside, it’s your fault, Maybe it’s my fault,” she sings, in between surprisingly heavy guitar riffs. Definitely a track that will put WILLOW on your radar if she isn’t there already.

“BREAK MY SOUL” by Beyonce

From the first 10 seconds of “BREAK MY SOUL”, you can instantly tell that this isn’t your father’s (or mother’s) Beyonce track. Afropop house music segues smoothly into Queen Bey intoning the title phrase a few times – apparently with the intention of soundtracking the Great Resignation. “Now, I just fell in love and I just quit my job / I’m gonna find new drive, Damn, they work me so damn hard,” she says and honestly – same. It’s a surprising, new sound for Beyonce, and one that makes us excited for the July 29th release of her new album Renaissance.

“Cracker Island” by Gorillaz feat. Thundercat

After a fantastic album in 2020, Gorillaz are back with another track, just in time for the summer / fall leg of their worldwide tour (and hopefully the release of Song Machine Vol. 2). “Cracker Island” features the jazzy bassist Thundercat on a track seemingly about a cult that sets up shop on their own island (?). In true Gorillaz fashion, the famously multimedia band announced “Cracker Island” in a press release where they have also encouraged fans to join “The Last Cult” – whatever that may be. Mysterious lyrics aside, the song itself is pitch-perfect Gorillaz, with catchy synths, Damon Albarn’s filtered vocals, and beautifully crisp production – with the added bonus of Thundercat’s irresistibly funky bass. Here’s hoping for a lot more soon from everyone’s favorite virtual band.

“Betty (Get Money)” by Yung Gravy

Who knew that the old Internet meme-slash-80s-hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” would work so well as a rap track sample? Not us, but apparently Yung Gravy did. “Betty (Get Money)” is a ridiculously catchy track that starts off with the chorus and unmistakable synth-violins of Rick Astley’s iconic hit, and it only gets better from there. Yung Gravy shines throughout the whole fun track with cool verses and clever flipped lines (try it yourself: sing “Never take a L no more, never take a damn thing slow / All I know is chase this dough And get money” to the original chorus). We hadn’t heard of Yung Gravy until this track, but he’s certainly on our radar now!

The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention

10 Jul

Sometimes, a musician needs to take some space from their existing band to go and explore something new. Neither Thom Yorke nor Johnny Greenwood is that musician. Their new project with drummer Tom Skinner never strays that far from their Radiohead roots and sadly never quite lives up to the best of a band that admittedly is quite hard to live up to.

A Light For Attracting Attention has its fair share of interesting fragments and plays fairly decently overall. There’s nothing here that’s really objectionable. However, the sound really did need additional texturing. They’ve stripped it down, but lost some of the depth and complexity that made Radiohead and this is just not a compelling album in the way of their best. The album just evolves too slowly and doesn’t pack enough in what it does. It’s still decent Radiohead, I just wish it was more.

Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

1 Jul

Un Verano Sin Ti was the most puzzling release of the year thus far. Bad Bunny’s mix of Caribbean musics was completely unexpected and constantly surprising. It was also just too good to deny.

“Party” could be pretty standard reggaeton but Bad Bunny’s crooning elevates it well beyond the regular just for it to go straight back to the dancefloor with the chorus. Similarly, the first half of “El Apagon” is conversational and feels intimate, as though you’re talking to someone in a bar, just for the bar to turn into a dancefloor and a Puerto Rico-pride one at that. You can see the flags unfurling from the rafters. You can hear the entire building jumping up and down and you can see the solo voice take command over the whole thing.

There are two pillars that make this album special. The first is the depth and texture of the sound. “Moscow Mule” opens as though this is a producer’s album with an extended instrumental-only section and wildlife sounds and as the song progresses, this remains true. There are quiet drum beats, little vocal hiccups, quiet moments and tiny, little fascinating subbeats.

Secondly, Bad Bunny just brings a ton of emotion to every track. There’s a quaver in his voice in “Dos Mil 16” that immediately just takes the whole song over. On top of that, these tracks are just bangers. Listen to something like “La Corriente” and no matter what you feel of Latin club music, you can’t help but enjoy it, and that’s really this album in a nutshell.

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