Tag Archives: marina

Monthly Playlist: Nov. 2020

1 Dec

This month has been a big one for music-related news, from the AMAs to the GRAMMY nominations. While there were certainly moments to celebrate (see: Dua Lipa bagging wins and nominations galore), there were also some notable let-downs (see: the GRAMMYs’ radio silence on Rina Sawayama and the Weeknd!). Awards shows aside, though, there were some great tracks this month. Read on for our top five picks from November 2020.

5. “505 (Live)” by Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys return in December with a studio album – but before you get excited, it’s not new content. In the mythical past known as 2018, the Monkeys performed at the vaunted Royal Albert Music Hall with a set-list drawn partially from Tranquility Base and mostly from their older material (i.e. a palatable ratio). The proceeds from this album, recorded that evening, will go toward War Child, a non-profit focused on helping children from war-torn nations. As a promo for this live album, the band has released the live version of their classic “505”, and we must admit that it sounds great. The acoustics of the famous Hall lend new depths to the song, as do Alex Turner’s vocals – which have unmistakably changed in style since this song’s original version in the mid-aughts. If you can, get this one on vinyl.

4. “Man’s World” by Marina

Marina, formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, has been a favorite of ours for many years. We’ve always loved the way she does pop – with all the bubblegum sex appeal of Selena Gomez and the like, yet imbued with biting self-awareness that is rare in the genre. With “Man’s World”, the multi-faceted popstar takes on the male-driven world (as the title suggests) with a good measure of COVID- and climate-change-reckoning thrown in. “Don’t underestimate the making of life / The planet has a funny way of stopping a fight,” she warns. The weirdest part of the song is her long interlude about the noted homophobe Sheikh of Brunei buying an LA hotel overtaken by the gays – but hey, she knows her audience.

3. “Therefore I Am” by Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish delivers the ultimate snide cold-shoulder with catchy new single “Therefore I Am”. She delivers the line “Stop, what the hell are you talking about? Ha” with all the iciness of the high school queen giving you a sneering look, and quotes (of all people) Rene Descartes in the chorus: “You think you’re the man, I think, therefore I am”. As with most Billie songs, the magic lies in her brother Finneas’ precise, inimitable production values; we especially loved when the heavy, layered chorus occasionally breaks into Billie’s crystal-clear voice. Reading between the lines, the song seems to be about someone she has been linked with (she mentions being asked about them in interviews and articles) – let us know if you’ve cracked the code.

2. “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix)” by Miley Cyrus feat. Stevie Nicks

Maverick pop star Miley Cyrus has released her latest album Plastic Hearts earlier this month. Probably the most innovative track off the album is “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix)”, a mash-up of Cyrus’ own recent hit “Midnight Sky” with Stevie Nicks’ legendary 80s banger “Edge of Seventeen”. And what’s more – Nicks herself performs on the track! “Edge of Midnight” is an electrifying mix of these two ladies’ instantly recognizable voices. Expect to get goosebumps the first time Cyrus sings the famous “Just like the white-winged dove” line in her deep, powerful voice.

1. “HOLIDAY” by Lil Nas X

There is honestly no justification to why Lil Nas X should continue to churn out impossibly catchy songs with no real changes to his formula. “HOLIDAY” follows the same ingredient list as the mega-platinum hit “Old Town Road” – the minor scale, a simple and repetitive beat, his silky-smooth and slightly anachronistic voice; and yet we fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Move over, Mariah – this is our holiday song from now on. (Side note: This song got us talking about a literal “Holiday” playlist, so keep an eye out for that!)

Best New Tracks: Or, Top Five Tracks to Shock and Awe Your Friends

15 Jul

It’s not difficult to see why indie music is the focus of much ire and scoffing, no matter what the sub-genre. The broadness of the term’s definition itself invites more than an acceptable percentage of ‘artists’ who would have been – and should be – branded as rich suburban kids in less digital ages. Besides, there is a reasonable amount of mutual back-patting between publications and the type of bands that are expected to be liked by such publications – as a result of which there is often true confusion whether that DIIV or Lotus Plaza song you’re listening to is good because it’s good music or because it’s supposed to be good music. Y’know?

But, flimsy rant aside, July already seems to have been quite a decent month for the kind of indie music that can walk the talk, so to speak. Without further ado, Top Five Records presents to you five good new tracks of music. Just to be clear, these songs have melodies, lyrics, stories, even pop sensibilities, so fear not, we’re not pulling a hipster-style fast one on you.

5.Under the Westway, by Blur

Chiming in at number five are Brit legends and musical heroes Blur, with a brand new track that they’ve specially released for the Olympics Closing Ceremony. “Under the Westway” starts off with deconstructed beats, plinky piano and the kind of grand orchestral sweeps that are just perfect to play over slow-motion shots of athletic super-feats. While the subsequent melancholy of the song – both in Damon Albarn’s sad vocals and in the lovelorn-ballad-like piano – make the song seem unsuited for the closing ceremony of man’s greatest sporting event, it takes only a little thought to make sense of the song.

True, the lyrics are a little too sad for the Olympics. But there’s always a little shimmer of optimism that seems to shine through the music on this song. And both of these things put together mean this: “Under the Westway” is a song for both the winners and losers, as it should be. It is only apt that, music-wise, “Under the Westway” vaguely reminds one of “Let It Be”, because it means that Blur has got the elegant-grand-closing thing down pretty damn well.

4.Primadonna, by Marina and the Diamonds

On first listen, Marina and the Diamonds’ new single “Primadonna” seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of deal, as if Marina hopes to be considered a primadonna simply by singing about being a primadonna. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make – before the song even finishes a verse, Marina sweet-sings about how all she ever wanted was the world, and would you please propose to her right now, baby.

But the genius lies in two brief verses that Marina manages to slip in, that make it clear that this song is not a boastful claim of popularity, but a character sketch. “And I’m sad to the core, core, core/ Everyday is a chore, chore, chore/ When you give I want more more/ I wanna be adored,” sings she, no more a braggart but a storyteller. It is good to note that all of this happens while the synth-happy music allows you to completely block out the lyrics if you wanted to. Plus, she possesses Gwen Stefani’s I’m-genuinely-cooler-than-you twang in her voice. Really, it’s just good pop music.

3. Baby, by MIA

Everyone’s favorite Sri Lankan rebel princess MIA returns with a dark, slick gem called “Baby”, from her upcoming 4th album Matangi. It’s full of everything we love about her. She’s still her sometimes-quirky-sometimes-unruly self. She still has enough swagger to redefine what a pop song is meant to be. She still manages to put together the oddest of sounds and make it work. (Remember the cash register/gun shot combination on the chorus of “Paper Planes”?) “Baby”, like MIA, is polarizing. It has mucky beats, electronica that warns you of aliens, and half-seducing-half-chiding lyrics, so you know straight off whether you like it or hate it. And we happen to really like it.

2. Gun Has No Trigger, by the Dirty Projectors

“Gun Has No Trigger” doesn’t sound like a real song. What we mean is, it sounds like it could be a remix. There’s a guy belting out verse after soulful verse of old-school music, there’s the low hum of old-school female background singers, and then, at odds, there’s some striking, clearly modern drumming. But this isn’t a remix: this is the sound that the Dirty Projectors show off on their new album Swing Lo Magellan. The best thing about “Gun Has No Trigger” is that it sounds exactly like the background music during a Bond movie’s opening credits, and when you pair that fact with the song title, it seems like a stroke of genius.

Sidebar: The video for this song is brilliant.

1. Pyramids, by Frank Ocean

Last year, Frank Ocean was an unknown R&B singer who was, strangely, affiliated with a violent young rap crew (Odd Future). Then, his mixtape Nostalgia Ultra came out and everything changed. Nostalgia Ultra was considered by many – including yours truly – to be the best thing that happened in music last year. So, this week, when Ocean flippantly announced that his first love was a man, went on Jimmy Fallon’s show and released his first album Channel Orange a week early, it propelled him to the biggest thing in music right now. Against this backdrop, it is easy for the public’s expectation of Frank Ocean’s new album to overshoot reality.

Thankfully, Frank Ocean seems to equal if not surpass what he did on that mixtape. The stand-out so far seems to be the ten-minute “Pyramids”. The hazy-slick beats and Ocean’s spectacular set of pipes take centre stage on first listen. But, like any good Frank Ocean song, that’s only the beginning. Slowly, amidst Egyptian-themed metaphors, the story unfolds: “Pyramids” is actually a fully fleshed out story about a whore called Cleopatra that the narrator – her pimp – seems to be enamored by. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a great John Mayer guitar solo to close out the song. Listen, now!

Sidebar 1: If you’re wondering what a pyramid has got to do with it, just check out the single cover art.

Sidebar 2: There’s a brief second or two where you think he’s going to segue into KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It)”. It is a pretty snazzy thing to do.

Agree with the top 5? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section! 

–  Neeharika

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