Welcome to the Weekly Fiver, where I’ll pick five recently released songs of varying degrees of quality and thoroughly break them down for you. No two songs will be on the same tier, and they’ll be listed from best to worst. The top song will be an excellent must-hear tune, while the bottom song will be one you ought to stay away from or else you will make your ears sad. It’s all very scientific.
Excellent Song of the Week
With its odd time signature, “Violet” is a shining example of how to try something different but still make a song people actually want to listen to. It’s not just the heartbeat rhythm that stands out either; pinpointing a definitive influence is challenging as well. Singer Rob Grote‘s vocals are absolutely informed by Hot Fuss era Brandon Flowers, and the lead synth line sounds like something from that record as well. The bouncy folk crossed with distortion guitars is a little more difficult to trace to a specific sound though, and makes for a song that can truly be called original in this day and age.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
At this point it’s a safe bet that anything Brandon Flowers writes will revolve around an homage to either:
A) Las Vegas
B) Bruce Springsteen
“Run for Cover” goes with option B (for Boss), and right on cue the song features the words: “thunder”, “the road”, “heaven”, “the street”, “momma”, amongst references and allusions to boxers, prayer, and the middle class fight.
Despite all this the song manages to sound not quite like anything they’ve done before. It’s just unique enough to be interesting…even as it runs with its heart on its sleeve and its eyes to the sky, feet pounding on well-trodden ground.
Meh Song of the Week
It’s not just the style of this song that hearkens back to days of old. In addition to 90s electronica influences, the production is bold and clear, a far cry from the “back-to-basics” analog sound that everyone wants to ape so badly. This is a song that isn’t ashamed to have been made in an era of clean recording. It is a song however, that has a few too many chords. The British tendency of trying to cram as many of them as possible into one song is fully on display here. As a result the verses and chorus are slightly disparate, and there’s an unfocused feel to the overall work. It’s a few pieces of a great song shuffled in between pieces of an average song.
Below Average Song of the Week
Speaking of production, here’s another throwback. Like some kind of Incubus b-side from 2003, “Amsterdam” actually, genuinely rocks. It’s what modern rock used to be, and it’s unfortunate that the trade-off has to be the ultimately flat chorus. Even when an alternate variation of it is used on the final section, the underlying chord doesn’t allow for the song to take flight like it so desperately wants to. It could also do without the pointless two-note keyboard outro that lasts for a full thirty seconds.
Disappointing Song of the Week
As I’ve written many times before, sometimes it’s not the bland monotonous song that disappoints you. It’s the song that squanders all potential by throwing a wrench into the gears for the sake of “artistry”. Determined to show their willingness to experiment, the band eschews traditional song structure (which would have made for a more concise song) and take a left turn into more obtuse territory. Unfortunately 90% of the time it just doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work here.
For the first minute and fifty four seconds, “The Wolf” is all dark majesty. It’s got bite despite having only a two-chord progression. The band effectively builds up an ominous tone with the bass, the insistent lyrics, and the sonic atmosphere. Even the album artwork clearly shows a certain aesthetic. The listener becomes acclimated to the song’s objective, until almost two minutes in when the band decide to swap the second chord out for a major one and the song becomes a latter-day Mumford & Sons earnestness-fest.
It’s a bait-and-switch of the highest level, and vaporizes everything the song has worked for up until that point solely just so Andy Hull and friends can say “LOOK WE KNOW MORE THAN TWO CHORDS”. In this case, two chords would have sufficed and this is a textbook case of Simple is Better.