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
Who are these guys? Like the similarly named Shout Out Out Out Out, they rode a wave of brief hype in the mid-2000s and have stayed firmly ensconced in that era ever since. It’s almost as if they don’t want to be big! This song could be a modern indie hit, and they’ve buried it deep in their latest album. A shame, because it’s literally the perfect pop song. It’s essentially one long hook from start to finish; four distinct and totally unique melodies stitched together in a wonderfully sticky manner and clothed in strangely indescribable style. It’s kind of like Empire of the Sun and The Verve mashed together; “indie alternative” is about an apt a label as you can get.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
Joseph of Mercury is inarguably this year’s Oscar. A British crooner influenced by Morrissey who to date has found neither mainstream success nor underground hype. His first single was incredibly annoying, but “Do You Remember” is a pleasant slice of retro melodrama. It would be nice if he employed fuller production, but there are enough lilting vocal hooks in here to make up for the semi-cheap gloss. He definitely still sounds like an opening act at this point, but there’s a lot of promise in his sound. Let’s hope 2018 sees a wholly realized (and adequately financed) album.
Meh Song of the Week
Hey, do you like the xx? Were you disappointed by their 2017 album like so many people were? Here’s a pretty good American facsimile of the British twilight pop trio. To be fair, it’s actually a few notches above “meh”, but it doesn’t quite reach greatness due to a few strangely amateur issues. First off: there’s a very subtle organ floating in the background throughout the whole song– only really audible if you turn up the volume. That’s ok, because the third chord in the verses sounds…wrong? Like, it doesn’t match the guitar. Then there’s what sounds like timing issues in the second half, which wouldn’t be a problem if they just cut a minute off this thing. It would make sense to be five minutes long if there was a crescendo or build-up, but since it just drifts along it gets slightly tedious towards the end.
Below Average Song of the Week
Uh….this doesn’t really register as a song. It’s more like a bunch of pieces of a song copied and pasted in various spots to fill up four and a half minutes. First single “Three Rings” wasn’t exactly a Top 40 barnburner either but at least it had some nice textures going for it; it also largely adhered to traditional pop conventions. Here there’s a structure that goes something like: verse, verse, instrumental part with no drums, chorus, chorus, verse, chorus. Which wouldn’t be so bad if there was any sort of dynamic range between the verses and the choruses. Or a switch-up of the mid-tempo beat. Or something memorable about the vocal melody. No it’s all boring.
Terrible Song of the Week
As someone who’s a fan of this song and both bands, this cover is extra disappointing. It’s a misfire on all fronts, a truly awful version that both totally ignores the point of the original and displays the worst tendencies of contemporary electro-pop bands.
One of the biggest reasons “Do I Wanna Know?” worked so well is because it did so much with so little. Its minimalist sound belied its confident swagger, expressing nearly everything through one insistent beat and that guitar riff. Those are gone in this cover, replaced with an obnoxiously blown-out electronic drum and pointless synths scattered all over the place.
Also pointless: the altered chord progression. The flat, 80s pop inspired major-key sound has been one of the biggest problems with mainstream music over the past five years, and here it’s on full display. At least now there’s a solid point of comparison; listening to both versions of the song will show just how badly this trend wrecks promising songs. In its original incarnation, “Do I Wanna Know?” had a distinct melody. Here CHVRCHES take the main hook for a ride and lose it somewhere in the wilderness. Absolute mess of a cover.