Wrap-Up Report May 2018

What happened in the month of May? Kanye had some things to say. There were songs that were OK. And some that were not OK.

The Good Stuff

  • Yes yes yes. Speedy Ortiz‘ “Lucky 88” is exactly what it should be: a stellar instant classic. I nearly burst into tears upon my first listen because within a matter of seconds it’s clear that they’re actually following a proper artistic trajectory. They had their breakout year back in 2015, became indie darlings, and now they’re ready to cross over with a more radio-oriented sound. Whether or not they do end up crossing into mainstream is besides the point, it’s that they are even bothering to create something accessible that almost makes the song even better than it is.

    Imagine that: we’ve gotten to a point where the fact that a song is good is a cause for celebration. That’s the nature of the streaming economy though- when you no longer have to worry about making hit singles, you don’t bother. So in the simple act of making their comeback single a hook-filled, big-chorused affair, Sadie Dupuis and company are more punk than any of their peers.

 

  • I first heard of The Front Bottoms in 2013…and promptly dismissed them. By that point I was about six years removed from any scene even tangentially connected to emo, so I had no interest whatsoever in giving them a listen. It was only out of morbid curiosity that I finally clicked on the Preview button in iTunes this past month, and was pleasantly surprised with the result. I’m not saying I’m going to download all their albums from the past decade, but as far as 2010 emo revival acts go they’re decent. Certainly better than any of the other bands under that umbrella (see: Pinegrove, Modern Baseball, Into It Over It, that band with the name that’s like The World Is Beautiful and I Wanna Die). The singer regrettably sounds like a sardonic Tom DeLonge, but they’ve got a knack for hooks that puts them more in line with cult acts of the early and mid-2000s.

 

  • The first verse of Future Islands‘ B-side “Calliope” is a precarious one. There’s a dissonant note running through it and it’s coupled with some dry, flat vocals from Sam Herring. It then suddenly blossoms into one of the most lush songs they’ve ever written and only gets more grand from there. The second verse seems to realize the folly of the first and ends up being a mercifully short seven seconds, leaving much more room for the double choruses.

 

  • I’d liken the new Middle Class Rut song “No Sale” to Deadpool 2: an able copy of its predecessor that brings nothing new to the table but is superficially enjoyable. The predecessor in this case being 2013’s devastating “Aunt Betty”, which “No Sale” apes in every respect to diminishing returns. The guitar riff isn’t as iconic, the drums aren’t as bold, the melody isn’t as memorable. It’s what Rise Against and Foo Fighters deal in so well, padding for some future greatest hits package. All that said, it’s still head and shoulders above every single other hard rock act currently making music and will likely get more than a few spins from me.

The OK Stuff

  • Like Brand New, Jimmy Eat World were mainstream emo-pop that got a begrudging pass from the blue bloods upon high. It took them far longer to be appreciated as an act than Jesse Lacey‘s crew did, but at this point it looks like Jimmy Adkins and company might be more fondly remembered by future generations. A lot of bands promise going “back to their original sound” and end up completely lying (see: 2016 Green Day) or taking it to an unpolished extreme (see: 2014 Linkin Park). Jimmy Eat World have actually done that with their two new songs; both “Love Never” and “half-heart” are ripped straight from 2004. Neither is particularly ambitious, but they’re both sonic throwbacks that strip away the glossy trappings of 2016’s Integrity Blues. They’re nice.

 

  • Family of the Year’s engaging in some sneaky bait-and-switch tactics. Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Nighttime was introduced to the world with the danceable first single “Hold Me Down”, but the rest of the album is par for the course for the once buzzy band. Mostly boring alternative rock with a few folk touches thrown in. Kind of reminds me of Switchfoot?

 

  • I’m not gonna touch the capital-A capital-R capital-T video for Childish Gambino‘s “This is America”. Yes ok  it’s deep and political and Makes a Statement. I am however, going to criticize the song itself as another victim of the post-structuralist bandwagon. A disjointed, disparate piece as jerky as Donald Glover‘s movements in the video, it’s an unwieldy combination of a dark bass groove laid over a Migos beat and a mostly incompatible gospel section, with a bonus dash of Glover’s occasional descent into goofy vocal affectations.

Choices I know are intentional and part of the Big Statement about the state of America, but the different parts are mashed together without a proper flow. It’s strange because Glover’s obviously proved himself to be a capable pop songwriter over the years (see: the underrated “3005“), so the swift turn into generic mumble-rap is disappointing.

I will say though that I’m glad 2018 has finally delivered its first big hit. It’s gotten people talking, it’s got a recognizable hook in the name, it’s lit up the charts, and it has produced some top-tier memes.


The Not-So-Good Stuff

    • Ok, everyone, you’ve made it clear: the hip new annoying trend in music in 2018 is forgoing a final chorus. A ridiculous, pointless move that does nothing but cheapen your final product, but go ahead and throw away decades of successful structure to impress the elites at Pitchfork. Whodunnit now? Why, it’s Twin Shadow. His new album Caer is a tepid mishmash of latter-day Phil Collins style pap and totally edgy analog tape hiss, with a few tolerable wallpaper tracks peppered in. “18 Years” is the one song that has any sort of potential; it tosses all that when it tacks on a pointless minute of instrumental bars onto the end.

      That’s the key issue with this trend- all these acts adding an extra minute or two or three in lieu of a proper final chorus do so without any vision. There’s no jamming or solos or a coda, it’s just essentially a bunch of chords that lead to nowhere. It’s literally as if these bands simply CTRL+C / CTRL+V’d a few bars and deleted the vocal tracks off the final mix. You want an example of how to do the no-final-chorus gimmick right? See Bloc Party‘s untouchable “Banquet”, where the band, you know, ACTUALLY WROTE A NEW SECTION OF THE SONG TO FINISH IT OFF.

  • Hey Roseanne, if you really wanted to get to sleep you should have skipped the Ambien and listened to the new Arctic Monkeys album. Let’s get right to it: this thing is incredibly bad. No, not just by my increasingly stringent standards- the whole internet hates this bewildering foray into the cheese lounge. The band is stuck in molasses, with the tempo constantly at a snail’s pace for the whole record. It might be even worse than Alex Turner‘s side project The Last Shadow Puppets.

The Weird Stuff

 

Devon Welsh must be even sadder now.