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.
Although “rock” music is slowly starting to inch back towards “seriousness”, big ticket festival EDM is still firmly entrenched in wide-eyed major chords. It’s coming to the point where every song is beginning to sound exactly the same: like the soundtrack to a montage of people who’ve won the lottery and are doing cool things like driving really fast or hang gliding into a volcano. Don’t believe me? Preview the top 25 songs on the iTunes Dance chart and then come back here. It’s the same song with different singers- sometimes literally (see: Calvin Harris, The Chainsmokers).
So what about THIS song then? Well, it’s not even EDM- so that entire paragraph above is woefully off-point. But it’s interesting to finally hear synthesizer-based music using minor chords again. These new wave revivalists dare to inject a little darkness in their emotive sounds and it pays off extremely well. Even the name of the song is a fairly bold move- it’s almost uncomfortably candid and personal, a bare statement which hasn’t been seen in song titles since the nu-metal heyday of the early 2000s.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
The small town electronic duo has always been known more for their big-tent party tunes rather than their more subdued moments, but there’s a smattering of the latter throughout their discography that shouldn’t be ignored. The “tender” song from their latest record New World Alphabet is the dubstep influenced “Vulcan”, which immerses its emotions in a vat of various blips and bloops, then drops it onto the genre’s trademark skittering drumbeat.
Meh Song of the Week
Realize Real Eyes- Said the Whale
If I may be objective for a moment- this one kinda breaks my heart.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Said the Whale‘s relentless bounciness, and before seeing them live in concert recently I feared I’d be subjected to two hours of just that. I was pleasantly surprised though! This brand new song exploded like nothing in the band’s past catalogue. It was like an old school Mew song, all majesty and wonder. I kept waiting for some odd chord or wordless second half to ruin the flow but it finished in a nice straightforward fashion and when I got home I immediately went to iTunes to download it.
Imagine my disappointment when I realized that whoever mixed “Realize Real Eyes” decided to take all sense of dynamics out of it. The chorus that’s supposed to be big and bright is muddled and weak. The production almost wrecks the whole song. Just this song though- the rest are crisp and clean and properly mixed (…but they’re not very good songs).
In an age where artists intentionally self-sabotaging promising hit singles is the norm, this seems extra deliberate and extra disappointing. Although it doesn’t completely sink the tune (thanks to good song structure and form), it does stop it from being a fully excellent song. If the production was punched up this would be a 100% winner.
Below Average Song of the Week
The prolific Mr. Adams used to have an unimpeachable record. Even though he pumped out music at a breakneck pace, it was always artistically valid. Even his (dubiously motivated) Taylor Swift cover album was a success. But here he’s trying to get a little too much mileage out of the 80’s rock aesthetic that he’s dabbled in for the past few records. It’s still well-crafted, but this song in particular literally sounds like a lost Bon Jovi B-side. Or perhaps a continuation of his strange feud/tribute to Canadian songwriter Bryan Adams?
All Ryan Adams is missing is the trademark rasp of either of those 80’s icons, and your enjoyment of this song (and accompanying album) will depend entirely on how much pleasure you derive from that decade’s sonic imprint.
Disappointing Song of the Week
The gossamer-voiced McMorrow has been kicking around for about five years now, but his slight singer-songwriter tunes haven’t really caught on. He’s obviously trying to change it up with this tropical-tinged R&B joint, but his voice barely registers beneath the pounding drums until he adds some overdubs in the chorus. And it’s not a very strong chorus. As a pre-chorus it may have been effective but here the three-chord build-up lands on a decidedly anti-climactic note.