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.
San Fermin have an interesting set-up. There are two vocalists, but neither is the songwriter. That duty belongs to Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who composes the ornate songs but leaves the singing to Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye. Each one usually helms an entire track, with the lead position evenly divided on each record.
Tate’s contributions have been double-edged swords. While they have been the more popular songs, Tate’s also received criticism for “ripping off” The National vocalist Matt Berninger.
For whatever reason, Tate is on far fewer tracks on the new San Fermin record, and the ones he does feature on are decidedly lesser songs. Kaye’s got the biggest and best hooks, including this Stevie Nicks inspired number. It’s most likely true that Tate wouldn’t be the best fit for the frenetic choruses or bridge, but it would have been nice to hear his steady baritone during a verse or two. Regardless, the song hits hard and nails the exact modern-poet aesthetic Ludwig-Leone has perfected.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
It’s an unabashed Foster the People rip-off, but Sir Sly do the sound so well that you can’t help but enjoy it. Who knows, maybe this will be better than anything off the mysterious new FtP record coming out.
Meh Song of the Week
Styles‘ ambition is clear: he wants to be BIG. While this song’s entirely-analog direction is commendable, it misses the mark by a tiny bit and ends up being simply listenable. It’s just not a hit. Sounding like a Richard Ashcroft solo track or a Stereophonics B-Side, it reaches for greatness but settles for grandness. It’s basically a slightly more artisanal Robbie Williams joint. The chorus is expansive, but flat. The theatrical outro feels unearned. The one saving grace is the falsetto hook that pops up between verses and choruses.
Still, it raises eyebrows and expectations. Will Styles follow through and release a full album of “real” music? Or will it be a monogenre mix n’match affair ala Mikky Ekko‘s Time? Either way, let’s hope that the songwriting is a little more memorable on following singles.
Below Average Song of the Week
It’s a rare problem in modern music, but the unnecessary post-chorus/second chorus does happen sometimes, and it happens here in “85 Videos”. The totally decent and acceptable chorus is overtaken by Mew‘s prog-rock sensibilities, who throw in one of their trademark “childlike wonder” segments. Only it’s in the wrong key, it’s missing a melody, and a reason for existing in this song.
What’s more concerning is that Mew are now three songs into their album roll-out and none of them have been standouts, which has never happened before. Even 2015’s underwhelmingly generic effort + – had already released the thrilling “Witness” and the passable “Water Slides” by this point.
So far Visuals has given us boring album closer “Carry Me to Safety”, the rickety “Twist Quest”, and this ruined song. However all three have been from the latter half of the album, so there’s hope yet that the big guns are being kept secret. Let’s hold out for “Candy Pieces All Smeared Out”. It’s got an unwieldy title, but it is in the coveted track #3 spot, and is a radio-friendly 3:37 long.
Disappointing Song of the Week
Sometimes a band f***s up a promising song so much I literally get the urge to call them and arrange an interview just to ask them what they were thinking. I want to walk them step-by-step through the song and show them exactly where it goes wrong and how to fix it. Then I go outside and breathe and write a pithy blog instead.
This song starts off decently enough, with a recognizable chord progression and a solid high-pitched vocal sample hook. The verse melody is pleasant, the pre-chorus melody is fantastic. Then suddenly there comes what you’d think is yet another pre-chorus. It turns out to simply be a percussionless segue into the real chorus, which just thoroughly wrecks the whole song with its ill-fitting key change*.
And so a potential hit single is ruined. INTO THE TRASH IT GOES.
But what about the rest of the album? Surely the band can’t mess up every other song, right? YES THEY CAN. It’s all just reductive 80s plastic funk- right up until the last song. Suddenly it seems like Memoryy are about to redeem themselves with another modern-sounding, hook-filled track in “Damn Fine Predicament”.
For the first 2:09 of that song you’ve got yourself an A+ hit, a slinking R&B influenced electronic banger. It then morphs into an off-kilter instrumental jam for the remaining 3 minutes, and all you can do is mourn what could have been one of the best songs of the year.
(*Side note: It’s clear at this point the overdone trend of 2017 is going to be key changes, as evidenced by several songs above, as well as Lorde‘s “Green Light”. She pulls it off there, but everyone else is just throwing them in with no regard for song structure.)