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.
Traditional career trajectories have been thrown out the window in this new climate. Where it was once standard practice for a band to toil in obscurity for years before achieving success, it’s more of a “get big quick or go home” type deal now. That’s why it’s surprising (and awesome) to see that long time indie rockers Portugal. The Man stuck it out for a decade and eight albums to finally get their time in the spotlight. Woodstock‘s first single “Feel It Still” was their first Billboard Top 100 song, and this follow-up should ensure a repeat visit to the charts.
It’s beefier than “Feel it Still”, and not quite as lyrically lighthearted, but no less catchy. It’s virtually one giant hook, with the melody winding up and down all the right notes over the rumbling rhythm that’s underpinned hits like The Black Keys‘ “Howlin’ For You” and Muse‘s “Uprising”. Let’s hope this track joins their ranks.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
Imagine if the singer from Hot Hot Heat joined Phoenix and you have this song, something that sounds like it would have been a minor radio hit a decade ago. It’s a perfectly acceptable uptempo electro-rocker, an uncomplicated three minutes and thirty eight seconds of pleasant melody. There’s a few squiggly synths, a nice post-chorus, and really that’s about it. Nice.
Meh Song of the Week
Twenty years of waiting for…something that sounds like an unmixed Travis B-side. Or maybe more like Thom Yorke mellowing out and playing his guitar by a gentle stream. There’s definitely bits of classic Radiohead in here- the sticky sweet string section of “Fake Plastic Trees”, the pinwheeling guitar of “Paranoid Android”- but this unreleased song was at one time supposed to be the follow-up to The Bends. In some alternate universe, maybe it was.
Maybe Thom and company decided to go full easy listening and palled around with Take That and Robbie Williams. Maybe there was one more stateside hit, but they spent the rest of their days touring the legacy circuit in the UK. Maybe they wrote a soundtrack single for a romance movie starring Colin Firth as a time-traveling suave gentleman.
Luckily, this universe skipped all that and got “Karma Police” and OK Computer instead. True, this led to a million insufferable music geeks, but we also got a lot of amazing tunes as well. So whoever decided to leave it off the final album, kudos times infinity.
Below Average Song of the Week
Kamtin Mohager‘s never had a particularly original sound. Performing as Chain Gang he went from Twin Shadow knock-off to M83 knock-off, but still managed to bang out some decent songs (the “Midnight City” aping “Sleepwalking” comes to mind). However he’s now apparently decided that his next sonic influence is going to be none other than perpetually precious electronic balladeer Owl City.
Even before the ten-second mark when he sings the word “fireflies” the major key milquetoast influence is obvious. With lyrics so earnest they’d make a high school notebook poet blush, Mohager seems intent on creating the most emo song of this decade. The little hints of The Cure‘s guitars and shimmering keyboards only hammer that point home. And let’s not forget that cover art- sad man in front of grey wall surrounded by fallen leaves? OK we get it you are so sad so very very sad.
He’s not alone bringing the cringe- The Naked and Famous‘ singer Alisa Xayalith plays some sort of Hayley Williams surrogate, and the duo keep trying to outdo each other with paeans of devotion. Melodically it’s listenable, but you feel incredibly embarrassed admitting that.
Disappointing Song of the Week
Ah, this isn’t good. It’s pretty bad. It’s really bad. Mark Foster, have you been hanging out with the guy from The Neighbourhood? Because this sounds exactly like the mess that was their first single from their sophomore album. A disjointed, wannabe club song with single-note bass, it’s easily the worst song the band has ever recorded. Not even the first rate production can salvage this totally haphazard clunker, and it’s a terrible omen for the upcoming record. This is where up-and-coming acolytes Sir Sly should come in grab the torch from Foster the People, but their debut is similarly bad. Fans of tangy voiced indie pop, keep looking for something new.