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.
Ok, let’s take this time to talk briefly about Brand New‘s brand new album Science Fiction.
It’s a weird one. After eight years of waiting fans didn’t quite get what they were expecting. The sporadic singles released over the past few years were all red herrings. There’s no pop-emo on here, no Modest Mouse type noodling, and very little in the way of the classic Brand New sound. What this album does have is a musty sheen over it; it’s very aesthetically cohesive. Which helps when the band jumps between grunge, folk, country, blues, slowcore, and roadhouse gospel.
That last genre is conveyed in the song “451”, which sounds like Brand New hung out in a motorcycle saloon for a little too long. It’s a rollicking blues rocker with great energy and little guitar licks that give it a wild spirit that’s never popped up on a Brand New record before.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
The second Foo Fighters single slot from any record is usually reserved for a 4-chord heartland rocker- think “Long Road to Ruin”, “Walk”, or “DOA”. They’re not particularly memorable; the last quality one may have been way back in 2002 with “Times Like These”.
That streak’s been broken with “The Sky is a Neighbourhood”, which puts the Foos at 2/2 for the upcoming Concrete and Gold. Though the verses are unfortunately burdened with “organic production”, it cleans up its act with its proto-metal stomper of a chorus. This song does what no other second-Foo-single has done for a long time: create anticipation for the new album.
Meh Song of the Week
Montreal’s Stars are incredibly prolific, pumping out new material like clockwork. Their reliability is offset however, by the fact that a lot of these albums are stuffed with soundalike filler. The songs are all essentially interpolations of the same basic elements. When they do produce a great song it seems by chance, as if they twisted all the pieces in the right combination and said “a-ha!” As fantastic as “Trap Door” and “Take Me to the Riot” were, it can’t be denied that they’re cut from the same cloth.
“Real Thing” is helmed by Amy Millan rather than Torquil Campbell, so it sounds less like those songs and more like…any other Stars song she sings on. It’s sort of like a Metric single sapped of life, and the interesting rhythmic change between the mid-tempo rock of the verses and the electro-swing choruses isn’t enough to make this a standout single.
Below Average Song of the Week
The very austere, dignified William Patrick Corgan is not, as you may think, a serious stiff upper lip singer-songwriter. It’s just Billy Corgan pretending to be a serious stiff upper lip singer-songwriter. He’s trying to distance himself from his old band Smashing Pumpkins and all the baggage that comes with his name, but that doesn’t really work when you’ve got Billy Corgan’s voice. A voice that’s well-suited for hard-hitting alternative rock, but sounds woefully out of place in a straight faced piano ballad. People are not gonna be fooled and think this is anyone else- a few seconds of that drawl and it’s obvious that it’s Billy Corgan. Not only that, but the name “Aeronaut” is the most Pumpkins-iest song name you could pick. Could definitely picture it in a tracklisting for Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
Disappointing Song of the Week
One of music’s biggest disappointments in a year full of them, Foster The People‘s Sacred Hearts Club landed with a resounding thud. The album had neither the sticky candy-coated hooks of Torches nor the swirling psychedelia of Supermodel, just a bunch of attempts at modern trends without solid songwriting to back them up. The production was as always pristine- the band is probably the most well-produced alternative act today- but there was only one decent song on the whole thing (“Doing it for the Money”).
Typically when a chorus falls flat the fault lies in the latter part of it, but here it’s the opposite. “Pay the Man” has half a good chorus, but the band made the strange decision to open it with three incongruous chords that don’t flow at all with the rest of it. It’s an obvious show of “artistry” that cooks the chance of this being a great single, and along with the rest of the record derails a once promising band’s output.