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.
Even stripped from its heartbreaking context, Gord Downie‘s final album Introduce Yerself is achingly personal. With every one of its songs dedicated to a different person from his life, it acts as a confessional, a look into his relationships. It becomes even sadder when you realize these are all effectively goodbye letters to his loved ones. This album was written during the final months of his life, with him fully aware that his time was quickly running out. The fact that he was even able to put something cohesive together while dealing with his illness is a miracle. “A Natural” is instrumentally sparse but lyrically rich, yet another memorable parting gift Downie left his fans.
Pretty Decent Song of the Week
DFA have always been their own genre. Big, heavy riffs with a smidgen of rebel attitude and accessible rhythms- they carved out a niche and were celebrated for it. A decade later they tried to repeat their success by doubling down on their sound, something that both worked and felt hollow. When they initially developed their sound they had no blueprint; 2014’s DFA were using their first album as a reference. Where You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine was about roughly 70% metal and 30% dance-punk, The Physical World reduced the metal part of the equation to about 40%. It resulted in some great tunes, but didn’t quite feel the same. It was more polished, more refined, but less inspired.
For Outrage! is Now they invert their formula and up the metal component to about 90%; “Nvr 4evr” is one of the few tracks that still skirts the alternative radio playability limit. There’s also one thing that it unintentionally does: provides a perfect example of poor production vs. good production. The first few seconds of the song feature a weak, dry drum and guitar combo that sounds a lot like what so many modern bands have been doing to show off their “stripped down, organic roots”. After that mercifully short intro the real song kicks in with a clean, crisp sheen and barrage of bass riffs. It’s a fantastic point of comparison.
Average Song of the Week
I Love You But I’m Lost- Tears for Fears
Depending on your proclivity for new wave relics trying to stay relevant, this song is either fantastic or fantastically awful. It’s an entirely subjective experience; an argument can be formulated to slot it in any category of quality. Fans of Tears for Fears will be delighted that the band can still write something with any sort of torque. Those who never appreciated the mullets ‘n melodrama won’t be convinced that modern production values have suddenly brought merit to the group.
Real talk: the instrumental hook is probably one of the corniest things you’ve heard since Gob Bluth’s intro music. The operatically telegraphed melody is a cringe inducer like few can do anymore. There’s also a part where Roland Orbazal sings “so many days/so many nights”, but he slurs his words so it sounds like “smelly days/smelly nights”. Uhhhhhh…..
But ok, then there’s the chorus, and it is pretty great! As is the forward-thinking production. The whole thing sounds more like Erasure than Tears for Fears, but at the very least it’s not a lite rock piano ballad you’d think the band would be writing in their fourth decade together. So the goods and the bads end up cancelling each other out.
Terrible Song of the Week
Ahead of Myself- X Ambassadors
The vErY EdGy renegades continue their streak of offensively inoffensive jock jams with this sensitive-but-ultimately-resilient bro anthem. If Imagine Dragons are the Nickelback of “stadium indie”, X Ambassadors are inarguably the Daughtry in that equation. Not just because the lead singer looks and sounds like a bearded version of the one-time American Idol contestant, but because their polyglot approach is a copy of a copy of a copy. This is not a genuine band. Yeah, they’re entirely capable of writing pop hits like “Renegade”- but they have no concept of a core sound or essence. They can only recycle basic chord progressions like all the most generic pop acts, only they do so under the guise of motivational soundtrack tunes.
Disappointing Song of the Week
Always Ascending- Franz Ferdinand
That’s right, two bottom tier songs this week! But while X Ambassadors are reliably terrible, Franz’ new jam is a let down because of their prior stellar run of material. “Always Ascending” is at least correctly titled- this lead single floats up higher and higher and higher….and never gets anywhere. There’s literally nothing to this track. There’s no central hook, no memorable line, no instrumentation worth nothing at all. It’s just a bunch of boring verses strung together incoherently and packaged as a “song”.