Gonna be a short one because it was a light second half of the month but also because the constant pain in my arm is not conducive to writing a lot of words on the computer.
When Art of Doubt‘s lead single “Dark Saturday” dropped I commented on how it sounded like a return to the band’s scrappy early days. Turns out it was a bit of a red herring, as it doesn’t reflect the entirety of the new Metric album. While it and “Now or Never Now” both do hearken back to the early 2000s, the rest of the record walks up and down memory lane instead of setting up camp at the beginning of it. Emily Haines and crew use elements from throughout the band’s discography for the new release, from the early pop-rock sensibilities of Old World Underground, Where Are You Now to the uptempo stadium-filling radio hits of Fantasies to the slick disco of Pagans in Vegas. Album highlight “Dressed to Suppress” is the most cosmic the band’s ever been, reminiscent of the celestial ballads Florence + the Machine and M83 used to make.
It was a busy summer of major concerts, so I spent a good chunk of the season sitting in an amphitheatre seat watching nonstop ads on the big screens before the show started. One of these ads was a trailer for the upcoming remake of A Star is Born, which was a strange venue for it to air considering it’s now getting awards buzz. Full disclosure- I assumed it was going to be a Netflix exclusive, not an Academy Award contender. Of course I can’t make a full judgement without seeing the actual movie, but if the theme song “Shallow” is anything to go by then the praise surrounding this thing is inexplicable. It’s a rote, shouty ballad from stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, miles removed from her best work. It also pales beside previous movie soundtrack offerings like “My Heart Will Go On” or “I Will Always Love You”. Even the semi-satirical “Ashes” from this year’s Deadpool 2 flies circles around “Shallow”. There is simply no hook there. This will no doubt be played ad nauseum in grocery stores, but will likely get little playtime in karaoke bars.
It’s also hilarious to imagine Rocket Raccoon going full country troubadour.
Singer-songwriter Hozier wailed his way into the hearts of the general public in 2014 with the unbelievably banal Buzzfeed-bait single “Take Me to Church”, but has stayed quiet ever since. He’s back with new EP Nina Cried Power, and well hot dang it is pretty decent. I must give the Irish balladeer some credit- he’s the only mainstream act who used ominous gospel choirs in his music and that’s a trend that absolutely needs to take off. He does so again on this new offering and this time the songs are a lot more worthy. The title track is a little corny with the “legendary artist” name drops, but it’s still well-structured and dynamic. “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” is an effective blues-rocker, and definitely one of the better rock tracks of the year. You done good Hozier.
MGMT‘s “Electric Feel”
+ Foster The People‘s “Helena Beat”
= twenty-one pilots “My Blood”
And I’m okay with that.
A couple years back I was reviewing a show by The 1975, and prior to arriving at the arena I wondered how a group less than half a decade in the spotlight – with barely any radio play – had managed to sell out such a huge venue. Then I looked around at the thousands of screaming young women in the seats and I understood. They were a boy band with a cult following, and needed little to no mainstream exposure to capture the hearts of swooning girls all over the world. It was interesting then, that among the synth pop and lite-funk, there were long shoegaze interludes not germane to the rest of their material. Upcoming album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships has a few of these left-field surprises as well. “Give Yourself a Try” rips off a Joy Division riff wholesale, while “Sincerity is Scary” hobbles along on some annoying jazz beat. Neither one is particularly impressive, but it’s nice to see the group still trying to branch out.
Five years into the much-trumpeted emo revival and we can still count the good songs that emerged from it on one hand. A perfect example of the problem that’s endemic to the entire scene can be heard in The Drew Thomson Foundation‘s “Rifle”, which wastes an entirely palatable guitar hook on drawling choruses that don’t even constitute melody. It’s just stretched out nasal whining. The production is decent – a lot better than the muddy, unfocused work of the rest of the acts in this sphere – but it seems like all these guys are allergic to hooks. See: Pinegrove.
To be fair – there is one above-average song on The Dirty Nil‘s new record (“Pain of Infinity”), but they’re more adjacent to the scene rather than emo-proper .
The strange career trajectory of 2000s alternative rockers Thrice found them releasing one of their best songs ever after reuniting. New album Palms is a step down from To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere, but it is markedly better than the deluge of material they spilled out between 2008 and their breakup in 2012. There’s no huge hit like “Black Honey” here, though “My Soul” is pleasant enough. “A Branch in the River” has some potential, but there’s a weird moment in the chorus where the action seems to stop, bringing to mind a live scenario where the band all look at each other wondering what the next part of the song is.
Well Kanye (or is it YE now?) is back yet again with another release this year and he basically proves what I wrote about regarding the role of music in the music industry: it’s an afterthought.
Kanye’s previous two 2018 albums were spotty, and neither yielded anything resembling a single. He’s remedied that with “I Love It”, the first single from his upcoming Yandhi. Not because it’s an especially ambitious song, but because we’ve got this:
Like with every other “hit” this year, the music is extraneous. It’s a perfunctory bonus. Consider all the biggest songs of the year- none are memorable in their own right, and are known solely for their viral videos.
- The futon-chic above introduced by Kanye
- Childish Gambino‘s Very ARTISTIC “This is America”
- Drake‘s rap benefactor footage backing “God’s Plan”
- Drake’s dummy challenge footage backing “In My Feelings”
Some didn’t even need exceptional videos to get their name out into the world. Bhad Babie is in the collective conscious simply for being a trainwreck, Post Malone for looking like one. Ariana Grande didn’t garner too many spins with her tepid Sweetener, but brought about a flurry of speculation regarding her whirlwind relationship with Pete Davidson.
We’re heading into strange territory now- where once people would say “have you seen the video for that song?”, it’s now going to be “have you heard the music in that video?”