Music thoughts Jan 3-7 2022

Grimes good, Weeknd bad, Radiohead bad, and more

  • Right before maximalist pop imploded in on itself nearly a decade I imagined just how grandiose it could get. Somewhere down the line, an artist would surely take Imagine Dragons’ booming drums, David Guetta’s surging EDM, and Kanye West’s auto-tune vocal tricks and create a futuristic soundscape appropriate for the year 2012. Maybe it would be Daft Punk, those long lauded revolutionary pioneers who consistently tinkered with electronic music.

Oh, except not. Instead Daft Punk effectively ruined mainstream music for the next decade with 2013’s Random Access Memories, influencing an entire generation of artists to look backward and make reductive funk with analog recording equipment.

It is now 2022 and Grimes has come to the rescue. Her latest track “Player of Games” is the closest anyone’s come to fulfilling the prophecy and restarting a new era of fully realized music. Synth arpeggios, beats from the golden techno years circa 2000, minor key chord progression and production so clean you can hear your reflection in it. It’s been about 20 years since anyone outside of Ibiza has made a genuine trance track like this, and if Grimes manages to influence even one newer artist to make more music like it, it’ll have been worth it.


 

  • Critics are tripping over themselves to praise The Weeknd over his “very 80s” new album Dawn FM, seemingly all having memory problems as “very 80s” has been en vogue for the past decade and a half. Not only that, but the Weeknd himself has already made like 4 or 5 of these albums already. Dawn FM is another stinker, almost entirely comprised of laconic major chord synth pop. The problem is simple: Abel Tesfaye can’t go home again. His best work came out of shadowy anonymity when his muses were the art school grads living on Queen St West. He’s too successful, too satisfied with life to make anything with heft anymore. He’s attempting to make sad boy music without actually being sad. Exhibit A – most of his music after 2013. Exhibit B – his song “Moth to a Flame” with Swedish House Mafia, where despite the electronic trio’s best efforts to craft a proper hook, Tesfaye sings a major key line over the resolving chord in the chorus and neuters the whole thing.

The similarly self-neutered pre-release track “Take My Breath” can be found on this album, and would be an average, acceptable track if it weren’t for the lopped-off synth track at the beginning of the choruses. Other than “Take My Breath”, the only song that could be considered enjoyable in any way is “How Do I Make You Love Me?”, with its decent hook and proper dynamics – interestingly also produced by Swedish House Mafia. It’s got a solid 3:34 runtime…….wait. Hold up. Where’d the vocals go? Why is it just sparse drums and occasional keyboard stabs after 2:31?? Oh right, because Tesfaye has to fit in with all the other artists doing this for no apparent reason other than other artists are doing it. So, forgive me, Mr. Weeknd, but I’m going to be bringing this track into an editing program and cutting it after that very convenient silence at 2:31, giving me a concise but unfortunately brief pop song.


 

  • Radiohead made something that’s not Radiohead, instead it’s a side project called The Smile. Unfortunately it made me frown with how bad it was. It’s just Thom Yorke yelping like an unhinged Bob Dylan over poorly produced garage rock. No proper structure, no hooks, just a bland mess. Of course idiot hipsters are rapturously praising it, because they are brainless drones without a single original thought in their empty skulls and refuse to see this as Radiohead’s Tin Machine phase – a bunch of older British Gen-Xers getting together and havin’ a proper good time bashin’ out some tunes for the ‘ell of it, innit?

 

  • This is the most minor of gripes, but this whole trend of artists just going by their names is only adding to music’s continuing slide into irrelevance. Listening to a song by Oliver feat. Hannah makes it seem like Oliver recorded it after math in the school studio and asked Hannah to sing on it because she just happened to be walking by at the time. If you’re gonna make music as a profession put some thought into a proper pseudonym.

 

  • Scanning the list of artists that contributed to Britney Spears tribute #FreeBritney, I don’t even remotely recognize one. There’s no one here that’s either an up-and-comer in the indie scene or a fresh face in the mainstream world. It’s complete nobodies (for the moment).

That said, it’s a decent compilation. Granted, it all kind of sounds the same – the whole thing could have been done by one single synth-pop band from L.A. called Cups or Batteries or something else that’s lying on my desk. It’s mostly faithful to Spears’ interpretations of the songs, and proves that strong songwriting surpasses genre boundaries.


Every single day my inbox gets inundated with tracks from local bands and I can’t get off whatever distribution list I’m on because it’s been decentralized and the emails come directly from the bands themselves. And the emails are always structured the same. It’s always something like:

Dear Dusty,

We were in a really dark place. The world is scary. So we decided to let all our demons out and let loose. Here is our ferocious new song where we pay tribute to our heroes. Peace and love and listen to it.

So what I’m gonna do is listen to the tracks as I write this with my first impressions.

Today’s band is Kodiak Arcade and their song “Why Pretend”. I like the band name. Now let’s hear this song.

The intro seems interesting, very loud and bold synths over a well-produced drum track. The hook is a bit lazy, but I’ve heard much worse and I must at least give kudos to anyone who at least attempts an instrumental hook these days. The verse I’m less enthused about as it’s turned into a “smooth soul guy” type song like LANY or SYML, complete with pitched background vocal effects straight from 2015. Chorus is OK. The vocal style gets a little more interesting here. The hook is very insistent, almost a little too loud, but it has staying power.

Intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-“bridge”-chorus, that’s good. The bridge wasn’t a unique part of the song, only a modified chorus, that’s bad. But vocals go right until the end like a proper song, that’s good. And it’s 3:40, that’s good.

Overall, I give it 6/10.

Author: D-Man

Hey, I don't know what to say. Ok, bye.

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