You can’t force yourself to like something, whether for the benefit of others or as a personal need.
I’ve tried this many times before with artists, songs, and albums, going way back to high school. I remember in grade 11 frantically recommending the song “In The Shadows” by Finnish rock band The Rasmus to people in order to show off my knowledge of a band nobody else knew about. The song itself was catchy and concise, but it ultimately just did not click with me and I felt very awkward telling other people to listen to it when I really didn’t want to listen to it. I was trying to make a 6/10 a 10/10, and felt very fake doing so.
Over the years I’ve attempted this sort of thing again, with the same result. Even on this website I sang the praises of Arcade Fire’s Everything Now, when I actively disliked most of that album. And two years ago I started doing the same thing with Orville Peck.
I’m rooting for the guy, I really am – but as much as I want to force myself to enjoy his music, it just ultimately doesn’t resonate with me. The hooks fall flat, the instrumentation is dull, and the hype is unmerited.
I think part of it was because I was a little late to the party and didn’t give his 2019 song “Turn to Hate” the kudos it should have gotten. Had I heard it a little earlier it may very well have landed not only on my 2019 year-end list but potentially my decade-end list. I put 2020’s “Summertime” on the following year-end list almost as a make up, but if I am to be completely honest it’s another 6/10. Just like his duet with Shania Twain, and a lot of his recent singles.
Full disclosure: I have yet to listen to Orville Peck’s new album Bronco. There may very well be a hidden gem on there. But none of the pre-release singles have been any good. Maybe it’s because I’m not too well-versed in country music, but these songs are so generic that I’m not sure they’d stand out regardless of genre.
I’ve long compared Peck to Lana Del Rey. Though stylistically different, they both deal in sweeping melodrama and adherence to nostalgia through their own lenses. The difference is that the now decade-old Born to Die was heralded by not only the eternally classic “Video Games”, but the majestic title track.
A track that finds one of its many hooks lifted in Peck’s “Kalahari Down”, one of Bronco‘s initial offerings and the supposed “grand statement” of the album. The two songs have nearly identical pre-choruses. Where Del Rey sang “Keep making me laugh / Let’s go get high”, Peck now sings “Yippie-ki-yi-yay / I’m always down”.
The difference of course, is that Lana Del Rey followed that pre-chorus up with a huge, anthemic chorus. Peck’s chorus sounds like the forgotten third singles off any given Taylor Swift or Katy Perry album: big, broad and bland. I have already given this song 15 plays and I actually like it less each time. Yeah it’s big and “epic”, but it’s without a single original hook. It’s like what Arkells are to Imagine Dragons: a facsimile lacking the melodic prowess that made the original so successful.
I remember back in 2015 there was an artist named Daughn Gibson who had a similar vibe to Orville Peck. Though he had a decidedly less country bent to his songs, he was also a deep-voiced crooner singing over late night new wave. He never really broke through with his material and I’d hate to see the same happen to Peck, especially with so much mainstream support behind him. All he needs is that one big song.
I’m rolling my eyes typing this but yet another band has brought back the “drumless chorus” trend. Judah and the Lion are a second-tier act from the post-Imagine Dragons ecosystem but their new song “Happy Life” sounds more like Angels & Airwaves and the inspirational-emo clones like Thieves and Villains that followed in their wake. So you’d think that a big, “running a marathon fuelled by the power of the human spirit” song like this would have big thunderous drums during the chorus. Instead, there’s none. For either of the choruses. It’s confounding.
Leave it to me to complain and complain and complain and bury the lede. Another fantastic song was released this past week from a band quickly becoming the best new artist of 2022.
NO WIN are to early 2000s pop-rock what White Reaper is to Cheap Trick or Greta Van Fleet is to Led Zeppelin. A band so incredibly devoted to a specific sound that it’s hard to imagine how they can build a whole career on it.
They sound identical to any number of boy band adjacent pop acts like Ryan Cabrera or BBMak, with a dash of Third Eye Blind thrown in. They’re incredibly self-aware about this too – just take a look at this album cover:
This is a band that knows precisely the aesthetic they’re going for. Earlier this year they dropped the Wheatus-esque “New Year”, which was great aside from some dodgy drum and lead guitar production. They’ve followed it up with “The Hit”, a song that seems to have been scientifically engineered to release dopamine, and is well aware of that fact, as the title implies.
It’s so aware that it references its own saccharine nature within the lyrics and creates a weird feedback loop of pop. Imagine an AI was fed a Jesse McCartney song, a Lisa Frank trapper keeper, a Windows 2000 flash animation, 10 Things I Hate About You, a see-through purple Nintendo 64 controller, and the first season of Digimon and was told to create a band. This is what it would make. It’s an impossibly catchy bit of alternative pop that is the very definition of the word “fun”.
After listening to NO WIN I was curious as to what had happened to early 2000s power-pop trio BBMak, and found that they’d actually released an album in late 2019. Album single “So Far Away” is a perfectly acceptable slice of angst-pop in the vein of Snow Patrol, but there was something funny about it that stood out to me.
For some reason, the chorus is so heavily overdubbed that it sounds like each voice is tripled, leading to the impression that the effect on the album cover was taken literally. There’s no need for there to be nine voices singing these lines as they’re not all individually harmonizing, so it gets to be a little distracting.