March 25th, 2013 1:59am
If this sounds to you like “classic Wire,” it’s because it basically is – this is a new version of “Ally In Exile,” a song from around 1980 that was never completed, but appeared on the live record Document and Eyewitness. But while the structure of it is very 154, the sound is about what you’d expect from Wire since the early 2000s – blunt force, but with a tone so clean and processed that it sounds antiseptic. This approach suits the song very well, because Colin Newman’s voice seems so cold and detached that his lyrics about a spy panicking as his cover is blown that telling the story in the first place seems like an exercise in sadism. But, you know, Wire is like that.
March 22nd, 2013 12:08pm
There’s a lot going for this song purely in terms of texture and sound, but the thing that really makes it is those little wordless whoops Matthew Houck throws in to punctuate his verses. It shakes up the song a little, and makes it clear that he’s having fun even when the arrangement starts to feel slightly static and you start to realize that his lyrics about hooking up are very ambivalent. With just a few little gestures, Houck flips that ambivalence and sense of kinda jogging in place seem just fine, like a rut he doesn’t mind being in. Which is basically the whole point of this, on an emotional level.
March 21st, 2013 11:44am
Alan Braxe makes very sentimental dance music, at least in the sense that he’s always making these tracks that make you feel like you’re remembering some piece of music from your past that you love deeply but can’t quite place. A lot of artists have run with that idea over the past several years, but Braxe pulls this off with a lot of grace, particularly on a track like “Time Machine,” which sticks to a low bpm to make you feel like you’re listening to the most perfect moment from the most perfect prom in history, and living in that moment indefinitely. This evokes such a strong and uncomplicated notion of romance, it just kinda zaps you back to what you thought love and romance should be when you were just a kid.
March 19th, 2013 3:38am
Listen to the bass in this – it’s that Kim Deal rumble roll, but flattened out to evoke the feeling of having all the joy sucked out of your life. Kate Nash sings like she’s gone dead inside, but there’s a slight smirk to her delivery, as if she’s kinda enjoying this bitter, empty feeling in the wake of a relationship going sour. You can hear the hum of her guitar, like it’s lying in wait, and you can feel a catharsis coming but the measures keep going by. When it finally comes, and the distortion kicks in and her voice becomes more emphatic, it doesn’t actually change much. See just comes out and says it too – “It doesn’t matter how loud I play my music, I still feel the same.” That bass line starts to feel like mental block, and what sounded like a smirk before now just sounds like empty spite.
March 18th, 2013 1:59am
We should all try to do something even 1/1000th as great as the middle section of this song, which sounds a sudden flood of anxious thoughts behind held back by blunt guitar riffs and the defiance in Marnie’s voice when she sings “I’m losing hope in my body.” The dynamics in this song are amazing, with the heaviest bits coming after lulls that drag out the anticipation a few beats longer than what you’d expect from a rock song. But that’s the real point of this song – it’s all about steeling yourself for that onslaught of panic, and doing whatever you can to fight back.
March 14th, 2013 12:24pm
“Pusher Love Girl” is a corny song comparing a hot girl to drugs, but it’s important to remember that Justin Timberlake, no matter how cool he seems sometimes, is an inherently corny dude. And that’s fine! I think this is the best song he’s ever recorded in part because he’s doing nothing to obscure that, and just taking a simple premise and an appealing melody allllllllllll the way. This song doesn’t need to sound as fancy as it does, it certainly doesn’t need to be extended to 8 minutes, but Timberlake and Timbaland make it work on a moment-to-moment level, giving you a lot of cool little hooks and sounds so it never gets static, and just keeps moving in this breezy, comfortable lateral progression. If you’re going to do slick and deluxe, this is the way to do it. And you could argue that they take the sound of this song very far away from the strung-out junkie conceit in the lyrics, but it’s pretty obvious that these are the sort of drug metaphors a non-junkie would make.
March 13th, 2013 12:29pm
Veronica Falls are almost stubbornly basic on a musical level, with an approach to instrumentation, vocals, and pop song structure firmly rooted in early ’80s English indie rock, but their tunes are often strong enough that their connect-the-dots method of indie pop is totally justified. They are very good dots! In this way, they’re a lot like Dum Dum Girls, where a high level of craft and commitment to an aesthetic trumps what can come across as a very limited artistic imagination. But where Dum Dum Girls shine brightest when singing about a vulnerable, almost uncomfortably pure love, Veronica Falls excels when they navigate a more bleak vision of romance. “If You Still Want Me” is paranoid and confused, with Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare’s voices crossing in a disconnected conversation about whether or not their characters could have any sort of relationship after enduring some sort of trauma. The song conveys a sense of danger, with Clifford singing “if you could have me, would you still want me?” with the dim realization that any answer to that question will be a little terrifying.
March 12th, 2013 12:07pm
I’m not really sure why this song is called “90210,” maybe it’s just some self-effacing way of distracting the listener from noticing that this is actually a rather poignant tune. Annie Hardy is addressing a guy who seems to be doing okay in life, but is actually kind of a wreck – he doesn’t know how to be alive and in the moment, so there’s always a nagging feeling that thing don’t feel right. And that’s a horrible, insidious feeling, especially when you don’t have a frame of reference for how to feel or what to do with yourself aside from planning. Hardy sounds so kind and generous in this song, each melodic twist seems to amp up the empathy. She doesn’t have advice other than “take, take,” which is pretty vague, but seems right: Take what you’ve earned, take what you want, take the love people want to give you even if your instinct is to shut it out.
March 11th, 2013 3:13am
“The Next Day” isn’t a song about death, it’s a song about survival. But survival in this song isn’t a matter of staying alive, but narrowly escaping death at seemingly ever turn. It’s about coming so close to the end that you become convinced that your luck will run out at any moment, and that the world is conspiring to snuff you out. Listen to how easily this song tips from gallows humor to hysteria, with Bowie kinda losing it on the first verse before going back into a defiant, proud chorus where the most triumphant thing he can say is that he’s “not quite dying.” It’s grim, but he sounds so determined to live that ever “next day, and the next, and another day” is a joy, if just to spite the reaper.
March 7th, 2013 4:03am
It is sort of amazing to me that more rock music doesn’t sound like this song, because songs like this sound like so much fun to play – very loose and groovy, catchy, a bit heavy. I can barely make out any words in the vocal melody, but the only thing they’re saying that really matters is that “whooooo!” before slamming into the heavy bit. The bass carries a lot of the structure, but the guitar is so incredibly expressive, with little creaks and crackles on the verses, and that really amazing part where the notes sound like little arrows pointing diagonally across the song.