[April Edition, Vol. 1]
A monthly curated bite of word salad on the hottest new tracks to come out across the globe, targeting artists of all genres and popularities. Brought to you by myself and a few other friendly writers, this blog series intends to inspire something new yet familiar to this wonderful music review site. This first post is purposefully short; I know for a fact there’s many others out there like me who do the daily Spotify / new music release check’n’scroll, people that are just dying to get their opinions out about their favorite (or least favorite) singles of the week! If you see something that’s missing, don’t just tell me how derivative and basic my music taste is, go and prove it by writing the hell out of a 1-paragraph review for whatever recent single you think will win you those imaginary obscurity points. Best part? You can act like your favorite staffer by giving out a nifty .1 incriminate rating! Just track me down and give me a Gmail friendly email address whenever you have the review, streaming link, and single information typed up. Without further ado, here’s the very first edition of the Spotlight Singles Series, featuring special guests ArtBox and AsleepintheBack!
The Beths – “Dying To Believe” [ArtBox]
We all know how sophomore efforts go; slumps, successful refinements/reinventions/re-etc., sometimes a healthy mix of both. And sometimes they just sound like more of the same – which hasn’t been a problem for The Beths, when their sense of same lies in comfort food power pop rhythms that gently belie jazz-filled education. Nevertheless, “Dying To Believe” is safe in both simplicity and it’s resulting undoing, marrying Elizabeth Stokes’ by now trademark optimistic nihilism with syncopated chords – even as the video’s lo-fi aesthetic mocks formulaic and formula alike. By jump rope gazers’ June release, it’ll be more apparent whether deeper cuts hold deeper introspection, or whether the rut runs further into the core than expected.
‘THE SCOTTS’, much like KIDS SEE GHOSTS, has been a long time coming. Despite Travis Scott’s obvious initial inspiration from Kid Cudi’s iconic MOTM series, their stoner rap aesthetics, and the constant pressure from both artists’ fans to collaborate, the only memorable song to come out it all was ‘STOP TRYING TO BE GOD’, a hazey, moody cut off of ASTROWORLD. However, the only notable addition from Kid Cudi was some “mhmmms” in his usual deep-voiced hum, begetting the question: do the two even want to make a song together? The one issue, I think, with this first single is that it feels like an introduction to the collaboration rather than a hit song that’s been fully developed. It features Travis up first, with his sparkly, clear autotune bubbling over some boosted 808s coupled with echoing minimalist melodies amounting to a verse akin to many of his other popular features. After a small break, Kid Cudi takes a stab at a specially fitted mumbly, autotune verse, one much cloudier and darker in production, marking the distinct way each artist will be presenting themselves under the moniker THE SCOTTS. Overall it’s a really well made product that’s brazen in attitude while comfortably fitting in, but without a hook, it feels a bit slim despite the close to 3-minute run-time. I realize there’s been absolutely no announcement of a project on the way by either rapper, officially at least, yet the creation of a separate Spotify artist page for this clever name hints at something more (Kid Cudi’s real name is Scott Mescudi, in case you’re lost). The song is honestly a banger, but it feels empty in substance, like I’m only getting a taste of what’s to come from a duo with so much potential and unprecedented compatibility in styles. All I’m trying to say is I want more, and in that regard, this is an extremely successful single.
I’ve never been too big on UK rap, and although the Grime scene has slowly bled into pop culture, I’m admittedly a bit lost on the importance of The Streets within the UK rap world. I could Google search them up for you and tell you about their past and their relevance but unfortunately his performance in this specific single doesn’t inspire me to invest any additional time into his music. Kevin Parker, also known as Tame Impala, is the main reason I even listened and his sole, repeated chorus is the only reason I’d come back to this song as his dreamy, falsetto-reaching hook is incredibly infectious despite how abrasive the two collaborators voices sound when placed lazily next to each other. The lyrics aren’t much help, detailing the bitter feelings one would have after breaking up with someone while retaining an annoyingly cocky attitude of pitying an ex vying for their attention again. Here’s a sample line for context: “love isn’t a riddle, love isn’t made to be hard / you know I’d give you my kidney, but don’t ever take my charger”. For a song so concerned about being above an ex, The Streets still decide to stoop low enough to this, seemingly in an attempt to be relatable to a younger audience for a potential comeback. Throughout every verse the rapper slowly spouts out cheesy punchlines with no charisma and even less substance. The only way to enjoy this song is to listen to Kevin’s chorus quite literally being directed at The Streets himself: “I was gonna call you back, I swear / just as soon as I felt up to it, it just hasn’t happened yet”.
While the current pandemic has recently cursed the band’s promising return and consequent world tour, Conor Oberst sees this single as a bitter blessing. Originally the line “forced convalescence in bed rest, staring contest at the ceiling” was written about a stereotypical mid-life anti-crisis, one riddled with boredom, tired of the same old while currently stuck in bed sick. However, he realized this theme naturally translates to millions of people out there now that have been forced into quarantine and banned from social interactions. Around 1:40 the song shifts from a sultry half-waltz, half-ballad number into a burst of metaphorical sunlight. Backed by a choir and some psychedelic chord progressions, the chorus, in a way, invokes the same bittersweet feeling one might get from accidentally writing a relatable song in the midst of an unstable and frightened world. I wouldn’t know, I didn’t write it despite the similarities in names, yet I feel like I’m glossing over one important message: holy shit Bright Eyes came back strong. I initially feared Conor would continue down that aforementioned crisis of musical boredom, stuck in a slight rut due to his constant fascination with folk music which began after the end of Bright Eyes. Yet, their newest two singles are some slick indie rock gems that are seemingly cut from the same cloth as LIFTED, infused with new sounds and instruments like the bagpipes in ‘Persona Non Grata’ and the cinematic production value in the subject at hand. While there’s no moment on either that truly cuts to the emotional core like, say, a ‘Lover I Don’t Have to Love’ does, I have a sneaky feeling the upcoming singles and subsequent album will impress rather than regress.
Hollywood is just one of four new singles Car Seat Headrest has released within recent months after a 4-year drought of new music. While Will Toledo has advertised both a distinct change in sound (surprise, surprise it’s towards “the electronic”) and a new alter-ego he has named “Trait”, this single is markedly different from the group’s other three songs, ones which meander and lull (pleasingly, mind you) rather than screech and yell. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, this song is probably their most intense release to date, as if they finally turned their amps up to 11 (Spinal Tap? Anyone?). Funnily enough, Will backs off in the chorus and first few verses, allowing his drummer, (Andrew Katz) to take the microphone in order for the insanity to fully ensue. Filled to the brim with bluesy, buzzsaw guitar riffs, fuzzy distortion, and grittily produced vocals, ‘Hollywood’ breezes by in a frenzy until one quick emergency break at 1:46 halts the noise briefly. A skittering, off-kilter synth line then enters and Will returns back to his mumbling croaked delivery reminiscent of his past work yet filtered in an eccentric manner, indicating the only clear, sonic link to their three other singles. Andrew eventually regains control just in time for a drummer-inspired crescendo that leads into the chorus riff, capping off one of the best Car Seat Headrest tracks to date. While I’m curious as to how exactly this specific single will translate in regards to the full-length release, I’m certain this song is destined for greatness and fame (okay, I’ll admit the [radio edit] version was an obvious tell, I need to spend less time on Spotify).
END – “Covet Not” and “Pariah” [AsleepInTheBack]
END don’t write songs, so much as they hurl around tectonic plates in whatever manner sounds the most aesthetically displeasing. The hardcore supergroup’s debut EP, From the Unforgiving Arms of God, was huge, and new singles Covet Not and Pariah are … erm … even huger. Ferocious riffs, cannonball drums and maniacal vox – they’re all here, in glorious excess, with nothing better to do than to kick your teeth in. Murky and feral, both tracks would have been right at home on the aforementioned EP, suggesting (perhaps) that END’s upcoming debut full-length may chug along the same well-trodden territory, refusing to be the game changer that some anticipated it could be. Not that it matters, quite frankly, given just how excellent these fiery bangers are. It’s a joy to see the guys toy around with an eclectic bag of hardcore tricks and metalcore licks, masterfully melding them together into a cohesive (albeit mildly terrifying) package.
Follow and listen to the Spotify playlist below:
For single review inquiries, contact: email@example.com
Thanks for reading,
Connor, Ben, Reece