Alright, I’m doing it. I’m committing to a weekly post.
This is the first edition of Favorite “New” & “Old” Track of the Week… Favorite “New” Track & Favorite “Old” Track of the Week…Favorite “New” & “Old” Tracks of the Week…
We’ll figure it out.
Only the quotation marks are guaranteed to stay, because I’m almost certainly going to play it fast and loose with the definitions of new and old. This week the new track is from this past week, and the old track is from 2009. Maybe you take offense to me calling that old. I personally don’t hear “came out in the noughites” and think old, but I also still have to regularly remind myself that 1994 was nearly 30 years ago not 20, despite the fact that I’m only turning 22 next month…
The point is: new & old is relative, I don’t make the rules but I am quite literally going to make the rules as I go. Like I said, week one we’ve got a track from last week, but next week I might call something from 1966 that I just discovered new. We’ll see.
Favorite New Track: “Same Thing” by Genesis Owusu
Genesis Owusu’s incredible versatility as a performer was a huge part of what made “Smiling With No Teeth”- his debut album released earlier this year-such a breath of fresh air. Owusu can effortlessly bounce from manic energy, to introspective bars to a silky chorus that reminds you of Prince, and did so all over the impressive LP.
With this newest single it’s lots of the latter two. Owusu raps again mostly about the Black Dog- a reference to the Aussie mental health institute meant to represent depression that he makes constantly throughout his music. This song is a prime candidate for those mindless ” you’ll never believe the secret meaning behind Hey Ya” type videos, as Owusu delivers some of his bleakest bars all over a bouncy bassline and synth keyboard. He focuses in on the struggle to fight off the black dog, talking about how strong he is in his victories, but much more vividly describing how corrupting it can be when he loses. Owusu doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a lyricist he can be, and while there isn’t any incredible word play or double entendre here, the lyrics are incredibly personal and poetic.
You could forgive someone for missing the song’s heavy subject matter on initial listen at least, as Genesis delivers his story in his coolest, calmest, collected-est tone including a whispery chorus that’s an absolute ear worm. I loved almost everything I’ve heard from Owusu this year, and this is very much him picking a lane and hitting it out of the park. But I think if he can consistently show off his versatility on each track rather than across an album he can really make a special record. And I’m looking forward to it.
Favorite Old Track: “The Party” by St. Vincent
It’s been nearly a month since guitar god & song-writing savant St. Vincent released her sixth studio album “Daddy’s Home”.
And I really want to like it. I really really want to like it. I loved Annie Clark’s first four records. I really liked but didn’t love Masseduction, but I loved the stripped down piano version, MassEducation. So I had high expectations for “Daddy’s Home”. Despite feeling a bit meh about the singles, I figured even if this was St. Vincent’s worst album I’d still enjoy it.
After several listens, it just doesn’t do it for me. But I don’t want the first time I write about St. Vincent here to be negative, so rather than harp on what I didn’t like about the new record, I want to talk about why I love her music in the first place.
Often when I don’t like a new record by an artist I typically enjoy, I’ll go back to the old stuff after listening. Sometimes it’s to remind myself they actually are talented and capable of not making garbage (a.k.a Weezer-ing); sometimes hearing an artist at not quite their best just makes you want to hear them at their best.
“The Party” is St. Vincent at her best.
In just 14 lines, the song manages to weave three separate narratives that are really just one. Starting from “ticking and talking”, every single phrase is purposeful and packed with multiple meanings, as St. Vincent laments to her lover about alcoholism, growing old, and the crumbling of their relationship (this one will not be on any secretly sad songs video anytime soon).
As Clark’s voice jerks about, melodically elongating words before ending each verse in practically a speaking voice, you feel the moment she’s in, that we’ve all been in: the night out is coming to an end, and you hate what you’re going home to or who you’re going home with. But you know it’s about to happen anyway. No single line stands out from the others as particularly cutting, or particularly anything really- taken on their own out of context they don’t scream masterpiece. Against the harrowing piano, down-trodden rhythm section, and Clark’s dejected tone though, each line adds another stroke to a painting of a broken person. It’s painted quickly- like I said, just 14 lines- and by the time the Disney-esque strings swell into the gorgeous waltz closer, you yourself are left wishing the party wouldn’t end yet.
I could write a lot more about how much I love this song – wanting to talk about “The Party” is actually how I came up with this weekly post in the 1st place. But I’ll just wrap up by saying this is St. Vincent’s best song, and one of the best songs of the 21st century. Go listen to it. Pay attention. And try not to get even just a little sad. You will fail. But you’ll be glad you did.