Donald Duck, Dark Souls, and Russian composers all get some shine in this week’s old track of the week write-up. Some of you recognize the sexy, bald, winged vampire man on the thumbnail and that totally makes sense. To the rest of you: no it isn’t some kind of weird fan fiction, please keep reading.
I won’t lie to you, this week didn’t have much good music drop. I thought Yves Tumor’s “The Aysmptotical World EP” would produce my favorite new song, but it felt underwritten, and was pretty disappointing.
I do have one honorable mention for Childish Gambino’s remix/cover of Brittany Howard’s “Stay High”, and I want to highlight one song released last week I forgot about- Nothing But Thieves’ single “Miracle, Baby”. Slower, dense instrumentation leaning into the huskier, sexier side of what Conor Mason can do with his voice leading up to a huge closing chorus. They’ve written a few songs with this recipe- “You Know Me Too Well” is probably the closest relative- and it continues to work for them. Hopefully the rest of the “Moral Panic II” EP that dropped today is just as good.
Favorite New Track: “Slugger” by Kevin Abstract feat. $not & Slowthai
Kevin Abstract is one of my “I knew them before they were cool” artists. I first read about him when I fell down a Frank Ocean rabbit hole in 2016 just a few months before the first “Saturation” dropped, and have been following his and Brookhampton’s ascent closely ever since.
The boyband dropped “Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine” earlier this year, which I definitely enjoyed but felt it was their weakest LP yet (Yes, I’m an Iridescent truther). Tracks like “Count On Me”, “Chain On” or even highlight “Bankroll” felt like other artists feat. Brockhampton and overall I felt like the album lacked the distinct personality and ambition of previous efforts.
Kevin’s solo work has never been as consistent as Brockhampton’s, but he’s hit peaks with songs like “Baby Boy”, “Blink” & “Empty” that hold-up against the boyband’s best. “Slugger” doesn’t reach that level, but as I started my first listen I thought it might. Kevin opens with a great verse highlighted by a hilarious Lauryn Hill reference and a flow that reminds me of some mid-2000’s southern rap. His vocals are chipmunked-up, something he and Brockhampton have employed a lot that can be very hit or miss for me, but it works here. The southern influence continues with an obviously Outkast inspired hook, before $not comes in with an ok verse of his own. The beat switches up after this, slowing down and stripping down some of the production. But a lackluster and honestly annoying Slowthai verse completely derails whatever momentum was left from Kevin’s opening energy. Still, the first minute and half of this track is great and hopefully the rest of the features on his upcoming new LP are a bit stronger.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Night on Bald Mountain”
My first experience with this song didn’t come with Disney’s “Fantasia” like most people who weren’t around in the 1800’s. No this song was the soundtrack to Donald Duck and 7-year-old me getting our asses kicked in the video game “Kingdom Hearts” by a giant naked demon sitting waist deep in a volcano (which is somehow like the 133rd weirdest thing to happen in those games). When you’re young every late game boss is like something out of Dark Souls as your underdeveloped mind fails to see obvious patterns quickly, and if you’re like me you still have a bizarre love/hate relationship with the most beloved fictional Duck in human history to this day (if you know, you know). So I had several frustrating hours to get used to this Russian tone poem, and it’s one of the earliest memories I have of loving a piece of classical music.
Fast forward to a 15 year-old me- now with six years of music theory & trumpet playing under my belt- who finally watches Fantasia and gets a huge nostalgia kick boosted by actually understanding what’s going on musically. I foolishly tried to mimic this piece for a music class assessment which went nowhere near as well as I thought it would- turns out writing massive orchestral epics is hard- and I’ve come back to listen to this piece every once in a while ever since.
The piece opens with the most iconic section- swirling strings swelling into a deep, foreboding brass crescendo. This repeats before the piece breaks into a bit of musical conversation between the two sections, each playing the same motif before eventually being joined by the woodwinds. It’s an incredibly dramatic piece perfectly designed to soundtrack some kind of fantastical happening way before soundtracking was ever a thing. The harrowing tones gradually give way to a more upbeat victorious brass section and a very peaceful woodwind melody is ushered in by pensive strings and some chimes from a bell. The latter half is much quieter, as whatever the composer had in mind when writing this piece comes to a clearly happy ending.
I’ve personally always listened to versions credited to Modest Mussorgsky, but there is some debate as to who the version that ended up in Fantasia should be credited to. Leopold Stokowski arranged all of the music for that-cough*overrated*- cough- film of course, and Mussorgsky died before the original composition was ever played live. Another Russian composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, wrote another arrangement based on Mussorgsky’s version which seems to be the version that has stood the test of time and is still attributed to Mussorgsky.
Sampling & ghost writing started way before Kanye & Drake kids.