Lots of good music came out this week, but I want to say one thing before we get to that: Can you all please stop trying to make Leon Bridges happen? Please? Thank you.
Choosing a favorite track for this week was a struggle, and finally in a good way. With lots of albums being announced in the last few weeks from pretty high profile artists it seems like the music industry is beginning to come out of it’s Covid slumber. Fingers crossed for a big holiday season release slate like old times.
One of those album announcements was James Blake announcing his new record “Friends That Break Your Heart” coming out September 10th with the single “Say What You Will”. My fellow Goldsmiths alumni continues the trend he’s been on post- “Assume Form” letting his vocal ability take center stage rather than his distinct production style. It’s hard to argue the results from this approach have ever been better, as Blake really flexes some falsetto chops in one of his best vocal performances ever released.
Molly Burch dropped her fourth studio album “Romantic Images” this week as well. I wasn’t crazy about her previous projects, but loved her voice so always kept tabs on new music. Burch’s 2020 single “needy” changed all that, with a major sonic shift that she’s leaned more and more into leading up to “Romantic Images”. The album as a whole is really strong, although she may have fallen a bit too in love with the sugary, bassline heavy sound as the songs on the record can sound too alike. Still, the closer “Back In Time”, a lovely midtempo ballad about self-love, was nearly the track I featured this week.
It’s only five tracks, but “Moral Panic II” might be the most consistent project Nothing But Thieves have released yet, both in terms of quality and sound. Their previous releases have had some really great highlights, but the full experiences never came together into a cohesive sound and always felt ever so slightly bloated with some forgettable tracks. This newest EP is five of the best tracks the band has put out, and all three of the non-singles released this week were contenders for favorite track of the week.
Like I said, lots of great music came out this week, and all of the honorable mentions above were definitely considered. But if I’m being totally honest this was really between two songs at the very top for me. So my most honorable honorable mention goes to Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby”. I’ll admit, I was one of those people that called him a one hit wonder, even chalking the success of “Panini” up to residual meme hype and a Nirvana interpolation triggering a mere exposure effect. But every single from the upcoming album “Montero” starting with “Holiday” has been better and better, now peaking with this track. The southern rap inspired horns hit so hard, and Lil Nas X comes with some great flows. This probably would’ve been my favorite track of the week the last couple weeks, and “Montero” is high on my list of most anticipated albums for the rest of this year.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “edamame” by bbno$ & Rich Brian
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures when it comes to music, but if I had to nominate an artist that comes closest to that it’s bbno$. But he doesn’t take himself or his music seriously and that’s something I’m appreciating more and more in musicians as I get older. Thanks to the internet many pockets of culture are more irreverent than ever, but that hasn’t totally translated to music in the mainstream as much as in film or television.
It’s something that I think the 88rising label as a whole has suffered from. Artists like Rich Brian & Joji have great online presences that have fun and poke at themselves, and their last few releases haven’t had much or any of that energy. You could argue Joji in particular has gone down that route in the past with his music to um…less than stellar results…And I would definitely say the largely sober “Nectar” is his best work yet. On the other hand, since his name change Rich Brian has had a pretty self-serious musical persona. His humor only bleeds into his music occasionally on songs like “Confetti” (‘she got 2 jobs and a kid and still got time to give me neck’ is one of his best bars ever), and even in moments like that it’s over a hard beat that almost demands to be taken with a straight face.
So when I saw “edamame” pop up on Spotify, it felt like a match made in (twitter) heaven. The beat is carried by some mariachi inspired horns and house drums, and once it starts it doesn’t let up at all. bbno$ & Rich Brian are trading bars back and forth like “I’ve been in the club and takin’ shots, If you got your mask off in the photo you getting cropped” and “baby in the sun like the Teletubbies”. There’s no Pulitzer material here, but it’s fun as hell and it’s nice to hear Brian getting a chance to just kind of fuck around over a playful beat.
Favorite Old Track: “(You’re the) Devil In Disguise” by Elvis Presley
Two of my four names can be directly traced back to massively famous musicians. For some reason my mother- a lifelong Jackson 5 & Michael Jackson fan- would never admit I’m named Jaxson after MJ (she was a staunch defender of him, so no it wasn’t because of that), but she happily attributed the 1st of my two middle names, Presley, to the other King.
So even though I wouldn’t say I’m much of fan these days- beyond the problematic nature of Elvis’ career, there’s just much better music made in that genre in that time- Presley is still one of the foundational figures in my lifelong love affair with music. So much so that the first CD I ever owned was the Lilo & Stitch soundtrack (gave me all the street cred), almost entirely made up of Elvis Presley classics. Without a CD player, I would play it on our Playstation 2 navigating a bizarre UI to skip anything non-Elvis.
Elvis was an undeniably charismatic vocalist, and did a lot more with his dynamics than he gets credit for. This song is maybe the best example of both, with not much else really going on. I’m doing a lot more criticizing than I usually do with the favorite old track of the week, but it’s to point out something I enjoy about music. You can grow out of songs & albums, you can find music you enjoy more that you think is better. But when you’ve loved a song at some point in your life, there’s always a little cue tucked away in your brain to re-trigger that feeling. It doesn’t always happen- if you’re a bit of a music snob like me it hardly ever happens. But when it does it’s a nice reminder that you never know when you’re making a memory and you never know what song will be the soundtrack.