DISCLAIMER: This is the only mention of Donda you will find here. To steal a phrase from Bomani Jones, I got off that narcotic after Ye meddled in the election last year.
And it’s a shame I did, because this was absolutely not a good week for new music otherwise. I try to keep this post positive (unless we’re talking about “Solar Power” or Leon Bridges apparently) but I just can’t do that this week with the honorable mentions. My favorite track of the week is great though, so it’s not all disappointment.
Chai put out a pretty solid little pop album earlier this year, and it seems like they’re staying with that direction shift for now. “miniskirt” feels underdeveloped but there’s a great instrumental break in the middle of the track that makes it worth shouting out. Maybe you’ll be more into it than I am.
“Bash Bandicoon” by Zelooperz is an awful song. Terrible. But Danny Brown is so talented that his feature almost (almost) makes it listenable. The man has multiple classics attached to his name, but that might be one of his greatest achievements.
I’m a big fan of most of Jpegmafia’s past work- he was the last act I saw live before the Rona came along. But his new track “TRUST!” is only two minutes & fifteen seconds and there’s only about fifty-five seconds worth of ideas here. Feels like he could’ve sat with this one a bit longer. If you absolutely loved “EP2!” though you’ll probably be more into it than I am.
Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar dropped the highly anticipated “Family Ties” this week too. It has its moments, but it also has too many moments- this track is all over the place. Baby Keem is annoying at best to start the track, but gets it together as the beat switches. It’s almost as if he knows he needs to try harder if he’s going to be on a track with Kendrick, who gives a solid performance with some nice quotables, but even his verses are too much of a mess to save the song. Again, you might be more into it than I am. Hip-Hop Twitter certainly is.
The only track that I would have put into the honorable mentions any other week is “CANDYPAINT” by Joey Purp. The Chicago rapper is a little too muted in his performance, but his flow is tight and he’s got some nice lines in here. If the track was a bit more fleshed out (it’s less than two minutes, and you notice) it might’ve been my favorite of the week.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “Low Era” by Geese
First of all, it took all of my self-restraint not to put a picture of a flock of geese in the thumbnail.
Second of all, I had no idea this band existed before hearing this track and that’s because it’s only their second ever single. Someone I follow on twitter shared it and I don’t even remember who. So like I did with Wet Leg not too long ago, I’m getting all my background on this band from their Spotify bio. The five-piece hails from Brooklyn, and proudly flaunts a DIY aesthetic and budget. I get some Strokes energy from them, or at least this track, with a dash of Vampire Weekend.
“Low Era” opens with a pair of guitars trading the same lick, one just a hair behind the other. It’s a great tone setter for a track that feels slightly off kilter the whole way through- in a good way. The lead singer has great presence and enough of a voice to elevate a meh hook to a good one. Being able to keep wordy lyrics melodic and catchy is an underrated skill in singers, especially in modern rock.
Those wordy lyrics seem to remark on status-quo politicians in the first verse, those “born with the psychic inflection” who aren’t making any effort to fix anything. Geese are particularly disillusioned with the lack of urgency on the climate crisis, and feeling pretty defeated already, as they describe a dream where God herself asks “what am I gonna do?”.
All in all it’s a surprisingly polished piece of post-punk out of nowhere. They wear their influences, but there’s enough personality here to set them apart enough to keep that from taking away from the song. There are also a couple moments on the track lyrically that feel like they make more sense in a greater context, and the band does mention an album titled “Projector” on their Spotify. I’m interested to hear more from Geese, and definitely hoping it’s coming out sooner rather than later.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Emotions” by Mariah Carey
You may or may not have been aware, but the majority of the late Aaliyah’s discography has not been available on streaming services.
Until this week, when her estate officially released her discography worldwide. I feel like Aaliyah fans are the original Bey-Hive, so please no one dox me for saying I’ve never really loved her music.
Still, I grew up hearing a lot of it so I spent some time this week going back through her hits. I still feel the same, and let’s just say “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” doesn’t hit the same as it did when I was 6. But it got me in the mood for some 90’s/early 2000’s R&B, the golden era for the genre.
Damn I miss this shit.
As much as I love artists like Blood Orange, albums like “channel ORANGE”, and all the sonic experimentation happening in R&B in the last 12-15 years, I do wish more straightforward R&B still had a place in the industry. Vocally the genre sounds pretty mundane at the moment outside of the most exceptional artists, as sonic palettes take precedence over anything else. It was the opposite in the 90’s, as acts set themselves apart being unique performers, with almost all the focus on the singers rather than what sound they were singing over. I won’t harp on this point (again), but more than ever the music industry is lacking in great performers.
No artist epitomized that more than Mariah Carey- queen of the “amazing voice but pretty unadventurous music” label (hi Ariana Grande). No artist’s career reflected the shifts in R&B more than Mariah Carey’s. She was absolutely massive in the early and mid 90’s, had a bit of a slump at the turn of the century, and then had a massive comeback with “The Emancipation of Mimi”. And then suddenly she’d had her last radio hit. Artists like The Weeknd & Frank Ocean took over the genre and everyone else has been riding that wave, copycatting as best they can ever since.
Just like Aaliyah I grew up hearing a lot of Mariah, but I’ve come to appreciate Mariah’s music a lot more in the last few years. Beyond the technical skill & insane range of her voice, she has an incredible ability to make really busy (for R&B) beats sound harmonious with the exact melody or inflection they need. Tracks like “Fantasy” or “Breakdown” fit this bill, but my favorite is probably “Emotions”. If I was introducing Mariah Carey to someone, this is the track I would go with.
It’s also so 90’s I’m surprised emotions isn’t spelled with a z. The cannon snare drums of the 80’s have mellowed and aren’t quite as over produced, some clean, upbeat piano chords serve as the backbone of the song, and there’s a lot of superfluous percussion popping up at various points. An organ and a little guitar lick round out the rest of the instrumental, and on paper it sounds a bit messy, huh?
But Mariah puts her full repertoire on display, dipping into her underrated lower register as well as the dog-whistle falsetto she’s famous for. There’s so much force in her voice on the chorus, and a couple runs peppered into the verses. Maybe there’s just too much going on around her, but somehow her vocal gymnastics never feel like over singing.
R&B and Hip-Hop are both going through an emo phase at the moment, and in the case of R&B it’s a pretty big overcorrection from the glamor of the 90’s. That’s not at all a bad thing, and the genres evolution has produced some of the most interesting music of this century. I just won’t be complaining when the ballads & divas eventually cycle back into the zeitgeist.