Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

“LP! Official Album Artwork (left)[Republic, EQT]; Tears For Fears (right) [Tears For Fears Verified Twitter @tearsforfears]

I might’ve started the last four editions of this by saying ‘it’s been a busy week’ but it really has been a busy week. In case you didn’t know, house hunting in London is always trash but it’s particularly awful now that we’re all pretending Covid isn’t a thing and everyone’s flooding back to London. I moved into a new flat on Monday which I’ve spent a grand total of 4 hours in awake, spending the rest of my time running around the city as per usual.

All of this is to say- I didn’t get to a lot of new music this week. Really only two albums I’ve been looking forward to, and one album that landed on my radar thanks to a Blood Orange collaboration (not the 1st time this has happened).

Wet’s “Letter Blue” is of course the album with the Blood Orange collab I’m talking about. “Bound” is a smooth bedroom R&B song with a 90’s inspired hook. The rest of the new record is pretty lackluster and flaccid unfortunately. It would be a chill mood setter- as most bedroom influenced records are- but it’s so inoffensive you forget about almost every song immediately after it ends.

I’ve always felt slightly above meh about Parquet Courts and that’s pretty much how I feel about their new record “Sympathy For Life”. It starts off strong with previously released singles “Walking At a Downtown Pace” & “Black Widow Spider” and then “Marathon Of Anger” follows. The album as whole is a bit more rhythmically focused and branches out with instrumentation compared to the band’s previous projects, but “Marathon Of Anger” is unfortunately the only track I thought made the new sound work.

The best of the three albums easily, and the album my favorite track of the week comes from was Jpegmafia’s “LP!”. I would recommend the whole album (the songs absolutely work on their own, they’re best in the context of the album) but “REBOUND” “WHAT KIND OF RAPPIN’ IS THIS?” “ARE U HAPPY?” & “THE GHOST OF RANKING DREAD” are my personal highlights, along with…

Favorite New Track of the Week: “SICK, NERVOUS & BROKE” by JPEGMAFIA

My favorite track from a couple weeks ago, Jpegmafia’s “HAZARD DUTY PAY!” didn’t make it onto this record because of a sample clearance issue, but I’m actually glad it didn’t. The Anita Baker sample dominates that track, making for a really great, hard hitting beat.

But I don’t know where it would’ve fit on “LP!”. Peggy’s fourth studio album is jittery & frantic in a way that doesn’t accommodate a chopped-up soul beat, but in the best way. Even though most tracks on the album fall well under 3 minutes, it feels like there’s a new idea thrown at you after every verse on the record. As wild as the record is though, it’s not just Jpeg throwing everything at the wall and not caring if anything sticks. The meticulous attention to production he’s displayed on his last couple albums is no different here, and very little feels superfluous or half-baked.

On top of all that, Peggy’s flows and energy are back at the levels they were at on “Veteran” and he’s found a better balance for melody than on “EP!” & “EP2!”. “SICK, NERVOUS & BROKE” is the perfect example of this, as he pivots seamlessly between a low-key, buttery flow on the verses into a shouted, extended chorus (the second of which has hip-hop’s 1st Batman Beyond reference?). It’s the kind of mix you usually only get from fan-made mashups, but on a Jpegmafia record actually works over and over.

The track closes with a raw recording of Jpeg & Kimbra (remember Kimbra?) chatting before singing a lovely little duet over a piano. Peggy’s singing is not perfect by any stretch here- and he obviously didn’t intend to be. But it’s come a long way in the last couple years to the point where something as intimate as this actually lands really well within a pretty abrasive album. He’s apparently taking a break from releasing music now that “LP!” is out in full, but I’m hoping it’s a short one. Jpegmafia continues to be one of the most unique artists in music period, let alone hip-hop and I can’t wait for more.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears

Light spoilers ahead for a mediocre film. It’s fine keep reading.

So I finally watched Donnie Darko for the first time this week and I’m using this as an outlet to complain. There’s a scene in the film that was apparently built around the song “Head Over Heals” by Tears For Fears- and I will talk about it, it’s a great song. But…

I’ve had the movie sold to me a million different ways. Maybe the most glowing review I’ve had was from my good friend and go-to cinema date Javi, who said it might be his favorite film.

He’s not alone. Donnie Darko is pretty regularly on shortlists for ‘films you must watch before you die’ or ‘greatest films of all time’. Being told I need to watch this movie so often inspired me to keep a list of movies I need to watch 5 years ago. It was the first movie to go on the list, and it’s the latest one to be crossed off.

It’s bad.

Ok it’s not bad, but when a film’s been sold to you to as a masterpiece of cinema, it needs to be better than ok for me to not bash it. The cast is great, and every role is wonderfully acted. I thought the dialogue was written well, the cinematography was interesting and the effects actually hold up pretty well for a 20-year-old movie. But my god this film is so desperate to make you think it’s smarter than you. I’m not referring to Donnie’s inability to bite his tongue, his need to be heard in the face of something he disagrees with. I’m not even referring to the half-assed time travel. The film carries itself with the unearned confidence & superiority complex of a 15-year-old who gets good grades but smoked a cigarette once and calls his mom by her 1st name, so he’s a total badass. It not only expects you to be enamored with every development of the plot, but the script doesn’t make any attempt to earn the eventual payoff it attempts. It’s the epitome of the films people love and defend by saying “you just didn’t get it”. No I get it. It’s not that complicated. It’s just lame.

Oh right music.

The 80’s aesthetic is both one of my favorites in music and one of my least favorite, feelings I have for the same reason: the sound palette is so easy to establish/copy that the recognizability is used as an awesome tool to craft really catchy, layered songs or derivative pop that uses the familiarity as a crutch. Tears For Fears is the 1st one at their best, and the 2nd one at their worst.

“Head Over Heals” is an example of the 1st one. Dramatic, but not overly dramatic. Expressively performed without becoming camp. The crisp piano chords and synths peppered in against the strings creates this dreamy tone. The drums have been touched up but they’re not so overproduced they distract from everything else like so much of the pop that came out in the 80’s. And the back-up vocal build up that wraps up the song and transitions it into “Broken” is weirdly satisfying. Like I said, the cinematography in Donnie Darko is solid. The 1st scene in Donnie’s high school soundtracked by this song is chessy as hell, but it’s a great tone setter for the rest of the film, now that the table has been set and we’re getting into the action. It’s just a shame what followed was so self-impressed.

Oddly enough, this song was playing in the café I’m sitting in when I started writing this. I took it as the universe giving me a license to complain.

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