Happy Thanksgiving to those that celebrate, and happy “no one can tell you it’s too early to listen to Christmas songs anymore” day to everyone else. Adele has absolutely no interest in being part of the so-called happiest time of the year though – “30” is maybe my new favorite Adele record but also her most emotionally impactful, saddest record to date- which is saying something. My favorite old track of the week isn’t exactly a pick me up either, so maybe come back later if you’ve just been dumped or something (or stay, embrace the sad). Honorable mentions for my favorite new track first, as always:
Sydneysider R&B/funk collective Boomchild dropped “Fussin’ ”, their first single since 2020. Yawdoesitall adds in a charismatic verse over the group’s expressive horns & guitar licks. It’s a fun collab., although I kind of wished the instrumental was a bit more dynamic.
I was in the minority in disliking Earl Sweatshirt’s last full-length album “Some Rap Songs”. I have ears, I know Earl’s at the peak of his powers on the record as far technical skill goes. I just felt like the music overall suffered for it and the ultra muddy production fell flat for me. New single “2010” sounds more like the kind of stuff Earl was putting out earlier in the 2010’s, particularly “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside”, with a slightly brighter flair to the beat. Fingers crossed for a new album soon.
“Look What We Do” is the newest collaborative single from Benny Sings’ upcoming “Beat Tape II”. I was disappointed by the previous cut with Marc Rebillet, but this lo-fi, bedroom R&B track featuring JONES is much cleaner and concise. Nothing mind-blowing, catchy and smooth with a nice vocal performance.
Alt-Pop trio half-alive try their hand at some trap flavored Alt-R&B on “Hot Tea”. I’m into this sound and half-alive always put in a decent performance, so the track works. But man this sounds like they just wrote over one of the masters from Joji’s “Nectar”. 88rising’s lawyers may be in touch.
Speaking of 88rising, Niki released “Split” a lowkey rumination on being an expat. bouncing back & forth between two worlds. The songwriting makes up for a lackluster vocal performance from Niki, and the swell of the back-up vocals at the end makes for a satisfying ending.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “My Little Love” by Adele
Adele almost single handedly buoyed the music industry as it awkwardly began to transition from digital sales to streaming back in 2011 when “21” was released. The best-selling album of the 21st century appealed directly to people born in the previous century who still bought music, with its vintage soul sound expertly crafted and executed by the London born singer-songwriter & a small team of industry giants like Rick Rubin, Paul Epworth & Ryan Tedder handling production.
“25” came years later, striking an awkward balance between the traditional soul sound Adele had been known for and a more contemporary pop sound. It made for a meandering, mostly forgettable record that still sold massively off the good faith & popularity of “21”.
“30” arrived last Friday, and decidedly placed both feet firmly in 2021, without abandoning Adele’s musical identity. Don’t worry, there are no trap high hats on the record, but the spacey production on “My Little Love” or the drum machine on “All Night Parking” are a couple of the most distinctly modern moments on an album that makes no attempt at sounding like it’s out of time. Piano ballads and Adele’s stellar vocal performances are still the backbone of most of the songs (“All Night Parking” even ‘features’ Errol Garner), with a more contemporary cinematic quality replacing the Motown DNA from Adele’s previous work. The instrumentals are much less crowded, more often than not just consisting of simple piano, gorgeous strings, and some production embellishments peppered in. Her songwriting is as sharp as ever, and more nuanced in subject matter, tackling the pressures of motherhood, while coming to a more layered conclusion in its discussion of heartbreak than “21” did.
There are missteps, like the out of place & painfully obvious attempt at a radio hit “Can I Get It” (to be fair, it’ll probably work) and the flaccid “Hold On”. There’s definitely a dip in the songwriting in the middle of the tracklist. But I really enjoyed this album, something I didn’t expect to say after feeling pretty indifferent about the last decade of Adele’s music. I’ve nominated “My Little Love” as my favorite track of the week (it’s the track on the album I feel marries Adele’s sound with the more modern sonic qualities the best, and while a tad over-indulgent it’s still the most impactful track on the album for me) but several songs on “30” stood head & shoulders above anything else released this week.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Guess There” by Bully
We’ve gotten to that time of year in the UK when it’s dark by 4:30. Of course, the days are still getting shorter and will for a while. It’s maybe my least favorite thing about living in London, and yet Christmastime is when London feels the most like London. My least favorite phenomena of the city is the thing that creates my favorite time in London, a contradiction that, to be honest, is pretty on-brand for me.
When I first moved here in 2017, I’d accounted for the shitty weather. And it gets dark earlier during winter no matter where you are in the world. But I hadn’t expected such an extreme, and while still adjusting to a new city, new culture, new university, new friends, a new job, I found myself really missing the sun despite being a night owl my whole life.
Most of my favorite memories I’ve made here have happened during Winter. Days when it’s gloomy & grey in the morning, you go to uni or work, and then come back outside at 3 and it’s already pitch black are not why though, and they can make frustrating days all the more unenjoyable.
Grungey rock makes for a nice listen on days like this though, and luckily back in 2017 Bully released “Losing”, the sophomore LP from Alicia Bognanno & co. “Guess There” wasn’t a single, and honestly it’s probably not the best place to start with the band if you haven’t heard them before- but…it captures that aggravating emptiness you feel (I feel?) every once in a while when you think yourself into not feeling good about any of your interpersonal relationships or your professional life or really anything.
I loved this record in 2017 and still do, I feel the same about their debut record “Feels Like” and I saw Bully live in 2018. “SUGAREGG”, their latest, was pretty underwhelming…Nevertheless I will very abruptly conclude: thank goodness for Alicia Bognanno, thank goodness for Christmas markets, and thank goodness for big red buses you can be ‘alone’ on with your music when it’s dark at 4 o’clock.