Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

JID (left) [photo by Ian Witlen via the RedBull Content Pool]; Jared Leto performing with Thirty Second to Mars (left) [photo by Bauer Griffin]

Two of the albums I listed on my “early 2022 albums I’m looking forward to” list dropped this week, and they were both…fine, I guess.

That’s not totally fair – Cordae’s “From A Birds Eye View” is good, it’s just mostly a re-tread of his debut album with much worse features. There’s no leap sonically or lyrically, just more of the same.

“SICK!”, the new Earl Sweatshirt record is meh, if that. If you loved “Some Rap Songs” you’ll probably think better of the album since it’s mostly more of that style. I guess I’m missing something but I get nothing from this abstract, super muddy production and Earl’s lyrical ability isn’t enough to make up for such bland, emotionless delivery on almost every song.

Luckily there were a couple non-LP releases – a ‘mixtape’ and an EP – to make up for the lackluster full-lengths, and a single that was easily my favorite new track of the week:

That ‘mixtape’ was of course FKA twigs’ “Caprisongs”. I put mixtape in quotes because it’s a mixtape in name only. The project is somewhat unfocused in a clearly deliberate way like a mixtape, but otherwise it’s a full-fledged album. Whatever you want to call it, I enjoyed “Caprisongs” more than any other long-form project that came out this week.  “careless” featuring Daniel Caesar is probably the highlight for me, but it’s oddly best listened to in full I think, despite the disjointedness I mentioned.

Rich Brian shows off some impressive flows & technical chops all over his new EP “Brightside”. The opener “New Tooth” which preceded the rest of the 4-track EP is the lowlight as all 3 of the tracks that follow feature much better performances from Brian, better beats, and plenty of variety. “Lagoon” is my personal favorite of the bunch with a great beat switch, “Getcho Mans” has Warren Hue’s best verse to date, and as the name would suggest “Sunny” is slightly more laid back – one of those Jay-Z ‘where my head’s at right now’ stream of consciousness kind of songs.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Surround Sound” by JID featuring 21 Savage & Baby Tate

JID’s first verse flow and the hook could’ve carried this song on their own. But “Surround Sound” has plenty more to offer, starting with the beat built around a killer Aretha Franklin sample.

21 Savage follows up JID with a typical 21 verse & flow, but a couple clever bars like “we call him Mickey, he talk to the cops” keep the momentum going. Then we get a little bridge from Baby Tate, before a beat switch that slows down the same Aretha sample. The new beat is less melodic, less trap influenced, and JID adjusts perfectly with a more lyrical verse, changing up his flow seamlessly.

I wish Baby Tate got a little more shine, and with the song coming in at just 3:50 with 3 verses, all of JID & 21’s verses could be a little longer. “Surround Sound” doesn’t sound unfinished though, I just want more and I’m hoping we get more from JID later this year.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “The Kill” by Thirty Seconds to Mars

I’ve somehow had several conversations about Jared Leto this week…

It started – as you might’ve guessed if you keep up with movies – making fun of “Morbius”, the surefire trainwreck comic-book movie starring Leto that’s just been delayed for the millionth time. Apparently no one learned from letting Leto be the Joker and anyone who pays to see that movie is going to suffer for it.

Maybe half an hour after that, in a completely unrelated conversation, someone had the audacity to say Thirty Seconds to Mars was/is a better band than My Chemical Romance. You know who you are, and no I haven’t forgiven you.

A few days later I was talking to someone else about how uncomfortable it is being forced to watch “The Passion of the Christ” at church (IYKYK), and of course Jared Leto the wannabe cult leader popped up when we decided to try and cast the remake (yes we know white Jesus is a huge lie, but the people who would pay to see that movie again, have no interest in the truth).

The last conversation reminded me of how much Jared Leto looks like Zac Efron in the music video for “The Kill”. See, I got there eventually.

“The Kill” is actually a great song though, and easily the best thing Leto’s contributed to society since being murdered with an axe in “American Pyscho”. It’s very of its time, as you can tell by the eyeliner heavy music video, but that’s to its credit. “The Kill” knows what it is.

It’s fitting that the video parodies “The Shining” since the song is so cinematic itself. Little touches of space between the verses & choruses, the way the bridge builds into the shouty hook, and Leto’s best vocal performance recorded all turn “The Kill” from a run-of the mill breakneck emo song into a memorable, operatic rock song.

If you’re going to make emo music, you have to lean into that opera to make it worth listening to after puberty. The melodrama brings a dynamic quality to the best of emo music that is more often than not it’s saving grace. At least on “The Kill” (and in all fairness a couple other tracks on “A Beautiful Lie”), going full tilt ‘it’s not a phase, mom’ works for Thirty Seconds to Mars.

MCR still better.

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