Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

Black Country, New Road (photo by Rosie Foster; The Killers (photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS)

A very eclectic mix of good new music came out this week, and my favorite new & old tracks of the week are very eclectic on their own. This was absolutely on purpose.

Honorable mentions first, as always:

A week out from headlining the most highly anticipated Super Bowl half time show ever, depending on certain, um, demographics, Dr. Dre dropped a handful of tracks from his recent appearance on…GTA Online (You don’t become a billionaire without shilling at least a lot). The four tracks are mostly solid. Even Dr. Dre going it alone on “Black Privilege” is ok, despite a cringey hook. Anderson .Paak somehow steals the show alongside 3 all-time legends on “ETA” the best of the handful. “Gospel” is the one lowlight. I was already scared Eminem would ruin this halftime show, and this is yet another example of why I’m worried.

Tkay Maidza released a collab with Kyle Dion (nope no idea who this is either), “HAZY”. It’s about the ‘talking stage’ and the nerve-wracking, but intoxicating uncertainty it creates. The beat’s slick, Tkay is great as always, and Kyle Dion’s performance was unique enough to make me curious about his solo stuff.

Tick it off if you had ‘new Red Hot Chili Peppers record’ on your 2022 middle aged rock star bingo. The funk rock legends released “Black Summer”, their first single since 2016. They play things super safe, bordering on boring, so if it wasn’t Anthony Kiedis & co. I probably wouldn’t mention “Black Summer” here. Bigger fans may be more into it than I am.

“Zenith” is the new collaboration between Kavinsky, Prudence & Morgan Phalen. It sounds like a mix of “The Spoils” by Massive Attack and “Discovery” era Daft Punk, with a splash of angst. Gotta love some moody dance music.

Speaking of moody, one of the most highly anticipated releases of the month came this week, Mitski‘s “Laurel Hell”. It’s good. That might infuriate some of you, but I really don’t have a lot more to say about it. The 80’s influence didn’t run as deep as I think most people thought it would, there’s no awful tracks, but nothing impressive or ear-grabbing either. The album’s solid. “Stay Soft” was probably my favorite deep cut.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Haldern” by Black Country, New Road

Black Country, New Road have been the most hyped band of the last couple years. And having now heard their new record “Ants From Up There”, I’m ashamed to admit I let the Arcade Fire comparisons and my own contrarian nature keep me from even trying to hop on the bandwagon. They fell further and further behind other releases on my list, and with only so much time in a year, I entered 2022 having still not really given BCNR a chance.

Huge mistake. This band is amazing. This album is fantastic.

If you must assign them a genre, I suppose it’s experimental rock or even experimental folk rock. It’s clear the band doesn’t approach their songwriting with genre in mind, instead taking their eclectic mix of instruments to write something dynamic & unique above anything else.

I always found Arcade Fire to be pretentious, a huge part of why that comparison put me off BCNR. They’re anything but. Both lyrically and musically, the band never feel like they’re trying to prove how niche they can be or how ‘not like other girls’ they can make their music. Despite the polish that comes with their musical chops, so much of “Ants From Up There” feels raw in no small part thanks to (now former) lead singer Isaac Wood, whose voice reminds me of Brendon Urie in its theatricality, despite being much, much rougher around the edges.

“Haldern” is the highlight for me, but it was definitely a tough choice with tracks like “Good Will Hunting” or “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade”. It’ll be interesting to see where Black Country, New Road goes from here following Wood’s departure (all the best to him, hope he gets the help he needs). Whichever way they decide to take their music, I’m officially on the bandwagon.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers

“Hot Fuss” came out when I was 5 years old, but listening to the noughties classic always brings me back to a very specific time when I was a teenager.

“Mr. Brightside” and even “Somebody Told Me” were inescapable, “When You Were Young” was almost at the same level, but other than that I wasn’t familiar with the rest of their work until I was 13. I’ve always loved music and I’d been developing my own personal taste beyond what my mom & sister would play for a few years by then. This was around the time I had my core taste figured out. I could tell you what I liked about the music I loved, and what I didn’t about the music I didn’t, and I’ve been insufferable ever since.

Blindly buying albums on iTunes (what a time), my latest realization was that I could forgive a song for plenty of shortcomings if it had a great bass line. I heard “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine” for the first time and “Hot Fuss” was included on my next gift card haul.

Back then liking or disliking an album had so much more weight for me. Not only was I spending what little money I had on it without even knowing I liked it, music had become such a huge part of my own self-image, and even more importantly a huge part of coping with life. It was a lot of pressure to put on a pretty inoffensive modern rock album.

Luckily younger me loved “Hot Fuss” and I’ll still standby it as a great album, despite absolutely hating everything the Killers put out after “Sam’s Town”. Miss me with the “Human” love.

“All These Things That I’ve Done” is not the best track on the album, not even my favorite, but there’s something oddly sentimental about it. Maybe it’s the chanty chorus. Maybe it’s the way the song builds (I’m a sucker for a nice build-up).

It might be the opening lines of the 1st verse, (which admittedly look awful written out without the music) “I want to stand up. I want to let go. You know, you know, no you don’t, you don’t.”, and the wildly aspirational lines that follow. Their appeal to a teen dealing with some rough life stuff is pretty obvious, but over the years these lyrics and Brandon Flowers’ performance have still stuck in my mind.

“All These Things That I’ve Done” is a hopeful, optimistic song, but also one with a chorus literally begging for help. It’s a rock song very much of it’s time, but also dips into some gospel influence. The lyrics are humbling, but braggadocios & ambitious in moments. It’s about feeling down and out, but ends in a celebratory sing-along chorus. It’s a weird hodge-podge that feels poignant but not in a way that holds up to scrutiny. When you think about it, it’s kind of a mess. I guess that’s why I like it.

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