Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

“WHO CARES?” by Rex Orange County album artwork (left) [RCA]; “I Am Love” by Peabo Bryson album Artwork (right) [Capitol Records]

It was a quick trip back to AUS, and I’ve been back in the London grind most of this week.

Luckily I brought the sun back with me and a summery album dropped to soundtrack the uncharacteristically warm week we’ve had. My favorite new track of the week is one of its deep cuts, but as always, some honorable mentions from this week’s new releases first.

Oh, and you should be following Snoop Dogg on Instagram if you somehow aren’t already. I’ll explain later.

Raury eschews all of the homespun, folk flair that’s always helped him stand out on “2020 Vision”, a much slicker single that sounds more like something produced by the Neptunes than the minimalist folk of his last project “Fervent”. I wouldn’t want an album of it, but it’s a refreshing detour as a loose single.

One of the albums I had my eye on at the start of the year dropped this week, The Mysterines’ debut “Reeling”. It’s just about what you’d expect based on the singles, never deviating very far from the formula established on those tracks. “Reeling” starts really strong through the first 4 tracks (especially opener “Life’s A Bitch (But I Love It So Much)”). There’s a big dip in the middle of the tracklist though, eventually rescued by the singles and stand-out penultimate track “Still Call You Home”. All-in-all, a solid but inconsistent alt-rock record.

Sydneysider soft rocker Alex Cameron released “Oxy Music” his fourth studio album. Full of shimmery guitars, lowkey synths, and sing-along choruses straight out of a 90’s soundtrack, the real highlight is unsurprisingly Cameron’s tongue-in-cheek lyricism. He tackles vaccine panic, toxic masculinity, cancel culture and of course drug abuse across the nine tracks with his usual wit & sarcasm. “Hold the Line” was my favorite deep cut.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “IF YOU WANT IT” by Rex Orange County

Opinions on Rex Orange County’s last album “Pony” were pretty mixed, and I was decidedly in the disappointed camp. The songwriting was mostly up to Rex’s usual quality, but the mixing & production was clean & sanitized to the point of nausea. Pile on some lackluster vocal performances from Rex and “Pony” felt robotic, almost focus-grouped.

Benny Sings is just about the last producer that comes to mind when thinking of someone who can add some edge to an artist’s sound, help them play things a bit less safe. So even though I enjoyed the singles leading up to “WHO CARES?”, especially “Amazing”, I had low expectations when the full LP dropped on Friday.

“WHO CARES?” is definitely still clean, but in a more knowing way than “Pony”. The saccharine strings & soft piano are often counter-balanced with longing performances from Rex that are much (much) better than his efforts on his last record, or dark synths and dusty drums underneath the gloss. It reminds me of St. Vincent’s “Actor”, achieving a balancing act between Disney reminiscent polish & contemporary pop sensibility.

I’m giving the nod of my favorite track of the week to “IF YOU WANT IT” but “ONE IN A MILLION” or “THE SHADE” could easily take its place.

I wouldn’t say “WHO CARES?” tops the eclectic, candid creativity of “Apricot Princess” but it is a huge leap back in the right direction for Rex Orange County.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Feel the Fire” by Peabo Bryson

If you’re not following Snoop Dogg on Instagram, are you even on Instagram?

I’ll admit, it’s a rollercoaster of content and he’s not exactly the most, um, sensitive person. He’s America’s stoned uncle, but our Uncle did turn 50 last year.

But he went hard for his 50th, stuntin’ on us poors all over his Instagram story with iced out chains, a scepter and a crown as he entered his lavish compound party.

What sets Snoop apart though is that in between videos of him in the studio with Dr. Dre or working out with JuJu Smith-Schuster are the most ridiculous hood memes outside Worldstar, regular shout outs to Soytiet (AKA man singing numbers), and even deep fakes superimposing Snoop onto Michael Jackson in the “Thriller” music video.

It’s the most chaotic energy coming from a man we as a society have decided is allowed to do absolutely anything he wants and succeed at it, 25 years after beating a murder charge. Wild.

And on top of all that, every once in a while he’ll drop some old-school gems on us. This week Uncle Snoop blessed us with “Feel the Fire” by Peabo Bryson, a classic 70’s soul ballad.

Peabo’s better known for duets with the likes of Roberta Flack & Natalie Cole, which is the only reason I recognized his name. He holds up on his own on “Feel the Fire”, with a charismatic performance that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome like so many ballads from that time. The ‘reach out and touch me’ bridge up through the chorus has been stuck in my head a lot this week.

And it wouldn’t be in my life without Snoop.

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