Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

Charli XCX (left) [photo by John Shearer/Getty images (2019)]; Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper Mixtape Artwork

People who don’t live in London probably don’t get why I won’t shut up about the sun, but seriously it’s March and it’s been sunny for like a week.

We didn’t get as much great new music to match the amazing weather as last week, but I turned to an old summer favorite to fill the gap. My favorite new track of the week was more surprising. Honorable mentions first, as always.

Royal Blood’s latest record “Typhoons” ended up as an honorable mention on my End of year albums list last year. Despite arguably their heaviest lyrical subject matter, the music itself was their softest output yet, bordering on danceable most of the time. New single “Honeybrains” is a return to their heavier sound, not quite as crunchy & aggressive as their self-titled debut, maybe a notch angstier than their sophomore LP “How Did We Get So Dark?”. It’s a sound they haven’t really done in more than half a decade, so despite being a clear re-tread, it’s refreshing.

“Troubles” is a lot poppier than most of Denzel Curry’s past work, including the other singles he’s released in anticipation of “Melt My Eyez See Your Future”, his new album that drops today. He even doubled down with a feature from pop-rap hook legend T-Pain. All together it works while it’s in your ears, but I hope the new record sounds more like “Walkin” than this. When I think Denzel Curry I think ‘cutting edge’ and this is not that.

The title track from Banks’ new EP “I Still Love You” is a nice heartbreak ballad, despite being pretty by the numbers. Her lyrics have always been hit or miss – or maybe I should say hit or cringe. “I Still Love You” is (mostly) the first. Unfortunately, EP closer and the only other new material on the 4 track EP, “The Devil”, really hits the buzzer on cringe.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Yuck” by Charli XCX

Stripping away the hyperpop pioneering sound she’d become known for, Charli XCX made it clear with the singles leading up to “Crash” that this album was going to hop on the dance pop trend that’s dominated in the last few years.

It’s a move that makes a lot of sense for an artist with a following her size, especially coming off an acclaimed pandemic record, “How I’m Feeling Now”. Charli’s built a big fandom, kept them through Covid, and now she needs hits to tour on since we’ve decided we’re going to pretend Covid doesn’t exist.

I can’t say I was looking forward to “Crash” though, based on the singles. If a Rina Sawayama feature can’t save a song, what can?

With the full record out my feelings on the singles haven’t changed, but the deep cuts on “Crash” do a lot to make up for it. From the new jack swing influenced title track, the super 80’s “Lightning”, the moody “Move Me”, Charli manages to keep her sound interesting & versatile without her typical experimental edge.

“Yuck” is the highlight of the album for me. I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for a thick bassline, and Charli’s trademark sassy lyricism shines more here than on any other track on the LP.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of “Crash” doesn’t work. The album goes out with a whimper with the duds “Used to Know Me” and “Twice”. “Yuck” stands out so much because the songwriting on most of the rest of the album is really lacking. It doesn’t keep up with her best material, but “Crash” entertains enough in moments. Don’t completely write this one off as a slump – give it a shot.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Favorite Song” by Chance the Rapper feat. Childish Gambino

The abnormally good March weather I mentioned last week has continued here in London.

Between this last week and my trip back to Melbourne at the start of the month, I’m actually – dare I say – getting used to seeing the sun (putting this in writing will now plunge the city into 40 days of darkness).

My listening has adjusted accordingly. Albums I’ve been enjoying lately like the new Weather Station album or “Ants From Up There” which are decidedly wintery & sad have been getting less play, and “Who Cares?” and the bouncier sections of “Are You Haunted?” have been getting way more.

Along with the new stuff, a summer classic – at least for me – has also been in rotation: “Acid Rap”.

I don’t really know how I started associating a mixtape full of acid-jazz beats that came out in Spring so much with summer, but here we are. Tracks like “Juice”, “Pusha Man” & “Cocoa Butter Kisses” don’t just remind me of Summer 2013, but the next few summers that followed.

Pretty much up until 2016, when we finally got new Chance the Rapper music (yes I know “Surf” exists). “Coloring Book” ended up being the project that blew Chance into the mainstream, his most beloved release to this day…but I wasn’t crazy about it.

It had its moments – “Juke Jam” & “Summer Friends” are great – but the Gospel shift just didn’t work for me. I missed the off the wall ad libs and personality Chance brought to “10 Day” & “Acid Rap” that made him stand out in the first place.

And then there was “The Big Day” … that album is a hate crime. That is all I have to say.

There have been loosies, features here and there, and Christmas mixtapes where Chance has reminded us why we let him get away with shoving KitKat & Sprite in our face for all those years. But nothing anywhere near as memorable as his earliest mixtapes.

“Favorite Song” is not my favorite song on “Acid Rap” but it captures the overall energy of the mixtape as well as any song in the tracklist. Chance is playful, but not corny, and there’s of course the great feature from Gambino, one of many top notch guest appearances on the tape.

All of this is to say, I miss the old Chance, and I’ll be listening to “Acid Rap” again this summer. Here’s to hoping Chance drops a record that’s actually meant to be a summer banger sometime in 2022.

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