The snow flurries yesterday may have tricked you (seriously what the hell London), but we are officially in Spring and release days are getting busier like they used to pre-Rona. So don’t worry about Russia invading Ukraine or plastic in our blood or even grown men slapping each other at the Oscars – the world is healing.
Lots of new releases makes for lots of honorable mentions for favorite new track of the week:
You won’t be surprised I went into the first listen of a Finneas song called “Naked” with low expectations. It’s a pleasant surprise though, big thumpy bass pushing the mid-tempo track along, with lyrics that don’t get too earnest or cringey. If you hate his solo work this won’t convert you, but for my fellow Finneas fence-sitters, this is one of his good ones.
I continue to be surprised at how much I’m enjoying the music by an outfit called Butter Bath. But Toby Anagnostis & co. have come through again on “Show Me That You Care”, shifting their sound to a slower, more soul-influenced pop ballad. I love the dreamy guitar, especially on the hook.
There are already a million albums dropping April 8th, and now there’s one more: Vince Staples announced “Ramona Park Broke My Heart” will be here next week. New single “Rose Street” accompanied the announcement. Over a basic trap beat, Vince hits on some atypical subject matter, with a song entirely focused on his love life. The song isn’t particularly interesting, but it is refreshing to hear Vince branching out at least. Hopefully the rest of the album will have a bit more to sink your teeth into.
“Fine Line” was maybe the first album in the streaming era with a slow-burn growth life cycle, peaking in popularity over a year after it’s release when most albums get a week in the Spotify fueled spotlight these days. He’s finally back with his first new material since 2019, “As It Was”, borrowing heavily from new wave but not deviating too far from the sound he established. “Fine Line” made me a believer in the One Direction alum – I’m looking forward to “Harry’s Place”.
“Driponomics”, a wild punk-rap banger that dropped a few weeks ago, was my introduction to Soul Glo. I wasn’t totally sure how I felt about the unhinged energy at first, but by the time the band’s new album “Diaspora Problems” came out this week, I was ready for more. That’s not really what we got – “Diaspora Problems” has its moments of experimentation (the closing track even dips its toes into Ska), but more often than not it’s a pretty straightforward hardcore punk album. Which isn’t a bad thing – it’s really good at that. “John J” was probably my favorite song other than “Driponomics”.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “Melt Session #1” by Denzel Curry feat. Robert Glasper
I never thought I’d say Denzel Curry played things too safe, but Denzel Curry played things too safe on “Melt My Eyez See Your Future”.
His delivery is understated on almost every track, as he trades hardcore-tinged beats for lots of classic boom-bap with light touches of experimentation. This mix is a bit too heavy on the traditional side, making for beats that sound confused rather than fresh & exciting.
Curry’s talent and pen still make for a mostly entertaining album. I say mostly because a lot of his social commentary can be surface level or just as unfocused as the production. Some of his subject matter is even a clear holdover from Trump’s time in office, which god knows we’ve heard enough about in hip-hop.
Ironically when Zel leans fully into the traditional hip-hop beats this album does work. “Angelz” “Worst to Worst” and my favorite new track of the week “Melt Session #1” with Robert Glasper, when he’s more introspective than commentative, are all great tracks.
Throw in a few bangers like “Sanjuro”, “X-Wing” and the singles (not posse cut “Ain’t No Way, what a mess), and you’ve got a good record. It’s just really uneven and unfocused.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye
By the end of this week “What’s Going On?” was a pretty obvious choice for my favorite old track of the week, and not for the nicest reasons.
I have a playlist that I listen to on days that refuse to let me not think about my mom. Days like her birthday, the anniversary of the day she passed, and of course, Mother’s Day – which as someone who splits their time between a few countries, unfortunately shows up twice a year for me.
The playlist is the music she loved: Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Queen, and the genius behind my favorite old track of the week, Marvin Gaye.
“What’s Going On?” was one of my mom’s favorite songs, and it’s up there with other songs on this playlist like “Purple Rain” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” as far as I’m concerned, must-haves on the shortlist for greatest songs of all-time. Marvin Gaye gets forgotten in conversations like this because of his untimely death and the steep decline of traditional R&B in mainstream music that followed not long after.
The song and the album it shares a title with helped soundtrack the Civil Rights movement, but unfortunately still strikes a chord today.
I started a new job working with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion teams at my University this last week, spending the bulk of Wednesday talking about potential action plans around racism. It’s exciting work, but also depressing – being privy to the nitty gritty of current higher education policies around intersectionality very rarely engenders hope. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
I don’t really have a nice bow-tie for this. Hot take: sometimes Mother’s Day sucks and racism always does.