Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

Ezra Furman (left) photo by Matthew Baker/Getty Images; Anderson .Paak (right) photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella

A mountain of new albums were released this morning, but this past week was pretty quiet. We got a pair of meh albums from PUP & Red Hot Chili Peppers, and an equally meh mix of singles.

I thought the rest of the album was pretty bland, but the opener to PUP’s “The Unraveling of PUPTHEBAND”, “Four Chords” was at least worth a shout out. It sounds more like the first song in a showtune than the first song in a punk record, in the best way.

The same can’t be said for “Unlimited Love”, RHCP’s first new record in their fifth decade of funk-rock. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Chili Peppers record – good or bad, their music is always at least energetic – but the record is pretty placid & flat. I genuinely forgot it was playing a few times while listening, which is certainly not helped by it’s massively bloated 73-minute runtime.

It’s not all bad. I’ve still got a couple honorable mentions, and one song I really enjoyed was my favorite of the week.

His own work is aggressively average, but I think Rick Ross has been the best feature in Hip-Hop in the last decade (his “Devil in A New Dress” verse is the best thing he’s ever recorded). On “Ice Cream” with Freddie Gibbs, he doesn’t quite live up to that, but their energy together is enough to elevate an otherwise by the numbers trap beat.

Monica Martin’s new single “Hard to Explain” is another somber ballad. I’m quickly becoming a big fan of her voice – I’d happily listen to an album of Monica Martin ballads.  She shakes things up on the production side though, with some plunky strings and the occasional ghostly back-up vocal.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Book of Our Names” by Ezra Furman

Ever since releasing the explosive, fuzzy “Twelve Nudes” in 2019, Ezra Furman’s music has toned down the manic energy and put a lot more focus on the indie rock veteran’s songwriting.

Ironically, this has mostly come in the form of soundtracking Netlifix’s “Sex Education”, a raunchy & chaotic show. The music Ezra’s crafted for it is much more pensive, with folky ballads like “Every Feeling”, a lo-fi cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “I Can Change” or slow burn mid-tempo songs like “Trans Mantra”.

“Book of Our Names” is the newest & best edition of this shift in sound. Ezra sings about a book with everyone’s names in it, ‘the real ones that are ours… the ones that we know in our bones and our bowels’. She wants the book to be for everyone, more importantly acknowledged as truth by everyone. As a metaphor it’s pretty blunt, but for this song it works.

Keeping a socially charged song simple yet evocative is a lot easier said than done when you’re writing about something as steeped in unfortunate complications as Trans-rights. Ezra walks a tight trapeze between hopeful and anthemic & oversimplified and preachy, sticking the dismount by avoiding any John Lennon-esque, eye-roll-inducing sanitization.

Furman hasn’t announced any new full length. Two singles with this style released relatively close to each other smells like an album cycle to me though. I hope she leans more into this style, especially if it’s up to this quality.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance” by Anderson .Paak

Like so many other people I started playing Wordle early this year. I lost once in my first two weeks, but after that built up a healthy winning streak.

But on March 2nd tragedy struck.

I went to do my Wordle before bed, and instead of being greeted with blank squares, I saw the rules. The rules you see when you’ve never played before. The rules you see when you don’t have a streak. When your data’s been erased because the New York Times realized you were becoming too powerful.

In protest, I haven’t played Wordle since. I found a far superior replacement.

Heardle is the music edition of Wordle. To start, you’re played the first second of a hit song. Didn’t recognize it? You can get another 2 seconds. Still don’t know it? A few more seconds. And so on over 6 increments, until you’ve been given access to the first 15 seconds of the song, and have to hazard a guess or admit defeat.

Same once a day gimmick, no app, only played in a browser. It’s great (unless some wack Wizkid song is the Heardle of the day and you lose your perfect record, couldn’t be me…)

I have a good friend who’s also on the Heardle grind, and most days we’ll check in to see how the other did.

Monday morning I got a message that read “I’m mad about today’s Heardle”.

And he had a right to be. The song was “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic, listed pretty much everywhere as by ‘Silk Sonic, Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak’, this song and their album listed on both members’ individual artist pages on streaming services.

He couldn’t remember the name of the song in the moment, so searched Bruno Mars in the Heardle guess bar – the obvious hits popped up, no “Leave the Door Open”.

Don’t worry, he got it in the end, his streak was kept intact, and we worked out that Heardle uses Bandcamp and Soundcloud to source its player – not more standard freemium streamers like Spotify – where “Leave the Door Open” is only attached to Silk Sonic.

But it did get me thinking about Silk Sonic, how the superduo has positioned and promoted themselves.

I enjoyed “An Evening with Silk Sonic”, an honorable mention for my end of year albums list, and loved their “Love’s Train” cover. Bruno Mars has undoubtedly taken the lead on their output so far, and in moments that’s for the best. It’s not surprising for singles or videos to lean more into the Bruno side of things – he’s considerably more popular than Anderson. Definitely more talented as a singer.

But .Paak is far more creative, a better writer with much more ambitious & cutting edge R&B records under his belt.

“Malibu” is one of them. Like most people, it was the album that introduced me to Anderson .Paak, It’s an album old heads who love Marvin Gaye can get on board with just as much as Zoomers like me can. Sounds like something you might say about Silk Sonic, or even Bruno Mars’ solo stuff too, right?

It is. What sets .Paak apart is his mastery of rhythm, in his raspy vocal performances and in his drumming. He’s married hip-hop and traditional R&B in a way that no other artist has, even down to his hilarious songwriting.

“Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” is an underrated track, on an underrated album, by an underrated artist. Anderson bounces between a modern rap cadence and a classic R&B melody, all over a G-Funk-lite rhythm & neo soul piano embellishments. It sounds busy, but everything’s given space to breath, with a lax structure that fits the tone perfectly.

So in summary: I hope Anderson .Paak takes the reins if and when there’s a second Silk Sonic record; I’m not getting paid to say this but you should be playing Heardle; and the New York Times is on my shitlist.

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