Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

“Cracker Island” by Gorillaz & Thundercat single art [Parlophone records]; Highly Suspect live [photo by Abigail Gillardi, Wikimedia Commons]

I’m not gonna lie y’all, it’s slim pickings this week.

The new releases this week served a lot of ‘good not great’ and just as much ‘why did anyone think this was a good idea?’. Just like “CLB”, I got through half of Drake’s new house record, remembered I love myself, and ended the torture. Beyonce’s new single was not much better (please don’t send anthrax to my house).

The new Foals album “Life is Yours” packs in everything I don’t like about the band. Singles “2001” and “2am” had me surprisingly optimistic about this record, but outside of those songs “Life is Yours” is a collection of thin, anemic dance-rock.

It wasn’t all bad though, I do have a few honorable mentions for my favorite track of the week:

Campy pop outfit Ginger Root released new single “Loneliness”. The vintage production aesthetic is as strong as ever, and Cameron Lew tries his hand at his best Mac DeMarco impression vocally. It’s a fun, breezy little track.

Perfume Genius’ “Ugly Season” arrived, an album I probably wouldn’t have been as excited about had I actually read a little more about it before this week. It’s essentially the soundtrack to a dance piece choreographed by Kate Wallich and performed by Perfume Genius himself. Meaning it’s much more ambient and supplementary than a true studio album. Still worth a listen if you’re a fan – “Photograph” was probably my favorite song, but obviously this record’s best listened to altogether.

All 30 (yes 30) tracks of Logic’s latest LP “Vinyl Days” are with us now. Don’t worry, a significant chunk of them are skit/voicemails recorded by various friends (?) of the Maryland rapper that you can skip. The proper songs that are here are all solid, shockingly, even if they run a bit too close together sonically. The album is a shameless victory lap so don’t expect anything particular insightful or intelligent in Logic’s bars. “Clouds” was the best non-single, though the singles were definitely the best tracks.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Cracker Island” by Gorillaz & Thundercat

How has it taken this long to get Thundercat on a Gorillaz track?

Their music comes out very differently but the irreverent approach Thundercat takes to his writing fits into the wacky world of Gorillaz perfectly.

Similarly “Cracker Island” fits right in with what the virtual band has been putting out over the last 5 years or so. I’d believe you if you told me this song came from the same sessions as “The Now Now” or “Song Machine”, though I’d probably bet it was the 2nd one.

The song is a synth heavy, Damon Albarn heavy dance track. Thundercat contributes some prominent call & response back-up vocals and a short bridge.

What he doesn’t contribute is a strong bassline, and I feel cheated. I like this song, I like the melody and rhythm guitars but with the headline ‘Gorillaz featuring Thundercat’ I can’t hope but feel disappointed there isn’t a fat bassline on this song.

We get teased with the tiniest Thundercat bass run as the song ends. Just cruel.

There have been whispers of a new Gorillaz album a lot this year. Whether it’s Vol. 2 of “Song Machine” or something else, hopefully the band’s done playing with NFTs, the rumors are true, and we get more quality tracks like this.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Serotonia” by Highly Suspect

Weezering

/wi:z’ur’ing/

verb

  1. Listening to an artist/band’s old music after their new garbage disappoints, in order to remind yourself why you bothered with these people in the first place.

Highly Suspect put out two songs this week that are just…wow…don’t put yourself through that.

It’s been a long time since the band’s heyday, let alone a time when I didn’t go into my first listen of their new stuff scared.

Coming off a stellar debut record “Mister Asylum” in 2015, the band wasted no time following it up. “Serotonia” was the lead single for what would eventually be their sophomore album, “The Boy Who Died Wolf”, a somewhat disappointing record at the time that has only aged poorly since.

3rd album “MCID” came in 2019 and just might be the worst album I listened to that year.

I didn’t know it back in 2016, but “Serotonia” would be Highly Suspect’s peak – by far. That’s both a testament to how great this song is and how awful most of what’s come after it is.

One of my best friends in high school once described this song as ‘heavenly angel guitar music’. He was goin’ through some shit.

In his defense, this song is pretty ambitious. It’s also very heavy. The opening line ‘I wish that everyone I knew was dead so that I’d never have to pick up the phone’, along with the heavily distorted guitar noodling set the tone immediately.

Things build and build over the next couple minutes, drums eventually matching the weight of the guitars all the way into an explosive psych-rock inspired guitar solo. It’s controlled chaos, and probably the best minute of music Highly Suspect has ever recorded.

Lyrically the song is despondent and self-destructive. Allusions to Hollywood and New York are peppered in, adding some flare to all the self-pity.

Lead singer Johnny Stevens closes the track with a wailing performance amid all the swirling guitars. He’s far from the most talented singer, but the genuine emotion overcomes any lack of ability.

After “Serotonia” the band’s songwriting absolutely nosedived. The guitar work was the highlight of their sound, yet they all but removed any guitars from “MCID” while trying way too hard to be edgier than ever lyrically. As if they were the extra depressing Twenty One Pilots.

I will listen to the new album, eye roll inducingly titled “The Midnight Demon Club” in September. I won’t be happy I’m doing so. And I will probably come back to “Serotonia” to flush out my ears after.

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