One of my favorite albums turned 10 this week, and a quietish week of new releases led to a quietish favorite new track of the week.
Honorable mentions first, as always:
Read or watch any interview where a collaborator is asked what Elton John is like and they will almost certainly mention how well-listened he is. You think no one knows your favorite industrial math-rock band? Elton does. So it’s no surprise he knows UK post-punk darlings Yard Act. Maybe a little surprising they collaborated on a live duet version of “100% Endurance”, the closer from the band’s debut LP “The Overload”. Even more surprising, the subtle adjustments to the pacing of the song make for a very different listen compared to the original. Give it a shot.
easy life landed another big name for a collab. coming off of the Kevin Abstract assisted “Dear Miss Holloway”. This time Benee joins on “OTT”, an upbeat bedroom pop single. Benee fits on the song perfectly, so much so I wish the song was longer so we could get a more significant contribution from her.
His latest LP “2000” was due out almost a month ago, and Joey Bada$$$ decided to start making up for the delay with 2 teasers released this week. “Where I Belong” is pretty forgettable. “Survivors Guilt” is less so, with a stronger concept, beat and sneaky catchy hook.
I’ve felt mostly indifferent to Hot Chip’s singles over the last couple years. “Eleanor” breaks that cold streak, overcoming a weak hook with a really catchy bridge. The song injects some bounce into the band’s synth heavy sound, which has been much needed recently. I’d still love to hear more ambition on their new album due out next month.
Domi & JD Beck, recent signees to Anderson .Paak’s label, get a big assist from their boss on “Take A Chance”. The duo handle the hook & instrumental while .Paak delivers a couple great verses about self-destructive tendencies and paranoia affecting his relationships. Unsurprisingly there’s some stellar drum work across the whole song, particularly the closing minute.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “Take Me Take Mine” by Paolo Nutini
Paolo Nutini’s latest LP “Last Night in the Bittersweet” is a polished indie rock album that occasionally dares to be more.
The most adventurous tracks come at the start of the album, opener “Afterneath” chief amongst them with little vocal snippets/samples peppered all over largely in place of a vocal contribution from Nutini himself.
The Scottish indie-rock vet sounds like a cross between Yusuf (F.K.A. Cat) Stevens and Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill on “Radio”, a song that reminds me a lot of the earlier work of the latter in the best way.
A couple singles follow. My eyes (ears?) glaze over at the repetitive “Through the Echoes” before “Acid Eyes”, the best track on the album, wakes me up.
These first four tracks all try something interesting with blends of rock, indie and folk. Unfortunately, the rest of the album (with the exception of “Heart Filled Up”) doesn’t really do that, playing things much more straightforward.
Which isn’t entirely a bad thing. My favorite new track of the week, “Take Me Take Mine” is the penultimate song on the album, a classic guitar & brushed drums ballad. It’s nothing ground-breaking but it is gorgeous.
There are several moments on the latter half of the album that fit that bill. “Everywhere” “Abigail”, “Desperation” and “Writer” all bring comparisons to mind, without ever borrowing too much from artists Nutini clearly took inspiration from such as Fleetwood Mac. He’s a skilled and unique enough songwriter to keep “Last Night in the Bittersweet” from sounding like a series of musical cosplays. This is a Paolo Nutini album.
It’s not without its missteps though. “Petrified In Love”, which somehow sounds like a bad late-era Elvis song and a bad Hootie & the Blowfish song all at once, is the only song I’d say could have been cut entirely, but there are quite a few songs on “Last Night in the Bittersweet” that could’ve been trimmed, beating melodies into the ground for 40 or 50 seconds too long.
Overall, Nutini dabbles in some more ambitious songwriting while largely sticking to his strengths. I wish he would’ve pushed the envelope more, but I can’t complain too much about a collection of well-crafted indie-rock of this quality.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Super Rich Kids” by Frank Ocean featuring Earl Sweatshirt
Frank Ocean’s debut masterpiece “channel ORANGE” turns 10 this weekend.
Reading about the upcoming “channel ORANGE” and Frank Ocean’s coming out on Billboard.com is maybe my earliest memory of music journalism putting me on to an artist I love.
The way Frank’s music was characterized in the article made it sound otherworldly, like a sound I had never experienced before. The album dropped a week before my 13th birthday, and I used an iTunes gift card (what a time) to buy the record that day.
And it was a sound I had never experienced before. It was even a sound much more veteran listeners at the time had never heard before, though they could at least find the throughline for how R&B got to “channel ORANGE”.
I don’t have to tell you that the album blew up, as did Frank who became the face of the budding Alternative R&B scene in the early 2010’s alongside the then much edgier The Weeknd.
It’s been hailed as a classic almost since it arrived, but classics have to stand the test of time. A decade on I think it’s pretty safe to say “channel ORANGE” is a classic. Frank Ocean is the epitome of ‘your favorite artist’s favorite artist’, his monumental influence on the pop and R&B of the 2010’s undeniable.
We don’t have SZA without Frank Ocean. We don’t have Steve Lacy. We don’t have sonic boundary pushing popstars like Billie Eilish or social boundary pushers like Kevin Abstract & Lil Nas X.
I’m sure if I keep writing this series long enough almost every track from this album will end up here, and I could’ve picked any of them for this week.
“Super Rich Kids” isn’t my favorite song on “channel ORANGE”. While we’re talking about this album’s influence on music as a whole and my own taste though, it’s worth highlighting this song as it was my introduction to Earl Sweatshirt.
The stilted piano beat and Marvin Gaye sample is iconic and so is Earl’s buttery, hypnotic flow on his feature. Brief as it is, it’s a standout performance on an album full of standout performances from Frank and all of the other guests.
Frank’s sound has morphed into something almost completely alien to “channel ORANGE” in the decade since it’s release. His idiosyncratic, singularly unique songwriting has endured in any new form it’s taken and continued to inspire.
Like millions of others I can’t wait to hear what he’s got in store next, but even at 10 years old, “channel ORANGE” sounds just as cutting edge as it did on my 13th birthday.