Today’s my 23rd birthday, and I considered picking an old track of the week to fit. Something a little sentimental to reflect on the last year of my life, hopes for the future, that sort of thing.
But then I saw a bad movie with a tacky soundtrack. So instead, I’m going to stay on brand and complain about some stuff.
Before we get to that, honorable mentions for my favorite new track of the week:
Fresh off his 2020 song “Naked” having a viral resurgence, I did not expect a plucky piano love song from Bickle. “Apocalypse Love Song” is exactly that though. I could understand this song being annoying to some people but I found it charming, especially the harmonies on the 2nd half.
The new Death Grips EP “Live From Death Valley” comes in at a whopping 2:53 with 2 songs on the tracklist. “Poser Killer” and “Fyrd Up” are both noisy, erratic experimental hip-hop songs you’d expect from Death Grips. “Poser Killer” is a little more dynamic, while “Fyrd Up” is more focused.
“Gemini Rights” dropped in full this morning, but earlier this week Steve Lacy gave us one last teaser, “Sunshine” featuring Foushee. It sounds like a cut from Tyler, the Creator’s “Flower Boy” with Foushee pairing nicely with Lacy for a summery duet.
“Horses” is the most acoustic single Maggie Rogers has released in the lead-up to her sophomore LP “Surrender”. Her vocals get more room to take center stage and she delivers a great performance that more than validates the decision to strip the instrumentation back. Definitely my favorite of the 3 singles so far.
Brent Faiyaz bafflingly still thinks he’s the only singer in the world who sings about sex, drugs and being a bad boyfriend and that people ‘don’t get’ his music. This leads to “Wasteland” carrying itself like it’s a lot cleverer than it actually is, no track more eye-roll inducing than the intro “Villain’s Theme”. The album is 19 tracks of this pretentiousness over minimalist R&B production with lyrics that are allergic to accountability. It’s basically Drake’s “Scorpion” with better singing and 3 skits that tack on a sad excuse for a ‘story’. “Wasteland” isn’t without its good moments (“Role Model” has a beat reminiscent of Ye’s “Flashing Lights” and was my favorite) but there aren’t enough to overcome how bloated and uninspired it is.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “Formentera” by Metric
20 years and 8 LPs deep into their discography, I was completely prepared for Metric’s latest album “Formentera” to disappoint me.
In short, it didn’t. The indie-rock veterans put out 9 measured and layered tracks. Several even clock in at over 5 minutes, including stand-out single and opener “Doomscroller”, a 10-minute opus that dishes out tasters of everything you’ll hear on the rest of the album.
“Formentera” is synth heavy and rhythmically focused, full of simple, thick basslines and vaguely danceable new-wave. Lyrically the band spends much of the album looking back at their career while occasionally looking forward with some social commentary on the internet and consumerism.
The title track is the most pensive song on the album, backed with some cinematic strings and pushed forward by a murky bassline. At 6:17, it’s in no rush to get to a catchy hook, instead settling into a nice groove that gets built on with more synths and a sunny acoustic guitar lick.
It’s fitting that this is the title track as well, as it’s the most blatantly retrospective, Emily Haines singing about rock icons, rising stars and childhood dreams.
Altogether “Formentera” is a polished and patient new-wave record. There was a four year wait between this album and “Art of Doubt” so we probably won’t get another Metric album anytime soon. Hopefully when we do they’ll build on this return to form.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
I’m not here to review “Thor: Love And Thunder”. It is bad. That’s as deep as I’m going.
I am here to talk about just one of the (many) reasons it was bad: its overuse of the discography of seminal hair metal band Guns N’ Roses.
All the classics get some shine, “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Paradise City”. There’s not much of an original score, let alone a memorable original score. I was shocked to see Michael Giacchino’s name in the credits. What a waste.
The trend of using popular music in place of scores in action sequences can be traced back to “Resevoir Dogs” and maybe even further. It’s nothing new, but since “Guardians of the Galaxy” came out in 2014 and its soundtrack managed to top the Billboard 200 and go platinum it’s become a much more prominent trope.
That soundtrack worked because the film picked its moments really well. The entire movie wasn’t slathered with 70’s hits, they were used to punctuate. It might seem like a stretch to describe a movie with a talking kleptomaniacal raccoon as tasteful, but at least in this instance, it was.
The wave riders that have come since like “Umbrella Academy” or “Suicide Squad” or the last two Thor movies have been much more tacky than tactful in their use of popular music. These films/shows make half decent action sequences feel like fan edits at their best and Super Bowl commercials at their worst.
It’s not just superhero media either. Earlier this year “Licorice Pizza”, lazily leaned way too heavily into using popular music of its story’s time. Even the Elvis biopic inexplicably uses Doja Cat and Denzel Curry as backing for some scenes.
I love Guns N’ Roses. I didn’t need to hear them every 20 minutes watching “Thor: Love and Thunder”, especially when entire songs are played at a time. There are so many reasons why that movie felt cheap, and “November Rain” – yes, “November Rain” – soundtracking the climatic scenes is high on the list.