There were lots of weird or unexpected drops this week.
Megan Thee Stallion joined the growing list of artists who have no business making house music that made a house record this summer. Unfortunately it landed more like Drake than Beyonce.
We got a few odd couple collabs, and even new music from reclusive Mercury Award winner Benjamin Clementine, all honorable mentions for my favorite new track of the week:
If you’ve never heard Clementine’s music please, please, please do not start with his new split single “Copening Weakend”. It’s simply not indicative of his talent. Those of you who are familiar, give it a shot. “Copening” is forgettable but “Weakend”, a downtrodden meditative track, was much better. It’s nowhere near as striking as anything on “At Least For Now”, but much tighter than what we heard on “I Tell A Fly”.
The unlikely pairing of dance producer NGHTMRE and rapper IDK gave us “Trials”. IDK’s bars don’t quite match the dramatic, grandiose beat. He sticks to the tried and true IDK cadences and subjects. It would’ve been nice to hear him try to branch out a bit, although “Trials” is still stylish and hard hitting.
Tobe Nwigwe linked up with Olu from Earthgang, Pharrell, and wife/frequent collaborator Fat Nwigwe on “Lord Forgive Me”. It feels like it should be a posse cut, and with more prominent vocal contributions from Pharrell and Olu I think this could’ve been a much more engaging song. As it is, it’s still a slick, laid-back banger.
JID & Kenny Mason are far from an unusual collab, with the latest in a long line of their joint-singles “Dance Now” dropping this week. I love the vocal sample the beat is structured around, JID is great as he always is, Kenny doesn’t fade into the background as he often can. This track was almost my favorite of the week but it’s really brought down by an awful mix. A subpar mix or master usually doesn’t bother me that much. This is DatPiff quality bad though, really bringing down an otherwise strong single.
Unfortunately I have to break out the old classic again: “Traumazine” is too damn long and should’ve had some fat trimmed. Megan Thee Stallion is hilarious across the tracklist as usual, raunchy and confident with the bars to back it up. The first half of this album is so one-dimensional – sonically and topically, – that lots of these songs blend into each other,no matter how in her bag Megan is. It doesn’t help that most tracks are barely over 2 minutes, with identical song structure. You might say ‘I shouldn’t expect layers from a Megan Thee Stallion album’. A fair argument. But on the back end of “Traumazine” we get glimpses of more substance on tracks like “Anxiety” and “Flip Flop” that land really well. There’s sonic versatility on “Star”, the Jhene Aiko assisted (ironically titled) “Consistency”, or even the house cut “Her”. I’ve enjoyed Megan’s music up to now. I guess I’m just starting to expect a little bit more ambition, something “Traumazine” is definitely lacking.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “boy” by The Killers
There was no betting favorite going into this relatively quiet week of releases, but I wouldn’t have tipped much on The Killers.
But here I am, and here they are with latest single “boy”.
Earlier this year I mentioned how I’d all but given up on the modern rock stalwarts, having been disappointed by pretty much everything the band had released since “Sam’s Town”. I hadn’t even bothered listening to last year’s “Pressure Machine”.
A friend insisted I was wrong about their newer work, nudging me to give “Pressure Machine” a shot. And he was right – I was wrong.
“Pressure Machine” is an ambitious return to form, committing to a concept loosely based on Brandon Flowers’ home town and leaning heavily into Americana rock influences like Bruce Springsteen. The band manages to work in spoken testimonials (and a great Phoebe Bridgers collaboration) into the music seamlessly.
Springsteen influence is all over “boy” too, along with more 80’s flair. There are touches of new wave on the chorus, some colorful synths usher in the 2nd verse. It’s not all for the better, as Flowers’ vocal performance is a bit too washed out in reverb for my taste – not so much that it distracts from the song.
Add in some uplifting lyrics imploring misfits to just keep swimming, and one of the few rock bands still capable of playing stadiums in 2022 have added another arena rock anthem to their arsenal.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “The Worst Guys” by Childish Gambino featuring Chance the Rapper
If I had to try and figure out what song I’ve listened to more than any other over the last 10 years, “The Worst Guys” is on my shortlist.
“Because the Internet” is one of my favorite albums of all time, with lots of tracks able to pull me into some core memories and events in my life.
“The Worst Guys” isn’t really one of those tracks. It’s definitely not my favorite on the record. Top 5, probably.
And yet, this song has felt weirdly omnipresent in my life since it first dropped in 2013.
Maybe it’s the looping, hypnotically simple ‘all she needed was some’ refrain. The dozen or so quotable bars from Gambino. Maybe it’s the innately nostalgic beat complete with samples of dial-up noise and windshield wipers.
This week I’ve dipped into the Spotify podcast Dissect’s season picking apart “Because the Internet”. Relative to the rest of the intricate album – proclaimed by Gambino himself as ‘the OK Computer of rap’ – “The Worst Guys” seems immediate and surface level.
So listening to the pod, it was nice to hear I’m not the only one who has read into the lyrics way more than I probably should have over the last near decade.
Gambino pulls off caricaturized bravado and impotent anxiety in the same breath, figuratively and literally. There are double and triple entendres, ranging from 90’s sitcom references to NBA player name drops (shout out Andrei Kirilenko) to space food, all delivered with one of my favorite flows.
It’s a transition point on the album, following up the braggadocious bangers “Crawl” and “Worldstar” that open “Because the Internet” and kicking off the intense introspection that characterizes most of the final 15 tracks.
“The Worst Guys” is so many things at once, or none of them at all and I think that’s why it feels so pervasive to me personally.
I’ve played it at parties. It’s ended up on mellow playlists thanks to the 2nd half shift into self-examination. I find it weirdly cathartic to run to, even if it ends up sandwiched between M.O.P. and Show Me the Body shouting at me on a playlist. I’ve seen it performed live at the O2.
“The Worst Guys” is repetitive and scattershot all at once, bombastic in its contemplation, managing to make dick jokes and societal commentary land equally as believably. You can say one of those things about a lot of songs, but there’s not many that fit all of those bills.