Alex Turner has guitar dorks pressed again, and I love it.
“There Better Be A Mirrorball”, the lead single for Arctic Monkeys’ newly announced upcoming LP “The Car” has really grown on me with each listen. It’s very much in the same vein as their last album, the divisive “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino”, with Turner crooning like he’s Bing Crosby, and strings and piano dominating the track. The titular mirror ball hook is a little forced, I’ll admit, but the rest of the song flows really well.
I find the whole discourse on Artic Monkeys’ last few records really interesting. More on that later.
Gorillaz’s last single “Cracker Island” was my favorite new track of that week. That honestly says a lot more about how bad that week of new music was than the track itself – my opinion has dropped even more with further listens. This week’s single “New Gold” with Tame Impala and Bootie Brown is definitely better, though still not up to the quality of most of their last LP “Song Machine Vol. 1”. Tame Impala takes the spotlight pretty much from the start, although Bootie Brown holds his own.
The distinctive poetry of Ezra Furman is not enough for the indie veteran’s latest release “All Of Us Flames” to overcome the anemic…everything else. This album lacks energy in the performances, instrumentation, production, you name it. Even lyrical standouts like single “Book Of Our Names” fail to hold attention for the runtime after one listen. This one was a big disappointment. I guess, “Throne” was the best deep cut.
Favorite New Track of the Week: “Sistanem” by JID
For the better part of a decade JID has been hailed as everything from the next Andre 3000 to the next Jay-Z to the next Kendrick Lamar.
The problem for me, what’s kept me from liking – not loving – most of JID’s discography was that he wasn’t as unique as any of those MCs. So many comparisons could be made because JID’s versatility had kept him from finding his own niche.
He wasn’t as egregious biting from his idols as, say, Logic. I never listened to JID and immediately thought of a specific track he was clearly trying to emulate.
No JID project ever sounded truly different to me though. I could hear an album like “DiCaprio 2” from lots of rappers, though not many rappers would be doing it better.
“The Forever Story” is different. It feels like a JID album and nothing else.
The record’s sonic palette dips into gospel & R&B, actually largely leaving trap behind.
“The Forever Story” is not lo-fi by any definition, but there is a homespun quality to the production, most beats staying simple and clean while still avoiding minimalism. The production is immediate, almost old-school in some ways, with little injections of harmony to keep it from feeling dated at any point.
“Sistanem” is the best example of this, the longest track here featuring 3 stellar verses from JID about his struggles balancing his family commitments with his career. At its core, this beat could’ve ended up on any 90’s hip-hop record. Throw on the back-up vocals (and a bridge from James Blake), some watery bass lines and now it feels eraless, in the best way.
JID is still the best part of the track, as he is on every track on “The Forever Story”. There’s not a single verse on this album that feels phoned in from him, and all the guest features follow suit (up until closer “Lauder Too”, what the hell Ravyn Lenae?).
Like I said, JID’s pen has always been immaculate. Something is different here, more engaging beyond just being technically impressive.
It’s not just that this is his most personal record as far as subject matter. It feels like JID was more personally involved with “The Forever Story” than any record he’s put out before.
The range of producers on the tracklist is way more extensive than on any other JID album, and yet it’s his most cohesive album. He clearly curated each and every cut, bringing in the likes of J. Cole, BADBADNOTGOOD, Thundercat, Kaytranada and more, not to take over a beat but to meld their sounds into the style he imagined.
No record is perfect. “Raydar” is not a bad song, but not a great choice for an opener. The first beat on “Stars” is amazing, before switching up into one of the most lackluster on the album.
I will never understand why rappers continue to insist on having child choirs sing hooks – no one wanted it on “The College Dropout” 20 years ago and we still don’t want it on “Money”. JID brought it on the closer “Lauder Too”, and everyone else forgot it at home.
Even with the occasional blemishes, “The Forever Story” is an incredibly consistent album. There are no outright skips here, a testament to JID’s performances. There aren’t many albums that have come out this year I can say that about, let alone one with 15 tracks that clocks in at just under an hour.
JID has finally lived up to his potential. He’s not the next anyone. He’s JID.
Favorite Old Track of the Week: “505” by Arctic Monkeys
“Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino” had a lot of y’all hot back in 2018.
I was not one of you.
It’s not the best Arctic Monkeys record. It is their most cohesive at least since their seminal debut “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”, and one of the better concept records of the 2010’s. I loved it when it dropped and I’ve only grown fonder of it since.
People hate change. People hate violated expectations. People hate Alex Turner’s ego somehow getting even bigger than it was on “AM”.
I get all of that. But “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino” wasn’t really as big of a change as it, understandably, seemed to be. It just doubled down on something the band clearly realized on “AM”.
Stay with me:
There was a huge pity party when Arctic Monkeys slowed things down on 2009’s “Humbug”, a record still full of abrasive guitars, just not at the breakneck pace of “Still Take You Home”.
That’s because most people would probably say that the brash, raw guitars on Artic Monkeys’ early albums was the key ingredient that made them so massive in the mid-2000’s.
That is not true. That’s never been true.
Alex Turner’s songwriting has always been the USP of Arctic Monkeys. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” or “From the Ritz to the Rubble” or “When the Sun Goes Down” all have great guitar work, yes, but what set “WPSIATWIN” and Arctic Monkeys apart from all the other Strokes clones of the 2000’s was the craft Turner put into melody and storytelling.
The enduring popularity of songs like “505” or “Fluorescent Adolescent” or “The Only Ones Who Know”, songs that have unremarkable riffs or none at all, is a testament to this.
To this day, their 4th LP “Suck It And See” is almost universally seen as, at best, the 2nd worst Arctic Monkeys record (it’s the worst in my opinion, easily).
The guitar attack on that record is not markedly worse than their previous 3. What is worse, is the songwriting.
I could go deeper on this point but some of the song titles speak for themselves. “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”. “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”. Not a single song on this album feels like it has any real presence, any gravitas, anything worth saying.
The unabashedly youthful charm of Arctic Monkeys’ earlier work didn’t fit anymore. They had grown up, their songs hadn’t quite caught up to them, and it showed. The band’s style had grown stale.
And then Alex Turner discovered pomade and leather jackets.
The record that followed, “AM”, skyrocketed them back to acclaim and relevance. Yes, it was sonically adventurous, not quite like anything they’d done before. But far more importantly, the songwriting was injected with new life.
Turner’s new modern-greaser persona allowed for a refreshing shift in his lyrical attitude. He was more self-assured, thinking bigger and acting bigger.
He likened their new record to ‘a Dr. Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster.’
What’s the common denominator between that and a garage rock record about Sheffield nightlife? The common denominator between all of Arctic Monkeys’ most beloved work?
Alex Turner’s pen.
“AM” proved to the band that they could do other styles, bigger, more ambitious styles. As long as the songs were good, everything around it would fall into place.
They kept doing that on “Trainquility Base Hotel + Casino”, kept pushing their sound forward.
And you people lost your damn minds.
So, here we are again. A new Arctic Monkeys album on the way and their fans have for absolutely no good reason decided, demanded, that it is going to be “Favourite Worst Nightmare” part II.
A lounge rock single dropped. A good single.
And you people lost your damn minds.
I am really looking forward to October 21st when “The Car” drops. And I’m just as excited to hear everyone whine about it when it’s not exactly what they’ve expected it to be, for literally no reason. Your entitled tears are delicious.