By: Jamal Dumas, Zed Hazel, Courtney Miller, and Jessica Whitesel
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“Scars” – Tove Lo
Jessica Whitesel: I will cut this song a little slack since it is for Divergent. But that being said it could be less repetitive and not sound like a poppier knock-off of Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat.”
Jamal Dumas: At around 45 seconds in, the pace picks up quickly and the song goes from mediocre to good really fast. Lyrically it does sound similar to “Yellow Flicker Beat” which just makes me want to listen to Lorde a lot more than this.
Zed Hazel: An interesting and catchy tune, which manages to remain calm with empowering lyrics. A good choice for a chill night at home.
Courtney Miller: Slow burn build of an intro morphs into an evolving song that takes you along the Allegiant storyline, if you’re familiar with that. Catchy lyrics without being overly poppy, it retains a sophisticated, epic feel to it that’s really enjoyable.
“Beautiful Lies” – Birdy
JW: Birdy has an amazing voice, but at a certain point I just can’t listen any more. I don’t know if it has to do with production choices or something else, but about half way through this song I had to move on to the next one.
JD: Okay, I am getting major Evanescence vibes here, but maybe that’s just me. It’s a little too adult contemporary for me. But Birdy’s voice is truly captivating; it elevates this song majorly.
ZH: A beautifully sung melody with minimalist instruments that really sinks you deep into the lyrical magic of the song.
CM: This is beautifully mournful, a slow and soulful humble exhibition of talent. The haunting passion of a love that’s falling apart because nothing lasts, but the yearning for it to last forever and shatter the rules of precedent.
“Time” – Sivik
JW: This song has an awesome beat, but just based off of the first listen, it’s probably more of one that will grow on me over time. Right now, I just feel so-so about it, but I can see that potentially changing after more plays.
JD: Now we’re talking! This sounds like an EDM remix of a Backstreet Boys song. The beat hits hard and the vocals add a lot of personality and character.
ZH: Reminiscent of the late 2000/early 2010 techno music with a mesmerizing tune that’s bound to leave you dancing, even if it’s not your cup of tea.
CM: “Yeah, something wicked’s sharing my bed” — that’s what I say to my alarm clock every morning. The vocals are breathy and the result is a little sultry with a punctuated pop of a synth track. It really grows into something full-bodied and enjoyable though.
“Somebody Else” – The 1975
JW: This song is slower than the band’s typical recording and that it is a welcome change. It is still hook-filled and catchy as hell, but the slower pace allows you actually appreciate what The 1975 is capable of doing.
JD: My favourite part of this song is how much it doesn’t sound like The 1975. It’s got a slow disco feel, and has a pulsating synth running through it. The soulful lyrics add something special to the mix.
ZH: While Time had more of a dance beat and energetic feel to it, Somebody Else leans more towards the “sad techno” side of the genre. The song is still catchy and lyrically interesting, but is less of a club song and more of a “sitting on bus” type.
CM: In true The 1975 fashion, really can’t distinguish the lyrics, but it sounds almost too gentle and generic to be them. It’s okay; it’s just not great. The bridge is the best bit, I think, but at more than five minutes it’s probably a bit long for what it is.
“Waiting” – Vök
JW: This song is a perfect example of background music. While it is a good song it doesn’t pull you in. I tried to listen to it and pay attention to it multiple times but I never actually could.
JD: I was waiting for this song to pick up but, alas, it never did.
ZH: A bass heavy song that’s destined to keep you in a relaxed mood, silencing any distractions, taking you on a surreal journey.
CM: If you’re purposefully late for a date, feel free to blast this. Other than that I feel like it kind of gets lost. I didn’t even realize a new song had started until the chorus started up.
“Banshee” – Santigold
JW: This is just such a danceable song, but in a way that fuses different musical styles. I’m adding this song to the playlist that I listen to before I go out, and in my world, that is a pretty big deal, so go Santigold.
JD: I’ve never heard of Santigold before, but she strikes me as a cross between Janelle Monae and MIA. There’s a kind of sing songy chorus that reminds me of “Paper Planes.”
ZH: Very different from the previous song, “Banshee” brings out your positive side with a dancy energetic beat.
CM: It’s really up-tempo and it feels like it should be catchy, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what the lyrics say, aside from, “there’s a banshee on my shoulder.” It’s almost got a little reggae feel to the pop backbone.
“Kevin” – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Leon Bridges
JW: It is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, so the production and lyrics are solid, but the rapping is a little weak. Leon Bridges, though, is amazing and saves this song continuing the tradition of the featured artists being the highlight of any Macklemore song.
JD: Macklemore unfortunately is seriously underrated as an artist. He is genuine and honest when he raps and that for me, is the mark of a truly important musician. Leon Bridges however, is the standout here. If you haven’t heard his full length album yet give it a listen ASAP.
ZH: The “Thrift Shop” kings are back at it again with a gospel rap that starts out as any typical Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, but is a politically lyrical masterpiece that should really get more attention as it tackles the corruption issues of America.
CM: I could see this as like a summer, beachfront chill tune, and then it transformed vocally into an almost oldies kind of melodic. Then the two genres come together in a gentle way, and it works surprisingly well.
“A Bitter Man’s Lullaby” – St. Prostitute
JW: I don’t know what I was expecting from this song, but it wasn’t the slow Metallica vibe. That being said, there is nothing quite as good as listening to a slower, heavier rock song
JD: This a slow burn of a rock tune that features no bells and whistles but just a simple guitar and a soulful vocals. Who knew a bitter man’s lullaby could sound so sweet.
ZH: A sad, slow country song that pulls your emotional strings as you hear this ballad of a man going through a difficult break up and coming out of it strong.
CM: The vocals toe the line between rock and hard rock, sometimes slipping into that harder, more whiskey-soaked throat tune. The title is apt though, it’s bitter, yet lullaby-like at the same time. It’s an interesting composition.
“Gin and Juice” – Cold Chilling Collective featuring The Rooks
JW: Damn son. This R&B reimagining of Snoop’s classic Gin and Juice is fire. 10/10 will listen to their other reimagined rap songs.
JD: Full disclosure: I’ve never listened to the original “Gin and Juice.” Don’t judge me. This song didn’t strike me as anything special.
ZH: R&B hasn’t sounded his innocent and smooth in ages. A sax really builds levels for the song and keeps it catchy and classical.
CM: Harmonies can’t be beat, and soulful to boot. It’s got that easy-listening, piano bar feel to it.
“Soundcheck” – Catfish and the Bottlemen
JW: This song reminds me of mid to late 2000s Brit rock, but in reimagined and repackaged for 2016. It’s not the greatest song ever, but it is a pretty solid track.
JD: I feel like I’ve heard a million songs like this. The fuzzy guitar notes and the derivative riff along with so-so lyrics make this an easy pass.
ZH: Personally, I think this is the only song that is close to my taste of music. A pop punk-esq tune that is worthy to be among the ranks of Fall Out Boy and Blink-182.
CM: I get a post-punk, alt-rock feel from these guys and it takes me back to my angsty punk rock teens. But it’s also more mature than that. It improves as you get further into the song.
“Good to Love” – FKA Twigs
JW: If FKA took her voice down half an octave this song would be amazing. It’s just a little too high and breathy. While that might have been the sound she was looking for, I’m not sold on this song.
JD: Usually FKA Twigs’ whispery voice floats over a sparse electronic arrangement, but here the arrangement is softer with a piano, and I’m in love with the meditative atmosphere it evokes.
ZH: All you need for a great love song is a girl and a piano and this proves that as it echoes through your ears as FKA twigs battles her emotions in this mesmerizing song.
CM: She sounds kind of like indie-pop-electronica with a splash of R&B and it actually works really well. Clean, powerful vocals are the highlight and they ring with emotion. Good driving karaoke.
“Just Us” – Lais
JW: It’s a pretty average song. It’s like Majid Jordan and Travi$ Scott had a mediocre R&B baby. If that is what you’ve been waiting for, fine, but I was not waiting for that.
JD: Me and Jess both agreed that all music nowadays seems to sound like this: electronic arrangements accompanying soulful vocals. This is the least effective version of that formula.
ZH: To be honest, I don’t see a difference between this song and anything by Drake or The Weekend or any other similar artist. You have the same beat playing and a male vocalist who sounds like he was staring at the ceiling while singing his song.
CM: I feel like all this does is reinvent the wheel when it comes to R&B pop music so it does nothing for me. Everything’s nice enough, but it doesn’t have anything special to set it apart from the herd.