By: Courtney Miller, Jessica Pickering, and Jessica Whitesel
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“Good Grief” – Bastille
Jessica Whitesel: Holy crap this is so damn pop-y. But not in a bad way. It reminds me of an updated ’80s new-wave pop song. It’s catchy as hell and just makes you want to dance and sing along. My only complaint is the weird talking that sounds like it was pulled from a B-movie.
Courtney Miller: My love for Bastille knows no bounds, and I’m definitely not disappointed with their latest offering. That feel-good bass, Dan’s crisp vocals, and classic Bastille clever lyrics make this a solid winner in my book. If you liked Bad Blood you’ll like this. The musicality in this band floors me all the time.
Jessica Pickering: Bastille is trying something new and I’m not sure about it. The music is way more upbeat than I’m used to from them and I’m trying to adjust. The good news is that’s all they’ve really changed: the lyrics and vocals are classic Bastille, including asking a question in the pre-chorus. After listening to the whole song, I think I love it.
“Better Love” – Hozier
JW: Like I get that this is for a movie so it needs to be big and sweeping, but it just gets too big for its own good. Hozier has an amazing voice and it just gets lost in the heavy instrumentals. Maybe Warner Bros. wanted to tie musically to the Disney-animated Tarzan, I don’t know, but as a song overall it just needs to tone it down a couple of notches.
CM: The focus on percussion and Hozier’s emotive yet calming voice make this a strong song. I can easily picture a well-choreographed interpretive dance done to this — there’s a complexity to the music that would make that work really well.
JP: Hozier’s so hit and miss for me. It took me two months before I liked “Take Me to Church” and I think it might take me that long to like this song too (if I ever do). I think Hozier fans will like this song, and I don’t think I’m ever going to understand the appeal.
“Titus Was Born” – Young the Giant
JW: I want to like this song but it sounds too forced. I’ve tried to sing notes out of my vocal range before and it sounds like most of this song: forced and painful. When Sameer Gadhia slips back into his actual vocal range the song is just so much better. So let this be a lesson kids, don’t try to sing in a range that isn’t natural.
CM: The muted guitar and soft, wispy vocals make this a dreamy kind of song. It builds into a powerful tune that would be great for chilling to. It’s also got a laid-back kind of catchiness, like it’s gently inviting you to sing along instead of demanding it, which I enjoy.
JP: This kind of reminds me of a kids’ TV show. It’s very calming and it’s Fueled By Ramen produced so that appeals to sixth-grader me — and current me, because I’m trash. I really like this song. I keep picturing Titus Andromedon filming a music video to this which makes it even better.
“Champions” – Kanye West feat. Gucci Mane, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Travi$ Scott, Yo Gotti, Quavo, and Desiigner
JW: Oh man. This is a new song, but sounds like it would have been made in the mid-’00s. The production feels old, the rapping feels stale, and like why do we need to have eight people on a song? If you are in love with all of these guys and have been waiting for them to all be on a track together then by all means listen to this, but anybody else should take a pass.
CM: The intro music I really like, which is surprising. But it all goes downhill after that. I am a big fan of liberal use of profanity and cusses, but there should be at least a semblance of necessity. In this song, it’s just sprayed throughout — stop referring to women as bitches already, I’m over it. Whoever is vocalizing at 4:45 needs to stop because that was whiny as fuck.
JP: I’m not a big Kanye fan to begin with; really, I only like him when he’s with Jay Z, and this song is no exception. It’s a lot of simple rhymes without much substance. I like my rappers to have clever rhymes, and this flow’s just not doing it for me (I say while being the whitest girl alive).
“Somebody’s Love” – Passenger
JW: This song is classic Passenger. Normally I would be annoyed at the long instrumental intro, but having seen him live, he is an immensely talented guitarist and it is nice that he chose to feature that. As always he is vocally and lyrically on point. I will definitely listen to this again.
CM: It’s super chill and very melodic. I’d study to this in a heartbeat.
JP: I like everything about Passenger except the sound of the guy’s voice. I think it’s too high-pitched for the style. I really like when he sings certain parts and his voice suddenly gets so much deeper so I’m holding out for a moment when that happens in this song. Update: it kind of happened so I like this song a little better now.
“Lavender” – BadBadNotGood feat. KAYTRANADA
JW: I am not loving the ‘80s video game/action movie sound of this. I’m waiting for there to be some sort of hokey car chase, guys with bad hair wearing pastel suits ducking in and out of a warehouse, and the bad guy doing blow off of a hooker. Great job on creating a mood, but not so much on creating an enjoyable song. So, it actually was BadBadNotGood.
CM: I love that this has no vocals. It’s upbeat, but also chill enough to be good relaxation music. It’s easy to nod along to, or tap your toes to the rhythm without investing too much effort.
JP: This is not what I was expecting. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t bass and what sounds like a trumpet, that’s for sure. This was almost three and a half minutes of conflicting music styles and no vocals. I think the band’s name should have been a hint.
“For Free” – DJ Khaled feat. Drake
JW: DJ Khaled is a living meme. Within the first 15 seconds he dropped every single catchphrase he is known for, but lyrically this song is kind of a mess. Thinking that your girl is so good at sex that you have to question why you are getting it for free is maybe-kinda-probably-just-a-little problematic.
CM: It’s not bad? But it’s not good either. I mean it’s fine, but nothing special. The voices leave a lot to be desired, to be honest.
JP: Am I a bad Canadian if I think Drake is overrated? He’s solidly OK and he seems really good at maintaining it. This song is average Drake, so I guess that’s good. If you like Drake, you’ll like this song. If you don’t like Drake, this song isn’t about to change that.
“Flowerchild” – Coleman Hell
JW: This song is fun and catchy as hell. It makes me want to embrace the whole frollicking in fields, dancing under the sun, happy stereotypical flowerchild lifestyle. Then the song ends and I remember that I’m not a huge fan of the outdoors, or spending time in fields. So if I can forget that for a few minutes then this is a pretty powerful song.
CM: I find this to be a fun beachside jam of a tune, with a great beat and melodic lyrics. Great for a waterfront hangout, or making you long for the ocean as you pore over notes at your desk. The vocals match the music really well, it’s well put together.
JP: I think this song is a good choice if you want to hear something upbeat, not pay much attention, and still feel a little happier at the end of it. I especially like the line “high in the ‘70s”; it makes me think of That ‘70s Show when they sit in the circle in Forman’s basement.
“You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” – Phantogram
JW: I’m not loving this song. It just feels like it has too many things going on with it in terms of the backing track. I mean, I get that they probably didn’t want to make it too dark, but they really should have just gone there. Also the “we-ooo, we-ooo” just sounds like a toddler trying to be a firetruck.
CM: There’s a lot of vocal ability showcased in this song. The song doesn’t stay in one place too long, and so even though it’s not my usual style, it’s growing on me with every listen.
JP: I feel like I’ve heard the opening somewhere before, like in a car commercial. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I would listen to. It sounds like it has a lot of reverb? I don’t know if that’s the word. I’m probably in the minority on this but it’s too edgy for me.
“Hallelujah” – Alicia Keys
JW: I fully expected this to be another cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and, while I fully appreciate that it isn’t, I was really looking forward to hearing Keys’ powerful voice tackle that song. Don’t get me wrong, this is a really good song, I just really, really, really wanted to hear her version of it.
CM: Keys has a lot of emotive power behind her vocals, which is nice, and the music doesn’t detract from that. Her voice is clearly the focal point of her music, and it holds up to the scrutiny that entails. It needs to be listened to after something devastating has happened, preferably in a torrential downpour to really set the scene.
JP: I really don’t like Alicia Keys, but this isn’t bad. I think it’s because she’s in her lower range. I also don’t hate the music so that helps. I love the addition of violins — I’m a sucker for them added into pop songs. This is probably my favourite Alicia Keys song.
“Hey Hey, My My” – Fjord
JW: Oh man. I sure did get my cover. But I have never ever wanted an electronified Neil Young. By making this song not a rock song I feel they are kind of losing the message that he was trying to convey with the original. Also, I want Young’s take on this song since he is kind of an angry “Hey, get off of my lawn” kind of old man.
CM: It builds only a little bit. I would like a little more development because it does get repetitive by the end of the song. It’s just kind of ‘meh’ for me.
JP: I’m so young, I had to Google who this was a cover of. I also just realized that was a pun, so I’m garbage today. So without ever hearing the original, I’m going to say I like this cover. My very limited knowledge of Neil Young tells me the tempo is right, but fans may not like the techno-ish add-ons.
“Race to the Bottom” – Dan Mangan
JW: I like this one. It has a fun rock vibe that isn’t metal-influenced or super folky — even though I love folk, like a little too much. It’s up-tempo, and even though the lyrics might not really follow that vibe fully, if I’m racing to the bottom it might as well be fun.
CM: “Nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be.” I think Mangan is criminally underrated. A serious but fun dynamic song that gets you up and tapping along at the very least. Good stuff.
JP: I really like this song. The music is a bit more upbeat than the vocals but it works really well. I don’t know if I like it enough to actively download it but I would definitely listen to it again. This is probably my third favourite song on this week’s playlist.