By: Sarah Finley, Courtney Miller, Anahi Silva Palomec, and Jessica Whitesel
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“Setting Fires” – The Chainsmokers feat. XYLØ
Jessica Whitesel: Bless the Chainsmokers for going beyond “#Selfie,” but damn them for making basically the same song over, and over, and over. It’s a little much now. Maybe one day I’ll rank all of their samey-sounding songs in order from worst to best, but based on what my sleep-deprived brain remembers of the rest of their music this one is going to be pretty close to worst.
Anahi Silva Palomec: I can’t say these lyrics will be winning the next Nobel Prize for Literature, but the beat is a good substitute for coffee when trying to drag yourself out of bed at 7 a.m.
Sarah Finley: I mean … they tried. They really did. This song is just too boring; it sounds like they took a Tumblr text post, “Set on fire to keep you warm,” and then auto-tuned the shit out of it. I’ll pass.
Courtney Miller: When it started I was like, this is probably going to be something I dislike. But funnily enough, I kind of dig it. It’s the kind of synth-heavy pop you need to be in the mood for, but the vocals, beat, and track are all pretty solid. It made my work much more entertaining, but it’s nothing new.
“Highway Vagabond” – Miranda Lambert
JW: Well, it sure is country, but in like a lyrically old-timey way. It’s nice that it has nothing to do with breaking up, drinking beer, having sex in a pickup truck (directly), or America being the greatest place ever. That being said, I’ll never listen to it again if I can avoid it because it wasn’t that good.
ASP: Because Lambert fits into the country genre and the song still has nothing to do with back porches and breakups in Texas, I commend her. However, the song still rings as repetitive and drawn out far too long.
SF: If you’ve been thinking to yourself lately, “I really want to listen to my wanderlust angst being verbalized with a dramatized Southern drawl,” this is the track for you. These lyrics admittedly are right up my alley —- wanting to drop everything in favor of a road trip — but I’d rather listen to Mac DeMarco or Stu Larsen sing them tbh.
CM: The vocals have a weird echoey thing happening that I don’t like. It makes it hard to understand the lyrics, but there’s still enough twang in the mush to know it’s country. It’s like it was recorded underwater almost. I actually quite like Miranda Lambert, I’m just not feeling this song. The intro guitar bit was solid though.
“Peace Trail” – Neil Young
JW: The first rule of listening to Neil Young is to not think about what he looks like. Seriously, he looks a little axe murderer-y. The second rule is to appreciate that he’s been making some pretty similar music for well over 40 years, but still manages to make it feel fresh in a classic rock kind of way. While this isn’t his strongest track ever — it just feels a little unbalanced, like it’s live but clearly isn’t — it’s still not too bad either, so that’s a bonus.
ASP: Despite his name, the Canadian singer is really old and being able to still turn out some good music is impressive. Young’s new track delivers soft-spoken vocals and a powerful message: “If I believe in someone, I have to believe in myself.” A nice contrast to 2016’s favourite themes of booties and money.
SF: This is the perfect track for sadly staring out a bus window on a rainy day. Gentle and soft, complete with quiet shakers in the background, this will be making you nostalgic over all those memories that up until now you’d been so successful at suppressing.
CM: The best way to describe it is that it’s Neil Young. Kinda folksy, a little bluesy, strained vocals that don’t do much for me. I also feel like it’s a little long and that there were plenty of musical breaks in the middle of the song that did not have to be as long as they were. Long songs are good if they’re long with reason. This wasn’t. Even so, props for still kicking after several decades.
“Burn Break Crash” – Aanysa feat. Snakehips
JW: OK, 2005 was only 11 years ago, people, and it wasn’t that great tbh, so for the love of all that is good in this world, stop trying to bring it back. This song is about three members short of a DC4-era Destiny’s Child non-single. It’s kind of terrible. So in the words of the song: “All I wanna do is burn, break, crash, and explode” this song.
ASP: This starts out really well with some cool beat sampling (it could be some glass sounds), but it immediately goes downhill. If I had to choose between listening to this song again for another 30 seconds or reliving midterms, I’d definitely choose midterms.
SF: Suddenly I am transported back to the cafeteria of my middle school, surrounded by sweaty 12-year-olds trying to dance with each other under a half-broken disco ball. When can we move away from songs about how captivating dudes are? I’m tired.
CM: The high-ish tempo makes the optimism pour out of this song. “I’ve tried, but I can’t hate you” sums it up pretty well. It’s not a great song, it’s not a very different song, but it’s still catchy and fun, and I like it despite not liking a lot of other similar tunes. Lyrics could use some work, though, for sure.
“Versace on the Floor” – Bruno Mars
JW: Bruno Mars started wearing track suits and chains and turned into your creepy uncle. This song is the embodiment of that. Also it sounds like the ’90s, and not in a good way. I can picture so many things happening in my head right now and I’ve managed to simultaneously make myself sad and realize there are a lot of ’90s music videos swirling in the darkest corners of my mind. The ’90s were a dark and strange time.
ASP: Whoa, where are the mullets, because this song takes you back to a time when the music was abnormally slow and ways too dramatic. The ballad has the melodic influence of Boyz II Men, with a hint of Lionel Richie. Turn back, Bruno, before it’s too late.
SF: I’ve admittedly never been a Bruno Mars person (I was that one in your friend group who took it personally that for the Super Bowl, the halftime show was advertised as Bruno Mars featuring Beyoncé — excuse me?). This is just a whole new level of tacky-bad-romance with Bruno staying at the edge of his vocal range for the entirety of the song. Make it stop.
CM: Mars is back with his smooth vocals. I personally don’t know anyone with Versace who would just toss it on the floor, not even for sex, so it’s one of those unrealistic songs about sex. The creep factor is definitely there, too. Don’t add it to your getting busy playlist.
“Måste va en dröm” – Christoffer Gustafsson
JW: I’ve listened to a lot of Swedish music since starting New Music Friday. Normally I like it because it’s different, not just linguistically but also musically. So when this song started playing I immediately felt like it should have been on the soundtrack for Life as a House, a movie from 2001 that I now realize I only watched multiple times because it had Hayden Christensen in it. Oh, 15-year-old me you were a mess. Just like this song.
ASP: I love that this piece highlights the simplicity of the guitar and percussion instrumentals. The relaxed mood makes for a really great downtime listen.
SF: Gentle vocals with lyrics in a different language — the perfect song to casually show off to that new bae you’ve been trying to impress, not-so-subtly hinting that you’re cultured AF. In all honesty, the instrumentals are beautifully arranged and this track as a whole is perfectly calming.
CM: It starts off musically introspective and reflective with a twinge of sadness, and stays that way consistently throughout the four minutes. It’s not mind-numbingly slow — it’s just on the border of what an acceptable tempo for a sleepy-time playlist. The vocals are calming, even if there’s only one lyric in English.
“Faith” – Stevie Wonder feat. Ariana Grande
JW: I can see every choir and a capella group singing this from now to Lord knows when. That’s not a good thing. What makes choir and a capella interesting is changing up arrangements of well-known songs to make them unique. This one is just a few people short of already being there, and honestly don’t half-ass two things — whole-ass one thing. Either be a choir or don’t.
ASP: You can never go wrong with Stevie Wonder and usually I can’t stand Ariana Grande, but their voices entwine harmonically in this piece without overpowering one another. This song is kind of exhausting to listen to though, so I wouldn’t prescribe more than one listen.
SF: Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande is a duo I never would’ve imagined in my wildest dreams, but honestly they make it work. Upbeat enough to motivate you right before you run a marathon, I can only imagine what a live performance of this would look like.
CM: The rhythm in this is top notch. It’s fun, the vocals are classy, and the melody works really well. I don’t know what the lyrics are yet, but I want to sing along and just groove around. Approved.
“Elegy” – Leif Vollebekk
JW: Not going to lie, this sounds kind of like a bluesier James Bay that’s singing some sort of mediocre poem. Lyrically it’s meh, vocally it could be going places, and musically it sounds like a looped track made in GarageBand. I’d be willing to try to listen to more of his music, but if it sounds like this I’m going to be so disappointed about the wasted potential.
ASP: This track feels less like a song and more like a short, sad story set to music. It transports the listener through Vollebekk’s experiences with the descriptive lyrics. I’m just not sure if I want to be transported there.
SF: Sad romantic lyrics sung over slow piano and rim hits on a snare make this track the perfect addition to your heartbreak playlist. I’m a sucker for sad songs, and this is no exception.
CM: This starts off super mournful, and then the percussion slides in and lifts everything up just enough to make it sound more nostalgic than melancholic. It’s a little bluesy and his voice is bluesy too, although you can hear the folk in it. If you’re feeling a little sad, but not completely down in the dumps, this is your tune.
“Oceans” – Leo Stannard
JW: Oceans are cool because they have sharks, octopuses, and all kinds of other amazing life forms. Also there’s the crashing of waves, the salt spray, and something that makes you feel alive blowing through the air. This song has none of that and could be described, at best, as meh.
ASP: The repetition in this song works to Stannard’s advantage. It reinforces the feeling of idleness and emotional immobility, while also taking a rather overused beat and making it sound almost fresh.
SF: Stannard’s unique voice makes this mildly angsty track significantly better than your typical angsty track. Stannard’s angstiness and my own seem to align, so perhaps that’s why I like this track so much, but if you’re a uni student feeling claustrophobically trapped on all sides by midterms, stress, and shitty weather, this may be the track for you, too.
CM: If you were going to create a photo montage with brief breaks of funny video of you and your friends at the beach one summer with that old-timey camera filter, this would be the song you picked for at least part of your soundtrack. For whatever reason, I can see Taylor Swift doing that kind of video to this song. Take that how you like.
“Ghosting” – Rykka
JW: I want to ghost on this song. It’s alright, but it’s been done so many times before and it’s been done better. This is like the off-brand love child of Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, and the Chainsmokers. I stuck it out to the end but, like, I don’t get paid enough to have to put up with that kind of shit on a regular basis.
ASP: I can only hear “we’re ghosting” so many times before buying this CD just so I can set it on fire. The only good thing about the song was the imitation of a Stranger Things-sounding intro. Sadly, that only lasted a whole six seconds of the song.
SF: Gh-gh-gh-gh-ghosting. Muted instrumentals in the distance combined with an impressively limited vocal range, I could barely make it through this entire track. Don’t waste your time.
CM: I like the flow of the lyrics, the melody, and the vocals. The track is fine, it’s dynamic enough not to bore me unacceptably. Rykka uses “ghosting” in a new way: “We’re ghosting away to paradise.” But overall the song is just kind of average.
“Find Me” (Radio Edit) – Sigma feat. Birdy
JW: This is a pretty cinematic song. I feel like there should be someone running across a field or something like that. But it sort of is a mishmash and sounds like a sanitized Disney-ified Florence and the Machine, with some weird EDM effects thrown in because why the fuck not? It’s 2016 and nothing makes sense anyways. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
ASP: Birdy’s voice has the same haunting tone as that of Lana Del Rey, but the song can’t seem to decide what to focus on. It jumps between some weird and overpowering EDM beat to her voice. I’ll get back to it when it decides to be less disjointed.
SF: Damn, the sad tracks on this playlist are hitting me hard. Birdy’s voice is the kind that makes you cry over relationship woes you’ve never even experienced. The opposite of Rykka, Birdy’s vocal range made me feel all the things that I was not necessarily prepared to feel.
CM: This song starts off purposefully slow, and by the time it ends, it’s gone through such a good buildup that I can’t help liking it. The vocal range is impressive and the power is nice. It’s not my usual style, but it’s enjoyable.
“The Drugs” – Mother Mother
JW: I mean, while the message is kind of nice, “You’re better than the drugs I used to love,” it’s also kind of very super problematic. DON’T be addicted to a person, it can be just as destructive as drugs. Also musically it’s repetitive, boring, Franz Ferdinand-esque 2004 alt-rock. Pass.
ASP: This song creates a cohesive melody, lyrics, and tone blend. Checkmark for that. Maybe it is because the song is formulaic in its soundscape so they didn’t have to work that hard to come up with the melody. A little tired.
SF: Pro tip to anyone out there who dates men: if any boy who’s too attractive for his own good ever says some shit like “you’re better than the drugs I used to love,” run away and don’t look back. His fake poetic ass won’t be worth sticking around for. I promise.
CM: Classic Mother Mother vocals blends with Ryan Guldemond’s slightly skewed voice, combining with the cleaner vocals from Guldemond’s sister, Molly, and Jasmin Parkin. It’s a great alt-rock tune and stays true to what fans of Mother Mother have loved about them since the beginning. But yeah, lyrically the sentiment is problematic.