This is a column that I had in mind when I started the blog last week, but I wanted to get it started with a run of album reviews first. So, welcome to the first week of Singles Roundup! Each week on Wednesdays (most likely) I’m going to go through a handful of singles that came out in the last week that caught my eye. Singles, by nature, are released without the album context and often without indication of what they are intended to be. Sometimes they are promotional, for a new album, sometimes they are leftovers from a previous album, and sometimes they are just lone releases. My Singles Roundup! column will therefore be more lighthearted than my album reviews, and my ratings and reviews for these songs will really just be a measure of how much I enjoyed each of these songs this past week.
Anyway, let’s get into it! In no particular order…
The War on Drugs – “Strangest Thing”
One of my absolute favorites of the week! I have loved every single these guys have given us so far for the new album. This one in particular gives me almost a Bruce Springsteen/Wilco sounding crossover with both Heartland Rock and Americana influences. It’s nostalgic and focused on moving forward. It’s a song that sounds like emerging from a thunderstorm on a road trip just in time to see a beautiful sunset. I will say that on my very first listen, I found this song a little boring. Give this one a couple chances before dismissing it!
Grizzly Bear – “Neighbors”
Now here is one that has remained boring for me. I have had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Grizzly Bear in the past. I’ve always found a handful of tracks to like on their albums, but I’ve found most of the albums to sound like a lot of filler. “Neighbors” to me doesn’t really go anywhere. The instrumentation and production is tight as it always is with Grizzly Bear, but I just find very little to latch on with here. None of the singles so far for the upcoming album have impressed me from these guys.
Shania Twain – “Poor Me”
This one might surprise some of you guys. I have always loved Shania, and I think her Country-Pop crossovers of the early 2000s is completely underrated in the pop community. This is her second single for her first album in 15 years, and I definitely like this one more than the first. She (at least on this track) has almost completely abandoned that old country-pop sound. I’m a little undecided right now if it’s the right direction for her. “Poor Me” has a really great instrumental that drives the song forward, and I love the guitars soaring in the bridge of the song… but it’s not like anything here is very original or fresh overall, even if it is a new sound for her. Shania’s greatest strength has always been personality, and if anything, both of the singles so far have been just a little lifeless.
Kevin Gates – “No Love”
It’s really refreshing to hear from Kevin Gates. After his solid debut album early in 2016 and the excellent mixtape “Luca Brasi 2”, Kevin Gates went to jail on a gun charge. This is the second single we’ve gotten from him during his jail time, and both so far have been pretty average. Kevin Gates excels when he gets loud, and these plodding beats and flows work against him. He needs bombastic production and over the top hooks and bars, and this just isn’t do it for me. The beat is fine otherwise and he does have a solid flow over it, but I’m certain this is one that would get completely lost in a full album.
Poppy – “Interweb”
Poppy is killing it. Every single for her upcoming debut album has been BRILLIANT and this single is no different. This entire song is basically one long hook, from “LALALALA” to “I’VE GOT YOU IN MY INTERWEB”, and it’s catchy as hell. Poppy’s entire strange uncanny valley aesthetic is addicting, and I absolutely cannot wait for the album. This is electropop genius. It does get a little old after a number of listens because it is just one long hook, and I’d actually be pretty interested to see an album version of this track on the album that is a bit more fleshed out than the single.
Everything Everything – “A Fever Dream”
These guys had an awesome album out in 2015 that was a strange mix of art pop and synth-pop that really blew up in the music world and kind of put them on the map. This is the second single for their fourth studio album coming out this year and it’s another fantastic track from this week. I love the piano throughout the whole song, and this song has a brilliant progression. Not a second feels wasted, and it stays true to the thematic feel of last years album: strange pop melodies with a feeling of mystery. “A Fever Dream” has great lyrics as well, so listen closely! The story of this track reminds me a lot of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”. I’d give this one an 8, but there is something about it that just doesn’t stand up to the other 8/10 songs I am reviewing this week, so I’m sticking with a 7. Hopefully the album context brings this one up another notch.
Lykke Li – “Unchained Melody”
When I discovered one of my favorite women in music had covered one of my favorite songs of all-time this past Friday I instantly marked it for review for this week. Unfortunately, I think this cover leaves a lot to be desired (for anyone that has never heard it, go listen to the original version by the Righteous Brothers). The song starts well and Lykke Li sounds great, but instead of getting the climactic finish the original song has, this cover just kind of patters out as Lykke Li attempts to make it her own. The brilliant melody and Lykke Li’s wonderful voice still made this a solid listen a few times, but I bored of this pretty quick.
Wolf Alice – “Don’t Delete The Kisses”
Another amazing pop single for this week! This one is more of a mix of dream pop and power pop. I never got a chance to listen to Wolf Alice’s debut album that came out a couple years ago in full, but I did explore a lot of the singles and a few other tracks and I particularly enjoyed “Freazy” back then. This new single, however, is way better than anything I heard from the debut. It has a great duality to it, with huge, loud choruses and quiet, whispered verses. This track is catchy as hell, has a great summer vibe, and I am just completely in love with this one right now.
Amine – “Wedding Crashers”
I only recently discovered Amine when he got the nod for this years XXL Freshman class, but I haven’t been impressed with his freestyles or cyphers for XXL at all. I have mixed opinions on this song too. First off, it’s really catchy, produced well, and it sounds somewhat nostalgic for me personally in a pleasantly dated way. It almost sounds like a throwback to the Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa, Hoodie Allen type music that was super popular from like 2009-2012. I know that is going to make a lot of people immediately run and hide and a lot of others immediately go listen to it. This track has a lot of things that I would normally find grating but end up working for it: the air horn, the Offset feature, cheesy instagram-caption lyrics… I don’t know. It all ends up making a really solid summery track that has me excited for more Amine in the future right now, but I’ll see how I feel about this on the album.
Purity Ring – “Asido”
This track was released to commemorate the five-year anniversary of Shrines (one of my favorite all-time albums) and it sounds like a B-side from that album… I think. That’s one of my biggest concerns with this single and Purity Ring in general: they don’t really seem interested in developing or changing their sound at all. Their first two albums are sonically almost identical, and while I enjoyed them both it is worrying now to get another single some years later that also sounds the same. Even if Purity Ring came out with another album with the same sound again I wouldn’t hold it against them because I like it so much, but I’m really hoping they diversify a little bit with the next record. It’s a little subdued for me (I like when Purity Ring gets wild) but it’s an enjoyable listen. It was released with a beautiful lyric video as well that is worth checking out!
BONUS: WEDNESDAY CAMPENELLA – “嬴政 (Eisei)”
This one is a bonus; I had thought all week this was a new track because it had just popped up on US Spotify and then I discovered that it had actually been out for months. It was actually released a couple months after the release date of their new album SUPERMAN which makes me definitely think this was a bonus track or something that didn’t make the cut. Yet, this track does not sound much like anything on that album and it would be an absolute standout if it was on it. I am getting serious Dan Deacon/Animal Collective vibes on the instrumental of this song, and it grows into an amazing finish and climax. The language barrier can be distracting for some, but I urge everyone to check out this amazing song (and band!) because this track is stellar and just has such a cool progression and sound.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the first week of Singles Roundup! If I missed any tracks or you have a different opinion on any of these, let me know!