Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Good Song: "Pillowtalk," Zayn 1.31.16

Here's a new good song: "Pillowtalk" by Zayn. I don't have any problem with boy bands per se. I think *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees had some good songs, as did some boy bands not as well known in the U.S., like Take That and Scouting for Girls, who had my favorite songs of 1995 and 2010 respectively -- "Back For Good" and "This Ain't A Love Song." There's no inherent reason why a boy band can't have a good song. In fact, the combination of vocal ability and access to talented writers and producers should guarantee some nice output.

There are two big exceptions to this, however. The first is New Kids on the Block, who from 1988 and 1990 produced nothing but terrible music, although I'll concede that their 2008 semi-comeback hit "Summertime" was fine. The second exception is One Direction. It doesn't take a genius to see the appeal of this group, because teenage girls and gay boys like cute boys who sing love songs. That's always been true and always will be, and that's fine. But their music is so bad it actually surprises me. And it's not just bad, it's also forgettable. At least NKOTB's bad music was memorable. Maybe I've just grown cynical. But whatever the reason, One Direction's shtick doesn't work for me, even though I'm sure the members are talented and work hard for their success, and I wish each of them well.

That said, former One Direction member Zayn Malik has just released his debut single, and I think it's pretty good. See what you think below. I'm put off by the pointless and cliched use of all-caps, but whatever. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "They Don't Give," Jordin Sparks 1.31.16

Here's a new good song: "They Don't Give" by Jordin Sparks. This is a slower, smoother and much better track than the first two singles she released off her latest album, "Right Here, Right Now." This is a lovely '90s throwback jam, and it won't be successful because nobody but me has any taste. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "Not Above That," Dawn Richard 1.31.16

Here's a new good song: "Not Above That" by Dawn Richard. As a solo artist, Dawn, perhaps best known as a former member of Danity Kane, is fantastically innovative, although I don't always care for the results. Her song "86" was my favorite song of 2013, but I've been generally let down by her other output. Her latest, "Not Above That," is a bit repetitive but I'm finding it sufficiently catchy to log it here. It's no "86," but what is? Enjoy!

New Good Song: "Death Of A Bachelor," Panic! at the Disco 1.31.16

Here's a new good song: "Death Of A Bachelor" by Panic! at the Disco. This band is best known for mid-00s punk-pop, and this song has flavors of that but is primarily a jazz-vocal song in the vein of Frank Sinatra, over a pop beat. It's a mildly peculiar combination but one that works, in my opinion, better than the recent attempts by Fall Out Boy to blend genres. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New Good Song: "No Time For It," Fantasia 1.16.16

Here's a new good song: "No Time For It" by Fantasia. Since winning "American Idol," Fantasia hasn't revisited the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart, although she's had some success on the R&B tally, and has had a couple releases I thought were quite special. "Truth Is" is a masterpiece, and was my third-favorite song of 2005. I also liked "Bore Me (Yawn)." And I appreciated her recent track "Lose To Win," 78th favorite song of 2013. Her new single, "No Time For It," is reminiscent of "Lose To Win" but is more tightly crafted and less heavily reliant on a sample to move it forward. Nice job. Enjoy.

New Good Song: "Heartbeat," Carrie Underwood 1.16.16

Here's a new good song: "Heartbeat" by Carrie Underwood. I'm neither a Carrie Underwood fan nor a Carrie Underwood hater. She's an exceptional singer with general serviceable songs. As I browse through her discography I can't say there's much of anything I find particularly special, although "Last Name" is funny. She seems like a decent person, so good luck to her. This latest song, "Heartbeat," is pretty and a nice mid-tempo addition to a playlist. Enjoy.

New Good Song: "Sax," Fleur East 1.16.16

Here's a new good song: "Sax" by Fleur East. This is yet another find I made through the musical ying to my yang, LuisMa. This is a joyous soul-dance track that's an obvious echo to "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson f/ Bruno Mars. It's loud and proud. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Good Song: "Hallucinations," dvsn 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Hallucinations" by dvsn. I'm not sure if that's a person or a group, but this track creates a cool electronic-alt-R&B atmosphere. This is what I think The Weeknd's music might sound like if it were capably sung and not littered with lyrics about taking drugs and fucking bitches. This song reminds me of Miguel, and Majid Jordan. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "Open Your Eyes," School of Seven Bells 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Open Your Eyes" by School of Seven Bells. What a beautiful track. This group is from New York City, where I live, and they had the 50th best song of 2012, "Faded Heart." It's too early for me to weigh in on whether I think "Open Your Eyes" is a better song, but I do detect some growth and maturity, particularly in the production, which feels more natural and sophisticated. It's a great effort. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "Never Seen You Get So Low," Aquilo 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Never Seen You Get So Low" by Aquilo. This English duo had the 17th best song of 2014, the very slow and haunting "I Gave It All," and they had the 28th best song of 2015, the faster and almost disco-influenced "Good Girl." Their newest is in between the two, tempo-wise, and it's very nice, with what I think is the best vocal performance of the three tracks. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "I Took A Pill In Ibiza (SeeB Remix)," Mike Posner 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "I Took A Pill In Ibiza (SeeB Remix)" by Mike Posner. As a reminder, Posner is responsible for a string of commercially successful singles in 2010-11 -- "Cooler Than Me," "Please Don't Go" and "Bow Chicka Wow Wow," all of which were great songs. I remember reading back then that Mike went to my alma mater, Duke, and graduated with a 3.6 GPA while his music career was getting off the ground. So he's no dummy. And I suspected his music, which is straightforward, belied some real depth. Since that debut, he's put out a few flops. Now he's back with an EP called "The Truth," which, as the name implies, is confessional. It's also stripped down, raw and acoustic. It's pretty nice, and a surprising departure, although I don't expect it to revive his career because he doesn't quite have the legacy behind him to generate widespread interest in his introspection, i.e., I'm not sure the average listener is particularly curious about "the truth" about someone they did not know much about in the first place. But for those who discover this EP, they'll lean in to hear what Posner is sharing. The clip below is the first song on that EP, with a poppier remix that I slightly prefer to the original, even though I certainly appreciate acoustic music. It's full of self-reflective observations that humanize Posner and set him up for what may be a longer, fruitful career, even if this particular release doesn't garner much radio play. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "Crying In Public," Chairlift 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Crying In Public" by Chairlift. It's sort of a wacky track, blending jazz, synth pop and soft rock. As if Manhattan Transfer collaborated with Lavender Diamond or something. Lots off interesting touches, and sweet, buttery vocals by Caroline Polachek. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "When We Were Young," Adele 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "When We Were Young" by Adele. In both this song and in her previous release, "Hello," Adele makes references to being old, which she will look back on and laugh at when she is my age. "When We Were Young" is particularly vintage, and sounds as if it's right off a Roberta Flack album in the '70s. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "Stressed Out," Twenty One Pilots 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Stressed Out" by Twenty One Pilots. I purchased Twenty One Pilot's debut single, "Holding On To You," when it was released in 2012. It didn't last too long on my playlist before I deleted it, because it's sort of annoying. "Stressed Out" also is a little annoying, but it's admittedly catchy, and on a recent trip during which I did quite a bit of driving and listening to the radio, I have to admit I turned up the volume each time it came on. So, good job. Enjoy!

New Good Song: "Simple Song #3," BBC Concert Orchestra, Sumi Jo & Terry Davies 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Simple Song #3" by BBC Concert Orchestra, Sumi Jo & Terry Davies, who play the instruments, sing and conduct respectively. This is from the film "Youth," starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. The film is not one I particularly cared for, but it's nominated for two well-deserved Golden Globes, including Best Original Song for "Simple Song #3," composed by David Lang, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Jane Fonda. "Simple Song #3" is mentioned throughout the film, with very small bits played here and there, and this performance is presented at the end of the film as the credits begin to roll. This is a classical song, but broaden your horizons, won't you?

New Good Song: "Another Trip Around The Sun," Lowrie 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Another Trip Around The Sun" by Lowrie. This track has been on my playlist for several weeks but not featured on this blog because I felt like Lowrie was laying it on a little too thick -- such depressing lyrics, over such dreary music, with such melodramatic mini-climaxes. And, believe me, I love me some depressing music. But after repeated listens, the song has really grown on me, and now I find it effective and a special achievement. The songwriting is clever and has some lovely details, and the vocals also work well. Yes, it's sad, and it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but give it a listen!

New Good Song: "Echoes," Lauren Aquilina 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Echoes" by Lauren Aquilina. I've featured Lauren on this blog before, but as a quick recap, she's a young English singer-songwriter-pianist with a penchant for very slow, melancholy ballads, released on EPs with single-word titles (e.g., "Fools," "Sinners,"  "Liars," "Ocean"). Some of my favorite songs by her have been:

  • "Sinners," my 46th favorite song of 2013, off the "Sinners" EP
  • "Irrelevant," my 70th favorite song of 2014, off the "Sinners" EP
  • "Broke," my 78th favorite song of 2014, off the "Liars" EP
  • "Ocean," my 111th favorite song of 2015, off the "Ocean" EP

The song "Ocean" was a departure for Aquilina because, although it starts off with her traditionally minimalist atmosphere, it breaks into a raucous instrumental halfway through, a move that I imagine was somewhat experimental and a desire to avoid being pigeonholed as a balladeer. I personally found it distraction and not altogether successful, but it seemed like an unearned climax. Now here's "Echoes," which was released in December and is not included on the "Ocean" EP, which was released in October. In "Echoes," Lauren is experimenting with even more of a pop instrumental sound, and again I think we're witnessing evolution, not yet her best work. See what you think, and keep your eye on her!

New Good Song: "Roses," The Chainsmokers f/ Rozes 1.10.16

Here's a new good song: "Roses" by The Chainsmokers f/ Rozes. I'm mildly late to the game on this one, as it's already ascended into the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, as of this writing. That's mildly peculiar to me because there's a quirky, choppy alt-electronic influence to this song that makes its radio-friendliness questionable. But there's lots of tasty elements in here, particularly the repeated second interval on the poky synth during the bridge. It's all in the details! Enjoy.