Timothy Gabriele: One thing I thoroughly enjoy about our current era is the bafflement of old industry types scrambling to figure out why the SoundCloud singles don’t wind up on the album, consistently throwing all their weight behind the notion that only the LP legitimizes the single, unable to face the new reality of streaming music. It should shock no one that “Bitch Better Have My Money”, the best thing Rihanna dropped in 2015, didn’t make its way to Anti. It’s practically the definition of a one-off. My wife and I are convinced it was written on a total misogynistic tip (Kanye’s a co-writer on the track, as is Travis Scott), but Rihanna just claimed it as her own. It’s like Rihanna’s own version of Tori Amos’ Strange Little Girls. The video would seem to continue the simple gender swap, exchanging horror film tropes of the male serial killer stalking unwitting females, but much of the video is spent tormenting and humiliating Mads Mikkelsen’s wife. It’s unclear if there is a feminist core to this, but unlike “American Oxygen”, which played safe by making its politics vague and opaque, “Bitch Better Have My Money” is murky and imperfect, nasty and aggressive, and a banger to boot. [8/10]
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John Garratt: It’s nice when Massive Attack does more than just vamp for Tricky. Take away the vocals and you still have yourself an intoxicating trip-hop brew—in waltz time at that! Having said all that, the narrative arc of the video is lost on me (Drunk? Tired? Diseased? What?) and the spontaneous fits of dancing wander too close to Thriller and/or zombie fascination. Someone check in with that singing fetus from “Teardrop” for availability. [7/10]
Respected indie popster Anton Barbeau is back with a new album, Magic Act, releasing Mar 4th on Mystery Lawn Music. Some of these new tunes were originally penned for Barbeau’s UK band Three Minute Tease, but he ended up using them on this release. Barbeau is hyper focused on classic pop songwriting, developing hooks by the truckload and working with the finest pop musicians to translate his songs into memorable nuggets. Magic Act kicks off with “High Noon”—the song we’re premiering today—and true to Barbeau’s delightfully eccentric nature, it poses the question, “Did the CIA really kill the Virgin Mary by sending her on a suicide mission to the moon?” This kind of quirky approach has deservedly earned Barbeau legions of fans worldwide.
On Friday, February 5, NNA Tapes will release Secret Meeting, the first collaboration between saxophonist Travis Laplante and trumpeter Peter Evans. And as far as collaborations go, it is a pure one. Both are playing from the hip, running back and forth between peaceful pedal tones and lightening-fast skronk. Stylistically falling somewhere between Laplante’s avant-garde super group Little Women and his breathy side-project Battle Trance, Secret Meeting is a sprawling album celebrating “an umbilical cord-like connection” between the two musicians.
Dustin Ragucos: If you’ve ever decided not to listen to non-western music because something like Jerusalem In My Heart’s If He Dies, If If If If If felt boring, then good news: “Assossamagh” is a steady road-tripper’s dream. Guitars have a serious strut, and Imarhar follows the beat of his own metre. [7/10]