Steve Horowitz: Carrie Underwood has always relied on her working class persona and rock hard country voice to make it seem like she’s singing something important. The same is true here, aided by a martial beat. The song doesn’t make real narrative sense. Instead, it sets the mood. Carrie lets us know that life is hard, so it’s okay to party. That’s something to believe in. The video tries to keep up with the lyrics but can’t make up its mind whether it should illustrate what’s happening or just offer hot sweaty images. Who cares? Sometimes we all need a smoke break, whether we smoke or not. [8/10]
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Jordan Blum: This combination of old-fashioned icon and leading newcomer[s] reminds me of the relatively recent collaboration between Kayne West, Rhianna, and Paul McCartney. This is more interesting than that, though (which isn’t saying much, to be honest). The video is certainly more unique and absorbing than the run-of-the-mill music (despite its various changes), and Stewart’s contribution fits in well with the rest of the track. Whenever I catch a partnership like this, I can’t help but wonder if the vintage artist is really interested in the product, or if he/she is just trying to remain relevant. [7/10]
Chris Gerard: British synth-pop duo is best known for their 2010 single “Wonderful Life”, which became a substantial hit in Europe. Their third album, Surrender, is due in October, and they may have stumbled upon a breakthrough. “Lights” goes from sophisticated mid-tempo pop during the verses to a more upbeat dance vibe for the chorus. The dramatic and visually arresting video directed by Dawn Shadforth serves the song well. If given a chance, “Lights” could be the song to break Hurts to a wider audience. [8/10]
Evan Sawdey: I had their EP Free Advice Column from 2013, and it was an otherworldly bedroom-dance experience, a mixing of genres and eras to create something familiar and new and the same time. This vein carries through with “Window Shades”, which, although a shade repetitious, remains curiously hypnotic, a slice of cut-and-pasted psychedelic flappercore, not beholden to any specific decade. Meg Remy is a star on the rise, so the fact she’s connected with 4AD Records doesn’t surprise me. Not going down as anyone’s jam of the year, but it leaves me intrigued enough to pursue more. [7/10]
“FF Bada” is an exciting, funky instrumental that draws inspiration from the worlds of electronic, jazz and new classical. The song has a great sense of movement, feeling simultaneously like a master jam session and a carefully constructed composition. “FF Bada” is equally for the brain and the feet, like all of Battles’ best tunes. The group continues to smash genre barriers in a successful effort to create truly original music.