Andrew Paschal: Following the exuberance and bombast of “WTF” and “Pep Rally”, “I’m Better” takes a dark and skeletal turn, making for the most classic Missy offering yet of her comeback. Supported by a menacing, minimal three-note motif, the track expertly applies and then withdraws the bass and electronics to create a sense of dynamism. Lamb’s laid-back delivery and carefree lyrics feel oddly ambiguous or even deceptive in the context of the song as a whole; he comes across like a mysterious character yet to reveal all of his cards. What’s more, the music video just further confirms how adept Missy Elliott is at synthesizing fashion, song, and dance to make potent artistic statements. [9/10]
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Gallant broke out big in 2016 with his stunning debut Ology. Even Elton John is a huge fan and the pair performed “Weight in Gold” back in September. Gallant recently played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk series and, on “Bourbon”, Chance the Rapper collaborator Saba thrills with his fast, on-point rapping flow. Gallant pens songs that sound like instant classics and he’ll be a force to reckon with in soul music for many years to come.
Adriane Pontecorvo: Jamiroquai goes full cyborg on restless electro track “Automaton”. Jay Kay’s voice is still disco-smooth, but even he isn’t immune from the coldness of the world, his lyrics mourning the betrayal of the future, the dissatisfying present. He doesn’t quite nail the funky rap break (if you want to call it that) near the end, but the quirks in the robotic melody give this enough interesting texture to please audiences who might have rolled their eyes at previous feel-good Jamiroquai hits. Really, though, what kind of world do we live in if even Jay Kay is feeling existential dread? [8/10]
Heath Green has been burning the house down night after night for 15 years in little clubs around the country, preaching the soulful rock ‘n’ roll that lights up the crowds. With his band the Makeshifters in tow, Green has built a solid reputation as a superlative live performer. The band’s sound is heavily influenced by the Faces, the Rolling Stones, and Humble Pie and they are all greatly indebted to African-American musical forms.
Andrew Paschal: An understated, gleaming synthpop gem that reveals Austra at their most graceful. Katie Stelmanis delivers lines like, “There is nothing in your soul tonight / I only see darkness” in a sober, plaintive, utterly empathic tone, yet this song is also pure light. Written about loving somebody with depression, the accompanying video gives an honest yet compassionate treatment of astronaut Lisa Nowak’s story, rewriting exploitative and pathologizing narratives regarding her mental illness. Compared to other tracks on the band’s latest album, Future Politics, “I Love You More…” provides a subtler manifesto, a vision of progressivism as real compassion. Among the warmest tracks in the band’s catalog thus far. [9/10]