Pryor Stroud: Cleaving electronic diva-pop to the drop-obsessed schizophrenia of contemporary EDM, “Wake Up” is a feverishly high-energy R&B convulsion that depicts Dawn Richard thrashing around in her sheets, pining for her lover, and seizing up from pure, world-consuming lust. The production is oversaturated with colliding sounds: synthesizers that stutter, bounce, and endlessly reverberate, ricocheting 808s, and clipped-up vocal samples that seem to have no purpose other than to take up space. “Don’t wake me up / I’ve been dreaming of you,” Richard sings, and while this plea is just a pop platitude that we’ve heard innumerable times before, it seems believably desperate here: in Richard’s dream stupor, she is with her lover, wrapped up in his arms, his chest to her back, but at any second he could slip out of sight and leave her gasping awake in the midst of a nightmare. [5/10]
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Emmanuel Elone: For a comeback song, “All For One” is extremely solid. The descending chord progression feels vibrant and full thanks to some fantastic guitar tone, and the drums are crisp and steady. Ian Brown’s vocals are relaxed yet prominent as he croons a catchy melody and chorus. The only issues is the guitar solo on the bridge; while sweet, it feels out of place on the song. Still, it’s been two decades since the band broke up, yet they’ve returned to form as if it’s been only a couple of years. For that alone, they’ve solidified their position as one of the better British jangle pop bands of the ‘90s, right alongside the likes of the Smiths. [8/10]
Boston singer-songwriter Mark Erelli has a new critically acclaimed album out, For a Song, about which Jonathan Frahm said, “Erelli crafts yet another easy listen, ethereal and sincere in a style between both his composition and delivery that has previously had his work compared to such seminal artists as Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. Not unlike the aforementioned, Erelli flexes his songwriter’s muscle and proves his timelessness again and again, making no exception in For a Song.”
Unfolding like a time-lapse night terror, “Infestation” from Lexington, Kentucky quartet Bear Medicine is the soundtrack to anxious pre-dawn hours. Featuring flute and cello, the band’s 2014 debut LP, The Moon Has Been All My Life, is filled with layers of sound and lush instrumentation that orbit a modulated celestial sphere where beauty resides amongst the macabre.
Chris Ingalls: Oh, hell yeah. The Jam made albums for roughly five years before Paul Weller suddenly broke up the band in order to form the dance/jazz/funk combo the Style Council, and the seeds of that new band were evident in later Jam songs like this one. Largely dismissing his British Invasion heroes in favor of his R&B ones, “Town Called Malice” is Weller’s love letter to soul music, and it’s a damn flawless one—probably their best single out of many fantastic ones. British working class woes are chronicled (“To either cut down on beer or the kids’ new gear”) with the help of joyous organ, Bruce Foxton’s bouncy bass line and Rick Buckler’s tight yet manic drumming. Pure perfection. [10/10]