Adriane Pontecorvo: Kaytranada’s classic, echoing beats, driving bass, and retro synth sounds provide the perfect backdrop for Syd’s voice, a perfect balance of elegant and airy. The result is the epitome of cool and sexy. “You’re the One” bounces and slinks, goes modern and old-school, and begs to be danced to after a glass of something ice-cold and smooth. Few songs really need an extended mix, but this song should keep going on for as long as possible. [9/10]
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Adriane Pontecorvo: There’s nothing surprising and everything refreshing about “Play God”, a demand for reproductive freedom for women in which Ani DiFranco refuses to be nice about trying to hold on to her rights as a human being. “You don’t get to play God, man / I do,” she sings, her voice full of cool control. It’s a line that hits hard, especially among DiFranco’s personal stories of taking responsibility for herself. The melody itself is a jazzy vehicle for DiFranco’s message, letting her words take the spotlight while not adding much to the song itself. A brief, understated chorus of women’s voices lends extra drama and tension, but the words here are much more important than the music. [7/10]
Detroit quintet Handgrenades are on the cusp of releasing their sophomore album, and song for song, it’s one of the strongest underground indie rock releases of the year. In some ways, Tunnels is more an alternate debut album than a successor to 2012’s The Morning After. There’s a new lineup, with singer-songwriters Nick Chevillet and Andrew Pawelski and drummer Joby Kaslowski joined by fellow songwriter Jesse Shepherd-Bates and keyboardist Joel Sanders. Largely absent are the prior album’s Motown and Beatles emulations, traded in for a more nuanced and esoteric approach influenced by the likes of Radiohead, the National, Jeff Buckley, and Ryan Adams (one song even lifts an Adams lyric). Reflecting the change, the band has nixed the “the” prefacing their name and have ceased capitalizing the “G” as well.
Jared Skinner: Bucolic, hypnotic, unique, and immersive are just a few of the words to describe the Swedish folk-rock group Goat. Goat represents a long line of timeless musical tradition that exudes vitality, culture and emotion. See for example, “Union of Mind and Soul” the first song off their new album Try My Robe. The track is the glorious conglomeration of a steady drum beat, pastoral flute line, an ever strumming acoustic guitar, and a bass that moves in such a way that you’d think the strings themselves were animate. Top it off is the unknown female lead singer howling lyrics like “open your mind” to create a truly unique musical experience. [8/10]
Andrew Paschal: Radiohead may take a more stripped-back approach here, but they are anything but complacent or relaxed. The CR-78 drum machine, listed as a full-fledged band member along with Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood in their latest set of live videos, lends a nice bedroom pop feel that the studio version lacks. Lyrics like, “The system is a lie” are somewhat cliché in 2016, and anything that could be conceivably uttered by Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Thom Yorke alike is probably lacking in some specificity. Nonetheless, the ubiquity of the sentiment supports Yorke’s insistence that we need to “take back what is ours”. [7/10]
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