A nocturnal vibe is palpable throughout Merci Raines’ debut EP. Covering a dark substance with a shimmering veneer, the beguiling five-song record has a full-moon-at-midnight quality. It helps that its dark pop is naturally informed by the mystique of Raines’s hometown of New Orleans.
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Adriane Pontecorvo: Wave after wave of chrome-plated rhythm crashes against nostalgia-pinging samples on “X22RME”, a dance track fiercely modern even as it hearkens back a decade or two to turn-of-the-millennium visions of the future. Actress manages to make robotic blips sound strangely lush and organic as if all the cool alien life forms are throwing a very exclusive space yacht party. In the background, ever-present ambiance moves the song forward like a wind tunnel, heightening all the elements pushed into the forefront and giving the composition a hedonistic majesty. A dark and driving comeback with a masterful touch. [9/10]
Jordan Blum: I’d be happy about this almost by default just because it marks the return of Gorillaz. There’s a nostalgic sense of joy that comes with seeing these mascots back in action. Luckily, the video and music is actually really solid. In fact, the opening gives the band more personality than I’ve ever seen before, and the colorful and crude haunted house vibe is a perfect continuation of their beloved vibe. As for the track itself, I didn’t expect the reggae forefront, but it fits well with the eerie backing track. After all, Gorillaz has always been about merging styles and never really sticking to any set sound, so this works. Of course, when Albarn adds his unmistakable essence, it’s classic Gorillaz. If the whole new record combines newness with trademarks this well, it’ll be great. [9/10]
Chris Ingalls: Rodney Crowell has been one of country music’s most revered, mature voices. While so much contemporary country consists of clowning around pickup trucks, Crowell has spent decades establishing himself as a superior songwriter, albeit one who gets more props from critics and his fellow songwriters. Backed primarily by sparse acoustic guitar, “Nashville 1972” is a lovely country/folk number that recalls Crowell’s salad days, full of lyrical detail and delicate fingerpicking. It’s a wonderful tribute to a bygone era that Crowell still remembers vividly. If the rest of Crowell’s upcoming album is this good, we could have a contender for album of the year. It’s that good. [9/10]
We are pleased to premiere “It’s Not Easy” from the new EP by New York’s Dolly Spartans, Time Sides With No One, out March 31 via Blue and Lucky. The song and the record from which it is culled were inspired by personal tragedy. In 2016, Spartans guitarist Christopher Elmer died unexpectedly, spurring guitarist/vocalist Michael Eliran to express his grief through songwriting. That sense of loss and frustration can be heard across the EP and “It’s Not Easy” in particular. The track speaks to the pendulum swing from sadness to celebration and all the spaces in between. As Eliran himself says, “The song is about feeling overwhelmed when adapting to new stages in one’s life”