Carly Rae’s forthcoming Emotion is the pop album of the year so far, the very evocation of late ‘80s era pop music that Taylor Swift’s 1989 failed to pull off. What sets it apart from so much vapid music that did come out of the late ‘80s is that underneath the high gloss lurks a slight sense of darkness, of gravitas in the thrumming synth arrangement by producer Rostam Batmanglij (yeah, the Vampire Weekend guy). But like the rest of the record it’s all about Jepsen’s immensely likeable personality, which hints at sadness early on but evokes such kindness the more it goes on. It’s one thing for a starlet to sound sexy, but it’s so rare to hear genuine compassion and sincerity. It’s one of 12 perfect or near-perfect single-worthy songs on a glorious record. ADRIEN BEGRAND [9/10]
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With a sound that bridges American active rock and UK indie like the Fray, Orlando band Savannah have the kind of accessible sound that can easily click with mainstream audiences, and if there’s one song that should do it, it’s the ballad “A Million Faces”. With the right balance of bombast and sentimentality, it’s a big, wide-eyed charmer on their new EP Forma, the third of three EPs that will be combined into a full-length album called Spectrum later in the year.
On the heels of her 2014 debut album Diamond Street, New York singer-songwriter Sara Rachele is releasing a special seven-inch single release, a cover of Paul Anka’s 1958 song “Crazy Love”. The Atlanta expat turns the tables on Anka’s original, delivering a steamy, confrontational performance atop production by Kris Sampson that pays homage to Phil Spector.
As befits a band of their stature and longevity, Low’s 11th album Ones and Sixes is shaping up to be a deep and subtle look at Big Subjects like commitment and mortality. Unlike the pummeling bleakness of “No Comprendre”, the first song they released from the record, “What Part of Me” blends the big scary stuff inherent in talking about being with another person forever with the sweetness such commitments also require. The thick keyboards, plaintive lyrics and, especially the rich harmonies between Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk combine to give the song a warmth and beauty that is somehow deeply reassuring. Low may not do feel-good summer songs but this is, at the very least, a summer jam for a rainy day.—JOHN M. TRYNESKI (7/10)
Wonky and sinewy as fuck. I was dreading that this would be some kind of sad, humiliation of the vaguely empowering Fifth Harmony tune of the same name currently making the radio rounds (a la Kid Cudi’s “Poke Her Face”), but this is something altogether other. I’ve generally backed Danny Brown more on his weird-ass B-sides than the album cuts—“ODB”, “#Hottest MC”, the original rendition of “Kush Coma”, guest spots with Rustie and Darq E Freaker—so it’s nice to see this slippery little number, released as part of the Adult Swim summer singles, count amongst those hidden treasures. Clams Casino comes in swinging chiming synths along a greasy axel riddim mechanical enough to qualify for industrial, but not hyperactive enough to fit amongst the foley grime lots (HER Records, M.E.S.H., Bloom, Lotic). You’d almost be forgiven for thinking there is no beat in this by how asynchronous it sounds. It’s a big sloppy, albeit calculated, mess, but so is the subject matter and Danny Brown finds exactly where to ride each successive recurrence. I much prefer keen-eyed, critical, and paranoid Danny Brown to his raunchier alter ego self so I’m feeling this on all levels. It makes me excited for his return. In addition, Clams Casino is having his best year since ’11, having also honed some fine Vince Staples cuts on his debut full-length.—TIMOTHY GABRIELE (8 of 10)