Andrew Paschal: It’s easy to get completely lost in the interplay between Skyzoo and Joell Ortiz’s verses, and the elegant and alluring string sample weaved throughout the track. Hip-hop has never been an easy genre for me because I’m not really a “lyrics person”, in the sense that my brain often seems to encode lyrics only as sound rather than words the first couple times through. As frustrating as this is, “A Couple Dollars” is a wonderful listen even when treated only in this capacity. Each element here is impeccably chosen and seems to have an almost loving relationship with the larger production. The track oozes charisma and magnetism. There’s much to be gained from interrogating Skyzoo and Ortiz’s lyrics, but the fact that you can also just sit back and let the whole thing wash over you to excellent effect makes this track successful indeed. [8/10]
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New Zealand folk artist Jackie Bristow released her fourth album, Shot of Gold, back on October 7th and garnered praise from Stuff, who said “her tunes have a dark, classic quality to them, set off by haunting melodies and thoughtful acoustic guitar chording. The songs are so perfectly formed that their titles sing themselves.” Bristow seems primed for success on the now global Americana scene with beautifully composed music and straight from the heart lyrics that should thrill fans of Holly Williams, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley. Having previously opened for the like of the Steve Miller Band, Bonnie Raitt, John Oates, John Waite, Marc Cohn and Rick Springfield, Bristow’s profile is sure to rise over the coming year as she tours extensively with Raitt. Here’s hoping we see her next September at AmericanaFest in Nashville as she’s sure to find scores of new fans there as well. Check out her amazing, atmospheric sound on this live take of album highlight “Whistle Blowin’”.
Last Friday, Grant-Lee Phillips released a digital-only deluxe edition of The Narrows, which we gave an eight and named a PopMatters Pick back in March when the record came out. The new edition includes four previously unreleased demos and to celebrate Phillips is releasing a new video for album highlight “Smoke and Sparks”, a track that we called the album’s bread and butter, an “introspective, memorable, slow-tempo ballad”. Indeed, it’s that and Phillips shows music shows a renewed confidence following his family’s move from the Los Angeles area to Nashville. “Smoke and Sparks” is a stunner, a truly gorgeous, spare song with a beautiful video that suits the music to a tee.
Adriane Pontecorvo: Prison breakouts and vigilante justice take us on a wild ride through Shovels and Rope’s latest exciting single. “Botched Execution” tells an engaging, non-stop story set to a driving tune, and it’s as fun an experience as it is catchy, a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously but commits to its dramatic tale. The video fits perfectly, with intriguing characters and campy, colorful comic book effects that further amp up the action. A refreshing shift from summer pop and an outlaw ballad worth retelling over and over again. [9/10]
Andrew Paschal: Right down to their French Revolution-referencing band name, Bastille are a band that goes for the grand and bombastic most all the time, and “Send Them Off!” is no exception. Of course they would employ a horn section here; after all, such instrumentation is perfectly suited to their histrionic purposes (nothing against horns, but they can be easily and severely misused). While I appreciate the exploration of psychological unrest as expressed through the repeated plea, “exorcise my mind”, the track is ultimately way too vanilla and extraverted to convincingly illustrate the claustrophobic discomforts of anxiety and jealousy. [4/10]
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