Category: Reviews


Beyoncé

“Countdown”

Columbia

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Beyoncé has always possessed the most natural talent of any of the current batch of pop stars, and also arguably the most individual. On the fantastic 4, B succeeds on both counts: the powerful voice we’ve loved since her Destiny’s Child days shines through in a collection of songs that ignores current dance-pop trends.  Nowhere is that more apparent than on “Countdown,” a clattering up-tempo profession of fidelity that shows she’s still “Crazy in Love” without ever sounding derivative. Marching band horns and a Boyz II Men sample buoy the club-ready track as Beyonce sings, “I still love the way he talk, he still love the way I sing/Still love the way he rock them black diamonds in that chain.”  It’s stylistically closest to the songs off B’Day, combining a swaggering talk-rap with her soaring distinctive vocals.  The end of the literal countdown of the chorus finds her professing, “You’re still the one.”  And although it was directed toward her husband Jay-Z, it could very well apply to herself; eight years into her solo career, she is still the undisputed Queen of R&B.

[audio http://hulkshare.com/ap-0qdbi699o2n2.mp3]

Selena Gomez

“Bang Bang Bang”

Hollywood

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Our motto is “We’re not pretentious” and with good reason: we take good music for what it is, whether it’s Top 40 pop or Pitchfork-approved indie rock.  While songs by Disney Channel startlets usually aren’t up our alley (although “Party in the U.S.A.” is an absolute jam), it’s hard to deny the consistency of Selena Gomez’s pop output over the past two years.  Even though her voice isn’t the best in the Disney Channel roster, by surrounding herself with talented pop songwriters, Gomez has scored a bevy of hits from the soaring “A Year Without Rain” to the effervescent anthem “Who Says.”  She continues that success with “Bang Bang Bang” off the forthcoming When the Sun Goes Down, an 80s-styled electro-pop kiss-off to an ex in which she’s “stealing all my love back” to give to her new boy.  Written and produced by “Big Girls Don’t Cry” mastermind Toby Gad, “Bang Bang Bang” is the type of irresistibly and effortlessly catchy pop you would expect an 18-year-old to be making. The hooky “You’re gonna be the one” is sure to be stuck in our heads all summer, but we’re not complaining.

[audio http://new.hulkshare.com/stream/jq8rqxn4whni.mp3]

 

Milagres

“Glowing Mouth”

Kill Rock Stars

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The chorus to “Glowing Mouth” finds Kyle Wilson singing, “Son, you better get used to believing in things that you can’t see.”  It is this sense of mystery that shrouds this wonderful song from Milagres’ forthcoming debut album: the sense that you’ve heard this song before, yet never sounding derivative.  It’s a song made for late summer nights – a slow burning jam accompanied by a falsetto that invokes Prince.  The calm of the woozy organ, the steady chirping of synthesizers and melodies Ed Droste would be jealous all come together to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.  That is perhaps why “Glowing Mouth” seems familiar; it’s the type of song that welcomes you in and never lets you go for all of its glorious four minutes and forty-eight seconds.

Jamie xx

“Far Nearer”

Numbers

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The xx’s debut album was one of our favorites of 2009 due to the gorgeous harmonies of singers Romy Croft and Oliver Sim and the amazing production of beatmaker Jamie Smith.  Now Jamie finally returns with the finished version of his solo debut single “Far Nearer” and the timing couldn’t be any better.  While his minimalist style remains, the song takes on a sunny vibe as steel drums play over clattering drums and a pitched sample of Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” sings “I feel better when I have you near me.”  And one thing’s for sure: we’ll keep this song near in the coming months, soundtracking countless barbecues and swim parties from now until Labor Day.

Hooray for Earth

“Sails”

Dovecote

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Noel Heroux, the leader of Brooklyn-based Hooray for Earth, described his songwriting inspiration as “I get more emotionally affected by extremes.”  And despite their cheery band name, this song from debut album True Loves finds the band embracing a darker brand of synthpop, dripping with ominous synthesizers and reverb-drenched vocals.  Regardless of the inevitable comparisons to modern synthpop groups such as MGMT and Passion Pit, “Sails” instead harkens back to the 80’s and owes more to Depeche Mode and new wave.  But ultimately it’s the earworm of a melody that makes the song; it’s a pop song at heart and a fantastic one at that.

Robyn

“Call Your Girlfriend” (Feed Me Remix)

Konichiwa

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With summer rapidly approaching, we have finally returned with a remix to perfectly soundtrack your road trips and summer parties.  When the song first appearaed on Body Talk Pt. 3 late last year, Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” was immediately yet another modern electropop masterpiece to add to her canon of intelligent and heartfelt pop songs.  Only someone as genuine as Robyn could feel the compassion for the girl whose boyfriend she is in love with.  British DJ Feed Me takes the song and deftly adds elements of dubstep, a dirty bassline and pulsing synths in a way that serves to reinvent the song, while retaining the emotion that made the original such an instant classic.

Adele

“Rolling in the Deep” (Jamie xx Remix)

XL Recordings

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Adele’s magnificent new single “Rolling in the Deep” found her bursting with anger and seeking revenge on a track she described as a “dark bluesy gospel disco tune.”  The Jamie xx re-work of the song elevates it to another level and transforming it into a haunting, percussion-heavy that surpasses the original.  Like a previous re-work of Florence + The Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love,” Jamie xx features Adele’s sultry voice as the standout element over hand claps that evolve into a flurry of drum machine and steel drums.  The song evokes the spacious songs of The xx’s self-titled debut, with a chorus that is chopped and screwed as she laments, “We could have had it all.”  Jamie xx brings out the brooding passion of the original and created a re-interpretation that reminds us just how hypnotizing Adele’s powerful voice can be.

M.I.A.

“Bad Girls”

self-released

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For many, M.I.A.’s underrated third album Maya failed to live up to the expectations from the British singer who was known for her dance music that melded hip hop with influences from around the world.  “Bad Girls” is a return to the frantic pop song crafting abilities of “Paper Planes” and “Boyz.”  Danja, the producer behind Britney’s fantastic Blackout, creates a beat that sounds like “Paper Planes” for an era of dance-influenced Top 40 pop music.  The repeated refrain of “Live fast, die young/Bad girls do it well” muscles its way to ubiquity until it’s the only phrase you remember from the song and is a fitting reintroduction of M.I.A. to the general public.

live fast die young bad girls do it well

Sondre Lerche

“Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”

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Last year, Norwegian singer Sondre Lerche covered Animal Collective’s “Bluish” and brought out the intimate melody of the beautifully lush and layered original.  He accomplishes the same feat on his cover of Owen Pallett’s fantastic “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”.  While the original featured Pallett’s frantic and impressive violin skills, Lerche, airmed with just an acoustic guitar, turns the song into a highly personal affair.  In the bridge his fragile voice seems to be reaching out and speaking directly to the listener.  The anthemic cry “I’m never gonna give it to you!” retains the same urgency as ever.  Without any studio production, Lerche shows that all he needs is his voice and his guitar to produce a song filled with just as much emotion as the original.

jj

“High End”

Sincerely Yours

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Swedish pop duo jj have always had a penchant for sampling and covering rap music, from Lil Wayne to The Game.  Their mixtape Kills, released for free on Christmas Eve, only continues the group’s fascination with the genre.  The final track on the album, “High End” serves as almost a tribute to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, sampling both “Dark Fantasy” and “Runaway”.  The simple piano keys from Kanye’s masterpiece serve as the perfect background for the duo’s dreamy harmonies and the triumphant “can we get much higher?” becomes a sublime refrain. Kanye would be proud.