Welcome to New(ish) Music Tuesdays, our monthly feature in which members of the TYF staff write about our favorite new songs. This month, our staff recommends a whole slew of new songs, including the brand new single from Beck, a throwback metal song from an unlikely source and a soundtrack contribution from one of the biggest bands going.
Imagine Dragons – “Not Today”
I’ve been a fan of the Me Before You movie soundtrack and was super excited to hear that Imagine Dragons was going to be a part of it. Being one of my favorite rock bands, their lyrics are always so raw and honest- ‘Not Today’ resembled just that. The track encompasses the real meaning of love and how it takes work and isn’t perfect like we want to make it out to be. With the musical beat holding a slow and sad tone, the polarized lyrics carry a message of hope and honesty that true love brings. This song had the right tone and was a good choice to play during the credits of Me Before You.
The Strumbellas – “Spirits”
The folk rock band’s track ‘Spirits’ was blaring through my radios speakers as my local alternative station played the song through the air waves and from there I was instantly hooked. ‘Spirits’ is a unique blend of upbeat folk and rock with lyrics that stem from dark times. The song begins with light acoustic and slowly builds. As an ex-musician, the hints of chimes that ring throughout the song adds a nice touch. Personally, I deal with anxiety on a daily basis so lyrics such as:
I got guns in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
But the gun still rattles
holds a lot of honesty that I can relate to. There are anxious and dark feelings that I can’t shake and those thoughts rattle in my head.
Rachel Platten – “Better Place”
I love Rachel Platten’s songs, which are positive and uplifting. It’s so easy to put our focus on all of the negative things that are happening in our lives that Rachel’s music provides that glimmer of sunshine. It’s a song celebrating relationships and how others make life better. The piano and mix of strings combined with Rachel’s light hearted singing can put a small smile on anyone’s face. Also, this heartwarming track is accompanied with an equally adorable music video.
Kvelertak – “1985”
The first single from Norwegian band Kvelertak’s new album Nattesferd, “1985” is a unique treat, mixing Erlend Hjelvik’s yell with vocal harmonies and honest-to-goodness power chords straight out of a Judas Priest song. It’s not something we see very often in 2016, particularly from a Scandanavian band, and especially from one that once found itself on the black metal side of the metal spectrum. “1985” is a breath of fresh air, particularly back half of the song that is devoted entirely to two minutes of its chugging riff and nothing more.
Modern Baseball – “Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind”
“Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind” is just two minutes longs, but it packs a lot in its short length. It’s powered by shimmering guitars and it has a brilliant melody running throughout that slyly anticipates a chorus that never comes. Despite being Modern Baseball part of the “emo revival”, the song doesn’t sound much like emo either past or present, instead recalling early ’90s college rock more than American Football or The Promise Ring. The song is overstuffed with hooks and is indicative of the genius of Modern Baseball’s Holy Ghost, which packs 10 more similarly tuneful songs into a 27-minute long package.
Beck – “Wow”
Get excited 90s kids, because Beck is getting crazy with the Cheez Whiz again! The second single from the multi-faceted performer’s upcoming 10th studio album (his first since 2014’s Grammy-winning Morning Phase) is a loopy rap track akin to something off of Odelay or Midnite Vultures. Opening with a looping flute line and a clapping bass beat, Beck lets his freaky wordplay roll right off the tongue (“Wanna move into a fool’s gold room / With my pulse on the animal jewels”).
Much like previous single “Dreams,” “Wow” is a feel-good summer jam about seizing the moment (“It’s my life, your life / Live it once, can’t live it twice”) with Beck dropping his usual freaky rhymes (“Standing on the lawn doin’ jiu jitsu / Girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini shih tzu”). Producer Greg Kurstin creates a playful beat for Beck to be as weird as he wants to be and it’s a welcome relief from stale club beats. We may have lost real Prince this year, but at least we still have the white Prince.
The Strokes – “OBLIVIUS”
Those familiar with this site know my feelings about The Strokes and my recent revelation about them. As overhyped as they are, they still make some good music. Case in point: this cut off their recent Future Present Past EP. Representing the “present” era of The Strokes, the track features a lovely guitar interplay between Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. and a rolling backbeat from drummer Fabrizio Moretti. It’s a track where all the instruments seem to lock in together extremely well. Lead singer Julian Casablancas has his fuzzed-out vocals as usual, this time talking about where he stands in life (“What are you standing on?”) while shouting the chorus and ending on a weird repeating yelp. This is much more commendable for the instrumental interplay between the band, showing that The Strokes may not want to expand their song but at least they know how to do what they do best.
Kanye West – “Champions” (feat. Quavo, Travis Scott, Gucci Mane, Big Sean, Desiigner, 2 Chainz and Yo Gotti)
Four months after Kanye West released his head-scratching seventh album The Life of Pablo, Yeezus is prepping the long-awaited second compilation album for his buddies on GOOD Music. The first single off of Cruel Winter proves that Kanye has quite the rolodex, including Quavo of Migos, recent GOOD Music signee Desiigner and the recently released from jail Gucci Mane. Featuring a heavy beat from Lex Luger, A-Trak and Mike Dean (sounding suspiciously like the remix of “Don’t Like” on Cruel Summer), the song opens with Quavo using a vocal effect talking about his “Lifestyle on camera” and how “They tried to turn me to an animal / But white people think I’m radical.” Travis Scott handles the hook, bragging about spending $1500 at the strip club and all the talent he’s got on the track.
Kanye sounds wide awake here, proudly bragging about his rags to riches story and gracefully bringing in Gucci for his verse (“I’m about to go Gucci in the Gucci store”). With that, Gucci’s signature faded delivery brags about his new freedom and calling out those in his spot (“Now that Gucci’s home, it’s over for you Gucci clones”). Big Sean and 2 Chainz, GOOD’s resident rapping clowns, are particularly energetic with their own typical punchline-laden verses. The ones who get the short end of the stick are Yo Gotti, whose raspy delivery feels incredibly underwhelming after all the energy of the previous performers, and Desiigner, who only appears on the third, fourth and fifth repeat of the hook with Scott. Regardless, this is prime “turn up!” material and a very exciting peak into Mr. West’s next musical move.