Weekly Roundtable: The Week of October 7, 2013
Looking for your new obsession in the music world? Want to know what everyone at AW is wagging their tongues about? Look no further – at our weekly roundtable, you can take a listen to a wide variety of genres, songs, albums, and artists, all of which come personally recommended by our amazing music team.
This week, a lot of us got into Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz”. None of us really agreed on anything else.
The Weekly Roundtable was created by the wonderful Zac Nuccio, and would not be possible without him.
What Zac Nuccio is listening to this week:
Well, this is completely addictive. Part two’s album opener sounds like the long lost b-side to “FutureSex/Love Sounds” (the song) – in other words: exactly what I wanted all of the 20/20 Experience to sound like, and arguably my personal pick off either album (“Pusher Love Girl,” Part I’s opener, would be next). This was going to be dual moment with the second track, “True Blood,” but it can be hard justifying a nine minute track length – another area “GWIDK” succeeds: At just over five minutes, it allows the production room to breathe without overstaying its welcome (a rarity from Timberlake/land this year). Roll your eyes at the title if you must, but his delivery here is something to get giddy over as he talks about wanting to go to “your jungle,” and that he’s not really the boy mom would like (Oooh, get to know him). After digesting the complete 20/20 Experience I’m still having a hard time forming a concrete opinion beyond an indecisive: Yes, it can get over-indulgent and tedious; yes there are moments that are amazing and amongst the best of the year’s pop; and no-Timbaland is not dead.
As a huge cheerleader of all things Disco, particularly in its prime, I doubt I’ll ever get over the loss of its most recognizable star. Since we’ve officially shifted to fall, I couldn’t help but revisit her 1976 concept album Four Seasons of Love, another Giorgio Moroder production, released eight months before I Remember Yesterday (“I Feel Love”). It’s a brief genre piece: Four songs chronicling the three main seasons, with a spring reprise. It’s all a delight, and at just over half an hour, a definite must-listen for anyone into the genre, albums that encapsulate certain eras and trends, or masterclass production. The album art is a treasure, too. If one positive can come from her death, it’s the revival her discography has seen since her passing, magnified by the slight resurgence and interest in the genre. A promising remix album is coming out at the end of the month (Love to Love You Donna, Oct. 22 on Verve) featuring edits from Hot Chip, Frankie Knuckles, and Moroder himself. His impressive reworking of his 1975 classic “Love to Love You Baby” can be heard here now. Several other mixes from the release have been trickling onto the web the past few weeks, all sounding very respectable of their source. The track list indicates nothing from Four Seasons of Love, but the album’s most memorable cut, “Spring Affair,” has been the subject of many edits over the years, with Dimitri From Paris’ being my personal pick. Summer’s influence will surely remain.
The Year of Miley Cyrus + the Unveiling of Bangerz
I’m trying to contain myself here. At this point I think people in all circles of my life know how eagerly my pop heart was anticipating a flipping Miley Cyrus LP, but this is undoubtedly an exciting album. After a year of massive attention and success, the big reveal finally came as iTunes began streaming her career-transitioning Bangerz this past week. The amount of discussion around Cyrus demands one to take more than a half-hearted look at what she’s putting out there- and actually come to terms that she and her team know exactly what they’re doing. So far, we have two extremely successful singles accompanied by their equally massive videos (I’ll concede, I’m still revisiting “Wrecking Ball”’s multiple times a week), and a VMA performance that is, statistically, the most discussed national piece of “news” in 2013-like it or not. Her biggest dissenters are probably having a hard time denying at least a bit a curiosity at this point. Unsurprisingly, the album is one that should allow Cyrus to stay at the tip of everyone’s tongues as long as she chooses to continue her unrelenting promo train. It’s not hard to make a case for virtually every track on Bangerz being sent to radio, though Pharrell’s ultra sunny #Getitright simply must be on everyone’s radio for next spring/summer. And she hasn’t even started her tour yet…
What Haley Anne is listening to this week:
“Love, Sex, Death” and a New Genre for Fall Out Boy to “Save”
Fall Out Boy is releasing a new album on October 15th, Pax Am Days. Fairly surprising announcement to make barely two weeks before your drop date. Also surprising: the single they released, “Love, Sex, Death”, sounds absolutely nothing like anything on their album from earlier this year, Save Rock and Roll, and absolutely nothing like anything they’ve ever done. The throwback early punk sound on the track is completely addictive, and at barely over a minute long, the song begs to be repeated, over and over and over again. (Guess what I’ve been doing.)
“Three Cheers” for Revisiting MCR
Speaking of emo music, I’m about to make you feel old – My Chemical Romance’s breakout album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, will be ten years old next June. It’s just as good as ever. Even with the plethora of new releases coming out this week, I’ve been glued to MCR’s magnum opus. Lead single “Helena” remains as raw, powerful, and searing as it was in 2004, detailing the loss of a firebrand in a way that still resonates, with theatrical vocalizations, crashing and banging drums, and an overpowering shower of power chords. Also worth listening to again is the duologue of “The Ghost of You” and “The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You,” where another hymn to a woman lost before her time segues into an unhinged ode to dead-eyed opulence. It’s really a shame MCR had to break up during emo’s big comeback year. They probably still had another “Helena” in them.
La Di Di Da Di, Dancing With Miley
In things I never thought I’d say, I enjoyed Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz. (I still think “We Can’t Stop” is second only to “Accidental Racist” in terms of terrible bullshit, but the rest of the album makes up for her ode to snorting coke in the restroom.) However, I’d like to dedicate this blurb to the track I’m head-over-heels in love with, album opener “Adore You”. While most the album is well-crafted, mildly subversive dance-pop, “Adore You” is a soaring love song that showcases Miley’s greatest asset: her ability to belt out soaring melodies with ease. While “Wrecking Ball” is becoming her signature ballad/nude scene at the moment, “Adore You” is a much worthier, meatier single. Take a look at “FU,” featuring French Montana, while you’re at it; it’s a filthy-muddy jam that wouldn’t sound out of place in an 80s gangster film, and captures the same kind of gritty essence of movies like “Scarface”.
What Shahab Yunus is listening to this week:
Looking forward to Cass McCombs. He is coming back in mid-october with a not single but a 22-song strong double record titled Big Wheel and Others. The first track release is There Can Be Only One. This record also reportedly features the late actress Karen Black on one of the tracks (they collaborated in the past as well.) Smooth, melancholy, light, no-fuss gorgeous track. After Kurt Vile (Walkin’ on a Pretty Daze) and Phosphorescent (Muchacho) and now this, 2013 is turning out to be pretty amazing for male indie-folk/rock.
Cold War Kids have a new digital-only Tuxedo EP out as well last week. It picks up where Dear Miss Lonelyhearts left which was also released early this year and fans of the band would not be disappointed. Gradually moving away from pure alternative, risking their street-cred and embracing more friendly indie-rock tone, so far Kids have managed to avoid become syrupy populist peers like Train or Kings of Leon. Standout track is Pine St, a small gem, which is sparsely produced, almost acoustic, helmed by Nathan Willard’s wistful vocals, filled with longing, singing about the inevitable. Only issue is that it ends so soon.
San Fermin. A 17 song love-story/concept album by the band of same name (well essentially brain-child of one guy, Ellis Ludwig-Leone) coming from classical music background. Dramatic, theatrical, melodious, whimsical mixing Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly and even The Decembrists and Stephen Merritt. A lengthy conversation-cum-argument between 2 lovers coming of age and coming to terms with a relationship that might have past its expiration date which is surprising modern incorporating electronica, indie rock and of course chamber pop. A unique record in which stand out tracks are: Sonsick and The Count.
First it was Mazzy Star getting back after 17 years and now Luscious Jackson is following suit. The all-girl alternative-rock/pop band from mid 90s has just released a track from their upcoming crowd-funded album Magic Hour. The leading track is funky and fun, So Rock On (can be listened at NPR’s All Things Considered), apparently the band has decided to the same after 13 years.
What Aldo Alvareztostado is listening to this week:
HACIENDO EL MAL
I’d like to start my collaboration on AW with one of the most interesting Mexican acts in the past few years. Haciendo el Mal is an all-female band from Mexico City whose debut homonym album opened on iTunes this week. Their music combines our living baroque heritage with ethereal vocals and intimate lyrics, reminding us of Juana Molina or Fleet Foxes. One of the tracks, La Martiniana, is an elegant revival of a traditional song from Oaxaca, whilst the last track, named as the band, recovers elements from the cardenche music from the northern desert. Their classical training and interest in vernacular music is evident throughout the album. Haciendo el Mal must become one of the revelations of the Latin American scene this year. A cut from their album: Extraño.
Aldo is a Mexican architect and furniture designer based in Guadalajara. Founder of Mexicana de Arquitectura. Traveler. @alvareztostado
What George Portades is listening to this week:
Toni Braxton & Babyface, Hurt You
With the recent news that both artists will be doing a Broadway show next year, in addition to Babyface getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it reminded me of this worthy single from the two. Such a silky ballad that’s midtempo and right when you think it’s gonna stay all slow, it gets into the perfect groove of the chorus every time. I am pretty hyped about their duets album and I’m curious as to whether Babyface can capture his songwriting magic from the 90s.
Fantasia featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott, Without Me
I had known Fantasia’s album had been out for a while and while I don’t normally listen to her music, I ended up being introduced to this song while watching an amateur drag show in Minneapolis. Now watching an upcoming drag queen named Kamaree Williams bump, grind, twerk and shake it while perfectly nailing the lipsyncing the lyrics down is such a memory that’ll forever be ingrained in my mind whenever I hear this song. Such a sexy and smooth song similar to Kelly Rowland’s own hit “Motivation,” this single is definitely one of my R&B favorites of the year.
Vivian Green, When Can I See You Again
Green is an artist who garnered some success when signed to a major label, having such hits as “Emotional Rollercoaster” and “Gotta Go, Gotta Leave (Tired)” but since her move to an independent label, her work has been largely overlooked. I love this song, and I know it was slated to be her second single before all promotional for her current album “The Green Room” stopped, but I hope that she continues to make music, and that more fans would check this out.
Adina Howard, Switch
When I had read that her new single was going to be a club-friendly track, I was extremely excited for it. Then again, I’m such a huge fan that any news about Adina gets me crazy. When the single finally premiered a few weeks ago, I couldn’t believe Adina had delivered such an radio-friendly hit. Among her uptempos, this is right up there with “Freak Like Me” and “Hips” and I’m glad she chose this to lead her upcoming album. It’s like a mixture of Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied” and Toni Braxton’s “Lookin’ at Me” which makes this track a exhilarating trip of fun.
What Jeffery Berg is listening to this week:
I’ve flashed back a bit to Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak which really is a glorious record. I remember the album was a bit of a shock to listeners after his previous crowdpleasers but now I really recognize how the synths, percussion and vocoder effects create a chilly, heartbroken atmosphere. There are a lot of standout tracks and I’ve found a new appreciation for “Paranoid.” The album is like the sad younger brother to the edgier and world weary Yeezus.
This week has also been all about Miley for me. I’ve never been a fan of her work at all including the cloying “The Climb” and “Party in the U.S.A.” But “Wrecking Ball” is a magnificent breakup track.
Sometimes when a pop artist doesn’t give a f*, their music flounders but I am pleasantly surprised that Miley’s album is as inventive as it is. She also doesn’t squander catchy hooks.
I’m particularly into her duet with Britney which highlights Cyrus’s ridiculous accent and sounds a bit like Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s “Push It” with a dirty south dance beat. I’m also into her and Nelly’s satiric hoedown “4×4.” “FU” sounds like the best song that Christina Aguilera wishes she had done. “#GETITRIGHT,” while painful to type out the title of it, features slammingly jocular Pharrell production. And the lyrics and delivery of “Love Money Party” seem sly, ironic, almost bitterly punk, fed up with everything pop is about.
What Michael Ward is listening to this week:
That slasher-film synth in Lady Gaga’s “Sex Dreams”
Recently, Lady Gaga performed a set at the itunes Festival comprised of mostly as-of-yet unreleased material. One song was especially good: Sex Dreams. And one element of that song was especially, especially good: a synth line in the pre-chorus that sounds like it was taken right out of a giallo or off a John Carpenter soundtrack. And in a song that interprets even thoughts as crimes, it seems like the perfect association. For all her lofty ideas and serious philanthropy, Gaga can still do pulp better than anybody else when she really tries.
The Killers’ “Shot at the Night”
After a few cryptic clues, The Killers recently revealed that they’d be dropping their first greatest hits compilation in November. Preceding the album, they’ve released “Shot at the Night,” the first single of 2013 that gave me that ecstatic rush that only the best pop can. They teamed with M83’s Anthony Gonzalez for the track, and their sensibilities blend seamlessly—a match made in synthpop/arena rock heaven. Gonzalez and The Killers color the song with lush, fluorescent and neon production, and the chorus blossoms beautifully, custom made to electrify the space of a stadium. This is big, gorgeous pop, and it’s one the best tracks I’ve heard this year.
Songs that Sound Like Fall
Fall’s my favorite time of year. The weather cools so you can break out cozy sweatshirts. The trees change colors. Horror movies are on TV. Pumpkin pie. And it’s a time that stirs feelings of nostalgia. Recently, relistening to No Doubt’s criminally underappreciated album, Push and Shove, I realized how much I like songs that capture that nostalgia and feel like fall. No Doubt’s SoCal sunniness usually makes them a perfect summer band, but Push and Shove—the product of a confident and mature band settling into family life and leaving behind their raucous younger years and the zenith of their superstardom—has a few cuts that are a bit more wistful.“One More Summer,” despite the seasonal title, actually sounds like that first cool, cloudy day when you finally realize summer might have slipped away, and “Dreaming the Same Dream” hits you like a soft breeze and a swirl of leaves. Fall is all about torch songs—songs with chilly exteriors but a passion and yearning at their core that keeps them warm.
Michael Ward – Michael teaches college English and Composition courses in Ohio and subjects students to his fascination with movies and pop culture on a regular basis. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society and has been published in the Bright Lights Film Journal.
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