Spoon – Hot Thoughts

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23038

Indie Rock Critical Darling Longevity Thursday continues…


[Video][Website]
[6.14]
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David Sheffieck: The skeleton of the song is classic Spoon, clipped and wiry and infectious. The problem here is producer Dave Fridmann, who makes the least of this marriage of opposites. Fridmann, contra apocryphal Coco Chanel, always adds two accessories before walking out the door: here it’s tinny, echoing background vocals and strings that should be rendered superfluous by the drone that opens the song. The result is overburdened and unbalanced where it should be nimble and propulsive.
[5]

Tim de Reuse: The rubbery bassline, tinny guitar riffs, and over-enunciated hook all recall late-aughties dance-punk (read: LCD Soundsystem and LCD Soundsystem worshipers). The tinkling bells, risk-averse production, and the fact that they found it necessary to stop for a breather two thirds of the way through all signal a wavering reluctance to totally separate from the larger context of prototypical indie rock. I don’t really mind either side, but you shoulda just made up your mind — this song loudly announces its full intent to party with a confident Shibuya namedrop and then drinks exactly one beer over two hours while refusing to dance.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Their formidable consistency and mastery of a pinched, acerbic minimalism has repelled me more than once, but here I am. I kept waiting for “Hot Thoughts” to turn into a jingle suitable for a commercial: Chipotle, Hot Pockets, Campbell’s Soup. Then Britt Daniel unleashes a characteristically ugly rhythm strum, his specialty.
[7]

Ryo Miyauchi: The title “Hot Thoughts” sounds very fit for Spoon, a ball of jittery anxiety as a rock band. The real thing, though, is rather inert. They prepare a sleek, vacant space without many fixtures to wreck. The song’s saving grace, as with all cold Spoon songs, is Britt Daniel, whose ad libs are the most exciting thing here.
[5]

Juana Giaimo: It’s not the first time Spoon put their raw sound into a sensual song, and once again, it works. In “Hot Thoughts”, the edgy guitar and Britt Daniel’s hoarse, almost sighing voice reflects the portrayal of sensuality as a guilty pleasure invading your rational side. It sure isn’t an innovative view on sex, and Spoon show in a believable way that you can rejoice in secrecy — after all, it’s just all in your mind.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: As I write this I see Spoon have already moved onto a new single and video. I’m in the same place, this one might be about hot thoughts, but there’s only one idea — tight, anxious indie rock with some jarring paint on top… bells? Why? Definitely about half of a good indie club dance floor filler in the groove, but there’s not much on top. I don’t know, this is fine for a band to limber up with but optional for a listener.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: I expected generic indie, but I got jangly pop with a touch of Gary Numan and some “whoo”s! Whoulda thunk?
[7]

The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23036

The worst thing about “supergroups” is fitting them all in a 400×225 image, you know?


[Video][Website]
[6.00]
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Jessica Doyle: Having turned my head sideways and squinted a few times, I have finally concluded that this is a warning to left-leaning Canadian voters not to place too much faith in Justin Trudeau’s multi-dimensionally attractive policy positioning. Which, fair enough: and just because a lot of us down south would be quite happy with a head of government saying nice things to refugees at Pearson Airport in between one-handed-pushup displays doesn’t mean y’all can’t have higher standards. But there’s no momentum in the medium, and that bridge in particular is quite boring. It is an unusually tense time, politically speaking; but that doesn’t make a lack of effort more compelling just by contrast.
[4]

Juana Giaimo: When I think of The New Pornographers, I think of power pop melodies sung with such energy as if giving away all the air in their lungs wasn’t enough to express the emotions in them. “High Ticket Attractions” has the melodies — upbeat, slightly raw and catchy — but I really miss that desperation for living. 
[6]

Alfred Soto: Listeners know the script for this high ticket attraction: rhythm strums, call-and-response Neko, keyboard loop, and Carl Newman weaving skeins of words that he hopes cohere into something approaching emotional states. As a friend said over the phone, “Are you listening to ‘Beautiful Stranger’?”
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: No one these days is making better early/mid-’80s AOR than New Pornographers. Neko Case’s harmony voice keeps things just sweet enough, as do the synths tucked away in the chorus. This is like Asia ’81 x Quarterflash ’82, and it equals a 
[9]

Rachel Bowles: This is essentially a postmodern “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for “millennial” indie kids and backpackers. When everything is mediated, recorded, and hyperreal, there is great cultural capital in the importance of being “there” and having “authentic” experiences. Anything else can be easily replaced.
[7]

Anthony Easton: The ambition of this is exciting, it reaches towards Van Dyke Parks, but it moves too quickly. and the vocals kind of collapse trying to catch up. It would be even more interesting if the choruses pushed through, allowing a kind of pogo/spitting lyrics, instead of sticking to the same kind of energy. 
[3]

Edward Okulicz: The verses with the echoing call-and-responses are super-fun. So, like the song says, it could go two ways — a killer chorus and it’s an 8 or a 9… Alas…
[6]

Julia Michaels – Issues

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23034

The next Sia, or the next Bonnie McKee, or the next someone at least…


[Video][Website]
[5.00]
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David Sheffieck: Aside from the Enya-esque preset the synth uses, this sounds like half the songs on the radio for the past year and change. Which makes sense, since Michaels wrote on most of them. The problem is that this plods along like the worst of that batch, a leaden production with a hook that glances off “catchiness” and lands in “grating.” And Michaels doesn’t have the vocal distinctiveness yet to overcome those deficits. Maybe she’ll get there someday.
[4]

Crystal Leww: Julia Michaels claims that “Issues” is her most personal song, so distinct in her voice that she cannot imagine anyone else having sung it. Listening to “Issues,” I find that wild to believe; her vocal style here is the same vocal style that we’ve heard Selena Gomez, Hailee Steinfeld, Justin Bieber, and I imagine Gwen Stefani (I did not listen to the Gwen Stefani album) copy. “Issues” is a good song — I particularly love the quiet mania — but Michaels has had much better hits with much bigger hooks.
[5]

Alfred Soto: As anyone who’s breathed oxygen around me knows, I loathe “issues” as a portmanteau. I especially loathe it when the speaker means problems. “She has jealousy issues,” a person will say when what he meant was, “She’s a jealous person” (“That sounds so cold,” a student will respond). At first this breathy number reliant on finger snaps sounds like a mockery of need. But Julia Michaels rasps the key line in the chorus (“One of ’em is how bad I need ya”) as if she meant it. Oh well — it’s brief enough. 
[3]

William John: The lure is in the cadence — I’ve returned to this song repeatedly over the last month or so just to hear Julia Michaels intone “andoneofthemishowbadIneedya” in one flustered breath. “Issues” has an arrangement that is strikingly, almost blandly spare, and the lack of bridge is somewhat contemptible. But Michaels, one half of pop’s songwriting maestros du jour and now breaking out on her own, is too competent a melodicist to be toppled by scrawny production or pop formalism: her sighing-alone inflections sell the sadness. A remix might accentuate them further, but this will do for now.
[7]

Joshua Copperman: I thought this was sarcastic at first, the subtext being that the couple is codependent and self-destructing but can’t pull away — like “No Children” disguised as “7 Things.” That said — and yes, this blurb is one of those Lefsetzian things where the writer hears an acoustic version and thinks it’s better — it is much better stripped down. The performance there is passionate and far more honest than anything in the recording, and the feeling is less “I’m going to dump all my problems on you and we hate each other lol” and more “Will you love me in spite of these tics and inconsistencies?” — a complicated but ultimately genuine song of devotion. In fact, forget Scottish rock. Acoustically it’s more reminiscent of modern country, maybe even something by a Kacey Musgraves type. The studio version, with a flat vocal and Benny Blanco plunking down some notes and calling it a string section, doesn’t do it justice.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Yeah, the real issue is some genius producer decided not only to let Michaels sing with hurried non-delivery in an audibly unattainable register, but to do it with a goddamned pseudo-waltz and pizzicato strings. This is a mess the absolute minute it comes out the gate, and as a first impression, any brilliance on Michaels’ part is marred by the ineptitude of her presenters.
[2]

Katherine St Asaph: The “On the Radio” strings, if you ignore their likely formation inside Stargate and Benny Blanco’s skulls, belie Michaels’ past in the singer-songwritersphere (citing Fiona Apple as an influence is pro forma, but citing Sarah Blasko and Missy Higgins requires a library of pretty deep cuts. Or maybe she just really wanted to sell in Australia at the time.) The singer-songwritersphere is not in fashion, so like Sia before her, Michaels has moved toward top 40. This doesn’t have to dilute the writing, at least not in depth or drama, but “Issues” is diluted anyway: PG-13 emotional lability that glosses over all the alienation and loneliness and life rubble such issues produce in favor of chirpy “love me at my worst”/”deserve me at my best” platitudes. (There’s an approximately 33% chance Michaels wishes she wrote the line “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.”) Ultimately that’s my issue with so much pop like this, much of it written by Michaels. When the issues are the subtext of otherwise

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<p class="ljsyndicationlink"><a href="http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23034">http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23034</a></p><p><i>The next Sia, or the next Bonnie McKee, or the next someone at least&#8230;</i></p> <p><center><img src="http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/images/julia-michaels.jpg" border="2"><br><b>[<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dqMyh4ILIg">Video</a>][<a href="https://twitter.com/imjmichaels">Website</a>]<br><a title="Controversy index: 1.46">[5.00]</a></b></center></b> <p><b><a href="http://nuplan.tumblr.com/">David Sheffieck</a>:</b> Aside from the Enya-esque preset the synth uses, this sounds like half the songs on the radio for the past year and change. Which makes sense, since Michaels wrote on most of them. The problem is that this plods along like the worst of that batch, a leaden production with a hook that glances off &#8220;catchiness&#8221; and lands in &#8220;grating.&#8221; And Michaels doesn&#8217;t have the vocal distinctiveness yet to overcome those deficits. Maybe she&#8217;ll get there someday.<br>[4]</p> <p><b><a href="http://crystalleww.tumblr.com">Crystal Leww</a>:</b> Julia Michaels claims that &#8220;Issues&#8221; is her most personal song, so distinct in her voice that she cannot imagine anyone else having sung it. Listening to &#8220;Issues,&#8221; I find that wild to believe; her vocal style here is the same vocal style that we&#8217;ve heard Selena Gomez, Hailee Steinfeld, Justin Bieber, and I imagine Gwen Stefani (I did not listen to the Gwen Stefani album) copy. &#8220;Issues&#8221; is a good song &#8212; I particularly love the quiet mania &#8212; but Michaels has had much better hits with much bigger hooks.<br>[5]</p> <p><b><a href="http://humanvacuum.blogspot.com">Alfred Soto</a>:</b> As anyone who&#8217;s breathed oxygen around me knows, I <a href="https://humanizingthevacuum.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/what-are-words-for/" title="" target="">loathe &#8220;issues&#8221;</a> as a portmanteau. I especially loathe it when the speaker means <i>problems</i>. &#8220;She has jealousy issues,&#8221; a person will say when what he meant was, &#8220;She&#8217;s a jealous person&#8221; (&#8220;That sounds so <i>cold</i>,&#8221; a student will respond). At first this breathy number reliant on finger snaps sounds like a mockery of need. But Julia Michaels rasps the key line in the chorus (&#8220;One of &#8217;em is how bad I need ya&#8221;) as if she meant it. Oh well &#8212; it&#8217;s brief enough.  <br>[3]</p> <p><b><a href="http://www.twitter.com/grosselegume">William John</a>:</b> The lure is in the cadence &#8212; I&#8217;ve returned to this song repeatedly over the last month or so just to hear Julia Michaels intone &#8220;andoneofthemishowbadIneedya&#8221; in one flustered breath. &#8220;Issues&#8221; has an arrangement that is strikingly, almost blandly spare, and the lack of bridge is somewhat contemptible. But Michaels, one half of pop&#8217;s songwriting maestros du jour and now breaking out on her own, is too competent a melodicist to be toppled by scrawny production or pop formalism: her sighing-alone inflections sell the sadness. A remix might accentuate them further, but this will do for now.<br>[7]</p> <p><b>Joshua Copperman:</b> I thought this was sarcastic at first, the subtext being that the couple is codependent and self-destructing but can&#8217;t pull away &#8212; like &#8220;No Children&#8221; disguised as &#8220;7 Things.&#8221; That said &#8212; and yes, this blurb is one of those <a href="http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/2015/03/28/shots/">Lefsetzian things</a> where the writer hears an acoustic version and thinks it&#8217;s better &#8212; it is <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32XwDC6GNM0" title="" target="">much better stripped down</a>. The performance there is passionate and far more honest than anything in the recording, and the feeling is less &#8220;I&#8217;m going to dump all my problems on you and we hate each other lol&#8221; and more &#8220;<a href="https://youtu.be/BpeG3AAoKag?t=202" title="I will never miss an opportunity to cite Frightened Rabbit" target="">Will you love me in spite of these tics and inconsistencies?</a>&#8221; &#8212; a complicated but ultimately genuine song of devotion. In fact, forget Scottish rock. Acoustically it&#8217;s more reminiscent of modern country, maybe even something by a Kacey Musgraves type. The studio version, with a flat vocal and Benny Blanco plunking down some notes and calling it a string section, doesn&#8217;t do it justice.<br>[6]</p> <p><b>Maxwell Cavaseno:</b> Yeah, the real issue is some genius producer decided not only to let Michaels sing with hurried non-delivery in an audibly unattainable register, but to do it with a goddamned pseudo-waltz and pizzicato strings. This is a mess the absolute minute it comes out the gate, and as a first impression, any brilliance on Michaels&#8217; part is marred by the ineptitude of her presenters.<br>[2]</p> <p><b><a href="http://katherinestasaph.tumblr.com">Katherine St Asaph</a>:</b> The &#8220;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHAhnJbGy9M">On the Radio</a>&#8221; strings, if you ignore their likely formation inside Stargate and Benny Blanco&#8217;s skulls, belie Michaels&#8217; past in the singer-songwritersphere (<a href="http://www.prweb.com/releases/JuliaMichaels/EP/prweb4267964.htm">citing Fiona Apple</a> as an influence is pro forma, but citing Sarah Blasko and Missy Higgins requires a library of pretty deep cuts. Or maybe she just really wanted to sell in Australia at the time.) The singer-songwritersphere is not in fashion, so like Sia before her, Michaels has moved toward top 40. This doesn&#8217;t <i>have</i> to dilute the writing, at least not in depth or drama, but &#8220;Issues&#8221; is diluted anyway: PG-13 emotional lability that glosses over all the alienation and loneliness and life rubble such issues produce in favor of chirpy &#8220;love me at my worst&#8221;/&#8221;deserve me at my best&#8221; platitudes. (There&#8217;s an approximately 33% chance Michaels wishes she wrote the line &#8220;I&#8217;m looking for baggage that goes with mine.&#8221;) Ultimately that&#8217;s <i>my</i> issue with so much pop like this, much of it written by Michaels. When the issues are the subtext of otherwise <a href="http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/%3CA%20HREF=" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v="xAIoh9rxRi8&quot;">exuberant</a> or <a href="http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=21530">determined</a> or <a href="http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=17290">quasi-alluring</a> songs, they are palpable but missed. When you spell it out this much, they become anodyne.<br>[4]</p> <p><b><a href="http://ourroyalcustomers.tumblr.com/">Will Adams</a>:</b> The heavy string foundation, while novel for radio pop, is very &#8220;Wow just installed this East West library lemme check out the pizzicato samples!!!&#8221; Julia Michaels has a way with a melody, but as with &#8220;Good For You,&#8221; the lyrics&#8217; subtext complicates things. It&#8217;s difficult to accept the optimistic attitude toward codependency on the surface when there&#8217;s so much sinister right beneath; namely, that her partner&#8217;s main issue seems to be with anger management.<br>[5]</p> <p><b><a href="http://sneek-m.tumblr.com">Ryo Miyauchi</a>:</b> &#8220;Issues&#8221; reminds me of a more cheery version of Alicia Keys&#8217; &#8220;In Common&#8221; in that the issues they share aren&#8217;t the breaking point but what tightens their bond. A good part of that owes to those strings, tiptoeing the surface as delicately as Julia Michaels does with her ride-or-die. Though it&#8217;s filled with intense dependency, her final word in the chorus also lands as a light-hearted punchline in this thank-you note of a song.<br>[5]</p> <p><b><a href="http://utilitarianpop.tumblr.com">C&eacute;dric Le Merrer</a>:</b> The dad in me looks kindly on these lyrics made to be scrawled in locker cases and on school desks. The lightness of the arrangement, the cracks in the singing, the total lack of chill are perfect. But I&#8217;m probably trying to signal wiseness while in truth, as years have gone by, I&#8217;ve more and more sought songs that make me feel reassured. It&#8217;s 2017, and we all need this feeling, don&#8217;t we? It&#8217;s not at all about me or made for me, but if I let my guard down just enough, I can relate to &#8220;Issues&#8221; on a primordial level. <br>[9]</p>

Marian Hill – Down

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23033

Rejected names for their coffeehouse project: Gary Indiana, Rhymes With P, Shipoopi…


[Video][Website]
[4.67]
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Alfred Soto: Thanks to a commercial, Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol hope they get the remuneration of Rae Sremmurd and Migos. Boujee it is. Whether it’s bad I’ll know if pop radio takes to it as well as it has. The quiet piano lick and the scratched vocal are menaces, though — hold on to this fact.
[5]

Iain Mew: I knew this was in an advert when I first heard it, but hadn’t seen it yet. It was obvious which part it would use, though — the transfer from piano and lightly padding steps to beats and cutting up the vocal into neat slices. Mostly because while that’s a decent trick, the following couple of minutes of reiteration feels superfluous in any format.
[4]

Joshua Copperman: I love the beginning — the piano loop coupled with the voice (enticing for someone who’s been listening to Sade a lot lately) makes for something pretty mesmerizing. Everything feels so smooth and chilled-out, but then the beat/chipmunk voice comes in, and as slick as it sounds all I can think of is “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah….”
[5]

Tim de Reuse: A gorgeous voice, mixed to make every consonant feel like a pinprick and every vowel feel glassy and fragile — this is some very professional-sounding ASMR! It’s a little weird that they made a half-assed attempt to turn it into a song.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Someone’s heard that Natasha Kmeto cover of “I Wanna Be Down,” because this is its exact trick.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: She sounds too stiff singing “are you down?” and her “now isn’t the time to play it safe” lyric rings ironic in a verse that follows so strictly to a melody. The chorus tries to offer some sort of shake-up, but the bland vocal chop is no less passive. Marian Hill want a more thrilling Friday night, and I really do hope they get something more exciting going.
[4]

Ansel Elgort – Thief

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23031

John Green/Divergent actor turns EDM DJ, turns pop frontman, turns noses…


[Video][Website]
[4.30]
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Katherine St Asaph: More male melodrama about their avoidable douchery. “Call me a thief! There’s been a robbery, I left with her heart, tore it apart, made no apologies!” isn’t quite “That chick had one in the chamber… I went out and banged her!” but it’s way too damn close, and I can’t take it any more seriously than I can the idea of hearts being purloined by someone named Ansel Elgort. And yet there’s that synth line, fat and insistent; if this isn’t the absolute nadir of songs I will listen to if attached to a proper sequencer, I give up on everything.
[3]

Iain Mew: “Thief” is a bit Jon-Bellion-does-The-Weeknd, with a side of Nick Jonas at his most ridiculous, which I would not expect to be a recommendation. The entertainment value is off the charts, though, and the rubbery synth pulse is so well done and perfect for the drama. That makes for lasting substance beyond just enjoying the way that Elgort swoops at each line from a random starting point.
[6]

Joshua Copperman: An ’80s pastiche about the tortured psyche of a YA star who can’t form emotional connections with other people, just sexual ones. My only explanation for how it works this well is that this originated as a leftover sketch from Brandon Flowers’ The Desired Effect and it somehow ended up in the hands of Ansel Elgort. But Ansel actually played a fairly heavy role in “Thief,” co-writing with Tom Morris, Michael Trewartha of Grey, and “Store” producer CJ Baran, — and according to YouTube’s credits for the song, he contributes a decent portion of the instrumentation. I can’t believe I’m looking forward to Augustus Waters’ next banger. Who knew?
[8]

Adaora Ede: Is a singing career a must? Look, I read the John Green books in middle school like everyone else, but something about the fake-deep cigarette boy singing a pop song has enervated the departed sapiosexual in me. Good on you, Ansel, for making an entrance into this dog-eat-dog world of music with something a little idiosyncratic. Droopy, synthy pop rock isn’t what I anticipated from Teen Pan Alley at all. I hate the ostentatious Chainsmokers/nu metal white male vocal (seriously, why are these guys trying to hard to feign expression over a beat that probs comes from the same two button thingies on a drum pad?), but I sure am a sucker for heartless Eurodance!
[4]

Crystal Leww: Earlier this week, I traded tweets with former Jukebox writer David Turner and current Jukebox writer Jibril Yassin about the EDM-pop 1.0 era and how badly it’s aged despite being chock full of absolute bangers. “Thief” seems like a throwback to those days when R&B pop vocals sat over pulsing synths, but despite his best attempt at Usher circa Looking 4 Myself, Ansel Elgort falls short of a bar that is insulting in 2017 but still weirdly high.
[3]

Katie Gill: This sounds like an alien race got a week of human Top 40 music beamed nonstop to the mothership, then was asked to write a song that was guaranteed to chart big so alien envoy Ansel Elgort could properly infiltrate our society. “Thief” hits a lot of the familiar beats of what’s big right now and what’s been big in 2016 but has no idea how to put them together.
[2]

Madeleine Lee: Seems like those songwriting workshops worked for Archie Andrews after all.
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: Word association: a fun game to play, but if “rib cage” is the best you’ve got to follow up “hollow” you’ve immediately lost. As far as writing techniques go, “Thief” can’t help but land itself in trouble — “she was on top of me”, for one, is about as far away from show, don’t tell as possible. The unfortunate thing is that it could be enjoyable were it not so keen on selling this stuff as some sensuous pop noir, overreaching lyrically as often as Elgort does vocally. Such self-seriousness doesn’t end well when you are in many respects inept.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Wow — “parchment” in a pop-dance thumper! A welcome distraction from a Zayn-like vocalist who can’t summon sensual frenzy without looking like he’s in the bathroom belting enthusiastically into a hairbrush.
[4]

Juana Giaimo: Ansel Elgort tries to impersonate a heartbreaker full of regret who tries to act like a good guy by compensating his previous acts via song. But I don’t believe a single word he says in that afflicted voice; he still wants to show off how the women are at his feet. In the end, nobody can be a heartbreaker like Marina
[5]

Seohyun – Don’t Say No

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23028

Well great, now all I can think about is not saying “no” and I’m really distra- oh crap, I said it, didn’t I…


[Video][Website]
[5.67]
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Jessica Doyle: Given Seohyun’s reputation as the stiff, hard-working, dependable member of Post-Jessica SNSD, I wish SM had pushed to expand the brand a little bit. She looks and sounds fine; there’s nothing grating in the song; the choreography is such that, after years of squatting and turning, she could probably do it in her sleep; it’s all very carefully put together… and there’s not a moment here that’s half as compelling as the awkward-and-yet drop-to-a-split of “You Think.”
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: It’s the sound of debut-era Ariana Grande, with the speed cranked up but none of the dizzy passion. In fact, for all its drive and need, there’s no urgency here, just a sort of strained insistence. A greedy record that expects a lot but doesn’t really seem to do much to deserve your attention.
[4]

Will Adams: Where Ariana’s early, throwback R&B singles went for plush, “Don’t Say No” adds simple but effective details — plucky arpeggios, clock ticks, and rapid handclaps — that help it stand out that much more.
[7]

Alfred Soto: An amiable R&B-inflected bit of kinetics at the level of a 2006 Pussycat Dolls track.
[4]

Ramzi Awn: “Don’t Say No” crackles with the sort of holiday sparkle made for movies like Love Actually, and it has everything it needs. Built for the perfect shopping experience, the single will kick in just when you find that perfect cashmere sweater. 
[8]

Ryo Miyauchi: Seohyun pleads to be taken back as if she already knows this will persuade him. Her glowing confidence casts no shadow of doubt, and I don’t blame her for predicting such a sure “yes” with so much on show as well on the production: flattering ad libs, sputtering drum snaps, a popping synth loop I swear sounds like “Triggerman.” And yet, I do wish she sounded more as if she’s trying to right a wrong or at least a drop of desperation. She confesses she’s sad and how she wishes for the old ways, though there’s a lot more to be desired to be able to take those thoughts to heart.
[6]

Daniela Spalla – Prometí

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23023

Part deux in “Writers Posing With Jukebox Faves”…


[Video][Website]
[6.71]

Iain Mew: I can hear hints of what I liked so much about her performance last time we covered her — a similar sense of making her way in and out of the flow of the track. This time the song’s just a bit too gentle and low-key for that effect to have much to work with. At least until the final spaghetti western diversion, which I could do with a lot more of.
[5]

Crystal Leww: That outro to “Prometí” sounds like the last part of a Western where the hero races home after saving the day. I do not like Westerns — they are self-important in the most dudely of ways. Thankfully, Daniela Spalla managed to balance that out a bit. She turns this into a melodramatic lite rock bop.
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: There isn’t anything much you can say about this scratchy guitar, mid-20th century pop-ballad style that’s new. When it’s done right it’s fine, and when it’s used to make something seem more than it is, it’s the most tiring slough. “Prometí” is made valid by Spalla’s singing, modest but solid. That said, this arrangement style is a real burden upon her, resulting in cliched retro-cool that dooms this to pretense.
[5]

Ryo Miyauchi: Daniela Spalla’s treacherous tale is a story told countless times in pop to the point it rings cliche. But the classic pop build of the production frames it into something like a timeless allegory. The singer herself delivers it with a patient pace of a drama, the turning points arriving at the right time. Her performance especially befits such a tragedy: present enough in the narrative for it all to feel woeful but with enough of a remove for the story to resonate beyond the narrator.
[6]

Anthony Easton: Tight and short and sweet, with a perfect little chorus, and a lovely sing along quality, this is buoyant in the best sense. 
[8]

Juana Giaimo: Daniela Spalla knows how to write songs of a heartbroken lover. In “Prometí,” her grief has a certain sensuality that reminds me of Sandro — and even more so for the retro aesthetic of the music video. She has resentment in her voice, but her desperate yearning still possesses her, giving a genuine feeling to her melodramatic words. In the bridge, she firmly states: “I’m going far away and I won’t come back!”, adding a playful tone that emphasizes her pride — as if she believed for a moment her words — but then she sings: “but desire intervened and it was so strong/that we came out again to look for ourselves.” And there is bitterness in her voice, not only for her complicated love, but for her weakness that made her fall once again, no matter how many promises she made to herself. 
[9]

Peter Ryan: Spalla released “Amor Difícil” in August, wherein she stared down an already-toxic love, daring it to get even worse; “Prometí” is its funhouse reflection, the view from just the other side of the long-coming dissolution that doesn’t quite stick. It’s justifiably more downcast — tempo docked a notch, vocal quavering and frayed in places, the chorus an earthbound lament of failures of willpower in place of heady rejections of reason. The triumphant bridge is a fake-out — “no pienso volve-e-e-e-e-e-er…”, only to cede the ending to a return to old habits. But it all fits — nothing in this album cycle suggests illusions of neatness. And as the song says, things are never as easy as people say.
[8]

Kyle ft. Lil Yachty – iSpy

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23022

New, from Apple, an app that lets you invade anyone’s privacy, anywhere! [not sponsored]


[Video][Website]
[5.11]
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David Sheffieck: I’m not sure I want to understand Instagram hookup culture or even if I’m fully capable of doing it, but “iSpy” makes the process both fraught and fun. The former in the way Kyle presents his theories of who to hit on and why, then spends most of his verse protesting the insults that get thrown his way. The latter in the bouncy instrumental hook and even more in Yachty’s ever-exuberant contribution. This is a feather-light goof of a song, but endearingly so.
[7]

Anthony Easton: This could be suitable for kids, a sweet little ditty about summer time pleasures, low key with a lot of breath, just rising as it absorbs accidental detail, except that would suggest this wasn’t as delightfully deliberate. Extra point for the Oprah line.  
[9]

Claire Biddles: Lilting delivery, actual giggling, getting a “selfie with Oprah” — Kyle is super cute on this track but is let down by Lil Yachty, whose drawl grates with the posi vibes in the second half. “iSpy” is still fun, though, and self-deprecating lines like “a girlie I can get ‘cos she don’t get too many likes” are so real. 
[6]

Maxwell Cavaseno: The continued saga of Lil Yachty’s rise is at times appreciable; certainly nobody who preaches positivity, playfulness and innocent youth deserves all the vitriolic hatred he’s inspired in elders. But then again, you remember how exhaustingly corny this dude is, and you want to stuff him into his Spongebob backpack and kick his ass into the sea. Kyle, himself kind of a low-level wave rider, places himself in the D.R.A.M. role with some splashes of Chance The Rapper and Drake, recognizes Yachty’s wave is a very strong current to coast along and make a decent knock-off of “Broccoli” in its posi-core carefreeness. It’s the bliss-out rap pop that a generation before, Leland Austin, Roscoe Dash and Travis Porter were not allowed to realize. It’s just now it’s so sugary sweet and so late for me, my teeth hurt trying to swallow it.
[6]

Will Rivitz: The thing about biting Chance and D.R.A.M. as hard as Kyle is doing here is that, if you’re going to completely swipe their flows and speech patterns, your lyrics better stack up as well. In this case, the utter inconsequentiality of Kyle’s verses are an affront to the better rappers he’s drawing influence from. The only reason this isn’t getting a lower score is (and I can’t believe I’m writing this) because of Lil Yachty, whose “All my bitches come in pairs like balls in my nutsack” actually made me laugh out loud.
[3]

Alfred Soto: Both guys pilfer from Andre 3000, Chance, Boosie, and god knows what else. Silly too — nursery rhyme silly, not unless you take Kyle’s promise to turn the “curly-haired cutie” he met on Instagram into his wife. 
[5]

Will Adams: The electric piano swipes are very Sesame Street, and both Kyle and Lil Yachty add to the playful tone. “iSpy” is pleasant enough as background chatter, but as with “Just a Picture,” the social media references choke out the fun like poison ivy.
[5]

Madeleine Lee: The adorable intro and DeMar DeRozan references go a long way with me, which is good because they need that goodwill to get me through the whatever chorus and most of what Lil Yachty has to say.
[5]

Joshua Copperman: The intro is kind of amusing, as are the verses, but as soon as the hook comes on wow does this go to shit. I really liked Lil Yachty’s break through “1 Night,” but this is just so stupid. “I spy with my little eye/a girlie I can get cause she don’t get too many likes” isn’t even endearingly crass like “1 Night” or Kent Jones’ hilariously tasteless “Don’t Mind” was last year. Even as everything else sounds breezy, the chorus reveals the whole song to be nothing more than just fucking locker-room talk. That didn’t stop our current President from getting elected, and it’s ushered us into an age of populist correctness, so I better get used to this song. My pet peeve these days is when writers try to arbitrarily connect music with politics, but to me, the dissonance between the lyrics and music feels inextricable from certain recently validated parts of the political climate — where demeaning certain groups of people, especially women, is not just acceptable now but in some twisted form an act of defiance, to just let guys be bros after they’ve been constrained for so long by feminism. What really seals the deal for me is not the political connection, but the line “all my bitches come in pairs like balls in my nutsack.” Okay, fine, it’s the political connection.
[0]

Rascal Flatts – Yours If You Want It

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23021

…sure, we’ll take it.


[Video][Website]
[6.29]
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Edward Okulicz: You can play Modern Country Bingo with all the cliches in “Yours If You Want It” — it is after all, a  sturdy, obvious stadium banger with absolutely no intention other to please. Wait, is “resemblance to ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ by Bachman-Turner Overdrive” a square on your bingo card? If it is, you’ve definitely won this round.
[8]

Megan Harrington: It’s a mad lib country song where the writer filled every noun with the word “baby,” but “Yours If You Want It” is also romantic in its roller coaster cadences and constant escalation. Ballads live in the space between rote and familiar; Rascal Flatts play ping-pong at both ends of the table without ever hitting the net. 
[7]

Joshua Copperman: I’m surprised “Life Is A Highway” never became a meme in the grand tradition of “All Star” — it’s from one of the most Dreamworks-y Pixar films, and it’s by a band that Bad Lip Reading already turned into a meme of sorts, so why not make “‘Life is a Highway’ but every time they say ‘all night long’ it switches to ‘We Are Number One'”? Instead of that fate, Rascal Flatts have quietly continued making albums, and now they’ve returned with something that sounds like it’s showing the rest of country radio how real over-processed country is done. In this song we have: Proudly Auto-Tuned harmonies! Shiny, stadium-y production! A twinkling piano in the background that kind of sounds like the Windows XP startup screen! The line “this beat up, banged up, scarred up heart”, which is basically a Rascal Flatts version of one of Matt Berninger’s best lines! So realizing I just wrote way more positive things about Rascal Flatts than I ever thought I would in my life, I need to give this an above-average score. (Though the score is also because that chorus is the best I’ve heard from a country song since at least “Snapback.”)
[7]

Katie Gill: Middle-of-the-road country music. I wouldn’t turn it off if it was on the radio but I wouldn’t actively seek it out either. The main problem is that Rascal Flatts has far too many lyrics to push into the meter. Multi-syllabic words like “yesterday” get awkwardly shoved into a two-syllable space in a song that seems purposefully designed to trip someone up at karaoke.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: The vocals try for carefree and nimble but only achieve half-assed and weighed down by Auto-Tune. The music is right out of your nearest megachurch band.
[4]

Alfred Soto: As smooth and soft as butter on hot Teflon, “Yours If Want It” could have been released in 1981 and competed with Melissa Manchester and Ronnie Milsap on the pop chart. Not this fast, though, and the singer wouldn’t get breathless singing outside his range.
[6]

David Sheffieck: Rascal Flatts’ sweet spot is high-melodrama cheese, and it’s often in ballad form and often too overwrought to tolerate. Here they bring that melodrama to bear on a track that chimes and chugs and pounds, a classic rock song in country wool. You can’t slow dance to it at your wedding with the spotlight on you, but there would be no shame in trying.
[7]

Sampha – (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=23019

He could write a song with his new piano…


[Video][Website]
[5.50]
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Will Adams: It’s still there, in the corner of the living room. I don’t know if anyone has touched it since I last visited. When no one else was around, I would play. The minuets and preludes had fallen out of my fingers — I can still hear my teacher telling me, “Be diligent” at the end of our sessions — so I improvised, or I played pop songs, or I noodled around an idea I’ve had in my head. I’m home less and less now; my MIDI keyboard offers a slight substitute. The pianos at my university were scarce and often in public places, so I never wanted to play them. The piano in the living room was for being alone, for creating moments only I could keep. One time I noticed that the B below middle C had gone flat, and it bothered me for weeks (“This wouldn’t happen if I were still around”). Last year, I came home and saw that it had been turned around — now the keys faced the corner instead of being open to the rest of the room. Last month I found out my teacher had passed away. One time I drew out a multi-octave chord and held the pedal down, letting the notes ring on forever. The overtones flowed in and out, filling the room. I took my hands off the keys and placed them in my lap as the chord lingered. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll forget, like I did the études and sonatas, how to play altogether. It’s a passing fear; I owe my teacher, myself, and my piano more than that. When I go home again, it will be there for me, as it always was.
[9]

Ryo Miyauchi: The missing parenthesis of the title is “in my mother’s home.” It’s the place where everything begins and ends for Sampha; the memories from it are what gives life to this otherwise typical ode to his beloved instrument. Though the touchy subject excuses the lack of details, I wish a bit more could be disclosed about his home since it’s what the song is about more so than his piano.
[6]

Joshua Copperman: When I first heard this, I likened it to one of my dad’s favorite songs, Billy Joel and Ray Charles’s “Baby Grand.” Both are about the piano being there when it seems like no one else will understand, the instrument functioning as a sanctuary for both artists. The two songs are graceful tributes in their own ways: stylistically, Joel to Charles himself, and more literally, Sampha to his mother. The piano isn’t merely a framing device, though — he does acknowledge that playing gave him comfort, or what “some people call a soul.” It’s ultimately a tribute to his childhood home, where he went to take care of his mother as she was dying of cancer. What really makes the song heartbreaking is the chance she may not have heard it; according to a Fader story about the album, “He thinks she might’ve heard the song, but she was so sick towards the end, he’s not sure that it registered.” That explains the raw anguish and pain in his voice, but it really is love above all else that drives his lyrics and performance, hoping that it will be enough for his mother to hear how much she meant to him.
[9]

William John: I cannot imagine the wretched, endless dolour that must arrive with the loss of a parent. Both Sampha’s parents have now passed thanks to that devil incarnate known as cancer; his father when he was nine, and his mother only two years ago, not long after his name was appearing on Drake records and in BBC Sound Of… lists. His tribute is as much mournful elegy as a panegyric celebration of all she meant to him and the love and warmth she was able to provide. There’s pride in his voice amidst the teary chords, and the strength and memory he draws from his childhood instrument is palpable. This is the sort of ballad that in other hands would be drippy, hackneyed, and probably quite commercially successful; it’s Sampha’s delicacy and poise which save it from becoming too overwrought.
[9]

Cédric Le Merrer: Blame TV talent shows for making me impervious to this kind of things forever. Still, it’s better than yet another “Hallelujah” cover.
[4]

Alfred Soto: Nobody but his piano knows him because only the piano knows the pedestrian melodies he coaxes from it.
[3]

Mark Sinker: The piano in my mother’s home is now at my sister’s house and my niece plays it. She should practice more really, but I’d still rather listen to her than this. 
[3]

Maxwell Cavaseno: Nobody knows you like you don’t know the key my dude, fuck a piano keys, keep your hands and your garbage ass singing to yourself. What is this vibrato and back of the throat thing? This isn’t SOUL Sampha, what the fuck you know about SOUL? You were the back-up producer when SBTRKT was too busy to return calls. Just because Drakk knows about making being an irritant into an art didn’t mean you were deep, you weirdo. The nerve, breaking out a choir, wait-!? A CHOIR OF YOU!? YOU THINK YOU CAN HARMONIZE!? You couldn’t find harmony if you were cast in Kids 2, stop the bullshit. Stop putting reverb on shit, stop doing this quail-with-its-neck-blown-to-bits warbling. Go back to your mother’s house and do some chores right now, because she doesn’t need to be brought up in your nonsense. “No One Knows Me Like the Piano” LAME-ASS NOBODY WANNA KNOW YOU BECAUSE THEY HEAR YOU SINGING AND THINK YOU’RE SOME KINDA CREEP, STEP OFF. OUT HERE BOTHERING POOR PIANOS, WHAT THAT PIANO DO TO DESERVE THIS?!?
[1]