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“THat Part” – ScHoolboy Q feat. Kanye West
Jessica Whitesel: I love how this is a more laid-back song — but that doesn’t mean that it’s a super chill song, either. It’s just really good. ScHoolboy Q and Kanye are comfortable with themselves as rappers and it really shows on this track. It might not be very innovative but it is still a banger.
Sarah Finley: I’m salty that I’m listening to a ScHoolboy Q / Kanye collab before Childish Gambino / Kanye, but whatever. Kanye takes over ScHoolboy Q’s intro with lyrics that failed to impress. Relaxed percussion and lazy vocals make the rapping sound repetitive, while echoing lyrics made the track boring and dull.
Max James Hill: Who says new Kanye isn’t fun? This one’s a banger — ScHoolboy Q has such a nice, natural flow, and the paranoid beat fits perfectly with the braggadocio. It’s definitely nothing new for either artist, but there’s enough confidence and quotable lines to make this a winner.
“Afraid of Heights” – Billy Talent
JW: I used to like Billy Talent — granted I was like 12, but still they used to be sort of OK. This is just kind of really sad. I wanted them to get in touch with their earlier sound. They didn’t do that, and it can just go under the genre of “I am an angsty 13-year-old trying to rebel, but also not so hard that I buy CDs with a parental advisory sticker on them.”
SF: Punk group Billy Talent released this angsty, guitar- and drum-heavy, rock-ish track. It’s indiscernible from every other almost-emo song I’ve ever heard. Hard pass.
MJH: As a former diehard Billy Talent fan (like, we’re talking 2005 here), this was a big disappointment. I already know that they’re bad, but at least they seemed like they were having un-serious fun on their earlier releases. Now it just feels like they’re trying to be super angsty and inspirational and My Chemical Romance lite. It’s not a good look.
“For What It’s Worth” – Kygo feat. Angus & Julia Stone
JW: This is pretty decent background music, but it is forgettable. I like Kygo and I like Angus & Julia Stone but sticking them together just really doesn’t work for me. Each artist was trying to sound too much like the other and it led to a pretty forgettable electronic-inspired track.
SF: Soft feminine vocals back up a deeper, masculine voice in the intro, segueing into head voice vocals. Beautiful piano chords combined with gentle cabasas provide the instrumentals. I give this peaceful and calming track a 10/10.
MJH: So boring. Literally not even worth writing about. I’m convinced no more than 10 minutes of effort went into writing, recording, and releasing this milquetoast piece of muzak.
“Dominos” – Peter Bjorn and John
JW: This is a fun song. Not as fun as some of their other stuff, but I can still picture people dancing to this and that is always a fun time. It’s not going to reach the level of “Young Folks,” but at least it sounds different than some of the music that is currently out there.
SF: Peter Bjorn and John take you on an adventure via an eclectic array of percussion, including a steady bass, heavy use of shakers, and the occasional muted snare. Having a chorus for the lyrics doesn’t hurt either.
MJH: Well, it’s not “Young Folks,” but I for one really enjoy the sense of levity and clear ‘80s influence here. Is it just me, or does the piano in the background sound a bit like the menu screen tune from the Super Smash Bros. series? Weird. Anyway, this isn’t worth more than a listen or two, but it’s cute and completely inoffensive.
“This One’s For You” – David Guetta feat. Zara Larsson
JW: So I now know why this song makes me want to forget how to hear. It is supposed to be an uplifting soccer tournament song — UEFA EURO 2016 to be exact — and it is just a no. Also the weird, vaguely Bollywood sounding parts and the crowd cheering. There is too much fake happiness and it makes me sad.
SF: Romantic lyrics typical of summer radio hits that are played way too many times for anyone’s good, combined with Zara Larsson’s heavily autotuned voice leave me wildly unimpressed. Get back to me when there are lyrics more original than “our hearts beat together, we stand strong together, we’re in this forever.”
MJH: Sounds like Rihanna with a head cold. I definitely have begrudging respect for how much Guetta is able to squeeze emotional gravitas out of big musical crescendos (see “Titanium” for the best example of this), but this one is pretty shallow and forgettable. Also because my heart is a block of ice I hate when the chorus of kids comes in. A note to all musicians: please stop trying to pull my heartstrings with singing kids.
“Final Song” – MØ
JW: I would dance to this song in a club with my best friend and only pay attention to the, “Don’t let this be our final song” part. But I can also see asshole club DJs playing this as their final song after last call because why the fuck not. All that aside it will probably be one of the songs of the summer because it is actually a pretty good song.
SF: MØ, one of my fave artists, is back with another beautifully done electro-indie-pop track. Her unique voice is gentle and high, singing desperate lyrics to beachy-dance-vibe instrumentals. Bless.
MJH: Now this I like: sure it’s formulaic and pretty derivative, but MØ clearly has pipes and her performance feels very genuine. The sound reminds me a bit of Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX, which makes sense since MØ worked with the same producer as those two (Noonie Bao). It also helps that I love both of those artists, so this is a winner in my book.
“Warning Call” – CHVRCHES
JW: This song has really clean production. Almost too clean. It is a good song, but the amazing vocals paired with the really high production values make it sound like CHVRCHES got sent through a dishwasher on a sanitizer cycle. Also the end does this weird autotuned echo thing which is kind of weird.
SF: CHVRCHES is easily another one of my all-time favourite groups. Lauren Mayberry’s childlike voice is just as ethereal as always in this track, which keeps its very signature electro-pop sound. Someone buy me a concert ticket, pls.
MJH: I loved CHVRCHES’ first album, but it feels like they haven’t really evolved much since then. “Warning Call” is likeable — the production is immaculate, Lauren’s vocals are typically strong, and it’s immediately catchy without feeling manipulative. But I know that this band is capable of a lot more, and this feels like they’re just on autopilot. Meh.
“Burden” – Foy Vance
JW: I’m getting almost a gospel vibe from this. Also the sense that Vance was like, I really like “The Weight” but like I don’t want to be someone to cover it for the millionth time, so I will write this. If you want to listen to a song that is the Coors Light version of “The Weight” this is your song. But really just listen to the original.
SF: There’s a fine line between slow country songs and jazzy, folk-grass, blues songs. This track tiptoes on the line, dabbling on either side. Foy Vance’s deep voice sings optimistically caring lyrics to a slow, deep bass. I likely wouldn’t listen to this again, but it’s not like I hated the experience either.
MJH: It’s like the unholy matrimony of James Taylor and Brad Paisley. Except Irish.
“Superstitious” – MKTO
JW: Wut? Like I don’t know how I am supposed to feel about this song. It wants to be one thing then it’s another thing. It is just a hot mess and you really should just skip it if you know what is best for your ears.
SF: MKTO reminds me of the summer of 2014. I had just gotten my driver’s licence, and their track, “Classic,” was playing non-stop on the radio. Extremely similar to the rest of their tracks, MKTO definitely didn’t try anything new with “Superstitious.” This bodes well for fans, and irritating for non-believers. For me, Tony Oller sounds like he’s trying to be Adam Levine and Malcolm Kelly’s rapping could use a bit of work.
MJH: Radio Disney Music Awards nominees MKTO rip off Justin Timberlake in the sonic equivalent of a Klondike bar covered in maple syrup. Both are overly sugary and just leave a nasty artificial taste in your mouth. No thanks.
“A Little Rain (A Song For Pete)” – Arkells
JW: I want to really like the Arkells just because they are Canadian, but there is just something about them that reminds me of high school. I like the story behind the song and it could make for a really good “drinking with your bestie” song, but I’m not fully sold on it.
SF: Catchy guitar strumming, optimistic vocals sung passionately, and snare-heavy percussion create a top-notch summer driving track.
MJH: My high school sweetheart loved the Arkells, so I pretended to like them while secretly straining to tolerate their boring, nostalgic faux indie rock. This, thankfully, is an improvement on their early work: it feels like they’re doing their own thing, even if it is mostly a Springsteen ripoff with less bite than a teething Chihuahua. It’s listenable.
“Move Together” – Somewhere Else feat. Majid Jordan
JW: I just don’t really have that much to say about it. Just that maybe Somewhere Else should be a place and not a just band name, and that Majid Jordan should move there with them. Maybe probably.
SF: This track couldn’t decide if it wanted to be EDM-y, or classic sad pop. The bass drops are too timid and lead to vocals that sound like they were intimidated right before singing. Words to describe this track: bland, vanilla, stale, dry.
MJH: I imagine listening to this song while shopping in a Wal-Mart and thinking, “Oh fuck. This one again?”
“Alone” – Marshmello
JW: This is super ravey feeling, but like in a mainstream pop way. It can’t function properly in either world, so therefore should just not be a part of this world. Also I can see 12-year-olds snorting Pixy Stix to this song thinking that were sooooooo cool.
SF: Are you an angsty tween in love? This track is perfect for you! Lyrics like “Nothing feels like home. I’m so alone. Try to find my way back home to you,” are autotuned to the point where I’m fairly certain Alvin and the Chipmunks were the inspiration.
MJH: Like Crazy Frog after popping molly. This song makes me want to eat an entire bag of M&Ms and egg my fifth grade teacher’s house.