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New Music Friday

This week's playlist: Icona Pop, Pentatonix, The Rolling Stones, and more

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Image Credits: Gabriel Yeung

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“Brightside” – Icona Pop

Courtney Miller: This is like ridiculously happy and optimistic and my dark, dark soul automatically pulls away from such sunshine. However, I do enjoy the lyrics and the drive behind trying to cheer someone up. It’s also got a nice solid bass drumbeat and good vocals — the more I listen to this, the more I like it.

Tegan Galliee-Lang: My guess is this is a top 40 hit in the making. It passes the “can I see myself dancing to this in the car” test.

Max James Hill: It’s no “I Love It,” but it’s pretty enjoyable I guess? For me, Icona Pop is better in theory than execution — they’re trying to do the whole the Knife-meets-Robyn thing here and it only works about 60 percent of the time. Not the most memorable tune.

“Say It (Clean Bandit Remix)” – Flume feat. Tove Lo

CM: So it’s going to be an electro-pop playlist this week. That’s fine. This song feels like it should be dancier than it actually is. The vocals are alright, albeit repetitive in the chorus without reinforcing anything. I find this pretty monotonous and boring. Not bad for studying though.

TGL: I don’t know, Tove Lo kinda lost her appeal for me when I watched her perform on Saturday Night Live with Nick Jonas. She tanked, because she couldn’t hit any of the high notes or do any of the riffs.

MJH: Picking this song out from the hundreds of others that sound just like it is like finding a needle in a haystack: it’s pretty much impossible and you’ll probably get poked in the process.

“Hallelujah” – Pentatonix

CM: Nooooo, it’s too damn early for Christmas music. December 23 to December 26 is the only tolerable time frame for this. My prejudice against Christmas music aside, I love Pentatonix and this was amazing. I love how much vocal talent a capella showcases, how well the voices go together — like that damn bass voice is phenomenal. It sounds entirely different from Leonard Cohen.

TGL: I don’t know if this counts as a Christmas song, Pentatonix. Hallelujah to me is at its most powerful arranged simply. There’s too much glitz and glamour in this arrangement. It’s supposed to be a whisper of a song, not a belt.

MJH: This arrangement is so sickly saccharine that I’m pretty sure my blood sugar just doubled. As a former vocal jazz singer, I’m kind of over the whole a capella thing, and playing this song off as a sunny Christmas ditty totally ignores how beautiful and aching it can be when done by someone with actual talent like Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright. You know what had me saying “Hallelujah”? When the song ended.

“A-YO” – Lady Gaga

CM: Gaga sounds almost a little country in this song? I don’t know, but I’m loving it. The combination of great music, super solid vocals, and classy fuck-you lyrics.

TGL: I will never understand Lady Gaga or what goes on inside her head. I accept this. But I don’t understand why she insists on being the queen of reinvention. There is no way this genre/sound is better than her old stuff.

MJH: OK, so I’ve heard a lot of people are hating on these new Lady Gaga songs — is it weird that this song is my favourite of hers in a while? It’s actually a new look for her, and I get a kind of Kacey Musgraves vibe from this one, which ends up being a good fit.

“On the Level” – Leonard Cohen

CM: This started and I was like, “This sounds like a Leonard Cohen track just from this piano” — I’m disappointed I was right. It’s Leonard Cohen. I don’t know what else I can say. It’s a bit more uplifting than the other Cohen track we heard a couple weeks ago (“You Want It Darker”), and I mean, Cohen’s a classic, but it’s really just depressing and not in a fun way. Plus I’m kinda over the whole angel/devil device.

TGL: This is probably my favourite song on the playlist. Simple and effective. Also I’m a real sucker for low, grunty man-singing (à la July Talk).

MJH: Leonard “I intend to live forever” Cohen sounds half-dead here, but it sort of works. Reminds me of Nick Cave or early Tom Waits. The background vocals are not unlike “So Long, Marianne” from his debut, and the bluesy instrumental is a good complement to the lyrics. Not bad.

“Happy When You Go” – Banfi

CM: I like the plucky guitar, but I’m not so keen on the strained vocals, although they do improve as the song unfolds. “These people don’t fuck around” is deceptively catchy, though. I dunno. I guess it’s worth a couple listens maybe, if you’re into more of an indie sound, but I won’t be adding this to my iTunes anytime soon.

TGL: If somebody asked me to do an exaggerated impression of a typical indie singer, it would sound exactly like how this guy sings. Breathy, scoopy, consonant-free singing.

MJH: I wasn’t able to find a single picture of Banfi online, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say the dude has a huge unkempt beard. This song is enjoyable but so, so done before.

“Love to Hate It” – Off Bloom

CM: In the verse it sounds like a fairly generic pop song with a hint of R&B, but I like how in the chorus they experiment more with the backtrack. It’s still not a fave, and I don’t think the chorus or the bridge (that follows the chorus in sound more than the verse) can save it. The higher vocals over the more staccato instrumental like three-quarters through sounds like it could’ve been something really good. Alas.

TGL: The best part of this song is that instrument they sampled. Chinese instrument maybe? I can’t put my finger on what it is but it sounds like it’s in agony and I love it.

MJH: I’ve been waiting for someone to give the Chinese erhu the EDM treatment. Seriously, though, I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but all these songs sound a) exactly like one another, and b) exactly like everything on the radio. Am I becoming an old man?

“You On Repeat” – Jeremy Folderol feat. Heyday

CM: This track feels super formulaic like I could stick a random other dance-pop or whatever genre this song is onto this backtrack and no one would be able to tell the difference (or care, probably). Given the title, I am pleasantly surprised that the lyrics didn’t repeat as often as I feared. I mean, it was still a lot, but it was a bearable amount.

TGL: Yeah OK, whatever, it’s fine. Would not play on repeat but it’s fine.

MJH: I literally did not even notice this song was playing while I was doing my work. It commands no attention at all.

“Hate to See You Go” – The Rolling Stones

CM: Oh harmonica, how I love thee. This is more blues-y/country than I expected but aside from the harmonica, it doesn’t really bring anything original to the table. The boring guitar riff will haunt me in my dreams, I’m sure. Like it’s so boringly repetitive, this riff, that it’s actually starting to annoy me and I love guitars. I’m unimpressed — I expected more.

TGL: Not my favourite Rolling Stones sound, but hey, you can’t always get what you want.

MJH: The Rolling Stones haven’t made a good record since 1981, and this isn’t changing that. I get that it’s supposed to be a “back to basics” blues tribute, but it doesn’t really do much more than that, and if I want this kind of vibe I’ll just listen to Howlin’ Wolf or something — not these sloppy seconds.

“I Feel So Bad” – Kungs feat. Ephemerals

CM: I like how well the vocals fit with the music with the simple guitar and good rhythm. The melody works well with this one. The incorporation of horns is also a good call to make the song more dynamic and enjoyable.

TGL: The trumpets made this song 100% cooler. Club beat + trumpets = success.

MJH: I’m a fan of trumpet (trombone?) in pop songs, and I like the raspy vocals from Ephemerals, but otherwise this is nothing special.

“Take My Breath Away” – Alesso

CM: I like that new elements get added to the track as the song progresses, but in the middle the track and the repeated “Take my breath away” feel a little stale. I feel like I’ve heard this song 100 times before. The vocals are good, a little sultry in places, but I don’t get anything special out of this.

TGL: This would be the song playing when the credits rolled after a dystopian teen movie set in space. It fits because there’s no air in space, so your breath would definitely be taken away.

MJH: There’s only one Rihanna, Alesso, and it’s not you.

“Kill Me One More Time” – Zagata

CM: OK it took like three tries to focus on this song because I kept dozing off in the middle of it. It’s a really soothing kind of sound so if you need a lullaby because the stress of midterms is getting to you, put this on and you’ll sleep through your worries. It’s unassuming and surprisingly soft. For anything else, I can’t really see the appeal.

TGL: Ooooh the beat is so tuggy. I dig it. Yup. I dig it.

MJH: This playlist is maybe the worst one yet. I guess (?) this song is alright, but I can’t really imagine myself every listening to it or ever recommending it to anyone or even dancing to it at a party. It’s like holding your hand under lukewarm water for four minutes.

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