My biggest pet peeve as an official Professional Music Writer Person is the drumbeat of fake news involving album covers, track lists, commercials plugging the future existence of other commercials, etc. Releasing the name of Track 8 on your unreleased album isn’t news, it’s a press release, OK? And yet, here I am, plugging an ad for the release of the new Arcade Fire single coming Monday. I have no idea if this tone poem composed of synths, bongos, and self-conscious “mystery” is an introductory prelude to the song or merely incidental music for a promotional campaign. I sense that there’s a choir of severe-looking Canadians about to explode at roughly the 50-second mark, but that’s purely conjecture. Either way (damn it) they totally got me with this.
A Next Movie intern named Christopher Rosa has accomplished the remarkable feat of reciting Mean Girls in its entirety (well, almost — ol' hawkeye in the comments notes four missing words at the 21:38 mark) in under 30 minutes. This is the kind of party trick for which the Internet was invented. I really appreciate his breath control and casual hand-as-phone gestures — extremely nuanced. Enjoy, losers. We're going shopping.
Mystikal went to prison for a long time, on some very horrible charges, and so the question, as always, is: How much should we allow ourselves to separate the person from the product? It'd be easier, of course, if the dude had fallen off since his '00s heyday but, somehow, in his fourth decade, he seems to be getting stronger. On "Hit Me" — "even the white people sittingupinthismotherfucka can'tdonothingbutsay WOW" — he channels James Brown shamelessly, and with great might, and cooks up a marvel.
Ryan Adams is secretly one of the greatest musicians of our time. It’s difficult to make that case to those who never committed to any part of his troubled-yet-clichéd artistic journey. Mainly because his disjointed discography makes it impossible to judge based on the same criteria we'd use to judge a more traditional artist’s trajectory. Those who know what he is capable of are willing to give all of the new iterations of his artistic struggle a chance, just to see if he can return to his former greatness.
Ryan Adams' latest album Ashes & Fire is out this week, and it's been marketed as his ‘most traditional’ release in a while. Although the album is ‘fine’ and certainly ‘has its moments,’ it still feels a little too coherent. That’s a quality we’d praise in any other artist or band. The new album flows well, touching upon the usual themes of love, loss, and relationship-based epiphanies. Part of the fans' agreement with Ryan Adams is that he has free reign to experiment, just as long as he reveals his innermost thoughts to us. Ashes & Fire feels alarmingly traditional — an album we knew he could write in his sleep, but also could have skipped in favor of something more ambitious, even if it fell short.
1. James Blake and Bon Iver, "Fall Creek Boys Choir"
Indie-rock power couple James Blake and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon announced their union just last week, but we already get a taste. “Fall Creek Boys Choir” — featuring Vernon’s falsetto over a skeletal Blake piano run, and also some dog bark type noises — is as predictable as it is perfect. According to the never-wrong YouTube information box, it’ll be followed, in October, with something called Enough Thunder.
1. Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Otis”
This, the first "single" from Kanye and Jay’s Watch The Throne (single in quotes because Hov claimed there would be no official single from the album), dropped Wednesday night on Funkmaster Flex’s New York radio show (you should do yourself a favor and listen to Flex’s accompanying rant). The last time Kanye West flipped an Otis Redding sample he made the greatest song of his career (Late Registration's "Gone"). So stakes were high on this one. "Otis" doesn’t quit flip the Stax legend’s "Try A Little Tenderness" as much as it fluffs its hair and puts it front and center. But where the beat is a little underwhelming, the interplay between Jay and Kanye is stellar, as the two trade bars, and use the end of each other’s rhymes as jumping off points for their own. Jay-Z: “I got five passports, I’m never going to jail.” Kanye: “I made Jesus walk, I’m never going to hell.” Don’t sweat the technique.