Track Reviews: American Football, Baths, GFOTY, Hudson Mohawke, Lorde, Röyksopp, Ryan Hemsworth, Sun Kil Moon

American Football – “Alison” (Elvis Costello cover)

Elvis Costello’s “Alison” is a classic, and it’s easy to sweep under the rug as a safe and boring choice to cover. However, American Football’s cover of Costello’s song for The A.V. Club is anything but boring. With Mike Kinsella’s scratchy voice and the band’s famous guitar sound, the song hits a new level of nostalgia previously unreached by other bands, making listeners everywhere wish their names were Alison. – Emily Scherzinger

Baths – “Disorderly”

To very liberally pun Will Wiesenfeld’s stage name, Baths’ music is like soaking in a tub of sounds. The tracks off Obsidian were desperate, evening trysts under a waterfall. This time around Baths slows down for “Disorderly”, reflecting a night of unwinding after a party, immersed in shampoo froth and unresolved feelings. The song sinks underneath the water until it mutes sounds with wave after wave of organ synth. The beats are released in pockets like the edges of bubble-islands popping, and the harmonies rise from the surface like steam.

Baths seduces the listener. He cradles the melody until it hits a sweet, eyebrow-curling spot at the most ironic part of the song. When he asks “Oh, me, am I being disorderly?” the tune dips seamlessly into the harmonies, creating an instrumental innuendo that is a signature to Baths’ quirkiness. – Rachel Chiong

GFOTY – “My Song”

The members of the PC Music label deal in seconds, not minutes. How short can a theme be and still remain recognizable, they seem to ask. How short can the chorus be: two words? One? Do we even need a chorus at all? Could we just repeat everything twice? “My Song”, GFOTY’s contribution to Secret Songs first compilation  – an internet label run by Halifax artist Ryan Hemsworth – is one minute and nine seconds long, which is the length of a commercial. This is notable because PC Music has made a point of blurring the lines between art and advertisement (listen to “Hey QT” for very, very evident proof). “My Song” boils down to chipmunked confidence slogans and the words “my song”, repeated insistently over a beat that sounds a heck-of-a-lot like the work her peer Sophie is doing. Still, if GFOTY is trying to sell anything, it’s independence; she does not need you or anyone else because she is doing perfectly well on her own. So back off: the best you can do right now is hit repeat. – Stuart Oakes

Hudson Mohawke – “Brainwave”

Hudson Mohawke gives us “Brainwave” as part of his 2014 EP Chimes. Running at approximately two minutes in length, the track channels an intergalactic vibe while leaving behind HudMo’s signature bass drops. Brainwave almost serves as filler between the EP’s self titled  “Chimes”, and heavy hitting “King Kong Beaver”, adding some diversity. Keeping relatively consistent throughout, “Brainwave” doesn’t throw any surprises to the listener, simply manifesting as preparation for the remainder of the EP. The tempo ascends and descends throughout, picking up with the heavy synth buzzing in the foreground, creating the anticipation for something eventful to come through your sound system but it never seems to reach its climactic point.

Personally, the track seemed out of place in the mix, leaving some bizarre image of The Jetsons with me. Moving forward, perhaps “Brainwave” will shape a more obscure production trend to expect from HudMo in the future, although I’m still digging his well-known sound; I can’t say I will be hoping for any drastic change. – Claire Cowan

Lorde – “Yellow Flicker Beat”

Opening with a sorrowful humming sound, this song embarks on a gloomy setting. When the magical lyrics strikes in, the song becomes ever more fascinating.

As part of the soundtrack of the highly-anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, Lorde incorporates the storyline of Katniss Everdeen into the lyrics. Yet, the words are written in a very atypical way, each line is a cinematic narration about this “princess cut from marble”. In the chorus, deep-seated passion is revealed with the “red, orange, yellow flicker beat sparking up my heart”. Sentiments amalgamate at the last minute of the song, and then at the last ten seconds, the beats suddenly wraps up, and the humming sound emerges again.

The lyrics are narrative and lively, and the composition is exceptionally thoughtful. “Yellow Flicker Heart” is another masterpiece from this seventeen year-old; and with a theme song this immaculate, the movie for sure is going to be a blockbuster. – Alexander Si

Röyksopp – “Skulls”

Following the success of their recent collaboration with Robyn, Swedish electronica veterans Röyksopp made yet another splash in the music world this past week with the announcement of their fifth and final LP, The Inevitable End, coupling this news with the release of lead single “Skulls” on their website.

In typical Röyksopp fashion, “Skulls” is a track that walks the shadowed alleyways of a circuit board cityscape. Shuffling hi-hat rhythms and club-ready kick drums are superimposed upon anxious, spiralling synthesizers. A vocoded, robotic voice enters the scene: “If you want to ride with us tonight / We will be the hands that lift you up and we will be the arms that hold you high…” The invitation is simultaneously frightening and welcoming, and with each passing beat the alleyway grows darker — soon, it becomes clear that the only option is to give in.

If “Skulls” is an accurate indicator of things to come, being a near-perfect combination of the band’s old and new material (including Do It Again), then The Inevitable End will surely poise Röyksopp to draw the curtain not with a whimper, but a certain, resounding bang. – Marko Cindric

Ryan Hemsworth – “Snow in Newark” (ft. Dawn Golden)

There’s no sign of snow in Newark, New Jersey just yet, but that doesn’t mean Ryan Hemsworth’s single is completely irrelevant. “Snow in Newark” is Hemsworth’s first single off his next album, and if this song’s any indication, it will be one where Hemsworth will take his music down a notch. Slower and melancholic, this song is beautifully arranged and is an improvement from his last effort Guilt Trips; an album I enjoyed. With concentrating his inspirations, Hemsworth’s style has evolved to suit his desire to rekindle his initial inspiration, emo music, as well as reflect on his time touring. With this, he has created a song that is not only catchy, it showcases a musician to watch, Dawn Golden, and has emphasized Hemsworth’s effort to reach his full potential.

I’m looking forward to see what’s next for Hemsworth, and more importantly, the artists he plans on showcasing. I’ll be keeping my eyes on you, Dawn Golden. – Ayla Shiblaq

Sun Kil Moon – “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock”

Over a pretty fingerpicked guitar melody, Mark Kozelek, who records as Sun Kil Moon, rants for seven minutes on “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock” about the band in question, an audience in North Carolina, and a music journalist. It’s great if you need a laugh, but this song sounds like self-parody – calling The War on Drugs “beer commercial lead guitar” is rich coming from a guy who’s covered AC/DC and Ted Nugent. And are they really the “whitest band ever?” I could have counted all of the non-white people in the crowd on one hand when I saw Sun Kil Moon. The War on Drugs aren’t the ones name-dropping Panera Bread in their songs, either. He also trashes a music journalist for doing her job, but if there’s any winner in the Sun Kil Moon/War on Drugs feud, it’s Pitchfork and Stereogum, with all of the clickbait they’ve been able to write about this incident.

I’m a huge fan of Kozelek. I might even call him my favourite songwriter (he might call me a “bridge and tunnel” person or a “blogger brat”). If Kozelek wants people to remember him for his embarrassing stunts instead of his two-decade record of beautifully introspective music, that’s his choice. But if he keeps this up, then this is where I fall off with Kozelek – Sun Kil Moon, go fuck yourself. – James Li


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