Track Reviews: Aether, CHVRCHES, Father John Misty, Jessica Pratt, Taylor Swift, T-Pain

Aether – “Stargazer”

Scotland’s coolest kid takes you to the sub-zero atmosphere in the title track of his latest EP. The piano stabilizes your heartbeat, while you lean back and steer your eyes skyward. Underneath you, the synth builds wave after wave, until its tsunami-explosion launches you to space with beats strong enough to beat the gravitational pull of the earth and your imagination. Aether explores the dark, icy outlands of the edgeless universe. The haunting, almost-whimsical vocalizing skates along the rings of Saturn, while Mars’ rocky surface echoes with every mechanical crunch from your footsteps. These four minutes turn into a spectacular adventure thanks to Aether’s masterful balancing between sounds as delicate as stars and deep and dark as black holes. – Rachel Chiong

CHVRCHES – “Dead Air”

As the excitement for the upcoming release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 continues to build, another song off of the movie soundtrack, “Dead Air” by CHVRCHES, has been released. “Dear Air” is the third release of the soundtrack, following Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat” and “This is Not a Game” by The Chemical Brothers and Miguel.

The song’s lyrics, while not concrete, are easy to connect back to Mockingjay’s story; the overall plot and Katniss’s character are recognizable in the song’s opening line, “I will never believe what they say.” Also immediately recognizable is the fact that the song is by CHVRCHES, due in part to Lauren Mayberry’s distinctive voice but also to its overall rhythm and synth-pop beats. Ultimately, while “Dead Air” is catchy and easy to listen to, it’s nothing special, feeling more like a mixture of CHVRCHES’s past hits as opposed to a new song with its own identity. – Lakota Rich

Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”

Josh Tillman is not one to sugar-coat things. The former Fleet Foxes drummer, who now goes by the moniker of Father John Misty, is oftentimes sarcastic and outspoken in interviews, and on one occasion, I’ve even witnessed him storm offstage during an encore; long story short, if he doesn’t like something, he’ll probably let it be known. “Bored in the USA”, the first single from his forthcoming album I Love You, Honeybear, is a fine example of just that. Tillman jumps right into the social commentary, which ranges from criticism of materialism and societal norms, to thoughts on the strangeness of the human condition; he really drives the point home by adding a scathing laugh track to the latter half of the song, creating a sort of dark call and response effect that is nothing short of frisson-inducing. His raw vocals soar above a wistful piano line and are enveloped by shimmery strings. Though rather sobering, Tillman’s words are honest and refreshing. If “Bored in the USA” is any indication of what’s to come, then I Love You, Honeybear should be a stellar record. – Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

Jessica Pratt – “Back, Baby”

Do you remember what San Francisco was like during the Summer of Love? Neither do I, but San Francisco folkie Jessica Pratt seems to have a good idea. Pratt may have been born in 1987, but her music is purely 1967. Sure, there’s a lot of acoustic folk out there, even on the Top 40 charts. But Pratt thankfully has less in common with her banjo-pluckin’, vest-wearin’ contemporaries like The Lumineers or Mumford & Sons (those guys are more nostalgic for the 1890s than the 1960s) as she does with venerable singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake. “Back, Baby” is the first single from her upcoming album On Your Own Love Again. Over a gently strummed guitar, Pratt reflects on a lost love. Pratt’s voice has a husky grit to it that sounds like an accent from a country or a time that doesn’t exist. Just listen to the way she sings “your love is a myth that I devised.” Jessica Pratt might prefer looking toward the past, but I’m looking forward to On Your Own Love Again. – James Li

Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

Finally Taylor, you confront the crazy ex-girlfriend rumours in the best way possible. She pours out her bitterness toward her ex-boyfriends in the form of lightly echoed vocals and a steady beat line. Bringing back her sweet high notes at the end of the odd verses almost brings back a piece of the old Taylor, although the new Taylor manages to use bass in a melancholic song. Maybe that’s it. She somehow wrote expected lyrics, but threw in some low bass, turning a classic sad-girl song into a Top 40 pop monster.

This track proves her foray into pop to be equally as heavy-hitting as her odes to the ex-boyfriend, while she was still singing country. I don’t even miss the old Taylor any more, because this track proves another successful example of an artist going through a transitional phase, and she knows where her market is. Going platinum on a record idea everyone initially thought was garbage is one thing, but making music that stays relevant to the current Top 40 music scene is a talent in itself. I’m not even mad that you date a lot and overreact after, especially done in the form of a track such as this. Self-mockery rules, girl. – Claire Cowan

T-Pain – “Stoicville”

After being outed as an untapped vocal powerhouse in his Auto-Tune-free NPR Tiny Desk session, T-Pain has traded catchy hooks for pure, fiery verse in “Stoicville.” With minimal background and a driving beat, T-Pain’s rhymes cut deep. This raw presentation is only matched by his personal, revealing lyrics; T-Pain has put it all on the table with “Stoicville,” and the hype for his next move is palpable. Good on you, T-Pain. – Rebecca M. Williams

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