Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New Music That Doesn't Suck: May 2014

Summer movie season is approaching, and reboots are all the rage. Not wanting to be left out, I'm reviving an old series, in which I compile some new pop music that's not too terribly objectionable to help you stock your library with as many suckage-free products as possible.

Iggy Azalea, Winner of May 2014

Ariana Grande - "Problem" (feat. Iggy Azalea)

So Mariah Carey tribute act Ariana Grande is already rolling out her sophomore album (her debut, Yours Truly, came out last September); who does she think she is, Britney Spears? She even got Max Martin to write and produce, borrowed Jason Derulo's sax loop, and snatched current chart-scaler Iggy Azalea for the obligatory rap verse (more on her later). But though the list of ingredients reeks of cynical pop-by-numbers, in this case the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. It's an instantly magnetic single, and there's every reason to see it as a top Song of the Summer candidate, so I'd say enjoy it now before it's ruined.

Brittany McDonald - "Alive"

The singer-songwriter behind the incredible feminist pop masterpiece "Notice Me" returns with her take on a decidedly different kind of pop song, a hard pounding "Titanium"-style power dance ballad. Like "Titanium," the hook on "Alive" is pretty epic, but my favorite thing is the way the pre-chorus just barrels on into it (I feel like you expect the "*breath* and here's the chorus!"); the energy is pretty insane. There's a moment McDonald does some little incidental that always makes me think "Katy Perry!", which isn't significant, just an amusing Easter egg.

Semi Precious Weapons - "Aviation High"

Do you like Rihanna's song "Diamonds?" Then you'll love this because it's exactly the same. Do you hate Rihanna's "Diamonds?" Imagine it rewritten with better lyrics ("I like the way you look in my house/I like the way you look in my sheets") over a soundscape with some balls.

Lily Allen - "Insincerely Yours"

The acid-tongued singer takes on tabloid culture and other such vapid enterprises in this charming pointer finger-and-thumbs "whatever" over \mellow funk-jazz throwback production in a highlight from her new album, Sheezus. It's charming and not abrasive since she's being more wearily eye-rolling than particularly mean, and when she sings, to nobody in particular, "I don't give a fuck about your Instagram/About your lovely house or your ugly kids," is she not 100% right?

Kylie Minogue - "Sexy Love"

Kylie Minogue hasn't changed much stylistically over the course of career, and why should she - her kind of sound and persona are the female pop star's Holy Grail, in that they've proven to be more or less ageless and timeless. While like any self-respecting artist, she's explored plenty different musical ideas over her career, but she's never abandoned the crux of her musical greatness: the Kylie song. You know a Kylie song when you hear it, and her singles are nearly always Kylie songs, but, like Britney, she usually peppers her LPs with a few very traditional, very formulaic, and therefore very reliably enjoyable. This is one of those.

Tim White - "Take Me Over" (feat. Erica Gibson)

This young producer's first single features vocals by one of my favorite in-development singer/songwriters (the one behind this perfect pop song). It's a meticulously designed track that veers from musical idea to musical idea (as opposed to more loop-based production) in unpredictable ways that keep you paying attention, but every decision seems like exactly the right one (my favorite is the exhale on the bridge).

Jakwob - "Somebody New" (feat. Tiffani Juno)

This is the sort of hypnotic, dubby, low-wattage dance track that people in the UK get to hear on the radio! Can you imagine what a marvelous world that would be to live in? I can, but I try to avoid it because it makes me terribly depressed.

Iggy Azalea - "Fancy" (feat. Charli XCX)

The Australian (and white) rapper's lead US single off her debut album, The New Classic, has such immediate appeal (it's the kind of track you know you like within the first bar), it's little surprise that it's rocketed up the charts so quickly (it improves to #4 this week, behind "Problem," debuting at #3). Oh, it also has Charli XCX, of Icona Pop's "I Love It," and while Azalea brings skillfully pop-friendly flow and the charm (and, let's be honest, the exact voice) of Eve to the table, Charli's involvement is just as vital. I think she might be America's new bad girl best friend, despite not being American; in our decadent drunken rebellion fantasies it's definitely Charli XCX swinging with us on the chandelier.

Florrie - "Free Falling"

Don't be put off by the title - there's not a molecule of Tom Petty in this deliciously funky head-bopper from the irrepressibly winsome Xenomania alum's fourth EP, Sirens. Although there is a whiff of Missy Elliott on the hook, which is never a bad thing.

LIZ - "All Them Boys"

This cool as Cristal track from the Mad Decent signee's Just Like You EP sounds like it could have come off Disclosure's fabulous album, Settle, which is reason enough to love it. The infusion of pop songwriting with inventive electro-dance production (i.e. outside the generic Calvin Harris/ model) is something of which I'm a big supporter.

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