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Slipping Into Fall: September Singles II

Slipping Into Fall: September Singles II

Everything old is new… again, again.

And if a revered artist fails to keep up with the demands of the marketplace, faux versions will glom up said market.

Homage is flattery.  Simulations may pass for the genuine article.  Imitation can lead to commercial success. 

Pop will eat itself.

I don’t know how else to explain some of the singles I’m reviewing in this post.

For the most part, these artists are new to me, and as such, it has been rather nice to listen to their music without getting all caught up in any PR hype, current event, or potential personality defects.

In some cases it helps.

Still, I can’t help playing ‘spot the influence’. 

And, while many of these acts bring just enough to the table in order to make a discarded sound relevant, a few fail miserably.  In several cases, it’s like being haunted by the ghost of a loved one; they may sound somewhat the same, but, nope… you know in your heart it’s not them.

Long Live
Devan DuBois

With a Cajun / Southern crunch serving as the groundwork for the verses, I was expecting Devan DuBois to mine veins similar to KONGOS, but once that incredibly sweet chorus begins its ascent; all attempts to pigeonhole his sound become moot.

Mystic, chaotic production flourishes keep the listener guessing, as one tries to decipher what the aim of ‘Long Live’ may be.  It’s an uphill battle, one that’s worth the effort… maybe.   

At least that’s what I thought before seeing the video.

Remember early, early Bowie, when he seemed terribly overly self-aware and horribly calculated (which some may say sums up his entire career)? 

Well… meet Devan DuBois (doing his best Johnny Depp).

Both he and ‘Long Live’ come across as something of a pose, striking me as rather disingenuous.  Now, that could be the cynic in me talking, but for some reason…

I’m not buying this act.

Say My Name
ODESZA (Feat Zyra)

‘Say My Name’ has grown on me.  At first, it struck me as a discombobulated mess, overcomplicated, full of bad timing and disheveled modern production technique. 

Zyra’s vocals didn’t help matters. They are slight and waifish, and enhanced to sound like a magical pixie.
However, after a few turns, with all those Naughty Boy-like touches helping to create a full-bodied sound, things gel rather nicely and it ends up being a slice of compelling, enjoyable pop: one I could see landing on the radio and becoming a real chart contender.

Busy Earnin’

How fun! 

This may simply be my love for nostalgic sounds of the seventies, but ‘Busy’ earns its place on my nano.  Striking a chord similar to groups like Chairman of the Board, this soul collective based in London feels like a trip in The Wayback Machine   

It’s the muted production, keeping the marvelous horns in check, while forcing the Spinners like harmonies beneath the surface, which bring this to mind.  A brighter, different mix might have helped this one break through to a larger audience, or it might have destroyed the beautiful seventies synergy taking place: a sound, I think that may be vital to the single’s success.

But who are they?  All their videos feature random (unique and interesting) dancers.

I’m very intrigued.

“Can’t get enough,” indeed.

Three Strikes
Afrojack (feat. Jack McManus)

I’ve always liked Afrojack.  ‘Take Over Control’ was a huge international dance  hit – and one that feels as if it took place a long, long time ago. ‘Three Strikes’ finds him in typical mode – a tense, rapidly building verse/chorus erupts into a rather standard rave section. 

For some reason, the rave section immediately brings to mind a scene from one of the ‘Blade’ movies, where unsuspecting club-goers are dancing with a bunch of vampires.  When the music explodes, blood rains down from the sprinkler system and all hell breaks loose. 

That’s pretty much what happens here.

I like the hyper masculine attitude, the drive to win, and the message.  However, there is a section near the end where the song attempts to sort itself out and the whole thing threatens to collapse into an unfocused mess.  Thankfully, that section is short-lived.

Overall, a great cut.

And… isn’t he a nice piece of eye candy?  Grrr.

Yeah, I likes me some Afrojack.

Dirty Laundry

Okay, so I’m about to make a slightly unfair comparison.  Axe to grind, etc.

Bear with me.

This song reminds me of every would-be: Belly, Veruca Salt, Sleater-Kinney, The Breeders - that tried (and tried not) to break into the mainstream in the mid 90’s.  It’s the forced, nasally, nagging vocals, the sloppy execution, and cacophonous production approach which bring that era to mind. 

It was a time when making somewhat ugly music was fashionable.  Death to glamor and polish.  Raw equals integrity.


Much less caustic than Sleater-Kinney and a lot more earnest and innocent, Cayetana are probably more influenced by The Go-Go’s and The Bangles than any of the groups listed above.  It’s that merseybeats thing.

An identity of their own?  Hard to say.  To find it, I think they will need to sit themselves down and sift through a bit of noise to see if there is anything of value.  There may well be, but my head is too haunted by the mid-90’s to hear it.

Like I Need You
Kan Wakan

“Gonna let you know, just who I am…”

Please do, Kan Wakan, because I know who you are not. 

You are not Adele.

This is trio, Kan Wakan, doing a very good impression of Adele.  The ache in the voice does it, but then, it would seem, the song’s retro construction, arrangement, and production deliberately skews things in that direction in order to bring Adele to mind and cash in on the world’s need for more Adele-like product. 

Adele, Adele, Adele!

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!

I like Adele.  I just don’t think that every other female artist needs to sound like her.

‘Like I Need You’ is pleasant enough, yet lacking that thing that hooks a listener and leads one to seek it out for repeated play.  I have a feeling Kan Wakan has more to bring to the table than they are being allowed to on this offering.

Not a bad offering, however, not original in the slightest.

Colbie Caillat

In the past couple of years, conservatives in this country, via the courts and legislation, have been hammering away at women’s rights, to say nothing of the constant pressure to conform women experience at the hands of retailers, magazines, television programming and advertising.  

And that’s gotta be taking a toll on their self-esteem.  Right?

Well, popular music, it would seem, still has their back; or, at least, there are a few female artists feeling that pain and  willing to address it.  It takes many forms, some hokey (Cher’s ‘Woman’s World), and some cute and perky (Mehan Trainor’s ‘All About That Bass’).

Colbie Colliet’s ‘Try’, which is now, finally, receiving some attention via I-Heart Radio stations, takes more of a Lifetime for Women approach.

The verses are right on the money.  And it is a shame she didn’t try (pun inadvertent) a little harder to create a more lyrically substantive chorus. 

Still, it is a quiet respite from the likes of Nicki Minaj’s misogynistic  ‘Anaconda’, and serves as a gentle, vulnerable admission: that living up to the world’s standards while trying to achieve the unachievable and cramming in all that the world demands of them rob many women of any chance to actually enjoy the life they work so hard to create. 

Yep, sometimes it’s like trying to cram a week’s worth of laundry into a fanny pack.      

Sure, ‘Try’ is a tad sappy, but it’s guaranteed to make all the soccer Mom’s cry.  And that, in and of itself, makes this song worthwhile. 

Because they should. 

They should all cry.

Navigate Below
The Revivalists

“Where do heroes go?”

Well, if you’re as cantankerous and eccentric as Van Morrison, you hone the thing that people like about you and then hide it away forever, offering only occasional glimpses of that former magic.  Van’s popular sound remains totally unique: a combination of so many disparate elements that recreating it is like trying to capture lightening in a bottle.

The Revivalists, totally living up to their name, do a great job of capturing some of that wizardry.  With a big fat horn section and on-the-money wah-wah guitar the likes of which I have not heard in ages, ‘Navigate’ coasts through 1971 like it owns it.

But there’s more to it than that.  Singer/Guitarist, David Shaw, has a big, meaty voice with just enough of a whiskey soaked rasp to make ‘Navigate’ feel authentic while captaining this entire voyage. 

And, like St. Paul & The Broken Bones, I’m betting The Revivalists are hella fun in a live setting.

Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)
Tom Vek

Yay.  Nerd rock/dance music!

I keep waiting for someone to land in the area The Talking Heads used to dance in.  It’s a fertile plain.

I’m still waiting.

Tom Vek comes close, but ends up on the DEVO side of things, with his straight-forward, early eighties minimalistic deconstructional pop.

Fun and funny, ‘Sherman’ features plenty of spare, rhythmic, vintage synth sounds and a deadpan delivery “armed with perfect little teeth”. 

Easy to dismiss, but once ‘Sherman’ gets its hooks in you, you’ll find yourself wanting to awkwardly bop your skinny little self all over the place.

Sylvan Esso

This was a ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine pick.

And, I don’t get it.

Maybe in a remixed version something pops – that happens, sometimes. But as is?  Ummm…

In its original incarnation, ‘Coffee’  is all dreamy, aloof vocals and airy, atmospheric synth touches, yielding a world that floats by, you know… like in those fleeting moments as you enjoy the first few sips of your (surprise) morning coffee.

Still, I find it all too disjointed and removed to make much of an impact.  And, much like the song itself, maybe I’m missing something.  But I don’t have the time or the patience to figure out what it is.

I’d much rather drink my way to the bottom of the cup and get on with my morning.

1 comment:

whkattk said...

I like Colbie. Yeah, I do... But, one of my all-time favorites is Babs. I know, I terribly, terribly old-fashioned. Went to buy her new CD yesterday (release day) at 2:15pm and the shelves were empty already.