My Spotify Release Radar Five: February 29, 2020

Release Radar is a playlist of new music created by Spotify and based on your personal taste. I have widely ignored it in the past but in the interest of constantly discovering new music, I have decided to regularly start engaging with it. For this feature, I listen to the first five songs listed on the playlist and provide some feedback on each track.

Best Coast, “Master of My Own Mind”

I got into American rock duo Best Coast a few years ago when I accidentally came across their garage rock, lo-fi tune, “Make You Mine.” None of their tracks were quite as good as that, though I appreciate some of the vintage Americana influences of their music, especially the Beach Boys/Phil Spector ones. “Master of My Own Mind” is a song from their new album, Always Tomorrow. In tune with everything I’ve heard from this album, it’s not that musically exciting but carried by optimistic vibes and sun-drenched guitars. It sounds like ’90s music from a teen rom-com, though the lyrics offer a positive take on the theme of anxiety.

boywithlaptop and BluntOne, “City”

I’m actually fascinated with elevator music so, naturally, I like vaporwave, even thought I found out about it sometime after the short period of time during which it was big. I like its driving concept and this just-over-a-minute track that has made it on my Release Radar playlist this week comes from the fact that I sometimes just listen to vaporwave to relax or concentrate. The general feeling is that you could put this hip-hop beat driven song on a loop and it could play forever. I haven’t been able to find out much about this tune nor its artists, though BluntOne seems to be a hip-hop producer of sorts from Budapest who started making music as a sort of meditation.

Simply Red, “Tonight” (OAM Mix)

I had no idea that Simply Red had released a new album last year. This is a version of a song from that LP by tropical house duo 0AM. I appreciate the vibes of the genre and the Simply Red vibes have always been about piano-driven white funk. So, the two styles actually promise to blend quite well together. However, the original tune gets tiring by the first chorus, which strangely seems to take the energy out of it, even appearing to slow down considerably. Truth is, “Tonight” is not a strong enough song. It’s Simply Red on autopilot, or what it would sound like to condense their entire latter-day oeuvre into one composition, even down to the usual Mick Hucknall lyrics about making love and getting married.

Clannad, “In a Celtic Dream”

Clannad are huge within their genre. But that should only interest you if you are a fan of what I term Celtic contemporary adult music. This was a type of music tha was quite popular in the ’80s and ’90s, best represented by these guys and Enya. So, in other words, it’s hardly the most exciting thing in the world. Their new song from yet another collection of their “greatest hits” is a very basic and unexciting summation of their sound thus far. Have these guys ever evolved? Lyrically, it finds them providing a mythical landscape to their formative days, when they “didn’t have a care in the world” and all that stuff. Its rhythmic breaks do recall their biggest song, “In a Lifetime,” which was a collaboration with Bono and a song that I actually do listen to quite a lot.

Morrissey, “Knockabout World”

Wrapping up an uninspired Release Radar feature, Morrissey’s latest single from his forthcoming album, I Am Not a Dog on a Chain. And can you believe it, it is just as uninspired as anything else I have heard from this LP so far. Now, don’t get me wrong. Morrissey will forever remain a musical idol to me. And yes, there are some cool New Wave vibes in this tune lurking somewhere in the background, particularly in its opening. But by the time the cheesy synth brass kick in, I’ve already lost interes. Morrissey seems to be at a lyrical low, singing a congratulatory lyric that basically sounds to me like a handshake for those who have bought his record — though it is funny to hear the Moz sing the lines “You’re okay by me with your handsome teeth.”

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My Spotify Release Radar Five: February 8, 2020

Release Radar is a playlist of new music created by Spotify and based on your personal taste. I have widely ignored it in the past but in the interest of constantly discovering new music, I have decided to regularly start engaging with it. For this feature, I listen to the first five songs listed on the playlist and provide some feedback on each track.

David Bowie, “Nuts”

“Nuts” is a semi-instrumental track recorded during the sessions for his 1997 LP Earthlings. At this time, David Bowie seemed convinced that jungle music was the sound of the future. He was wrong and jungle music is mostly associated with the mid-’90s club scene. But Earthlings is a lot of fun. As far as this particular tune is concerned, it’s a lot of beat and groove but nothing outstanding. Had it been included on the album, it would have been considered filler. But it is part of a six-track EP of previously unreleased tracks, Is It Any Wonder?, released via Parlophone. Which prompts the question: is it always worth releasing the unreleased posthumously, in the interest of an artist’s oeuvre?

Pixies, “Mal de Mer” (Demo)

Call me crazy but while I love the Pixies, I haven’t heard any new material from this band that impressed me since half of Trompe le Monde (1991). That is, until Beneath the Eyrie, which was released last year and marked a true return to form. This is the album that fills the gap. Now, new material has emerged from the recording sessions – three stripped-down demos that, at best, sound like they could have fit into Surfer Rosa (1988). I particularly like “Mal de Mer,” which is full of that sensible rage that has characterized the band over the years. Frank Black’s vocals have matured and he doesn’t have the range he used to but somehow, he is the first to have come to terms with this simple fact and these new songs are all the better for it.

Best Coast, “Different Light”

It’s possible that Best Coast would have been more popular in the ’90s. Then again, their music would perhaps have been relegated to the soundtrack of such shows as Dawson’s Creek – which would at least have possibly made them more money than they make. I like this track, don’t get me wrong. But I miss their lo-fi beginnings, when songs like “Make You Mine” made you really feel as if you had discovered something out of sheer luck. Now, they really do sound like just any other ’90s-rock band. Their lyrics say little that is of any originality. And while occasionally some of the melodies of the vocals can pleasently surprise – and at best recall those of the Cocteau Twins – one can get very frustrated with the repetitiveness and dullness of the music. Such is the case of their latest single, “Different Light.”

Patrick D., Alice, “Frei”

I don’t even know why Spotify thinks I would be interested in this song. It has those same three chords that have defined pop music for-like-ever. I don’t speak German but from the title, I presume they speak of something to do with being free. I could find very little about the artists… not that I bothered to do any in-depth research, given how little the song itself impressed me. Alice seems to be an Italian singer, and her frail, high-pitched voice really got on my nerves. Next!

King Krule, “Alone, Omen 3”

Clearly, King Krule is one of the more interesting indie artists to have come out in the past years. His music is a cool amalgamation of trippy rock, hip-hop beats and electronic experimentation, as well as other influences of styles and genres. This song comes from a new upcoming solo album called Man Alive!, and what I’ve heard from it seems promising so far. This particular tune, “Alone, Omen 3,” seems to be quite uncharacteristically uplifting, backed up by the simple message, “don’t forget you’re not alone.” But it does retain a sinister canvas that has been been a defining trait of most of his music.

Featured photo by Charlotte Patmore.