Deadshirt Is Listening… Bringing you a rundown of our staff and guest contributors’ favorite new tracks released in the past week after they’ve had the weekend to blast them in their cars, in a club, alone in their rooms, etc.
Julian Ames is becoming powerful thanks to…
Mary J. Blige
The London Sessions
Mary J. Blige is known to many as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” for her role in blending Rap and R&B in the 90s and early 2000s. Although still active and considered one of the best in her field, her star has recently been outshined by newer, younger, “hipper” artists. With the announcement of her next album, The London Sessions, where we’ll hear her collaborating with a bunch of young British acts, Blige has set out to prove that she is still relevant and a trailblazer in the R&B genre.
“Right Now,” the first track released off the upcoming album, is an incredible step in the right direction. Here, Blige collaborates with the production duo Disclosure, whose 2013 debut album Settle was met with huge widespread mainstream reception, which is rare for a House music album. Blige actually worked with the duo earlier this year for a remix of Disclosure’s single “F For You.” Now she’s once again singing over one of their productions, except now, instead of a remix, “Right Now” is a fully developed collaboration. The Brits have done a great job sonically, creating a House track that fits really well with MJB’s vocal style, and Blige, of course, kills it in the singing and hook department. There’s several other up-and-coming British producers slated to be on The London Sessions, so Mary J. Blige may end up adding “Queen of Electro-Soul” to her list of titles.
“White Lung//Black Lung”
Power Pop Punk
Japanese-born California rocker Yoodoo Park, aka GRMLN, released one of 2013’s most underrated albums, Empire, an under-thirty-minute celebration of Power Pop excellence. In preparation for his upcoming sophomore album Swoon Away, GRMLN released “White Lung//Black Lung.” This new song shows the same penchant for great riffs and catchy hooks that made his last album such a delight to listen to, but instead of the Power Pop feel to it, this new song leans a little more in the Pop Punk direction. The bassline is the driving force giving the song some kinetic energy, while Park’s vocals invite a sing-along at every refrain. It sounds like Swoon Away is shaping up to be another stellar record, and hopefully this time it won’t go as under-appreciated.
David Lebovitz is pretending to enjoy a musical festival because of…
“Blue Eyes Blind” (Live)
ZZ Ward is an act worth keeping your eye on. She has the vocal talent and musicality to fill the “blue-eyed soul songstress” void left by the late Amy Winehouse and the currently inactive (though hinting at her new record) Adele. Ward’s spent the last few years working her way up in the music world, collaborating with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Ryan Tedder and has performing everywhere from Coachella to the ESPYs pre-show. Currently on country-wide tour, her time to shine as a full-fledged star may be coming soon if she keeps up this momentum.
The specimen we have here is her performance of her song “Blue Eyes Blind” off her album Til The Casket Drops, recorded live at the Budweiser Made In America Festival in LA. It showcases her aesthetic front and center: her distinct vocal style, her unique stage presence, and her growing ability to engage the crowd. Clearly passionate about her work and not above having a good time on stage, ZZ Ward is on the verge of great things.
Dylan Roth is killing his heroes to…
“Language of the Dead”
Into the Wide
In 2011, a one-off album from a side project called Middle Brother introduced me to three excellent songwriters: John McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit. On the Middle Brother album, the lead vocal and songwriting credit rotates between the three of them, providing a sampler of sorts for what each of their styles is like. It’s a good album in its own right, but it also led me to enjoy Deer Tick’s catalog, and Dawes’ “Nothing Is Wrong,” released months later, became an album I cannot live without. But Vasquez’s contributions to Middle Brother didn’t grab me in the same way, so I didn’t dive into Delta Spirit with the same enthusiasm as I did the other two projects.
Delta Spirit’s new album, however, Into the Wide, has me pretty excited, particularly this track, “Language of the Dead.” It’s a song about our tendency to reinterpret rather than invent, to romanticize the past, to cop its style and philosophy instead of creating something of our own. Vasquez would rather we make our own way. “Throw your idols into the sea,” he sings. “Dreamers, get your own dream.” The song oscillates between bare verses and rousing choruses. The synth line over the chorus lends so much energy, and it’s so satisfying when Vasquez breaks from the conservative four-note range of the verse to reach for a growling high note. The song is both musically and lyrically inspirational, and makes me wish I’d been paying more attention to this band from the start.