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.
Dominic Griffin is not dropping that alcohol to…
“7/11” & “Ring Off”
Beyoncé: Platinum Edition
While we’re not getting that sequel LP Buzzfeed tried to sell us all on, the timely holiday season re-release of King B’s 2013 self titled opus comes with a few new tracks. We’ve already heard the “Flawless” and “Drunk In Love” remixes, and the Pharrell feature on the new version of “Blow” sounds like a demo for the song from before Bey cut Pharrell out for overdoing his cooing falsetto (but inexplicably keeping Timbaland’s tiresome beatboxing, it seems). The other two tracks are brand new, though, one forging an eccentric new lane and the other artfully calling back to some of Beyoncé’s incredibly effective self-mythologizing.
The video might look like Michel Gondry remaking OG Maco’s “U Guessed It,” but “7/11” (produced in part by “OG Bobby Johnson” beatmaker Bobby Johnson) is a curiously spectacular new trick from Beyoncé’s seemingly endless Zatanna top hat. It trades in the fourth wall-breaking autobiographical lyricism of her other recent output for trapped out, memetic glossalalia. At first, I thought it sounded like an overly confident reference track she didn’t feel like finishing, but it’s Bey aping the kind of blunt and repetitive party anthems that are du jour everywhere from the club to my kitchen (where fifteen minutes ago I played OT Genasis’ “Coco” six times). Even though she’s mostly singing dance move instructions and humorous non-sequitors, there’s an anthemic quality inherent to a figure as outsized as Beyoncé goofing off so cleverly. It’s a Turn Up jam in its purest form, ably mimicking the flow and tempo of a typical night of partying, beginning measured, then teleporting to an erratic middle act before resplendently drifting into an ethereal comedown.
“Ring Off” feels much more like a B-side, but infinitely more resonant than “Schoolin’ Life” (though admittedly nowhere near the majesty of “Why Don’t You Love Me?”). It’s more divorce-baiting catnip for the tabloids, certainly, but when played right after “Single Ladies” it feels like the pop music equivalent of the first five minutes of Revolutionary Road. The references to “Love On Top” and the focus on putting yourself first after interpersonal hardship are admirable and comforting, but the overall tone, that of a quiet confessional to your mother in the kitchen at breakfast before Dad wakes up, really makes this one special and not just a bonus track throwaway.
Pusha T has always been something of an Anti-Nas when it comes to his ear for beats. Sure, he famously turned down Hit-Boy’s “Niggas In Paris” instrumental, but when he and his brother Malice weren’t embarrassing popular rappers by performing Grand Theft Billboard for mixtape street singles, they regularly brought out the spacey, experimental best in The Neptunes. He’s tried on a variety of soundscapes since going solo, but all have proven fertile canvases for his ever-evolving coke talk and prestige braggadocio, particularly on his debut LP, My Name Is My Name, where his label boss Kanye West gifted a bevy of dark, hellish Yeezus-esque tracks.
His latest, “Lunch Money” (allegedly produced solely by ‘Ye) follows in the footsteps of tracks like “Who I Am” and “Numbers On The Boards.” It’s a cocksure marriage of terse, straightforward stunt rhymes over twisted takes of sample based hip hop beats, soul loops replaced by contorted synths with drums pitched to reality bending frequencies. I have a hard time believing Kanye crafted this one entirely solo, given his penchant for mixing and matching collaborators of late. In any case, this is one best blasted through car speakers. It sounds fine in headphones, but some of the song’s more curious flourishes really pop when enveloping you from all sides. Pusha’s “dope boy quotables” are pretty par for the course at this point (although talking about “bottle wars” in the club and openly mocking Apple wearables elicits some fun laughs), but it’s the super weird Adult Swim bump soundtrack intricacy of the instrumental that’ll leave this one on repeat when someone hands you the aux cord in the whip.
Julian Ames is being broke to…
“We Are Undone”
We Are Undone
We Are Undone is the newly announced fifth full-length album from garage folk duo Two Gallants. The band has always been known for their pointed lyrics; in 2006 the band drew criticism for the use of the word “nigger” in their song “Long Summer Days,” about a black man growing increasingly angry about his struggles in the Jim Crow-era South. “We Are Undone,” the title track from the upcoming album, is nowhere near that controversial. Instead, the band touches on modern capitalism. In his own words, singer and guitarist Adam Stephens says the song is about “trying to make sense of this unending pressure to acquire and consume, and usually as conspicuously as possible, that has taken a hold of our culture.”
The song is presented as a dialogue between a father and son and has a fairly pessimistic look on our society. The son questions the marketplace that his father has so much faith in, and whether it can be good for more than just certain individuals, The father on the other hand, tells his son that for all his preaching, protesting, or singing against it, money has all the power. The song is a blusey rocker, but the way it’s structured there is no repeated chorus, just a guitar riff. The final “verse,” however, has power enough to be the chorus even if it’s only sang once. “You think your voice is real, I thunder while you squeal, so you can ring their ears, but I’m the one they hear.” Stephens’ voice turns to a bloodcurdling howl at this point, giving that passage even more power. The album We Are Undone is out on February 3rd.
Mike Duquette is #TBT-ing to…
“A View To A Kill” (Steve Thompson & Michael Barbiero Remix)
What can you learn in 2014 from a twenty-nine-year-old hit theme song to an admittedly terrible James Bond film, cut by a killer 80s pop band in their final moments of cohesive, unquestionable relevance? Well, a lot, actually. Duran Duran’s 1985 hit “A View To A Kill” was The Fab Five’s third and final No. 1 hit in the United States, hitting the pole position the week they took the stage at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia for Live Aid, which was their final performance with all five original members for almost twenty years. Last week, a Bond fan site unearthed quite the find for fans of both 007 and Duran: a previously unreleased dance mix, commissioned at the time of release from the New York dance team of Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero. (Duran Duran were well known for their unique “night versions”–extended mixes of hit songs for club play–but “A View To A Kill” mysteriously never got that treatment.)
In an age when the modern dance mix simply tracks a vocal into an entirely different arrangement, it’s intriguing to hear this seven-minute extension of vintage Duran–cut on analog tape, emphasizing Roger Taylor’s heavy-duty drums and stabs of longtime 007 composer John Barry’s brass section–as a cool relic from a different time for dance music. While a slimmed-down Duran Duran would stack up big hits in the 80s and early 90s and continue to record and tour, they were never better than those first glorious years on the Billboard charts, and this remix (which, just saying, would be a killer release for Record Store Day 2015) is the proof.