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.
Tyler McCall is swiping on her war paint to:
“What Kind of Man”
Florence + the Machine
How Big How Blue How Beautiful
Florence Welch, the songstress behind Florence + the Machine, has always dealt in theatrics when it comes to her music. Welch’s last album, 2011’s Ceremonials, was drenched in the kind of dramatic fare that lends itself well to her powerful voice. But for her next album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, due in June, Welch tells Rolling Stone she wanted to rely less on metaphor play, resulting in more emotionally raw music.
“I guess although I’ve always dealt in fantasy and metaphor when I came to writing, that meant the songs this time were dealing much more in reality,” she says. “Ceremonials was so fixated on death and water, and the idea of escape or transcendence through death, but the new album became about trying to learn how to live, and how to love in the world rather than trying to escape from it, which is frightening because I’m not hiding behind anything but it felt like something I had to do.”
That vulnerability is immediately evident on “What Kind of Man,” the first single from the new album. Sung to man who can’t love Welch the way she wants, but who won’t let her go either (“To let me dangle at a cruel angle, oh my feet don’t touch the floor/Sometimes you’re half in, and then you’re half out, but you never close the door”), “What Kind of Man” is stripped of all the imagery which normally cloaks the personal sentiment behind Welch’s music.
“What Kind of Man” opens familiarly enough for Welch fans; a sparse arrangement allowing Welch’s incredible voice to soar and dip through the first few lines. It’s when the beat hits, though—a powerful, driving combination of bass drum and tambourine perfect for stomping down a runway (sorry, it’s fashion week)—that it becomes clear this is less one of Welch’s hymnals and more a war chant. “What kind of man loves like this?/What kind of man?” she wails with the conviction of a woman coming not just for the one who wronged her, but for every asshole who has strung someone along.
The video, too, sees Welch much more stripped down, both literally (boob warning) and figuratively; even her signature red hair has been softened. If this moment of growth is what kept Welch away for so long, then the wait will have been worth it.
Dominic Griffin is running through the 6ix to…
“6PM In New York”
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Thursday night, while everyone on Twitter was cracking Matrix-related jokes about Kanye’s new clothing line and finding a blessed silver lining in his (clearly unfinished) new track “Wolves,” Petty Gawd Aubrey Graham finally released his rumored-for-months new mixtape, the first he’s made since So Far Gone put him on the map, exactly six years ago. Everything about its release was curious, however. The MS Paint cover, the hella long track list, the fact that it was on iTunes, for, you know, money. Is it still a mixtape if it costs money? If this is the album, whatever happened to Views From The 6? Is this release just a ploy to get out of his Cash Money contract? All valid questions, but who the fuck needs answers when you’ve got Drake, an artist at the absolute peak of his powers, giving you unannounced new music that cements his status as The Man right now.
The opening salvo, “Legend” is, for my money, the finest intro track Drake has ever birthed, with its banging Ginuwine-sampling instrumental from OVO secret weapon PARTYNEXTDOOR to its singsong hook (that I’ve been belting in public all weekend like I’m Ernest Baker). If Nothing Was The Same and its ensuing Soundclound cuts were about Drake putting his aesthetic on steroids and making himself impervious to Sad Drake Memes, IFRTITL is the realization of his goal weight. He’s swole here, flexing effortlessly, both in terms of the actual stunting life he’s living and the confidence he exudes on wax. It’s not tough guy posturing from him. He’s not suddenly pretending he’s someone he’s not. He’s just finally realized who he is, and that knowledge gives him strength. Keeping the production largely in house with 40, Boi 1da and company, gives this the same cohesive energy and thematic unity that made his last mixtape, So Far Gone, such a success, but SFG’s sullen, emotional histrionics here are replaced by an almost sickening self-satisfaction. The run from “Legend” up to “Know Yourself” is up there with the best multi-track runs from Take Care, even if the album doesn’t have any of the big anthem singles you might expect. He doesn’t fucking need them here. Every song on IFRTITL is an anthem, even if they’re not bred specifically for the radio.
Aubrey flits between pyrrhic victories, bitter musings, and pithy character assassinations, but the closing track “6PM in New York” (the latest in a long line of ___ timeslot in ____ city freestyles Drake has released) mixes each of these endeavors effortlessly, ending rival Tyga with a few verbal darts before reaffirming his game of oneupsmanship with Kendrick Lamar, and asserting that he belongs on The Throne next to Jay-Z and Kanye West. After a few spins of this mixtape, even his staunchest detractors are going to have to give themselves a minute to reevaluate.
Julian Ames is getting rowdy to…
“Don’t Wanna Fight”
Sound & Color
You’d be forgiven if you thought from the intro that this was a Black Keys tune circa Brothers. Instead, the soulful blues rock that follows is “Don’t Wanna Fight,” the first song from the Alabama Shakes’ new album Sound & Color. Yes, the Shakes come from the same retro blues-by-way-of-rock school as the Keys, but they have one major difference: lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard. From the first James Brown-like scream that opens “Don’t Wanna Fight,” Howard has command of the song, and by the end she’s just yelling and foaming, and although she’s saying “I don’t wanna fight,” it’s got me fired up and ready to do just that. Sound & Color is scheduled for release on April 21st, and I can’t wait to hear more from the Alabama Shakes
“Making Of Me”
The Making of Me EP
Jimmy Napes walked away with several big awards from the most recent Grammys. If you don’t remember any speeches by a guy named Jimmy Napes, that’s because most of his wins came from being part of the writing team behind Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” (and in his speech, Smith referred to him by his real name, James Napier). In the past few years, Napes has written with a number of big artists, like Jessie Ware and Mary J Blige, and he is a regular collaborator with Disclosure and Sam Smith. He helped write “Latch” which was the breakout song for both of those acts. Now that Napes seems to have conqured the songwriting world, he’s ready to step out from behind the scenes and try his hand at being a recording artist. Last month he released “Give it Up,” the first song from his debut EP The Making of Me, and now he’s released the title track. While Sam Smith chose to switch to soulful pop on his solo album after rising to fame singing over electronic dance tracks, Napes seems comfortable staying electronic; like “Latch,” “Making Of Me” sits right where house beats and pop songwriting meet. It’s a love ballad that you can still shake your ass to at a club at 3 AM.
Sam Paxton is shake shake shake shake shaking it to…
“Shake It Off (Taylor Swift Cover)”
BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge
Charli XCX’s excellent album Sucker found the semi-obscure electronic artist confidently rebranding herself as a full-fledged pop star, wearing her bubblegum punk influences proudly on her sleeve. Perhaps, then, it’s appropriate that she picked fellow pop royalty Taylor Swift’s girl-power anthem “Shake It Off” to cover in the BBC Live Lounge this week. Charli wisely jettisons Swift’s trademarked “this sick beat” line in the spoken-word bridge, along with pretty much all of the shiny production bells and whistles from the original track, presenting instead a lean, mean, drum and bass version that would make The Clash blush. Stick clicks, yelping vocals, a healthy dose of handclaps, and a snarling guitar solo turns Charli’s version into something you could expect to hear an unknown indie act rip through in a dingy Brooklyn club rather than reverberating through Madison Square Garden. I’ll go on record as saying “Shake It Off” was the track that made me turn from a Taylor Hater to a Swift fan, but I think I rather prefer this version.
Beech Coma Vol. 3
Jr. is one of those bands that is pretty difficult to get information about. Googling their name is an exercise in search engine frustration, and when you do manage to track them down, they’ve only got a relatively obscure Facebook page and Twitter handle. In fact, I first found my way to the few songs on their Soundcloud account after Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear tweeted about them a few weeks ago. But what I discovered there was absolutely delightful; at once both breezy and immediate, the L.A. trio’s sound combines clear, lush vocal harmonies over reverb-laden guitar and clicky dance beats. Think Vampire Weekend by way of The Beach Boys.
This week, London-based DIY label Beech Coma released a compilation featuring contributions by “fab new bands,” including a new track from Jr. titled “The Caller.” It’s a breezy, introspective cut, with spacy piano, funky guitar, and (without hyperbole) some of the prettiest vocal harmonies I’ve ever heard. We’ve spent the weekend getting blasted by snow and freezing temperatures, but “The Caller” makes it somewhat easier for me to close my eyes and daydream about flying down the sun-soaked PCH in a vintage convertible with my girl next to me. The band has demonstrated in a very short amount of time just how much potential they have, and I’m very eagerly anticipating an album announcement from them.