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.
Mike Duquette is living for…
This is Acting
If you, like me, are cursed to think about the endless pop music-industrial complex each day, you’ve probably read a lot about Ryan Adams’ full-album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. As a Swift fan with mild reservations and an Adams tolerator without reservations, I’ve seen lots of digital ink spilled on the record (Ann Powers’ thoughtful take is one of the best) and regard Adams’ take as a testament to the intrigue of interpretation: hearing songs made by our favorite performers or remade with new voices shows how music can be all wonderful things to all people, keeping us less alone in this increasingly shitty universe.
The interpretation factor plays heavily into “Alive,” the excellent new single from cult-pop singer-songwriter Sia Furler. Radio scanners know her for blockbusters like David Guetta’s “Titanium” and her own solo Grammy-nominated “Chandelier,” while liner note geeks know her writing credits for Rihanna (“Diamonds”), Beyonce (“Pretty Hurts”), Carly Rae Jepsen (“Making the Most of the Night”), and others. The forthcoming This is Acting addresses that dichotomy directly, comprised of songs she specifically wrote for others. “Alive,” co-written with Adele for her still-gestating third album, features the kind of dramatic build-up you’d expect on either of their albums, complemented by a fragile vocal delivery from Sia, still the closest sonic equivalent of a nervous breakdown there is. I could picture Adele taking “Alive” to the upper reaches of the charts, but now is Sia’s chance to do so, and I can’t wait to discover the other pairs of shoes she’ll step into on the new album.
Sam Paxton is kidz bopping to…
“Captain Robert Falcon Scott”
Ra Ra Riot
The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show Soundtrack
Listen at Paste Magazine
Kid’s shows haven’t always been fodder for great pop songs, but ever since the Nickelodeon show Yo Gabba Gabba hit on the idea of tapping indie bands to pen child-appropriate tunes, groups from The Shins to Weezer to The Flaming Lips jumped on the bandwagon. The latest group to join the trend is New York’s Ra Ra Riot, with a catchy track for the upcoming Netflix series The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show.
Tapping into the same neon-soaked spirit that inspired their last studio album, the excellent Beta Love, “Captain Robert Falcon Scott” is a bouncy, synth-driven dance track that could easily be mistaken for the theme song of an obscure 80s Saturday morning cartoon. For some reason, every time I hear it I can’t help but think of the excellent Queen-penned theme to the 1980 Flash Gordon film. The lyrics may be a biographical account of the actual Robert Falcon Scott, an early 1900’s explorer most famous for dying on an expedition to the South Pole, but the upbeat track recasts him as some sort of superhero. Given Peabody and Sherman’s time-travelling capers, it’s entirely likely the Captain Scott is a character featured on the show, but even if not, it’s an excellent, if unlikely, addition to Ra Ra Riot’s oeuvre.
David Lebovitz is yawning to…
“Writing’s On The Wall”
Spectre Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
As far back as July, bookies were picking Sam Smith as the far and away favorite to sing the new Bond theme. The lesson, as per usual–don’t bet against the book. That said, the book’s about who gets to do it, not how interesting the end result is.
I have no idea how many times I’ve heard it, because once the song ends I have no memory of what it sounds like. Hell, the song is embedded right here and I’m not sure what it sounds like other than some falsetto and a Bassey-esque opening. It’s not a trainwreck by any means whatsoever–it’s competently scored, has a good flow, and all the right notes are hit in all the right ways. Sam Smith’s vocal prowess is on full display. It’s done in the tradition of orchestral Bond themes, even more so than Adele’s “Skyfall” theme. But all the competence in the world doesn’t make something memorable or engrossing. Smith just isn’t able to marry technical ability and emotion the way Adele is, and having this as a follow up to her Oscar-winning theme certainly worked against him–especially from a man occasionally called the “Male Adele.” All the technical ability in the world doesn’t help you if you’re boring.
On my list, I’d put this as the third best Craig Bond theme, behind “Another Way To Die,” which was both unmemorable and bad, as opposed to simply unmemorable. If nothing else, I think we can all agree this is at least better than Madonna’s Bond theme. I’ll take anything over that, even the theme for “The Man With The Golden Gun.”
Hopefully the next Bond theme is sung by, oh say, Lady Gaga (if she’s still A Thing in two to three years) or another talented singer who can make compelling music. If Ed Sheeran records, we riot.