I wasn’t going to listen to Ryan Adams’s 1989 cover album, obviously, but then I started reading people saying it sounded like Bruce Springsteen. I really like Springsteen, and, actually, if any guy could cover Swift successfully it might be him (they both manage to present self-conscious story-telling as sincerity). Sadly, Adams’s version sounds almost nothing like Springsteen. I can just about hear the similarities between Adams’ version of “Shake it Off” and “I’m on Fire,” but his vocals have none of the dark yearning of the Springsteen track, and anyway the style of “I’m on Fire” isn’t a fit for “Shake it Off” at all. But that pretty much exemplifies Adams’s record; what’s baffling is just how incompetent it is. Why has he transposed the songs into keys that take them outside his vocal range? Why has he altered the rhythms of tracks without paying any attention to what effect that will have on the stress patterns of the lyrics?
Two records now which are almost intimidatingly competent. Lana Del Rey continues to be committed to a very particular sound, indeed Honeymoon seems even more narrowly focussed than Ultraviolence was. It’s pretty interesting; there’s lots to listen to in her performance, and in the production, particularly the way her voice rings in a kind of tape-stretch distortion. At the same, though, it seems a bit flatter than Ultraviolence, or at least it doesn’t grab me quite as much. While Honeymoon‘s songs have the sadness that Del Rey has made her trademark, I don’t know that they have the same hint of self-destruction that made Ultraviolence uncomfortable and hence so compelling. The tracks I like best on Honeymoon are the ones where Del Rey stretches her formula a little, as with the hints of country on “God Knows I Tried,” where the aesthetic of faded glamour picks up some of the rhinestones from a Nudie Cohn suit.
I actually listened to Angel Haze’s Back to the Woods last week, but it hadn’t really grabbed me by the time I wrote my last post. I was pretty sure it would grab me given enough listens (Haze’s previous work is pretty much uniformly excellent), and indeed it has done. Haze’s rapping has always been incredibly technically skilled (which you can see especially in how they keep up with the energetic production in “Impossible“), but they just keep expanding the range they can turn that skill to, as in “Detox,” which I guess you could call a regretful lovesong of sorts.
A final couple of things. Dreamy synth pop about unapologetic messiness from Sofi de la Torre, and “Vibrato” from K-Pop group Stellar. The video, above, is, well, it’s definitely something (and there’s been some discussion about the dubious PR campaign it’s part of), but the song is brilliant, without qualification. It’s like someone dissected a Spice Girls song and carefully re-assembled it (which makes it part of a late-90s trend in K-Pop right now).