New Charli XCX! And it’s fabulous, the kind of insouciant pop banger Charli XCX does so well. Most importantly, it’s a hell of a lot better than her last track, “Vroom Vroom,” which was fucking garbage. Her last EP was produced by Sophie, and was the kind of half-assed lazy shit that has come to characterize him and his PC Music mates. It’s instructive to compare PC Music’s slapdash product with the genuine insouciance of Charli XCX’s work, or, even more so, Rihanna’s Anti. Just as making sad music doesn’t just involve the unmediated recording of sadness, so the perfect representation of Rihanna’s no-fucks-given instagram attitude on Anti isn’t achieved by just not giving a fuck: it requires some sort of thought, craft, or practice that adds up to the sublation of not giving a fuck. The problem with PC Music’s artless recycling of 90s post-modern cliches about pop music is that it pays no attention to this dialectic. To be fair, some of the tracks on Vroom Vroom were better than the title track; “Paradise” suggests that if Sophie stopped dicking about and put in a bit of effort, he could make fair-to-middling happy hardcore.
Danny L Harle is the PC Music bro to have given the strongest impression to date he might be hiding some competence under the irony, and I’m pleased to see he’s finally unleashed that competence on “Ashes of Love,” which also has vocals from Caroline Polachek from Chairlift (whose album, Moth, is one of the best of the year so far, FYI). Involving a proper vocalist seems like a sign of genuinely committing to a song, rather than passing off the, at best, half-completed sketches that most PC Music tracks have been so far; in any case, it puts the song head and shoulders above any of their previous stuff.
AlunaGeorge have a new song out, which is OK, but more importantly reminds me that I haven’t mentioned “I Remember,” a track they released last month, and which is one of their best. Aluna has a pretty distinctive voice, and this track really works with her vocal quirks. Anxious, chopped up beat complements the fragility in Aluna’s voice and the vulnerability that desire leaves you open to, expressed in the lyrics.
There’s a similarly felicitous combination of beat and theme in Alicia Keys’s new single, “In Common.” I’ve often found Alicia Keys’s records to be quite boring (“Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” is a rare exception), but this new single has an understated tension that’s very engaging.
I wrote last week that I preferred Dawn Richards’ appearance on et aliae’s “Sober” more than any of her recent solo work, and although that’s true I’d forgotten Richards’s “Not Above That,” which has an emotional connection in the lyrics and (especially in the Deadboy remix) an excitement in the track that I think have got lost in the murk of a lot of her recent records.
Award for most Agambenian track of the week goes to Vérité’s “Gesture.” I mentioned Vérité a couple of weeks ago, but I hadn’t clocked the potentially Agambenian implications of calling a song “Underdressed.” Now she has an EP out with the plausibly Agambenian name of Living, which features “Underdressed” as well as “Gesture” and another great (and potentially Agambenian) track called “Rest.”
Wikipedia says that Oyinda combines electropop and shoegaze, which doesn’t strike me as accurate in a strict “being true” sense, but isn’t totally misleading as to the tone of her music, which is warm and engrossing.
Spoken word over dance music as a way of expressing social critique or portraying social history has a long history. There’s something about Daithi’s particular version on “Mary Keanes Introduction” which makes me think specifically of 90s iterations of that device; that he also has a track called “1995” suggests the similarity may be intentional.
New Sally Shapiro! Also, it seems, the final Sally Shapiro record 😧. It’s not Sally Shapiro’s absolute best track, but it’s nice to see them maintaining a consistent tone till the end.
Ariana Grande’s new single is pretty decent. It’s better than “Dangerous Woman,” although that’s not hard, as “Dangerous Woman” is rubbish. And the new track, while OK, sounds a bit dated, like it could have been the token EDM-pop track on any Disney artist’s album two or three years ago.
There’s a new track out from Salt Ashes, whose excellent “Let Me Go” I mentioned a few weeks back. The single mix of the new track, “Save It,” is actually a bit flat, but luckily there are plenty of remixes that reframe Salt Ashes as the house diva she deserves to be.
Generic EDM banger of the week is “How to Love,” by Cash Cash and Sofia Reyes. Generic EDM bangers is a good look for Sofia Reyes, who has previously made some pretty boring ballads, so I hope she’ll stick with it.