Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

The Official Chart for June 19

Since You Went to Heaven” is the standout track on Brandy Clarke’s new album, an incredibly controlled and heartbreaking narrative of personal and social collapse. “Love Can Go to Hell,” “You Can Come Over” and “Broke” are also very good, although I’m not sure they’re quite as good as the best tracks on her previous album, 12 Stories. Some of the other tracks, like the the title track “Big Day in a Small Town” and “Drinkin’ Smokin’ Cheatin'” seem unfinished, more sketches than complete songs, as they both have a structure that suggests a narrative but they lack a dramatic payoff. And one song, “Daughter,” leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. In the song, the narrator hopes that a philandering ex will some day have a daughter, in order for him to get some sense of what he’s put women through. The problem is, in the song the daughter exists purely as a prop for this revenge, with no consideration for what the daughter might be suffering at the hands of the men who repeat her father’s poor treatment of women. I don’t think the characters portrayed or performed in a song need to be morally right, and it could be worthwhile to write a song from the perspective of a woman who is so angry at how she’s been treated that she doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process of her revenge, but I don’t hear that in Clark’s performance here. Read more↴

The Official Chart for June 12

A great week for synthpop, with the release of Ladyhawke’s new album, Wild Things. The whole album is great (I mentioned “Let it Roll” a couple of weeks ago, and “Sweet Fascination” a few weeks before that; the title track is also very good), but I think my favourite track is “A Love Song“. I’m a sucker for this kind of meta song anyway, but especially when, as in this case, it interleaves the love-song cliches its referencing with awed descriptions of events that instantiate them. Another new synthpop album, Avec Sans’s debut Heartbreak Hi. I have to admit I admire the skill with which the record is made more than I love listening to it, but the title track is good, and something about the euphoric leap in the chorus of “Shiver” really gets me. The third, and to my mind least good, synthpop album I’ve been listening to this week is Tegan and Sara’s Love You to Death. There’s something about both the delivery and the songwriting that I find faintly grating, and all the more annoying because I can’t articulate what I dislike more precisely than that. But to be fair, “U-Turn” really goes for the full Stock, Aitken and Waterman sound that a lot of more tasteful recent synthpop avoids. Read more↴

The Official Chart for June 5

Fifth Harmony seem to have settled on a sound, and that sound is tropical-house&B bangers. It’s a bit like when The Saturdays were all “why have different sounds on our albums when we could just make massive rave bangers?” and they were right to make that choice. Tropical house isn’t as good a sound as generic rave, but it’s a good sound and works well for Fifth Harmony. Leads singles “Work from Home” and “The Life” are both breezy and summery, as is Vybz Kartel cover “Gonna Get Better.” There’s also a note-perfect Prince pastiche (with sadly #problematic lyrics and a slightly underwhelming Missy Elliott verse), “Not that Kinda Girl.” I think my favourite track, though, is a departure from their tropical house sound, the lovestoned “Dope,” that kind of reminds me of Kehlani. Read more↴