Tuesday Music Review: Kelly Clarkson and more!

It’s a Tuesday, that awkward day after the week starts and before Humpday (Odin’s day, mind you); it’s a day devoted to Tyr, the Norse god of combat, but I digress. The one glimmer of light afforded to us mere mortals on Tuesday’s is the release of new music. Generally, singles and albums drop on Tuesdays, giving me a perfect excuse to start a new musical column today. As I’m still ironing out the kinks, the format may change, but my intention to review some of the latest songs to hit. I’ll try to keep my coverage broad and I’m open to suggestions. 

“Run Run Run” – Kelly Clarkson feat. John Legend

It’s been out for a little while, but I wanna start with this release from Kelly Clarkson’s upcoming album Piece by Piece. Clarkson covers a Tokio Hotel song of the same name, but it’s significantly different than the original. For one, it’s a duet. First, Clarkson harmonizes with her self. It’s a move that female pop stars have been doing ages (I’m partial to Gwen Stefani’s use of the technique) and I appreciate that the “second” Kelly is given a lot of presence. After the first verse, we get John Legend joining her. Legend has a velvety smooth voice that lends it self to this kind of supporting role. He never over shadows Ms. Clarkson, and yet he holds his ground. Similarly, the back track is limited to piano and strings until the song hits a new plateau at 2:44. If it wasn’t for the audacious change – guitar solos, pounding drums, overlapping voices – I’d think the song was a pretty average pop ballad. The emotional energy of the ending along with great production puts it up a few pegs.

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“Of Course We Know” – Modest Mouse

Another song off the upcoming album Strangers to Ourselves, “Of Course We Know” trades in the high energy of their radio friendly “Lampshades on Fire” for a more introspective, trippy vibe. Isaac Brock’s voice slithers over itself, highlighting his modes of rumbly baritone or strained tenor simultaneously. Rolling Stone points out that their is a Western vibe to the track and it’s true that it shares a certain sense of creeping apocalyptic crisis as with Ennio Morricone’s best work. The song never quite erupts, but the drums slowly evolve from low drums to include more cymbals and snare (higher pitches, higher energy) while the guitars do the heavy lifting to keep the song interesting. Starting about three and a half minutes in, a guitar solo brings the entire piece up. Piano does the job of fading out the song and in fact the album. Really solid work from the Washington group. I look forward to the full album. 

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“Wasted Days” – Made Violent

I wasn’t intending to review this song, but it popped up by accident and it is a new release. I know little about Made Violent or their upcoming work so it’s all the more fun! “Wasted Days” is a pleasant garage rock tune, replete with jangly high hat, fuzzy bass, and scratchy vocals. It should satisfy those we feel like The Strokes haven’t made a good song in years because it sounds exactly like early-era Strokes. I mean that as a compliment. Some how I know the sing-a-long chorus will lodge itself in my brain just like it’s supposed it. It comes off their self-titled EP, and it’s good enough that i’ll give the rest of their small output a listen. 

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“All Day” – Kanye West ft. Theophilus London, Paul McCartney, and Allan Kingdom

Kanye goes big. Big samples, big bass, big style. Within the sub-genre of rap where every line ends with the title, how many start with a blaring techno choir and end with a Paul McCartney whistling solo? Now that’s a big move. “All Day” continues the experimental  kick from Yeezus, and while all of it’s digressions don’t land (a broken arcade game makes a cameo) it’s hard to not applaud the risks taken. Conversely, grounding the song within the aforementioned “title rap” subgenre and giving it a pounding beat keep the 5 minute song moving swiftly through every experiment. I’ll be spinning this one for sure. 

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“I Really Like You” – Carly Rae Jepsen

Did you think I wasn’t going to talk about this track? It’s a foregone conclusion that you will hear this song and that you will hear too much of it. To be honest, I’m not terribly excited by the prospect. It’s not a bad song by any means, but while “Call Me Maybe” became a hit because was both tongue in cheek and sincere (a difficult feat) this song isn’t both. Either it’s stupidly sincere and therefore bad, or worse than being tongue in cheek, it’s a cash grab imitation of what made “Call Me Maybe” great. What I do like, however, is the production. The drum synths are straight out of the ’80s. While the songwriting feels very 2010’s – a mix of Robyn, Jepsen’s last hit, and a touch of Ellie Goulding – the mix feels like we almost heard a Whitney Houston banger a la “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” For that, the song almost earns it’s plays. 

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To wrap things up, a note about my credentials. You might wonder why I’m allowed to write about music. The simple answer is, I know a fair amount about music, enough to talk about it with it’s own language – rhythm, melody, chord progressions. Everything else is just my opinion. Get cracking in the comments if you don’t agree. 

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