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Spinning Singles: Pusha T, “H.G.T.V.”

Rap’s John Grisham, El Presidenté, Blowbama — these are just a few of the titles that Virginia rapper Pusha T appoints to himself on his latest single, “H.G.T.V.” Those last two, in particular, feel like a coronation years in the making for the 39 year-old MC, who just last year became president of Kanye West’s label, G.O.O.D. Music. Braggadocio and cocaine puns have anchored Push’s brand of rags-to-riches lyricism since at least the early 2000s, when he first garnered widespread attention as one half of Clipse — the now defunct rap duo formed with his older brother. But unlike his contemporaries from that era, the rapper born Terrence Thornton has only gotten better with age, showing time and again his ability to work with this week’s in-demand producers while making music that is distinctly his own. “H.G.T.V.” continues that hot streak, condensing plenty of quotable Push-isms into a single verse over menacing, bass-heavy production. Last year’s Darkest Before Dawn featured some of the weirdest beats on a major label rap album in recent memory, with known quantities like Timbaland mining for left-field samples to operate in Push’s gleefully menacing orbit.

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Spinning Singles: Joyce Manor, “Last You Heard Of Me”

Nine days remain until Joyce Manor release their fourth LP, Cody. In the six years since their 2010 Split with Summer Vacation, the pop-punk/emo quartet has matured in a familiar trajectory. The group toned down the blunt twenty-something angst of their 2011 self-titled debut, added in power-pop motifs and continued putting out unpretentious vignettes through 2012’s Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired and 2014’s Never Hungover Again. “Fake I.D.,” the first single off of Cody (slated for an October 7 release), resembled the Brit pop-inspired “Heated Swimming Pool” far more than any of the group’s latchkey SoCal musings. I freaked a little when I first heard it, to be honest.

COURTESY OF REPRISE RECORDS

Spinning Singles: Green Day, “Still Breathing”

No one is going to blame you if you spaced out for Green Day’s 2012 three-album, 37-song outpouring ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! The trilogy called into clear relief the inherent contradiction in the trio’s 2009 21st Century Breakdown. Green Day’s broad brush, lite manifesto take on politics was both far too milquetoast to seriously listen to as political punk, but too sincere and ideologically weighty to reward casual listening like fellow aging punks Descendents. The band kept 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot’s big budget production and streamlined production for ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!

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Spinning Singles: PWR BTTM, NAO

“New Hampshire” — PWR BTTM 

PWR BTTM is a pretty unilateral band. A great and unashamedly unilateral band, but one-sided all the same. Frankly, there are only so many types of sounds a guitar-drum rock duo can concoct, and it’s not like PWR BTTM, even at their best, have been bounding through any boundaries, sonically. Ugly Cherries was remarkable more for what it was (a thrashing, vulnerable paean to queerness and what it can mean in all its iterations) than for how it sounded (pwr chords and pwr vocals that both, in turn, skidded from blared to whimpered with the click of a distortion pedal). As I heard it, their last album’s noises were auxiliary, secondary to and supporting the inescapable choruses, bleeding confessionals and brash, almost gaudy humor that stood at the top of the soundpile.

COURTESY OF EPITAPH RECORDS

Joyce Manor — “Fake I.D.”

Before getting to “Fake I.D.,” let’s lay down some background on Joyce Manor. The California four-piece works in a grey area between emo and punk. Their lyrics skew far more often towards crypticness than the melodrama in their emo and pop-punk contemporaries’ work. Their songs are complicated, throbbing with raw energy and short: their four LPs all clock in at fewer than 20 minutes. The band’s 2011 self-titled debut posed a commitment to bile and pettiness that continued throughout their later releases.

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Spinning Singles: Mitski, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alicia Keys, Steve Gunn

CORRECTION APPENDED

“Happy” — Mitski

“Happy came to visit me, he brought cookies on the way.” Mitski softly spills out the words in a ghostly, vibrating mumble, over a quick, blasting automatic weapon-esque drum machine pulse on her single “Happy” — the second pre-released track from her forthcoming, sophomore sum, Puberty 2. The track is a beautiful mystery: a queer, sad, riddle of a song. The track recounts the memory of a visit from Happiness (who goes by male pronouns) who laid her down, told her it would all be okay, then vanishes while she’s in the bathroom, leaving a mess and reminders of the visit in his wake for the singer to clean up. In the song’s three brief verses, Mitski crystallizes the intoxication of happiness — the everythingness of small moments, the sun-filled room, cookies and tea with a lover — and the violent hangover of the come-down, the desperation to get it back. However, the most haunting emotion on the track, is Mitski’s apathy about the whole affair: that she is not heartbroken, screaming or crying: just a little bit sad, as she quietly cleans up the debris: “And I turned around to see/All the cookie wrappers/And the empty cups of tea/Well I signed and mumbled to myself/Again I have to clean.”

As it turns out, ambivalence about heartbreak is much sadder than heartbreak by itself.

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Spinning Singles: Blink-182, “Bored To Death”

As the number of members in a given band decreases, the worries of a “Ship of Theseus” transformation increase if band members join on or drop out. As such, Blink-182’s decision to slot in Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba in place of former vocalist and guitarist Tom DeLonge 14 years into their career must have elicited trepidation amongst many long-time fans. In “Bored To Death,” the first single off of Blink-182’s California, which is slated for a July 1 release, fans get a glimpse of Skiba’s contributions to the trio. The new collaborators have seemingly decided to pass on delving into radically new material in their first public debut, instead offering up a song that could easily slot into any of Blink-182’s most middle-of-the-road, polished releases (Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket). “Bored To Death,” however, evidences the darker, more mature tone that Blink-182 has started moving towards as its band members near their mid-40s.

COURTESY OF JOYFUL NOISE

Spinning Singles: Beyoncé, Yoni & Geti, Brian Eno

Yoni & Geti — “Wassup (Uh Huh)”
Every indie geek whose taste has ever skewed eclectic and depressive should consider it a true-blue blessing that Yoni Wolf (WHY?, Clouddead) and David Cohn aka Serengeti transformed their friendship into musical collaboration. True, Serengeti’s 2011 Family & Friends saw Wolf take the production reigns, and his influence could be heard on Serengeti tracks like “Goddamnit” that channel his kitsch-as-loneliness approach. A nagging feeling, however, remained that Serengeti and Wolf still hadn’t truly pushed their collaboration into exciting territory that maximized each wordsmith’s staggering potential. The time has come. The duo has a match-matchy name (Yoni & Geti), an album title (Testarossa) and a release date (May 6).

COURTESY OF REPUBLIC RECORDS

Spinning Singles: Ariana Grande, “Dangerous Woman”

Okay.  A lot of me really likes Ariana Grande’s music.  Well, her newer music.  You were probably listening to it Saturday night in the basement of (insert frat name here); “Problem,” “One Last Time,” “Bang Bang,” “Break Free.”  Yeah, the songs are contrived and sustained purely by endless repetitions of 2 eight-counts of whichever instrument is being showcased and the high-flying cascades that Grande pulls off with her voice, but they’ll get you to sing along, or dance, or both.  If you take yourself seriously, maybe don’t watch any of the videos — either they’re filled with camp or I’m just not understanding the artistic message she’s sending out — but there’s no danger in enjoying a little bubblegum now and then between your really profound “Indie Discover Relax Golden” playlist you’ve homegrown on Spotify.

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Spinning Singles: DMX, Nick Jonas

 

“Moe Wings ft. Big Moeses and Joe Young” — DMX

Despite almost dying in February, DMX came back in March with “Moe Wings,” his first single in almost three years. The track finds X continuing his career-long tradition of sounding like an enraged pit bull, gnashing its teeth and growling at you from behind some sorry-ass chain-link fence. Rapping over a low-chord string arrangement and crashing drum-kit beat, he spends the first verse bringing down other rappers by asserting his masculinity over theirs, and the chorus declaring himself to be “hot like moe wings.” Such belligerence is certainly what gives DMX his appeal, but as he gets older, his bark makes him sound more and more like an angry old man yelling at you to get off of his lawn. Nevertheless, “Moe Wings” has vital signs.