Ed Sheeran – “Sing”
Ever since I witnessed Brit-folk powerhouse Ed Sheeran rev up a 20,000 strong crowd at Madison Square Garden in the fall, I knew he was truly a force to be reckoned with. The 23 year-old, with his characteristic bright red hair, hoodies and soothing voice that can have anyone from teenage girls to middle-aged women swooning, has turned a corner since the days of “Lego House” and “The A-Team.” Sheeran recently collaborated on the soundtrack for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, with his highly acclaimed single “I See Fire,” and has teamed up with the likes of Elton John and Taylor Swift to release pop hits that have received numerous accolades.
“Sing,” from Sheeran’s upcoming album, X, reveals an entirely new side of the versatile artist. In this track, co-written by Pharrell Williams, Sheeran sheds his cozy acoustic vibe for funk-infused melodies, a driving beat and an agile falsetto reminiscent of Justified-era Justin Timberlake. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Sheeran said the album featured “a few songs about drunken regret and comedown from certain things.” This single, about finding romance while drunk at a dry industry party, certainly fits the description. One might not immediately envision a partnership between Williams and Sheeran, but “Sing” maintains a perfect balance between Williams’ lighthearted cockiness and Sheeran’s own classic acoustic charm. All in all, this is a really marvelous track.
— Caitlan Sussman
Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Jack White’s new single “High Ball Stepper” offers a bold first taste of his forthcoming album, Lazaretto, to be released this June. For a first taste, this biting track is a little sour and hard to stomach. It’s grindingly gritty, Western rock style and all-instrumental. Think Jack-White-goes-Blazing Saddles (listening to the track, one can almost picture White in cowboy boots and a Stetson over his signature dank black curls). However, after a little digestion, it’s actually an enjoyable, if challenging, surprise.
The track will be a disappointment to those who worship White’s brooding lyrics and screeching vocals, but his riffs of scorching electric guitar are evocative of Lynyrd Skynyrd and are interrupted only by exuberant piano interludes. Sans vocals, White’s musical talent — so raw that it’s bleeding — is truly audible. As per White’s musical style, it is not rock for the faint-hearted, but its explosive noise is deliberate and artistic. I suppose we’ll have to wait till summer to see if White’s new album will return to his traditional rock and roll or explore this new rambunctious cowboy sound.
— Jael Goldfine
Charli XCX – “Boom Clap”
English singer-songwriter Charli XCX released a new single this week, off of the soundtrack for the upcoming adaptation of John Green’s most famous work of depression-romantization and star-crossed teen lovers, The Fault in Our Stars. Derision for the film the track belongs to aside, Charli XCX exhibits her devine hook-writing capabilities yet again in “Boom Clap.” In a steady-handed ’80s throwback coated in sugary synth, the MTV-dubbed “princess of gloom-pop” keeps it light-hearted but acerbic as always. “No silver or no gold / you could dress me up so good / you’re the glitter in the darkness of my world,” she sings, in lyrics that aren’t so much clever as they are silly superflua and genuine earworms. Not quite as solid as the “whisky-wasted beautiful,” “SuperLove,” or the insanely addictive and cooly bitter “You — Ha Ha Ha,” of 2013, “Boom Clap” is still good fun.
In short, the lady’s on a roll — her 2013 LP True Romance was a Pitchfork “Best New Music” darling, her hilariously fun Clueless-remake collab with Iggy Azalea, “Fancy,” was met with blogosphere acclaim, she penned Icona Pop’s break-out single, “I Love It,” last year and rumors of a full-length album at the end of 2014, with conspirators such as Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo have been confirmed. Remembering that I have months to wait for this sophomore LP is the most vexing thing that has happened to me in at least three hours.
— Kaitlyn Tiffany
This week’s singles, as well as tomorrow’s Test Spin, can be spun HERE: