It’s like New Music Friday, except on Monday, because this way I have more time to really discover, listen to, and assess the new music. I’m going to be more sparse in my descriptions so as to make more time for writing other things.
THE NEW SINGLES
Taylor Swift gave us the final pre-release single from the Reputation album cycle, “Call It What You Want To” and I am loving it. This new song has everything in it that is likeable and awesome about Taylor Swift. (As readers may remember, I didn’t like the first two Reputation songs to come out and had only a moderate liking for the third, “Gorgeous.”) Just when you think she has mostly given up on the whole concept of innocence, she comes back with a song that makes completely believable allusions to building blanket forts and wearing a man’s initials in a chain around her neck for the right reasons. Rock on, Taylor. I am definitely looking forward to November 17th more than I was last week. “My baby’s fly like a jetstream.” Who even writes like that! So much happiness.
I didn’t find out that there was a new Before You Exit song until yesterday, but there is, and it’s called “Strangers.“ For those who don’t know, BYE has been pretty much my favorite current pure pop act out there for a year now, solely on the basis of their outstanding and magical 2016 EP All The Lights. Their vocals, songwriting (yes, they write their own songs), and production quality is just so far above most of what’s happening in the pop world today. “Strangers” is another example of that greatness, and now I have to wonder whether there’s an album announcement coming out.
U2 released two singles from their upcoming album Songs of Experience: “Get Out of Your Own Way“, and “The Blackout” (no youtube links, these are for Spotify). “The Blackout” is my favorite of the two (that punchy little riff at the end of each verse line is so great), but both are quite good.
Then there’s “Telluride” by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill. This is a fun little country-rocker from Tim & Faith’s duets project. It is also not that other song called “Telluride” that Tim sang sixteen years ago for his Set The Circus Down record. Are artists really allowed to do that? I don’t know. Anyways, I really like this tune, although it’s been overshadowed a little in my listening by another country-rock tune which I will talk about in the albums section.
Finally, Andy Grammer gave us a new single called “Smoke Clears“. This is better than some other recent Andy Grammer singles, but it’s not a standout like “Honey I’m Good” or “Fine By Me.”
THE NEW ALBUMS
First off we have Texoma Shore by Blake Shelton. This is a pretty good all-around country record that walks the line between trad-country and pop-country. “Got The T-Shirt” is an outstanding tune. The lyrics are only ok (not bad, just ok), but that chorus hook is mighty.
Unapologetically by Kelsea Ballerini disappointed me. I was hoping for at least one great standout track like “Peter Pan.” There wasn’t one. There’s a tune from this record making the rounds right now called “I Hate Love Songs.” It’s alright. But not great.
Red Pill Blues by Maroon 5 disappointed me even more. It’s not the guitar-free pop production, it’s the lack of inspired melodies. Aside from the pre-release singles “What Lovers Do” and “Whiskey,” there’s just nothing here that I wanted to listen to twice (or even once in many cases).
On the other hand, Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All did not disappoint at all. It’s a great pop-soul record. “Midnight Train“ is my favorite track so far, but there’s a few really good songs here. “One Last Song“ and “Baby, You Make Me Crazy“ (once again, Spotify links) were standouts. If you like the sound, this one is worth listening to from start to finish. Some critics have knocked the vocals on this record as understated, but that under-statedness is, in my mind, what makes Sam unique and great. It’s part of his personality. He’s never gonna flat-out slay, not because he couldn’t but because that’s just who he is. It’s the controlled and confessional approach that makes his music so emotionally hard-hitting.
Next up we have Lee Brice’s self-titled album (unusual that it’s eponymous, as it’s also his fourth studio LP), which is really solid, and might be my favorite country album of the year so far. There’s lots of good cuts, but “Dixie Highway“ (spotify) is more than just good. It’s an absolute boss of a country rock tune, musically, lyrically, and vocally. It is also (with apologies to Alan Jackson and Journey) by the far the best song ever called “Dixie Highway.”
Lastly, Kygo showed up with an eight-song album called Kids in Love. Is it an EP? is it an LP? Will we ever know? What’s most important is that the thing (whatever its true identity in terms of album length may be) is pretty good. In addition to the title track (for which I have elsewhere professed my love and admiration), there’s a collab with OneRepublic called “Stranger Things“ which is everything you want from a OneRepublic song (as far as I know it has no relation to the TV show), and another tune, “Permanent feat. J.Hart,” which is of a similar mettle. There are also some other cuts which, though they aren’t great, are still decent pop songs.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy the new tunes! Let me know if I missed anything.