Singles Jukebox – Amnesty Week

The last regular week of the year is also Amnesty Week, wherein our writers suggest ignored songs; but that fact alone doesn’t explain the number of songs I liked. Count’em: eight 7s, two of which would be easy 8s if I had to do it again. The first is a poignant Tim McGraw ballad, his finest single since 2011’s “The One That Got Away” and compensating for years of some of the most egregious pandering in popular music: sharply written and sung with poise, the harmonies by wife Faith Hill just right. The second, a solidarity anthem from Latin America stripped of sloganeering, in part because the solidarity Ana Tijoux delineates is sisterly too.

An exceptional Amnesty Week then, responsible for a few late breaking list inclusions like Haim’s “Don’t Save Me” (December 2012) and Natalie Imbruglia’s “Want” (December 2009). From Tink and Shura accommodating to a spare electronic ethos to Julia Holter barely embodying a standard and Elton John barely barely, period. But if you want an idea of the diversity of The Singles Jukebox, check out the week’s most controversial number “Chick Chick.” Let’s just say it does the title proud. See you on the other side, y’all.

Click on links for full reviews.

Tim McGraw ft. Faith Hill – Meanwhile Back At Mama’s (7)
Tink ft. Jeremih – Don’t Tell Nobody (7)
Deadmau5 ft. Colleen D’Agostino – Seeya (7)
Ana Tijoux ft. Shadia Mansour – Somos Sur (7)
Lydia Loveless – To Love Somebody (7)
Kitty – BRB (7)
La Nueva Rebelion – Me Hicieron Mas Fuerte (7)
TK from Ling Tosite Sigure – Unravel (7)
IU – Sogyeokdong (6)
Shura – Touch (6)
Christine and the Queens – Saint Claude (6)
Julia Holter – Don’t Make Me Over (5)
Thumpers – Unkinder (A Tougher Love) (4)
A Tribe Called Red – Burn Your Village to the Ground (3)
Bullet & Snowfox – The Heart (3)
Bright Light Bright Light ft. Elton John – I Wish We Were Leaving (3)
ZelooperZ – Plateau (3)
Wang Rong – Chick Chick (3)

Singles 12/12 – Readers Week

As we approach the twilight of the Singles Jukebox’s 2014 session, we turned to a tradition we call Reader’s Week, during which we listen to suggestions. It speaks to the diversity and global reach of this readership that I recognized not a one of the winners. A note about my scores: the middling ones reflect a deeper ambivalence than usual. My routine is to give a track at least two listens. The mixes for “Trocitos de Madera” and “Momotaro” were so febrile and dense that extra patience was required.

Click on links for full reviews.

Chelsea Jane – Where The Boys At? (7)
Kali Mutsa – Cancion de Amor Colla (6)
Suiyoubi no Campanella – Momotaro (6)
Ninos Du Brasil – Sombra Da Lua (6)
Adore Delano – I Adore U (5)
Allison Weiss – Giving Up (5)
Oh, Be Clever – Next To You (5)
La Yegros – Trocitos de Madera (5)
Wild Beasts – Wanderlust (5)
Skepta ft. JME – That’s Not Me (4)
Spies – Moosehead (4)
Popcaan – Waiting So Long (4)
QT – Hey QT (3)

Singles 12/5

We were at our jaundiced and piss-elegant best holding our noses while Adam Levine struck curious poses, although David Moore gets my vote for truest blurb. The rest of the week, as we approach the end of the year and our responsibilities, was a case of the blahs. My affection for One Direction’s Four doesn’t extend to “Night Changes,” which has the quiet malevolence of many passive aggressive pleas. I ranked Beyonce below Maroon 5 because I have expectations for her. Really the surprise was Pitbull-Ne-Yo, and even I didn’t recognize the terse sample from J-Lo’s greatest single.

Next week: readers week!

Click on links for full reviews.

GRL – Ugly Heart (6)
Joker – Midnight (6)
Bastille vs. Angel Haze vs. F*U*G*Z vs. Braque – Weapon (6)
Wretch 32 – 6 Words (6)
One Direction – Night Changes (5)
Milky Chance – Stolen Dance (5)
Sakanaction – Sayonara wa Emotion (5)
The Smashing Pumpkins – One and All (5)
Pitbull & Ne-Yo – Time of Our Lives (4)
The Dø – Despair, Hangover & Ecstasy (4)
Blake Shelton ft. Ashley Monroe – Lonely Tonight (3)
Maroon 5 – Animal (3)
Beyoncé – 7/11 (3)

Singles 11/28

There isn’t one Bruno Mars single I could stomach before this week’s Mark Ronson collaboration, so I have a remedy: less falsetto, more chalk. As in, chalky vocals. The Brown-isms didn’t grate last week but you watch as this thing takes off on radio, and it will if last week’s SNL studio audience was any indicator. Selena Gomez, often lukewarm, is also benefiting from enthusiastic airplay. Don’t underestimate Ellie Goulding though.

Broken English remains a touchstone, and 2002’s Kissin’ Time a lovely adaptation of her sprechgesang to synth landscapes produced by Billy Corgan and Beck. If the pope had a wife she’d sing like Faithfull. But the stylings of Nick Cave edge her to self-parody. Suggestion: recycle the title.

This week’s winner then is Gerardo Ortiz, doing his thing quietly and well for a couple years.

Click on links for full reviews.

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk (7)
Gerardo Ortiz – Eres una Niña (7)
Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding – Outside (6)
Katie Rush ft. Samantha Urbani – Dangerous Luv (6)
Selena Gomez – The Heart Wants What It Wants (5)
Belle and Sebastian – The Party Line (5)
Lil Wayne ft. The Lox – Gotti (4)
Marianne Faithfull – Late Victorian Holocaust (4)
Brett Kissel – Tough People Do (4)
Panda Bear – Mr. Noah (4)
Walk the Moon – Shut Up and Dance (1)

Singles 11/21

We liked the #1 song in the United States, in my case a lot — my favorite Swift single since “Mean.” Azealia Banks’ continuing strength also surprised us. If you haven’t heard Shamir, by all means. “On the Regular” has lost some luster, but “If It Wasn’t True,” released earlier this year, should go into your mix.

The Jukebox also celebrated Latin Grammys Week, demonstrating that our biases remain in place (yea to ballads, nay to sad pop) no matter the language.

Click on links for full reviews.

Taylor Swift – Blank Space (8)
Azealia Banks – Chasing Time (7)
Shamir – On the Regular (7)
Pablo López ft. Georgina – Te Espero Aquí (7)
Caloncho – Pasa el Tiempo (6)
Daniela Spalla – Pequeño Ladrón (6)
Miranda – El Gran Secreto (6)
The Avener – Fade Out Lines (5)
Periko & Jessi Leon – Me Vuelvo Loco (5)
Julio César – Me Elevas (5)
Aneeka – Demasiado Tarde (5)
Slash – World on Fire (3)
Cheryl – I Don’t Care (2)
Imagine Dragons – I Bet My Life (1)

Singles 11/14

Christgau, who got to Brandy Clark a year after release, rather delicately avoids judging 12 Songs a well-meaning snore. She and fellow out Nashville songwriter Shane McAnally appear in the credits for “Drunk Americans,” and while I hear little but the faintest of tweaks to Toby Keith’s approach I’m mesmerized by the idea of Clark schlocking her quilted No Depression plainspeak: less “Honesty,” more “Tell Her About It.” While she’s at it, she should invite FKA Twigs to join her. This year’s other Critical Phenomenon That Baffles Me (A War on Drugs is the other) mixes R&B and Knife-style atmospherics and before you get excited is vague about it too. Unfortunately so is Dawn Richard’s single – this time.

Click on links for full reviews.

St. Vincent – Rattlesnake (8)
Wiley – On a Level (6)
Dawn Richard – Blow (6)
Angaleena Presley – Ain’t No Man (6)
Toby Keith – Drunk Americans (6)
Rae Sremmurd – No Type (6)
Future Brown ft. Tink & 3D Na’Tee – Wanna Party (Remix) (6)
Zara Larsson – Rooftop (6)
Big Sean ft. E-40 – I Don’t Fuck With You (5)
FKA Twigs – Video Girl (4)
Lamb – We Fall in Love (4)
Kwabs – Walk (4)
Epik High – Born Hater (4)
Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud (2)
Meghan Trainor – Lips Are Movin’ (2)

Singles 11/7

Note the row of 4’s and 5’s — it was that kinda week. I liked Roudette’s insinuating number more than my colleagues, thanks to a sumptuous production (“Gorgeous Balearic lounge music,” Will Adams wrote). Mexican singer Ximena Sariñana also triumphed with an arrangement of beguiling and unexpected gnarls. But the ringers…Poor Brad Paisley. Moonshine in the Trunk is fine but the singles aren’t. After “River Bank” and “Perfect Storm,” why not the title track or “Shattered Glass”? Tricky’s 2013 album, which i haven’t listened to since Obama’s approval ratings were in the high forties, might have been a better than average fluke.

Click on links for full reviews.

Ximena Sariñana – Sin Ti No Puede Estar Tan Mal (7)
Marlon Roudette – When The Beat Drops Out (7)
Brad Paisley – Perfect Storm (5)
Girls’ Generation – Divine (5)
MercyMe – Greater (5)
Tricky ft. Francesca Belmonte – (5)
Foo Fighters – Something From Nothing (4)
Jan Smit ft. Kraantje Pappie – Handen Omhoog (4)
Alexa Goddard – So There (4)
Josh Turner – Lay Low (4)
Nathaniel – Live Louder (4)
Jessie J ft. 2 Chainz – Burnin’ Up (3)
Clean Bandit & Jess Glynne – Real Love (2)

Singles 10/31

Lots of winners this week: Sleater Kinney’s assured return, Mick Jenkins’ dense hip-hop, and Flying Lotus’ swirling and equally dense backing track for a worthwhile Kendrick Lamar performance, and, my favorite, Tamar Braxton. Although SK ranked first in number of listens, Braxton is catching up, another example of the female R&B songs that has made this a banner year, forcing a kinship between Future and Aaliyah.

I’m still sorting through the Javiera Mena album – carefully, for she’s the best reviewed artist in Singles Jukebox history. No one is looking more fondly back at Mark Liggett and
Chris Barbosa
, or understands how to be a ghost in the machine, but Mena flirts with colorlessness too; she should’ve released this powerhouse instead.

RIP Gwen.

Click on links for full reviews.

Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends (7)
Tamar Braxton ft. Future – Let Me Know (7)
Mick Jenkins – Jazz (7)
My Brightest Diamond – Pressure (7)
Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar – Never Catch Me (6)
Javiera Mena – Otra Era (6)
Dulce María – O Lo Haces Tú O Lo Hago Yo (6)
Dean Brody – Mountain Man (6)
Röyksopp – Skulls (5)
TV on the Radio – Happy Idiot (4)
Jamie T – Zombie (3)
Ina Wroldsen – Aliens (Her Er Jeg) (3)
Gwen Stefani – Baby Don’t Lie (2)

Singles 10/24

“Jealous” isn’t as exciting as the blurb suggests. The high notes are awful, and the thing is no “Pom Poms,” but I saw how this week’s crop would score, and couldn’t tolerate as winner John Rich’s mediocre diversion from Tea Party campaigning. But, hey, Atari Teenage Riot inspired one of our livelier comments sections. Speaking of lively, the enthusiasm for Mr. Stefani track waned; it’s no “Swallowed” or even “The Chemicals Between Us.”

Click on links for full reviews.

Nick Jonas – Jealous (7)
Big & Rich – Look at You (6)
Karen Harding – Say Something (5)
Trey Songz – What’s Best for You (5)
Bush – The Only Way Out (5)
Take That – These Days (5)
Avicii – The Days (5)
Kele – Doubt (4)
McBusted – Air Guitar (4)
Atari Teenage Riot – Modern Liars (4)
Jack Ü ft. Kiesza – Take Ü There (3)
Tokio Hotel – Girl Got a Gun (3)
Lecrae ft. For King & Country – Messengers (2)

Singles 10/17

Ambivalence over Nancy Whang dominated the “A Simple Design” blurbs, as they did my review a few weeks ago. I’ve come around. The song delivers on the title promise: elegant, boasting a pleasing circularity, onomatopoetic hook. Enthusiasm for “Quarterback” didn’t carry over for “Gone Enough,” which has the guitars substituting for poignancy. For even more ferocious guitars, check out The Pretty Reckless. For an even more ferocious bandwagon jumping, check out J-Lo and Iggy Azalea.

Click on links for full review.

The Juan MacLean – A Simple Design (8)
The Pretty Reckless – Fucked Up World (7)
Kira Isabella – Gone Enough (7)
Kate Tempest – Circles (7)
Netsky ft. Beth Ditto – Running Low (5)
Magalie – First Kiss (5)
Raquel Sofía – La Ecuación (5)
The Veronicas – You Ruin Me (4)
Netta Brielle – 3xKrazy (4)
Porter Robinson ft. Urban Cone – Lionhearted (3)
Jennifer Lopez ft. Iggy Azalea – Booty (Remix) (3)
Timmy Trumpet ft. Savage – Freaks (1)

Singles 10/10

Suspicious of Lorde a year ago, I think I understand her manipulations of mechanized late nineties spook rock (think Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore and Garbage album tracks). I may overrate “Yellow Flicker Beat” in the manner of a fella shouting about a discovery everybody made last week. The Ariana Grande track, well, nothing to get: the best track on the album, despite The Weeknd’s appearance. Why producers think he’s a sure thing I don’t know – what does he guarantee? Is it a way to assure Pitchfork coverage?

The rest: One Direction’s back to listening to arena rock classics (my colleagues say it’s Journey, I hear “Dancing in the Dark”); Carrie Underwood, inspiring the week’s most thoughtful writing; and, sadly, a fifteen months after “Someone Who Loves You” wowed me, here’s a limp attempt at something or other. Not a sellout. Definitely not a sellout. When she figures it out, I’ll be happy to clarify.

Click on links for full reviews.

Lorde – Yellow Flicker Beat (7)
Ariana Grande ft. The Weeknd – Love Me Harder (6)
Yemi Alade ft. Selebobo – Tangerine (6)
One Direction – Steal My Girl (6)
Medina – Giv Slip (6)
Leslie Grace – Nadie Como Tú (5)
T-ara – Sugar Free (5)
Professor Green ft. Tori Kelly – Lullaby (4)
Carrie Underwood – Something In The Water (4)
Fergie – L.A. Love (La La) (3)
Damien Rice – I Don’t Want to Change You (3)
Betty Who – Runaways (2)
Mila J ft. Ty Dolla $ign – My Main (2)

Singles 10/3

Beloved Jukebox stars like Mary J and Jessie Ware take hits this week. Maxwell’s blurb got the most attention, and in a way he’s right. As soon as a star refers to him/herself by royal title (Queen of Soul, King of Pop), serious criticism gets less serious and complacency on all sides kicks in. I like Blige’s early singles but have trouble with the cluttered and inconsistent albums she recorded before Mary. As a collection of songs released in the last fifteen years I love Growing Pains best, notably the Stargate and Tricky Stewart tracks (“Fade Away,” “Roses,” “Come to Me,” “Just Fine”). But I have mild confidence about the new one.

About Kendrick Lamar radio might persuade me to rate it higher the way it did in early 2013 with “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” As I suggested in my blurb, I may have lost Kendrick’s funny voices. I didn’t point out that the Isley Brothers interpolation sounds as hamhanded as Nicki Minaj’s Sir Mix a Lot one, although at least the latter is thematically apposite.

Download the Kleerup single though.

Click on links for full reviews.

Kleerup ft. Susanne Sundfør – Let Me In (7)
Dej Loaf – Try Me (7)
Mary J. Blige – Therapy (6)
Neon Bunny – Lost in Love (6)
Nerina Pallot – Love Electric (5)
Kendrick Lamar – i (5)
Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me (4)
DJ Khaled ft. Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future & Jeremih – Hold You Down (4)
Joel Compass – Girlfriends (4)
Kid Ink ft. Usher & Tinashe – Body Language (4)
Sigma ft. Paloma Faith – Changing (2)
Labrinth – Let It Be (1)
Arty ft. Angel Taylor – Up All Night (1)