The Early Bird: Top New Releases 7-12-19 – 7-18-19 Reviewed
“Bad Guy” is the anthem of 2019, a huge hit for teenager Billie Eilish back in March, and it remains on the Billboard Top Five, so a remix with Justin Bieber, her childhood teen idol, makes perfect sense. But it doesn’t sound right, Justin is fine but wrong for the song, his verse is far from called in but it isn’t what it needs to be, though the wolf howl is perfect. Still, I love the sucker with all my heart (Grade: B+).
If Billie and Justin make perfect sense, the creepy looking “The Lion King” remake with computer driven, animal kingdom fakery is building towards being a complete mistake… I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the soundtrack, The Lion King (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), is okay if you can get past the incidental music. Beyonce and Donald Glover work for me on the saccharine “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” and, I guess the Bey new big ballad, “Spirit” does the job. Everything else is on a par with the original Disney cartoon or a little worse (Grade: B-).
Both of the new Bon Iver singles, “Faith” (Grade: A-) and especially, “Jelmore,” (Grade: B+) are from the “Tu Dance” ballet collaboration and both are much better than the first two songs. People didn’t seem to respond to Future’s excellent mixtape earlier this year, “100 Shooters” featuring Meek Mill and Doe Boy, is another terrific trap doomsday track (Grade: B+). Pussy Riot are, quite, quite literally, the only band whose agitprop gets em in jail, on “Black Snow,” an open letter to Putin about environmental destruction set to “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” is no “Make America Great Again” (their best song by far) but it sure makes its point (Grade: B+). It is fair enough to claim that Vince Gill has the best voice in pop since Aretha died, but it is also fair to say that his originals, thirty years into his career, are beyond slack; “When Amy Prays” was scary bad and “I Don’t Wanna Ride The Rails No More” is better and still sinking in bathos (Grade: C+).
On Tuesday I wrote about my concerns over Ed Sheeran’s eagerly anticipated follow up to the epic Divide, No.6 Collaborations Project, featuring the biggest name in pop (except Taylor Swift), and it is a pretty solid set of songs with everybody from Eminem to Cardi B and way, way beyond. And the songs are good, strong though not super strength, probably his worst album to date and still gluey MOR pop state of the art. Prefab? Sure, but even so it is a consistent pleasure (Grade: B+).
As hard as you try, there are always bands that you simply miss. I missed Frightened Rabbit, I listened to a couple of the albums but for some reason they never clicked. Then Scott Hutchinson killed himself and I listened to the songs coming off this featured artists revision of his 2008 album, Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight‘, and it is superb. At first I thought it was a greatest hits, the singles being dropped, by Julien Baker, Daughter, Ben Gibbard, were so excellent and moving, they had to be, right? Well, they were in fact all from 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight, and so are the rest on this amazingly moving compilation. I sincerely regret never seeing Frightened Rabbit live on stage (Grade: A-)
bad guy (with Justin Bieber) – Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber – B+
Faith – Bon Iver – A-
Jelmore – Bon Iver – B+
No.6 Collaborations Project – Ed Sheeran – B+
Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ – Frightened Rabbit – A-
100 Shooters (feat. Meek Mill & Doe Boy) – Future, Meek Mill, Doe Boy – B+
Black Snow – Pussy Riot, Mara 37 – B+
The Lion King (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Various Artists – B-
I Don’t Wanna Ride The Rails No More – Vince Gill – C+