High Five: A Handful of New Songs You Need to Hear, From Mwahaha, Lil Wayne, Marnie Stern, and More
Welcome, time-crunched and over-stimulated music fan, to All Shook Down's High Five -- a place where Byard Duncan wades through the shit to find you the hits. Well, five of them, anyway.
If there's anything uniting the tracks in this week's inaugural installment, it's a sense of urgency. From Dutch Uncles' densely layered meditations on addiction and love to Lil Wayne's vertigo-inducing boasts, there's an unmistakable tension throbbing beneath each selection. Away we go.
1. Dutch Uncles -- "Bellio"
Not quite synth pop, not quite weenie prog, this track shows us just how much UK-based Dutch Uncles can get away with in a span of less than three minutes. It's a dexterous, syncopated romp whose complexity is disguised by familiar textures -- plinky, Phoenix-flavored guitar work; papery synths; off-kilter melodies. Be patient. If there is space in your cold heart for both King Crimson and Belle and Sebastian, there's surely room in some dusty corner for Dutch Uncles.
2. Marnie Stern -- "Immortals"
"I'll come and find ya," Stern chants near this song's blistering outset, millimeters away from a full-on squeal, tapping her frets with cock-rock bravado. Whether her words are a promise or a threat is unclear, but perhaps that's the point. From start to finish, "Immortals" vibrates and teeters, constantly at risk of running itself into the ground. Stern's playing, frantic and fuzz-sheared, feels like a blurted confession. All the boisterousness of Japandroids' 2012 release, Celebration Rock, except with a woman wielding the axe for once, thank God.
3. Mwahaha -- "Rainbow Diamond"
Few can coat a good old-fashioned pop melody in sludge better than these Oakland psych-rock artisans. This song borrows recklessly (yet somehow satisfyingly) from classic rock, doo-wop, hymnals, used Band-Aids, the crud between your toes, and pretty much whatever else is available. Meanwhile, the lyrics cut a similarly jagged trajectory: "See the silver lining/ With a rainbow diamond/ Everybody's crying," singer Ross Peacock groans. Somehow hopeful, glamorous and doomy all at the same time.
4. Alex Bleeker and the Freaks -- "Leave on the Light"
What is it about these sluggish, backwoods odes to lost love? The mewing steel guitar? The ghostly chorus of voices assisting our heartbroken hero at every available opportunity? Loping and forlorn, this is a story that's been told two million times. But maybe tell it one more time, Bleeker. We're listening.
5. Lil Wayne, Ft. Corey Gunz and Nicki Minaj -- "Lay It Down"
An absolute river dredge of an eighth album, I Am Not A Human Being II leaves no gat un-fired, no blunt unsmoked, no genitals unchafed. It's not enough anymore for our favorite syzzurp-swilling hip-hop trickster to whip a bunch of shit (and God knows what other fluids) against the wall and see what sticks; he now appears to have totally disregarded any allegiance to genre whatsoever. That being said, "Lay It Down" is a welcome oasis among 16 other mostly useless tracks. Corey Gunz is slippery and lithe, cramming words into his verse with a hyperactive urgency. And against the song's queasy, funhouse mirror of a beat, Nicki Minaj's staccato delivery and exasperated crescendo are kind of delightful. The two function as EKG paddles of sorts for Weezy, who delivers his most compelling verse of the album.