Some weeks, writing this column is hard because it’s tough to scrape up six new songs. Some weeks, it’s hard because I find a dozen I want to include and have to make some tough cuts. And this week is one of the latter.
Waxahatchee – “Fire”
Katie Crutchfield’s exquisitely demanding voice spills out over an understated groove so uncontainably that by the time she hits on the refrain “For some of us/It ain’t enough,” it is to say “Well, duh.” This track suggests that the sound of the upcoming Saint Cloud may be as far from the forthright alt-rock of Out in the Storm as that 2018 album was from Crutchfield’s more intimate early stuff. And while that might bum some early fans, I find the scope of her ambition thrilling.
Hayley Williams – “Simmer”
The Alanissance is in full effect for 2020, friends. Ms. Morissette, who’s currently touring, pops in on the new Halsey album, Manic, and now her spirit surfaces on this solo joint. (Though there’s also some Tori Amos in the mix.) Opening on an ominous note, with the line “Rage is a quiet thing,” the track retains a sense throughout that anything could happen—a sense that lingers no matter how often you re-listen.
Mac Miller – “Good News”
Miller’s posthumous Circles is a hard listen at this UV-starved wintry moment, and not just for the obvious reason that he’s gone. Jon Brion’s production provides a comfort level for Miller, and his performance is raw and intimate. It shouldn't suprise us that he was hitting his stride—after all, he was only 26.
070 Shake – “Guilty Conscience”
R&B (if that’s even what this Kanye protege is up to) doesn’t risk this solidly soaring a pop chorus much these days, but it’s what Shake’s robust gender-evasive voice cries out for. And that “Stand by Me” sample doesn’t hurt, not at all.
Shakira feat. AA Anuel – “Me Gusta”
She’s cheating. Starts with the skeleton of “Despacito.” Lifts the hook from Inner Circle’s “Sweat.” Brings in a young Latin-trap hotshot to guest. And yet it all works. What can I say?
Swamp Dogg feat. John Prine and Justin Vernon – “Memories”
The high point of Eaux Claires 2017 was the tribute to John Prine that Justin Vernon orchestrated, which featured a full-throated “Sam Stone” from the veteran soul eccentric Swamp Dogg. So it’s good to hear the old dudes teaming up under Vernon’s aegis, and the hook phrase “Memories don’t leave like people do” is sweetly reassuring in a sad way.
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2019 playlist.