Welcome to the first edition of New Noise, which will examine the top tracks released in the previous week. Each week, this column will discuss the songs that are making news either on the charts or on the streets. The spotlighted genres will rotate each week, so no worries — there’s no music discrimination here.
Last week was a great week for rap and hip-hop, with a plethora of dynamite tracks being released from the best underground labels. Just a heads up, though: This list is definitely discriminating against Auto-tune abuse. So if the sound of Mario, Luigi and Pacman singing with marbles in their mouths is music to your ears, then you might have to skip over this list.
A$AP Rocky featuring Florence Welch: “I Come Apart”
At only 24 years old, A$AP Rocky has already dipped his toes in controversy, overhype and legal troubles. His debut album Long.Live.A$AP was released on Jan. 15 and his single, with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine ended up working wonders. “I Come Apart” features Welch’s ethereal vocals. The songstress and the rapper harmonize perfectly on the track and transform the song into a beautiful mash-up.
Flatbush Zombies: “When In Roam”
The Brooklyn collective is quickly gaining attention in the underground community for its tight beats and seamless flows. “When In Roam” is deliciously sparse (especially in terms of rap nowadays) and features a lot of Tupac references (unless I’m the only one who thinks of ’Pac every time I hear the words “Hail Mary”). With lyrics that actually involve more than cars, girls and bravado, the track is an oasis of originality in the desert that is Top 40 rap.
Da Brat: “Talk To Me”
Da Brat! “You’ve been So So Missed.” In her comeback track “Talk To Me,” the legendarily raucous femcee spits her trademark rapid rhymes with a rocked-out beat that demands attention. The Blue Rocks-produced track has a cocky Da Brat talking the language of money, and if you can’t speak it, prepare to be verbally annihilated by The Bratty One. Of course, that would actually be kind of an honor.
Kool G Rap featuring Big Noyd and Large Professor: “Naturally Born”
Queens rapper Kool G Rap is an icon for NYC rap, no question. His latest single, “Naturally Born,” is refreshingly trademark KGR. The track has no superfluities, no bravado and no filler — “Naturally Born” is just straight up real hip-hop that perfectly captures the sound of the golden age of NYC rap that KGR was so vital in helping establish.
Atmosphere featuring Brother Ali, Carnage and Haphduzn: “It Ain’t The Prettiest”
Minneapolis isn’t just the city that Brenda and Brandon Walsh hail from (…anyone?) — it’s also home to some of the greatest musicians and bands, especially when it comes to underground hip-hop. In honour of March 1st’s Welcome To Minnesota tour, the usual Rhymesayer suspects released “It Ain’t The Prettiest.” Atmosphere virtually never disappoints and this track is no different. For hip-hop fans unacquainted with Rhymesayer talent, this song is a great place to start.
Talk about diverse! The pop releases of last week were all over the map, chock full of reunions, long-awaited comebacks and secret shame for being impressed by a Willow Smith song.
Written for the hit HBO series Girls, the epically cool Santigold put out a new video with the release of her single of the same name. The steady alt-dance track is crafted in Santigold’s signature mix of reggae fusion and New Wave. Plus, the song and video are 10 times more enjoyable than the show, so that helps.
Justin Timberlake featuring Jay Z: “Suit and Tie”
By now, you’ve all probably heard about Timberlake’s important announcement, which he oh-so-non-insecurely released on the weekend the Oscar nominees were announced. As narcissistic as the dude might be, however, no one can deny that when he’s making music, he’s pretty much owning it. “Suit And Tie” is Timberlake’s first statement in his return to music and though it’s not mind-blowing, it’s great enough to realize that he has been long missed in the pop world.
Destiny’s Child: “Nuclear”
This reunion almost came out of nowhere, but DC is back (at least for one track) and it’s like they never left. “Nuclear” is a throwback dance song with the girls’ perfectly melding vocals complementing the vintage sound. Though the track is hanging out slightly above mediocre, it’s still a welcome return from one of the biggest girl groups in music.
Dido: “No Freedom”
Where did Dido go? No matter, she’s back. Dido fans will definitely enjoy the soft “No Freedom,” which employs her trademark soft-pop style and pensive lyrics. Dido’s sound hasn’t changed much in her absence, but clearly it ain’t broke, so why fix it?
Willow Smith: “Sugar And Spice”
You have no idea how ready I was to hate on this song … but then I heard it. When your only reference point of Willow Smith is the maddening repetition of “Iwhipmyhairbackandforth,” this song is just unreal. Sampling Radiohead’s “Codex,” “Sugar And Spice” is surprisingly despondent and showcases the 12-year-old’s amazing (yes, I said amazing) vocals. Clearly whipping her hair did Smith some good.
Here is a quick rundown of everything else going on in music this week:
Cloakroom: “Mind Funeral”
Ex-Grown Ups rockers build an ambiance from the ground up and fill it with beautiful distortion, making for the perfect stoner-metal landscape. More please!
Ex Friends: “Rainy Season”
Why does nearly every punk band sound like a Rancid ripoff nowadays? Regardless, “Rainy Season” is proper vintage punk, with a touch of the British Oi! sound.
Fur Of Heaven: A Year Without Teeth (EP)
OK, this is cheating because it’s an EP, but just in case you feel like throwing out your vocals, this is the EP for you. From the melodic breaks in the thrashing “Willow,” to the hammering “Alder” and the trouncing beats of “Ash” and “Mahogany,” these are the toughest trees you’ve ever come across in your life.
Streets of Laredo: “Girlfriend”
The Brooklyn-based New Zealanders know how to write a track. This song is pure ear candy with thunderous drums and upbeat arrangements. Plus, they’re wise enough to know that everything’s better with a tambourine.
Shugo Tokumaru: “Katachi”
The Japanese Superman strikes again! “Katachi” is possibly the greatest mixing of genres in one song — an East Asian twang and a frantic Celtic-sounding flute hold up the perfect pop melody. This is what mad talent sounds like.
Ivan & Alyosha: “Running For Cover”
As always, Ivan & Alyosha don’t fail to deliver. The song is pensive with the steady acoustic guitar paving the way into a simple, yet arcane musical air. But really, who even cares about the song? This band is amazing because they chose the greatest band name ever. It’s that simple.