What We’re Listening To This Week 5/17/18

Check out our What We're Listening To playlist on Spotify.

“Hunger” - Florence + The Machine

Image Courtesy @florence

Image Courtesy @florence

With her signature harps twinkling beneath a choral set of "ooh”s, Florence is back. Her vocals, harsh and abrasive yet soulful, screech and scream "don't let it get you down, you’re the best thing I've seen" on her fist-pumping comeback anthem.

The song is about finding what you want in life and still desiring something more. She manages to connect her baroque pop to more modern lyricism with calls to let loose on a Friday. Despite this contemporary twist, the song is true Florence in its thrillingly dramatic style. Her new album is clearly going to be a highlight of 2018. ~Eish Sumra

"Four out of Five" - Arctic Monkeys

Image Courtesy @arcticmonkeys

Image Courtesy @arcticmonkeys

On their latest album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the Arctic Monkeys combine sci-fi vignettes with louche lounge music to create a sonic world that is utterly distinct from any of their previous work. The best entry point into this bizarre sonic landscape is the album’s centerpiece—and catchiest track—“Four out of Five.” Over a bluesy bass groove, frontman Alex Turner outlines the advertising strategy adopted by the Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, an entertainment center located on the lunar surface, and the record’s conceptual backbone.

It could be tempting to read Turner’s listless descriptions of the hotel’s countless offerings—from rooftop taquerias to virtual reality experiences—as Father John Misty-esque satire, but his lyrics and their lackadaisical delivery achieve something much more subtle. By refusing to pass judgment on any of the features he identifies throughout the song, Turner expertly captures millennial malaise: his narrator shrugs off gentrification, embraces the omnipresence of rating systems, and even names a restaurant after the information-action ratio. This attitude of indifference is what makes the song so unnerving. “Four out of Five” not only describes an unsettling vision of the future, but asks a much more revealing question: do we even care? ~Steven Norwalk

“Storm” - Higher Brothers

Image Courtesy @higherbrothers

Image Courtesy @higherbrothers

This past year, I have been really impressed by the music from the artists of 88rising, a management and digital media company that aims to globally promote Asian cultures. They have released music from such artist as Rich Brian and Joji. But a recent favorite has been Higher Brothers, and specifically they’re song “Storm”. The Chengdu-based hip-hop group is known for their trap style, which is unprecedented in China’s growing underground rap scene.

Spearheaded by Ma Siwei (aka Masiwei, the group’s leader) and produced by HARIKIRI, “Storm” introduces a softer sensibility to the group’s repertoire. The song’s ambling verses are somewhat atonal yet melodically fluid, but their brevity makes this complexity feel compact.  Throughout the song, the rappers code-switch between Sichuanese and English, adding subtle nuances to the lyrics while giving the track a unique, effortless flow. Tinny high hats in the consistent beat grounds the song in its hip-hop roots and counterbalances its surprising sentimental nature. Overall, “Storm” is a catchy, expressive track that demonstrates the Higher Brothers’ promise and versatility. ~Alyssa Liu

“Radioactive” - Imagine Dragons (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Image Courtesy Entertainment Weekly

Image Courtesy Entertainment Weekly

Not many know about this remix, but the 2014 Grammy performance is out of this world. It begins as a regular performance of “Radioactive” with the performers in a line dressed in white hooded ensembles. After the song’s first refrain, Kendrick Takes off his hood to reveal his identity, the violet lighting changes to red, and “ m.A.A.d city” drops in the middle of the song. By the end, after Lamar’s second live feature (an alternate verse he wrote just for the occasion), they’re painted in red powder and standing proud in a pink cloud of smoke—they knew they had won the Grammys.

Iconic performance aside, Lamar’s verse adds depth and significance that the hit seemed to have lost somewhere along the way as it ascended the pop charts. It starts as a calm, metered verse promising to leave his critics in the dust and hit his career out of the park (like home-run machine Barry Bonds).  As a string ensemble builds in tension and pitch, repeatedly striking on downbeats, Lamar’s voice changes into a raspy shout unlike any other innumerable voices. His verse culminates with a rapid rant that challenges them all and promises to get better with time.  This concludes with a piercing scream that leaves me speechless every time. ~Lexi Vollero

“Goodie Bag” - Still Woozy

Photo Courtesy @still_woozy

Photo Courtesy @still_woozy

I found this song on Shawn Mendes’ Snapchat a few days ago when he posted a short clip of him bobbing his head along with the drop. I watched the video countless times trying to pick up the lyrics to look up the song. I had never heard of Still Woozy before now, but I think the album cover artwork across all of his discography tells you everything you need to know the vibe of this emerging solo artist. A smooth bass groove drives with some subtle trap beat elements the dream-like track. I also think the layered floaty vocal harmonies and relaxed guitar riffs round out the song’s sound and add a laid-back, beachy element that makes it perfect for the sunny, summer days just around the corner. ~Lexi Vollero

“Caterpillar”- Royce da 5’9” (ft. Eminem & King Green)

Image Courtesy @royceda59

Image Courtesy @royceda59

Detroit’s number one, Eminem, teams up with his favorite hometown collaborator Royce da 5’9” and Chicago-based newcomer King Green to give their two (four? six?) cents on new school rap’s place in hip-hop history. The song’s main metaphor is one of rap metamorphosis: old-school “caterpillars” paved the way for the new-school “butterflies.”

Eminem and Royce are quintessentially old school but remind 2018 of their importance and relevance through the technical mastery demonstrated in this song, from their classic, relentless flow to off-the-wall metaphors mixed with pop culture references. Eminem signs off with his stamp of approval in an assonance-heavy verse that features 12 bars about Brazilian MMA fighter Anderson Silva’s gruesome injury (watch at your own risk) and ends with the declaration that “the boom bap is coming back with an axe to mumble rap.” ~Henrique DaMour

“Sick Boy” – The Chainsmokers

Image Courtesy @thechainsmokers

Image Courtesy @thechainsmokers

“Sick Boy” is the best of three new songs released last month by The Chainsmokers. The track’s lyrical content is considerably darker than their well-known hits “Closer” and “Paris,” detailing struggles with identity, anxiety, and an existential quest to find a place in the world. Even though this depth is a departure from their typical stories about drinking and girls, the instrumentation is still true true to The Chainsmokers classic style: a bit repetitive, a bit auto-tuned, but insanely catchy. ~Lilli Boice

MusicSteven Norwalk