Selena Gomez, "Bad Liar"
There’s an inherent, delicious contradiction in Selena Gomez’s infectious new single, “Bad Liar.” It’s specific and confessional in nature, but it’s also wildly theatrical. Gomez is truly performing on this in the sense that she almost feels like she’s playing a character—and having great fun doing so. Her delivery is simultaneously disaffected and cheeky, capturing the whole essence of the song, which is essentially about trying to play it cool when faced with a new love interest.
Gomez is often best on tracks that sound like they should be shared in hushed tones, like “Hands To Myself” and “Good For You,” both off her last album, Revival. But “Bad Liar” takes itself way less seriously than either of those. After all, it hinges on a joke: The chorus is a constant repetition of how much Gomez is trying not to think about the person in question, but then she relinquishes. “With my feelings on fire / Guess I’m a bad liar,” she shrugs.
Sonically, the selling point has been that Gomez and co-writers Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, and Ian Kirkpatrick used the bass line from Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as the basis for “Bad Liar.” It works both as homage and in context, but the charms of “Bad Liar” belong entirely to Gomez, whose winking phrasing makes the track such a success.
While I’ve still been enjoying (or at least, investigating) Burial’s new divergence into beatless ambient, any disappointment I might feel about that has been ameliorated somewhat by my totally random discovery of Vagrant. From what I can find, Vagrant is a newish, youngish producer based out of New Jersey whose work is heavily influenced by Burial—particularly his remixes for Massive Attack—and it shows in his new full-length, Unrest. Opener “Seafarer” in particular has that same bleakly beautiful, rain-drizzled cityscape atmosphere (the same kind that also wends its way through so much Dream Catalogue stuff), with perfectly hissed-out synth pads and wordless female vocals cresting and falling over a huge sub bass and click-clacking beat. It’s a promising introduction to a new artist that, if he continues to build on this satisfying if obviously slightly indebted sound, who knows? Maybe we’ll be back here in eight years, debating his own confounding stylistic detours.
Filthy Friends, "Editions Of You"
I will follow Corin Tucker wherever she goes—I mean musically, not in some creepy “Every Breath You Take” kind of way. Sleater-Kinney, obviously, solo, whatever, I’m usually down for it. Her latest project, Filthy Friends, finds her working with Peter Buck of R.E.M., Bill Rieflin of Ministry (and R.E.M.), Kurt Bloch of Fastbacks, and Scott McCaughey of The Young Fresh Fellows in what was originally intended to be a David Bowie tribute band (or so the story goes). The band debuted in April with a Record Store Day 7-inch featuring one original, “Any Kind Of Crowd,” and a cover of Roxy Music’s “Editions Of You.” Filthy Friends’ R.E.M. DNA is undeniable in the jangly “Any Kind Of Crowd,” whose guitar comes straight from the band’s golden age. It almost sounds like an alternate universe where Tucker led R.E.M. instead of Michael Stipe, which would’ve been pretty awesome, come to think of it. “Editions Of You” understandably veers into far different territory, with its spacey organ and brisk pace. Even if Filthy Friends is just a lark for some pals, the results still warrant more songs. Hopefully more will follow soon.
Damaged Bug, “Slay The Priest”
When he isn’t shredding out face-melting riffs and yelping up a storm as the frontman for Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer lays down alien jungles of analog synth weirdness and yelps up a storm as Damaged Bug. Bunker Funk, released earlier this year, leans even harder into the project’s krautrock influences, with most tracks folding intricate, syncopation-heavy drum parts into their swirling trips. But “Slay The Priest,” which hits right in the middle of a stellar four-track run, is a different beast entirely. Like Frankenstein’s monster, it comes to life with flickering static and lurches forward, fueled by a guttural drone and straight-forward rock beat. Before long, Dwyer makes his entrance, singing about god knows what in his typical impish falsetto and quickly ceding to a trio of buzzing synths as they all vie for control of this gonzo robot jamfest. It’s an utterly hypnotic three minutes of huge, hulking music and the rare song that I wish would go on for far longer.
Mike Will Made It featuring Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane, Kendrick Lamar, "Perfect Pint"
No matter how good the rest of their music is, rap producers’ solo records are typically pretty bad. N.E.R.D.’s debut is one of the good examples, and that has not exactly gone on to be considered a paragon of the form. Even Timbaland, at the height of his powers, couldn’t put together something interesting with the notoriously dismal Shock Value. So it would be fair to have low expectations for Mike Will Made It’s Ransom 2, released in late March and featuring, as most rap-producer records do, a murderers’ row of talent: Young Thug, 21 Savage, YG, Migos, 2 Chainz, Rihanna, and so on. And yet it’s the rare record of its type to not only knock front to back, but hold together remarkably well. This week he released a video for one of the record’s many standouts, “Perfect Pint,” featuring (deep breath) Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane, and Kendrick Lamar. That this crew could put together four minutes of swelteringly hot rap music is no surprise, but the Fear And Loathing-style video is its own source of delight, a goofy, debauched trip through a surrealistic desert full of flying turtles, drugs, devils, extraterrestrials, and more. Gucci Mane plays a spaceman!