July 13, 2021

New Songs (for Me At Least) The Week of July 11, 2021


We are back into a cycle of singles again. Throughout May and into June we saw one great (or not so great) album after another bounding out onto the new music scene. These albums cut across genres, sometimes multiple genres, and included new and old artists. Whew. Since then, new album releases have slowed down to a less frenetic pace. Singles releases, on the other hand, have picked up. This usually happens just before a slew of new albums so that means we have something to look forward to as we enter the latter half of the summer.

Here is a quick round up of songs that popped up on my radar this past week. Some, such as “I Go” by Peggy Gou, are fresh but may not be completely new. It’s just taken awhile to bob to the surface of my music awareness. Most of the others are brand new releases.

  • Aurora, “Cure for Me” What?? I love Aurora but I’m not sure where she is going with this song. It’s like an 80s version of 20s music. That’s not a new idea. A new romantics singer named Taco did the same in the mid-80s with a techno version of “Putting on the Ritz” originally written by Irving Berlin in 1927. That was weird even by 1980s’ standards. Never heard of Taco? No doubt. Combining this kind of weird with membership in the one hit wonder club tends to make you fade into the background. Aurora is not performing a cover with this song, but it sounds as if she’s pulling a Taco. “Cure for Me” comes across, like Taco, as trite and weird for the sake of weird. That’s not good. I hope it fits better on an album.
  • Zac Brown Band, “Out in the Middle”. Thank the music gods! Zac Brown is finally back to Zac Brown-ness. Their last album, The Owl, was devoid of country, southern rock, and anything that makes the Zac Brown Band worth listening to. “Out in the Middle” is reasonable country/southern rock. That means it a basket of yeehaw fun and rock licks. It’s not going to change the world but it’s great for dancing on the lawn on a hot summer day.
  • Billie Eilish, “NDA”. The drip campaign is killing Eilish fans. Release the damn album already. The risk is that lousy social media coverage will overshadow the upcoming release. It doesn’t help when part of the drip is a song like “NDA”. It’s a bland techno dance music. That’s forgivable. What is unforgivable is the overuse of the vocoder. Eilish doesn’t need that. She has an amazing voice that sounds better when it’s pure. And the thump thump thump thump percussion is outdated and irritating. Every album is allowed one lousy song. “Lost Cause” and “Your Power” were great songs. She gets a pass on “NDA” but only this one time.
  • Los Lobos, “Jamacia Say You Will”. Los Lobos is one of the original and greatest roots rock bands in history. Rarely hit makers, they consistently put out the kind of albums worth listening to over and over. This latest single has a 70s flair without being over-the-top retro. That’s practically the definition of a great Los Lobos song.
  • Yola, “Starlight”. Yola’s sound can be hard to pin down. Blues? Soul? Gospel? Yep. All of the above. “Starlight” is a classic R&B song. It is the type of song you’d expect from Aretha Franklin but with more blues.
  • The Ophelias and Julien Baker, “Neil Young on High”. New indie folk that reminds me of early Suzzanne Vega. That’s high praise since I love early Suzzanne Vega.
  • Bastille, “Distorted Light Beam”. For a while I’ve been worried that Bastille may have lost what made their first albums so special – that fusion of modern dance music with 80s techno sensibilities. That combination is what made them attractive to older and younger audiences alike. “Distorted Light Beam” seems to verify that analysis. However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It is modern dance pop with Latin beats and influences. They have lost their 80s influences but it’s still good to dance to.
  • Peggy Gou, “I Go”. The headline for “I Go” should read “Korean Electronic music artist makes great dance music without falling into the traps of vocoders and predictable and repetitive beats.” That’s why this is such as great song. It’s not the same trashy dance pop that is permeating social media and it’s not soulless EDM either. There is an actual song here with real vocals. “I Go” revels in minimalism but maintains the elements that make for great dance music.

I expect that the next few weeks will see the release of even more singles, mostly ahead of album releases. When all of these albums pop, there will be almost too much to listen to. That’s known as a good problem.

Note: As the pandemic wanes, at least here in the Northeastern U.S., live shows are coming back. If you want to see the real talent of an artist, a live show is the place to do it. Live shows are naked and exposed – they can’t be fixed in the studio. I have a series of shows already teed up and hope to be able to write about them in the coming months.