Guys…I know kung fu.
“On + Off,” Maggie Rogers (EJ)
“Hot Thoughts,” Spoon (JH)
Jake and I were definitely on the same page this week. We’d both considered each other’s picks to be contenders. Fortunately we each landed on separate songs, and can thus recognize both tracks for their splendor.
Maggie Rogers is aptly described by Jake as a “folk/dance hybrid,” as is evident on her new single “On + Off.” She relies heavily on electronic loops and samples and a predominately up-tempo beat, which makes her music easy to move to. At the song’s core, however, is some solid songwriting–both lyrically and melodically–rooted firmly in her background as a singer-songwriter.
Rogers, a native of rural Maryland, fittingly got her start in folk and traditional music, focusing on harp and banjo from a young age. Her electronic influences entered later in life while studying abroad in France. Her ability to meld influences and experience into a coherent, unified sound is adept and ever-evolving. Last year she turned some (rather impressive) heads with her song “Alaska,” still her strongest release to date. With an EP slated to drop in the near future, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Miss Maggie making another appearance among the ranks.
Just one additional note on Maggie…
LISTEN TO ALASKA. DO IT. NOW!!!
Here, I’ll make it easy. You have no excuse.
These guys, man. The Austin indie-rockers have been at it for over two decades at this point, and holy shit. How do they keep putting out this quality? Their 2014 release They Want My Soul was an incredible surprise after a four+ year hiatus after Transference. Their newest album is set to debut in March, and if its first single “Hot Thoughts” is any indication, they appear to have done it again in 2017.
Several paragraphs in, you may be wondering why the header photo for this post is from the criminally under-appreciated NBC dramedy Chuck. Part of why Chuck is such an important show to the authors of this blog is the excellent music it featured week to week, which — you guessed it — contained a heavy dose of Spoon. My first exposure to Spoon was actually from a different TV show from my formative years, The O.C.* (I was in high school okay, so LAY OFF). Music has the unique ability to frame our experiences and connect time and memory to emotion. Spoon is one of those bands that will forever stick with me, and to have them still putting out great music today is just such a treat.
*Shout out to Josh Schwartz, creator of both Chuck and The O.C., who had a lot to do with their musical direction. Big Spoon fan.
As for “Hot Thoughts,” the track speaks for itself. The layered vocals and guitars, the tight tonal and temporal shifts, the simple yet driving drum track. Britt Daniel’s vocal timbre is as defining as any other aspect of Spoon’s music, and he is as good as he’s ever been here.
So there we have it: the new girl on the block versus the steady, veteran hand. Who shall prevail? Will youth best experience? Will Maggie’s synthesizer+banjo combo overcome Britt’s trusty Telecaster?
Nah. Spoon wins. It’s fucking Spoon, people.
“Wild Fire,” Laura Marling
- This was close to being my nomination for the week. I feel this song deep, deep down in my soul. It is just so impossibly beautiful. Listen to the recorded version first and then watch Laura perform it with Chris Thile on A Prairie Home Companion. – EJ
- Here is how I describe this song: an ethereal slow jam that slowly builds to a rich, atmospheric groove. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – EJ
“Electric,” Alina Baraz ft. Khalid
- Male/female duets with electronic/dance backing are kind of the soupe du jour lately. This song stands out for me, though. Possibly because of that funny little synthesizer line it kicks off with under Alina Baraz’s vocals. Idk, I just like it. – EJ
“Chantaje – John-Blake Remix,” Shakira ft. Maluma
- Is there a word of English in this song? Maybe not. Does it make me bob my head? Yes it does, so it’s in. – JH
“TROUBLE,” The Knocks ft. Absofacto
- The Knocks are one of those bands where I like pretty much everything I hear from them and TROUBLE isn’t an exception. – JH
Showdown for the Belt
The xx came into the year riding the hotness of “On Hold,” which benefitted from an SNL bump and gave us several weeks of enjoyment before I See You dropped. It had the juice to make a grab for the belt, and it capitalized. It was a worthy and deserving champion. But, like the sands of time, and the rains down in Africa, all things must fall. And so, with the fury of a Texas rattlesnake, Spoon flies in off the top rope with a suicide splash to snatch the 2017 SOTY Belt.
“Hot Thoughts” is a certified jam. I recently revisited some of Spoon’s older stuff after my excitement for the band was reignited, and let me tell you…they’re on a different level with this track. This statement is not to be taken lightly: Spoon was once declared (by me) as band of the decade for 2000-2010. Belt-worthy? I think so.
And that’s the bottom line…