Take 5 is back! Due to a combination of illness and the holidays, last week’s column didn’t happen. Thankfully that illness didn’t prevent me from eating half my bodyweight in turkey and stuffing. With Thanksgiving done, we’re in the home stretch of 2018. While it’s tempting to just curl into a ball under the blankets during these winter months, we here at Substream still have a ton of great reads coming up for you before the calendar changes. I hope that you finish strong with whatever your goals or aspirations are for 2018 as well. You definitely got this, no problem. Let’s get into the music.

Pale Waves – Last Christmas

It’s after Thanksgiving, which means you can’t yell at me for including Christmas music in Take 5 anymore. Around this time of year Spotify always does a string of Christmas-themed Spotify Singles, where a bunch of artists cover a whole slew of Christmas songs. The best of the bunch this year is Pale Wave’s cover of “Last Christmas,” the seminal Wham! classic. While I will always love the genius George Michael put into the original, this cover gives it a run for its money. While the Wham! version remains quite bright and whimsical throughout, Pale Waves brings forth more of the mourning and melancholy present in the lyrics into the music. Heather Baron-Gracie’s thoughtful delivery will break your heart, and the rest of the band gives the track a nice hefty musical weight to the sadness. “Last Christmas” is great, Pale Waves are great, so of course this is great too.

Billie Eilish – come out and play

Winter has a way of making us reflective. There’s not much to do outside, so we sit inside and think a whole lot. In artists, this can result in some songs which are mellower than their usual output. That’s certainly the case with Billie Eilish’s new single “come out and play.” While a lot of Eilish’s brand of pop is rooted in a softer touch on production, “come out and play” strips almost all of it away in favor of a simple percussion section and a guitar. It’s a moving song about encouraging someone close to come out of their shell and show the world all the talent they possess. The world can always use more light, and Eilish blends a perfect mix of encouragement and understanding in her lyrics that I’m hopeful will inspire at least a handful of people to share their art with the world. “come out and play” is the encouraging and reflective track we need to get us through our darkest days.

Taking Back Sunday – All Ready To Go

It’s hard to believe Taking Back Sunday have been around for coming up on 20 years. No matter the era they’ve released great tracks, and entering 2019 they show no signs of letting up. “All Ready To Go” finds the band as good as they’ve ever been. The opening attack from the drums will immediately get you fired up and remain a highlight through the whole track. Adam Lazzara still has the vocal chops to deliver a stirring melody, this time singing about the hurt caused by someone who was already checked out of a relationship even when we needed their support. Listening to the chorus you can imagine what it sounds like shouted by a crowd in a live setting, and the many guitar tricks combine for a sound that’s complex, but still fun and easy to listen to. There’s no stopping Taking Back Sunday, and “All Ready To Go” is the proof.

Jesse McCartney – Wasted (Acoustic)

I adore “Wasted,” Jesse McCartney’s second single of 2018. The combination of McCartney’s songwriting and the electronic touches on the vocal distortion and production is a winning formula. Another winning idea is to let McCartney’s natural talent shine as much as it can, which is the case on the new acoustic version of “Wasted.” While many of the flourishes of the original lend itself to the story of a flame who only calls for hook-ups and one night stands, the acoustic version shines in its cleanness and simplicity. The chorus especially leaps out of the speaker unencumbered by pop production, instead backed by a lively and fun guitar riff. Whether the song is full pop, acoustic, or any other sound, Jesse McCartney can perform no matter the genre or circumstance.

Anderson .Paak – Linus & Lucy

We’re finishing on more Christmas music! Anderson .Paak also gains the rare distinction of appearing in two Take 5s in the course of just three weeks. A Charlie Brown Christmas is a holiday institution, and the music from it is instantly recognizable. .Paak takes his composition skills to the next level here, mixing that iconic tune with jazzier elements, a heaping helping of great work on the drums, and sprinkles in some allusions and lines from other holiday song staples. The song feels longer than its runtime in a good way, with a ton of great elements all playing off one another to create a fresh version of an instant classic. Whether on his new album Oxnard or getting in the festive spirit, Anderson .Paak continues to amaze.


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