I was in choir when I was in high school. Every year in December we had a holiday concert. In order to get a bunch of idiot teenagers ready for that concert in time, rehearsals for it started in October. That four years of conditioning means that once the calendar hits November 1, I’m ready for Christmas music. I thought about sneaking one or two Christmas tracks in here this week, but I know many of you would yell at me that it’s too early if I did. Don’t say I never do anything for my readers. Plus there’s still a bunch of fantastic releases happening, even if we are rapidly approaching the music industry holiday slow down. Let’s dive into this week’s Take 5.

PS: Election Day is tomorrow, so make sure to vote!

Ariana Grande – thank u, next

At this point I do not need to go down the list of all the hardships Ariana Grande has gone through in the last couple years. It’s a lot for any one person to deal with. That’s why it’s so heartwarming to hear the positivity and hopefulness Grande put into her new single “thank u, next,” which dropped on Saturday night. She acknowledges the pain she’s endured without dwelling on it, instead focusing on how she’s grown and become stronger over the years. It’s legitimately inspiring. “thank u, next” isn’t just on the list for sentimental reasons, either. Like much of her latest album Sweetener, the track sounds great, with a flowing, dreamy pop production behind it. May we all strive to process our pain and grow like Ariana Grande has on “thank u, next.”

Goodbye June – Secrets in The Sunset

The first thing we need to talk about with “Secrets in The Sunset” is Goodbye June vocalist Landon Milbourn’s voice. Milbourn has a voice that was tailor-made for rock. He’s got the falsetto and range sing whatever note he wants to, and the gritty bark in his voice that gives a rock melody the bracing impact you want. Meanwhile. Tyler Baker gets more than ample opportunity to show off on the guitar here, with a number of solos that showcase both physical dexterity in their execution and gripping excitement in their complexity. Brandon Qualkenbush ties the whole thing together with another guitar, and the trio working together creates a monumental track that roars and moves like all the best rock songs of yore. You might want to put in the headphones for this one, because Goodbye June’s “Secrets in The Sunset” is one of those rock songs designed for jamming as hard as possible.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Party For One

The video for this contains some sex toys, so NSFW if you’re at your desk

Sound the pop music alarm, Carly Rae Jepsen is back. She hasn’t lost a step in the three years since Emotion, either. Her new single “Party For One” has been stuck in my head since it dropped last week. The bright and cheerful opening riff is a delight, and Jepsen is a gifted lyrical writer. She so strongly and clearly captures the feeling of being on your own after a breakup and coming to terms with being okay with being on your own (in more ways than one, as the video and lyrics make clear). There are very few artists who can build a more boisterous chorus than Jepsen, and “Party For One” has one of her most extravagant hooks yet. There’s absolutely no stopping Carly Rae Jepsen from taking over the world, so put on “Party For One” and celebrate our pop music overlord.

Charlene Soraia – Now You Are With Her

So far this Take 5 has included exclusively songs that are doing a whole bunch sonically. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s change the pace a little bit here. Charlene Soraia goes the completely opposite direction with “Now You Are With Her,” stripping her music of anything superfluous. This is just Soraia and her guitar, meditating on a relationship she had with a friend that wasn’t what she wanted it to be. There’s a quiet resignation in the sadness of the track that’s very powerful, and the long pause after the first chorus is a brilliant move to let that sadness sink into the listener. There’s a profoundness in the simplicity of “Now You Are With Her.” It’s tough to pull that off, but Charlene Soraia has done it successfully here.

Joe Marson – Lonely For The Last Time

There were a number of things that sold me on premiering Joe Marson’s new single “Lonely For The Last Time.” The Old Gregg reference that he himself pointed out while talking about the track sealed the deal for me. It’s not even Old Gregg specifically, but Marson’s willingness to incorporate the unorthodox and strange into his music. He does it in a way that’s completely genuine, which allows him to present these bizarre allusions and lyrics while still crafting a serious, moving song. I’m always down for more artists embracing the weirdness of the world we live in, so Joe Marson always has a place in my rotation now.


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