Welcome to another week of Take 5! As I write this, it’s currently dumping snow all over the Midwest, including where I am. If that’s not lovely enough, it’s also going to get really cold really fast in the upcoming week. Let me put on my Concerned Dad hat for a second. If you’re in an area where all this winter business is taking place, stay safe. Don’t go out if you don’t have to, and travel carefully if you do. Make sure you’ve got some supplies in your car and home to get you through if something happens. We make our jokes about how terrible winter is, but it can be truly dangerous. Okay, Concerned Dad hat off. On a lighter note, if you don’t have to go out it’s perfect to binge-listen to a bunch of new music. Stay warm, and let’s get into Take 5.
A Brilliant Lie – The Tarot
I love listening to a new release after a long break from a band. It’s like catching up with an old friend after they’ve been away. To that end, I was thrilled when A Brilliant Lie returned last week after years spent touring and not releasing music. Luckily for all of us, the Orlando quintet haven’t lost a step. If anything, they’ve actually gained a step with “The Tarot.” The band sounds rejuvenated as vocalist Tara Lightfoot delivers her impassioned lyrics over riffs that speed along in the verses. A Brilliant Lie aren’t content with just one style, though. While those verses are delivered at top speed, the chorus is a textbook rock ballad chorus, with Lightfoot belting her heart out and the rest of the band providing a big, booming sound to back her up. Whether you’ve missed A Brilliant Lie or are just discovering them, you’ll be more than happy with “The Tarot.”
iLana Armida – High No More
Human relationships are unpredictable. The unlikeliest of people can become best friends. On the other hands, people who seem like they’re made for each other can surprisingly grow apart. The latter situation is the subject of iLana Armida’s great new single “High No More.” Alongside the exasperation in her voice, you can almost hear the exasperation in the synths that blink in and out of the instrumental. The stop and start nature of the music is a fascinating and effective wrinkle in the track, and creates a catchy, easily danceable vibe to “High No More.” The chorus finds Armida sliding up her vocal register in a way that you’ll be humming along to for the rest of the day. Maybe you had someone in your life that has recently drifted out of it, but you can forget them and listen to “High No More” instead.
Tiffany Young – Born Again
I already talked a lot about why I like “Born Again” when I wrote about it last week, so I’m going to tell you a story to illustrate Tiffany Young’s talent. I was listening to “Born Again” on Spotify while writing the post, and the song ended. I am one of those weirdos who actually turns on the setting where music keeps playing after I’m done with a playlist/album, and Spotify chose Young’s track “Teach You” to play next. The contrast between those two tracks really struck me. “Teach You” is a gleeful, pure-pop takedown track, and “Born Again” is a deeply resonant, personally insightful pop ballad. That Young sounds so comfortable performing both of those tracks is a testament to her emotional range, vocal abilities, and songwriting skills. Whatever Tiffany Young puts out, you owe it to yourself to listen.
J. Cole – MIDDLE CHILD
Any time J. Cole releases new music it’s an event. This holds true for his latest track “MIDDLE CHILD,” which finds Cole at his usual honest, insightful heights. The title comes from how he positions himself in the history of rap: the link between the legendary rappers of the ’80s and ’90s and the new generation that has risen in the 2010s. Over an excellent loop of horns, he lays out his case, and it’s hard to disagree with him. It might be hard to believe, but he’s been doing this since 2007. With a twelve-year career and a sound that’s always evolving and changing, J. Cole definitely has links to many of the rappers of the last 30 years while still sounding wholly like himself. Since it’s J. Cole he also throws in his usual stellar wordplay, including a shout out to LeBron James and his assertion that he doesn’t beef for no reason. J. Cole is a generational talent, and he showcases that fact on “MIDDLE CHILD.”
Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall
Maybe it’s because I still listen to them on a pretty regular basis, but it’s hard to believe Vampire Weekend haven’t put out music for six years. That’s a long time! It’s good to finally have them back, and they didn’t disappoint with their new releases. “Harmony Hall” is a beautiful track, with many of the components we’ve come to know and love from Vampire Weekend on display during its lengthy runtime. Ezra Koenig’s lyrics are poignant as always, examining the desire for change in his life. The track blends a multitude of sounds, from the fuller sounds of the whole band playing together down to an extended piano solo. If “Harmony Hall” is any indication, Vampire Weekend are back and better than ever in 2019.
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