We’ve had an incredible start to the year here at Substream, and it’s been a minute since I highlighted some of the incredible work the staff here has done. Jackie Cular conducted amazing interviews with members of Thrice and FEVER 333 last week. Mike Raine told us all about the movies we need to have on our lists in 2019. Logan White spoke to Adam Lazzara about Taking Back Sunday’s 20th anniversary. And you should read every interview that Molly Hudelson has put out this year. We have a lot more planned for you going forward, so click around the site once you’re done with Take 5.

PS. Remember how I said there would be some special editions of Take 5 way back at the beginning of the year? The first special Take 5 drops later this week.

Ariana Grande – bad idea

Was there any way Ariana Grande wasn’t going to lead off this week’s Take 5? The answer to that is “no.” thank u, next lives up to the considerable hype, and then some. “bad idea” falls in the middle of the album and marks the end of the project’s best three-song run alongside “bloodline” and “fake smile.” Max Martin and Ilya bring the heat with the production here, their echoing synths and speeding beat building and building into a fever pitch. Grande tap dances through this music with the pop grace and power we’ve come to expect. Post-breakup bad ideas can often be the fun kind, and Grande infuses the track with the uninhibited confidence and reckless abandon just such an idea needs to thrive. The extended outro is something to behold, as well. thank u, next is great, and “bad ideas” is one of its strongest moments.

Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile – Common

“Common” would be a great song if it was just Maren Morris. The haunting backing vocals and spacious, reverent mix of country and pop are genuinely moving. Meanwhile, Morris is having a genuine crisis of faith in the lyrics and asking some very big, very existential questions you don’t often hear addressed so bluntly. If “Common” were just that, I’d have already been sold. When you add in Brandi Carlile to deliver her own verse on the larger meaning of love and faith in our lives, it gets even better. When Carlile and Morris duet on the chorus to close the song out, it pushes it over the top. “Common” is a powerhouse number through and through.

Anna Of The North – Leaning On Myself

Anna Of The North’s 2017 album Lovers remains a favorite in my rotation. It’s been a long two years for me waiting for new music from Anna Lotterud. The acoustic releases and her cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” were nice, but I’ve been craving an original release. “Leaning On Myself” is everything I’ve wanted these past two years. Anna Of The North’s new track is another release this week that exudes a quiet confidence, even if it comes from tough times and isolation. The instrumental is understated by Lotterud’s standards for much of the track, content to let its deeps strings bounce off each other and hang in the air. The vocal flair she adds onto the end of each line of the chorus creates a similar effect and adds a fun wrinkle. It’s only at the end where the production opens up to let more synths in, and it’s just enough to add flair without overwhelming the rest of the track. Anna Of The North has officially returned on “Leaning On Myself,” and I am happy about it.

Gary Clark Jr. – Pearl Cadillac

Gary Clark Jr. began 2019 with a strong statement, announcing his new album This Land and releasing the titular track, a furious condemnation of the bigotry that still pervades our nation. He’s been on a musical tear ever since, preparing for the release of This Land at the end of the month. His new single “Pearl Cadillac” swings the other way, showcasing Clark Jr. at his most tender and loving. He spends most of the track crooning at the higher end of his vocal range, speaking to the strong women in his life and everything they’ve done for him. His guitar ranges from smooth and soft on the verses to more powerful and distorted on the chorus, and he turns in an absolutely breathtaking solo. Quite possibly the best guitar solo of 2019. “Pearl Cadillac” continues Gary Clark Jr’s absolutely incredible year so far.

Leah Capelle – Settle Down

There are some music video and song pairings that are stronger than others. In the strongest cases, the music video almost becomes required viewing alongside the song. Leah Capelle’s “Settle Down” is one of those combinations. The song is split into halves. The first half is Capelle at her most vulnerable, detailing the insecurity and pain she’s experienced in her life over a fragile, delicate sounding-piano. The second half is a sonic blast of hope and power, as Capelle finds her strength and her identity, and the music introduces soaring guitars and more joyful tones. The music video mirrors this vulnerability, as Capelle appears covered in nothing but paint. We see the paint cans it came from are labeled with the many insecurities Capelle has had, and the paint is stripped away as she finds herself. It’s a powerful artistic statement and vision, and a perfect complement to the captivating, encouraging message in ‘Settle Down.”

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