Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez
The middle weekends of May always come with a mix of good and bad. The bad is that spring/summer is finally happening here in the Midwest, which means all of us with seasonal allergies are now suffering greatly. It was hard to hear some of this week’s music over the sound of my own sneezes all weekend. The good part of spring/summer arriving is that we’re arriving at the music playlist’s peak season. You need a playlist for grilling, for parties, for road trips, and every summer activity in between. Take 5 contains songs for any and all of those occasions. I’m nice to you like that, always trying to give you a good mix of sounds and moods. You’re welcome. Let’s get into the music.
Ingrid Michaelson – Missing You
To begin with, Ingrid Micaelson releasing Stranger Things-inspired songs called Stranger Songs and building an entire aesthetic around it is an extremely 2019 thing and I am all about it. But it’s not just the idea that I enjoy. “Missing You,” the first of these songs, is incredible. This is pure ’80s synthpop excellence, built on a groovy beat and Michaelson’s lovely voice. The hook is a winner and will have you singing “kissing me, I’m missing you” to yourself over and over again this week. Synthpop has a way of making the toughest emotional experiences still sound so delightful and catchy you don’t want to stop listening, and Michaelson has harnessed that power here. Stranger Things‘s third season may still be a couple months away, but “Missing You” has all the ’80s vibes you need until then.
Aria Wunderland – Risk It All
“Shoot you shot” is one of my favorite expressions. It could be a job offer or a tough jumper in basketball, but sometimes you just have to go for it and see what happens. That’s true in a relationship too, and Aria Wunderland is definitely shooting her shot on new single “Risk It All.” The single continues Wunderland’s innovative use of electronics to build a pop song, this time bringing in some darker tones to the mix and allowing some breathing room in the song to let each component echo out and have its moment. There’s a playfulness that’s fun and enchanting as she lays out exactly how she feels to this person, and judging by the warmer tones that develop in the track as it goes on, the feelings are mutual. If you need the confidence to go out and shoot your shot, put on Aria Wunderland’s “Risk It All” first.
Madonna, Swae Lee – Crave
I’ve been lukewarm on Madonna’s new material from her upcoming fourteenth(!) album Madame X heading into this week. I didn’t hate the first two singles, but they largely topped out at “fine” for me. New single “Crave” with Swae Lee changes that. I am incredibly in on this song. Madonna and Lee’s voices work well together, both able to croon and show a tremendous amount of tenderness. Their pleas to stop messing around and just act on their feelings is affecting, with some smart writing from both of them and co-writer Starrah. The production here is a fun take on a Madonna song as well. The guitar strumming harkens back to some of her earliest ballads, and Mike Dean’s more hip-hop based production mixed in with that creates a sound that is a perfect mix of the new and old Madonna. “Crave” has definitely won me over.
Joanne Shaw Taylor – All My Love
Joanne Shaw Taylor knows her way around a guitar. That much is evident if you listen to even a second of any of her songs, but it’s especially on display on new track “All My Love.” What stands out about Taylor’s playing is that she always knows exactly the intensity to bring to the guitar and to her vocals. During sections where the lyrics are especially important the guitar fades into the background a bit before roaring back into the forefront during the instrumental breaks. The solo here is solid gold as well, a satisfying mix of clarity and distortion, and the rock piano throughout the track is as fun as piano gets.
Jhene Aiko – Triggered (freestyle)
A breakup sucks, that’s just a fact of life. There are a lot of emotions that happen after a breakup, and it can be tough to sort through all of them. Jhene Aiko has shared that process with her new track “Triggered (freestyle)” and the results are spectacular. Despite the laid back delivery Aiko is known for, there’s palpable intensity in her words. “You’re motherfucking right I’m bitter” she says on the chorus, and she has every right to be. Her words and the understated instrumental mix together all of the anger, regret, and sadness that comes in the aftermath of a relationship ending. It’s refreshing to listen to a song that acknowledges we can have all of these conflicting emotions at once, and Aiko’s rawness and honesty make for an engaging listen. Nothing can make you feel better immediately after a breakup, but “Triggered (freestyle)” might help you process.
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