I know you like good writing and music. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. You already know you can come to Substream for a bevy of great interviews, features, and takes. But do you like photography too? We have an equally talented group of photographers who are doing some of the best work around capturing artists in all their glory. You can find a ton of our current photo coverage right here. I bring this up because between Lollapalooza this weekend and some of the other galleries we have coming up, you’re in for a visual treat in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, let’s dig into this week’s Take 5.
Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Is Angel Olsen capable of making a song I don’t like? So far, the answer seems to be a resounding “no.” Two years after dropping her B-sides collection Phases (one of my favorite albums of 2017), Olsen is back with “All Mirrors.” There’s a whole lot of song packed into the nearly five minute track, and showcases Olsen’s continuing evolution as a writer and producer. The entire thing is very cinematic, with keys that create an expansive sound and scales and chord progressions that build anticipation. At the halfway point Olsen and co-producer John Congleton really dive in, adding drums and building more and more tension before a masterfully constructed comedown in “All Mirror”‘s last 30 seconds. Angel Olsen has always been an innovator, and “All Mirrors” continues her artistic growth.
Khalid, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie – Right Back
This entry is another case of me fudging the rules on Take 5 just a bit, but they’re my rules so I can do what I want with them. “Right Back” first appeared on Khalid’s sophomore album Free Spirit back in April. I loved it then, but it didn’t make it into the column. I can fix that now. To accompany a music video, Khalid shared an updated version of “Right Back” with A Boogie Wit da Hoodie adding in an opening verse. Everything I enjoyed about “Right Back” in April still applies in August. It embodies the joy with which Khalid makes music, with an upbeat and bright instrumental, simple happiness in the lyrics, and a beat you can dance to for days. It works even better as a summer track. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’s verse fits right in with that vibe, and the extended stretch where he lowers his voice and the music drops out is captivating. The point where Boogie’s voice drops out and Khalid finishes his sentence before launching into his own verse is brilliant. We still have some prime summer left, and “Right Back” is the song to soundtrack it.
HAIM – Summer Girl
HAIM’s “Summer Girl” is a combination of the points I’ve made so far in this Take 5. For one, it’s another perfect summer gem. In this case, its kindness and genuine love is perfect for spending the nights together with the people who mean the most to you, and Danielle’s lyrics are perfectly suited for letting those people know just how much you care. In the “things I will like 100 percent of the time” category, it has Rostam playing a saxophone on it. If you put a saxophone into any pop song, it will be my jam. The sax on “Summer Girl” is definitely the musical centerpiece of the track, but the rest of the production headed by Rostam and Danielle has a lot more to love in the margins. The small but smart bass hook, the variations in the percussion as the song continues, and the echoing harmonies of Este and Alana during the bridge will all stand out on repeat listening. HAIM don’t mess around when it comes to the quality of their writing, and “Summer Girl” pairs it with the season and one of my favorite things to create something special.
James Vickery – Something Good
A relationship isn’t all non-stop fun. It does take work. At the same time, it is a phenomenal thing, and something that should be celebrated when you’re in a good one. South London’s James Vickery gets that, and he’s celebrating well with “Something Good.” This track is the smoothest thing you’re going to hear this month thanks to a combination of simple R&B vibes in the music and Vickery’s tender vocals. His harmonies are superb, the descending melody at the end of the chorus is great, and overall there’s a quiet but firm understanding and love in his writing that comes through in every second of the song. This is a love song through and through, not minimizing the work that goes into love, but lauding the couple’s accomplishments of doing said work. James Vickery is here to cheer on all the love and care in the world with “Something Good.”
Hoodie Allen – Hell of a Time
It’s incredible how much Hoodie Allen has grown as an artist. This is not a slight on his early work, much of which is still quite good. But every new song, video, and project from him has showcased a constantly thinking musician, always tinkering with his ideas and sounds to see what works. We’ll get another full glimpse at that on Friday with the release of Whatever USA, but we can hear it now on new track “Hell of a Time.” The song starts with the chorus, and Allen’s singing voice continues to shine. The verses contain the wordplay and references he’s always excelled at combined with a sense of introspection that’s impressive. There’s nuance in his story of how he’s handling life post-breakup and how he’s reacted to the situation, and the guitar-based instrumental wisely holds things down and just lets Hoodie cook. I have a hunch Hoodie Allen will continue to grow as time moves on, and “Hell of a Time” is a pretty strong argument for that.
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