Happy New Year to you, my readers loyal, infrequent, and fresh. As we have stepped into a clean, as yet musically untarnished decade, I am sidestepping the time-pressured title of my New Music Mondays and rebranding this weekly music collation segment “Songs You Should Hear” (or SYSH for short). I will still be aiming to post this up on a Monday around 5pm, but on days like today that’s not always possible so I’m giving myself a break on that one.
It’s the same format – a bunch of newly released songs selected by me every week from the thousands that are unleashed upon us near-daily, assembled through some painstaking listening and relistening sessions so I can validate if they are actually worth a spin before presenting them to you in alphabetical order with a few words about why I like them and why you might like them too. Simple, right?
The other minor tweaks of note are that I’m scrapping the “best bit” portion of the review, and replacing it with the quite-insulting “for fans of” stamp, which I stole from Gigs in Scotland’s weekly newsletter. I look forward to testing your patience when I incorrectly compare these fresh tunes from up-and-coming unknowns to some of your favourite, long established musical artists. I’m also finally losing the little ‘SPIN’ marker at the bottom of each review because it feels a bit superfluous.
I’m planning to revive my newsletter, which fell by the wayside because of my own lack of motivation to send it out to the small number of subscribers, most of which I am blood-related to. Please do sign up for it by clicking here – it’s free!
Finally, If you haven’t already, I would be immensely grateful if you could skim through my songs of the decade roundup which I did in four parts because there were a lot of songs to get through – you never know, you might find something you missed out on in from last ten years. I’m also working on my 2-part songs of the year from 2019 (a little late I know, but I’d like to get it out there anyway) so look out for that later this week.
Preambling over! And now, here are the 12 songs you should hear that I have lovingly picked out for you to listen to this week, and some words as to why they might be worth a your time.
Ava Max – On Somebody
This is probably Ava Max’s -coolest- track to date. It’s a slick R&B pop tune with a light, easy-to-dance-to, stuttery chorus, and a hook that will do less internal-loop damage than some of her past efforts. I personally started off on the wrong foot with Max’s music – it was repetitive, self-mimicking, and the spooky atmospheric quality felt a little cheap and gimmicky – but with songs like On Somebody and last weeks Alone, Part II I’m making it my resolve to give her another proper chance in 2020.
For Fans Of: Zara Larsson
Bombay Bicycle Club – I Can Hardly Speak
I have long ago boxed in Bombay Bicycle Club as drab and uninteresting (to me) – the kind of band that probably headlines festivals that take place in woodland settings geared to families with young children. In a quiet week of new releases, I Can Hardly Speak found its way into the give-it-a-spin pile and there I was, enjoying it. There are a lot of sweet musical moments in this song – the gentle but firm vocal, the inspiring quality to the drum beat – but it is really the subtle synthetic touches elevating this from dreary indie-rock fodder to truly pleasant well-realised indie-rock genius.
For Fans Of: Bears Den, Vampire Weekend
Brett Kissel – She Drives Me Crazy
There is a lot of country music out there. It’s an overwhelming genre that exists in its own little universe and you can easily play a game of bingo guessing at what staple words will feature in a country song [girl, truck, whisky, blue jeans, creek] and so it’s usually best ignored unless you want to mentally transport yourself to a county fare. Occasionally, however, a country song deigns to tiptoe over the line of its own creation into the realm of the commercially-accessible. She Drives Me Crazy sounds as if it has gripped the lyrics to a generic R&B song and slathered it in guitars, banjos, clapping, and the near threat of and EDM chorus. Like if a country singer was to go on a reality TV singing show and do a countrified-cover of an Usher song. It’s bizzarely listenable – give it a spin if you don’t believe me.
For Fans Of: Luke Bryan and Wake Me Up by Avicii + Aloe Blacc
Gabriele Aplin + Nina Nesbitt – Miss You 2
Two underappreciated pop stalwarts joining forces for a slow dance ballad is a recurring dream of mine, but never has my limited resting imagination been able to conjure a tune as excellent as this. In spite of committing the typographical crime of replacing a letter with a number in its title, Miss You 2 is a cute lil song about being euphemistic best friends that sounds a bit like it’s borrowed the melody from Every Breath You Take by the Police for its opening.
For Fans Of: Dua Lipa, Nerina Pallot, Charlie Puth
Hailee Steinfeld – Wrong Direction
There’s a certain pedigree of pop vocal that Hailee Steinfeld slots into alongside Selena Gomez – you know the songs are kinda middling, but her tone carries it off. Wrong Direction is a gentle pop ballad with a familiar-sounding hook. There’s not much else to say for it, other than I think it’s quite nice.
For Fans Of: Selena Gomez, bulow, Dermot Kennedy
Hannah Grace – When I Ruled the World
Sometimes a song comes along you just want to croon along to even though this is the first time you’ve ever heard it and you don’t know any of the words, and When I Ruled the World is one of them. Grace’s vocal is smooth with a teeny tiny touch of grit that sounds like it’s had some jazz and/or classical training, the simple piano melody gives way completely to her vocals, and those soft finishes to her phrasing really reminds of my long time fave Bethany Joy Lenz aka Haley James Scott from One Tree Hill.
For Fans Of: Adele, Bethany Joy Lenz
JUNG – Call Me Up
Call Me Up is a standard pop tune in concept and melody that could get lost in the waves of new music. But! There are little touches that make it memorable, like the “Wednesday rain” – we’ve had songs surrounding Monday an Sunday rain so it’s only fair the rest of the week gets its due – well-used vocal layering, and opening the song with a taster of the chorus – such an underutilised mechanism that JUNG nail here.
For Fans Of: Shawn Mendes, Chainsmokers, Blake Rose
Justin Bieber – Yummy
Yummy is Bieber’s comeback song after 4 years of no new solo material (we’re not counting I Don’t Care, Friends or bad guy apparently), and as much as I wanted to hate this, I can’t. Repeat the same ridiculous word over and over on top of a simple beat and you get a song that won’t leave your head for weeks. It’s a bit too in that Post-Malone lane for me, but trap-pop music is undeniably catchy and I cannot stop singing that stupid chorus.
For Fans Of: Post Malone, Ariana Grande in 2019, Old Town Road
Lauv – Changes
I’m all for releasing a couple of singles before giving us the album, but Lauv is really doing it to excess at this point. Sure, they’re all good and nice and self-critical and ever single melody is a winner an makes me want to simultaneously cry and laugh, and Changes is yet another perfect song for the perfect album that he’s putting together but I’m just ready for it to be here now, ok?
For Fans Of: Troye Sivan, LANY
Sam Hunt – Sinning With You
I don’t mean to start off the year by bringing something to your attention just to ridicule it, I actually even quite like Sam Hunt as a country singer, but this is next level ridiculous and I need to share it with someone. Sinning With You could be ameaningful, even clever, title in the right hands, but this is the most vanilla ‘I’m a bad boy’ declaration that has ever existed. First of all, it s downbeat acoustic country music with a touch of trap – are we in hell? THEN! There are so many choice lyrics – the opening line I had to look up because I was convinced he sings “raised in first pube” – then the chorus, the crux of the song, goes “I never felt like I was sinning with you/Always felt like I could talk to God in the morning”. Just let that settle in. And then we have the bridge. A bridge that opens with one single line of rap (?) “I hate it when I can’t feel the Holy Spirit” (!!!??) before launching into the the horrifying “I know what it feels like crossing the line/But I never felt shame/Never felt sorry/Never felt guilty touching your body”. I am sure there is some touching story that gives this a bit of context, but I don’t want to know. I am truly obsessed with this monstrosity.
For Fans Of: Horror
Trove – Cyclone
Do you like The Weeknd? This moody R&B-pop song sounds a bit like something he would do. I tired myself out writing about Sam Hunt to have much more to add than that, but if it’s for you then I have already sold it by correctly proclaiming that it sounds like a song that The Weeknd would do.
For Fans Of: The Weeknd, Miguel
Why Don’t We – Chills
Less giving me Chills and more making me feel chill. My main wish for this decade is boybands to return to making happy pop bangers, but I get what they’re doing. This is solid.
For Fans Of: 5 Seconds of Summer, Jonas Brothers in 2019