It’s Adele day!
After much teasing, guessing, and Deuxmoi blind items about Adele’s new single, “Easy On Me” came out today. The song is a piano-led torch ballad about love and loss with a surprising layer of slappy bass underneath.
Adele’s music gives a lot (her personal narrative, unmissable emotional cues, tons of negative space to fill in the gaps) and asks for very little, which is partly why her massive presence in music sales by volume doesn’t feel disruptive - when a song is made to be understood by everyone, does it always inevitably feel like it’s for no one?
Compare her already-huge single drop, and inevitable domination of the streaming/radio charts, to the noisy rollout for Kanye and Drake’s new albums, whose streaming numbers will pale in comparison to Adele’s. Her singles don’t ask you to rethink what pop music sounds like, who should be the face of it, or who it should be for. Her music is frictionless and massive, less a blockbuster event than an iPhone rollout where suddenly all your friends have the new device, same as the old device.
THE UNSKIPPABLES #11
Zac Brown Band - The Comeback
This is a COVID-19 country anthem that made me feel absolutely bonkers on first listen. Hearing big John Mellencamp snares and Toby Keith patriotism applied to a global pandemic feels like parody - especially the pre-chorus line “It may feel like Lady Liberty’s down on her luck / but when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up.”
On second listen, it feels like an incredible artifact of the era, like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” but also out of step with the COVID-19 denial and frustration from most red states. There’s no call to action to get vaccinated - but even acknowledging the catastrophe of COVID feels refreshing from Trump country, even if it’s hidden amidst generic language.
Michael Kiwanuka - Beautiful Life
Michael Kiwanuka has perfected a paranoid and morose take on mid-70’s funk and soul, like a film noir Donny Hathaway over the course of two albums produced by Danger Mouse. Most people likely know him from a breakout use of his music in Big Little Lies, and he’s back with another theme song, this time for the Netflix documentary “Convergence.” The palette remains the same - haunting Wurlitzer, a heavy midtempo break, tense strings and guitars, with Kiwanuka’s vocal standing naked in the middle of the mix.
Kit Sebastian - Agitate
From their second album of pitch-perfect Anatolian pop/funk Melodi, Kit Sebastian recorded these tracks during last summer’s COVID lockdown - which might explain why the second album feels even more escapist and fantastical than their 2019 album Mantra Moderne. Agitate builds off of a cool-yet-creepy harpsichord and drum break, leaning into Merve Erdem’s detached, multilayered vocal performance.
Jeff Tweedy - UR-60 Unsent
Jeff Tweedy’s creative impulses have seemingly found a new stride in the “creator economy,” releasing an excellent book about songwriting, a Substack to show off writing and new demos, and now a two-song offering in Sub Pop’s Singles Club. The B-side, UR-60 Unsent, is about an unsent mixtape of love songs, and is woozy and hushed like Tweedy’s best ballads with Wilco.
Marcel Dettman - Music Is Playing
Released in late August, the last track on Dettman’s State of the Art EP is anchored by an obtuse, almost unmusical bassline, giving the 909 percussion a herky-jerky counterpoint.
Jennifer Lara - Consider Me
I’m no expert on Studio One tracks, or reggae, or any historical context for this 1974 song. I’m merely routinely knocked out by the lowkey come-on/threat of “Consider Me,” the sound of someone routinely ignored and underrated asking to be seen for who she really is.
That’s all for this week - hope you enjoy the songs, and see you next Friday!