I’m Excited – “Timebomb” Review

I’m really bad at keeping up with Instagram, so I’m lucky that my good friend Marie has a habit of sending me Instagram posts she thinks I’ll like. It’s extra good for the purpose of this post today because… my friends… Walk the Moon is back again. And… big shocker, I love their new song.

In a lot of ways, this song feels like it was cut from the same cloth as “What if Nothing,” with that same spacey, echoed sound. The beginning of the song, though, kind of reminds me of “Work this Body” off of Talking is Hard… and the prospect o mixing the bouncier, dancier style of that album with the more reserved “What if Nothing” sounds like a good thing to me.

I love the ticking sounds that lend this song a thematic concept, the lyrics are clever and snappy as always.

It’s hard to make sweeping statements about just where a song like this indicates the band is going, but I was initially struck (at 1 am this morning, mind you, so take my analysis with that in mind) by just how clean the mix of this song is.

Nick’s vocals are also standout, as usual. I love it, as usual. There’s not much to say other than that I’m incredibly excited to get more music from them, as I always am.

So to lengthen this post a little bit, and to give you a little reading material as you listen to this fantastic new song and get excited with me, I wanna talk a bit about this band and its influence on me.

I have already talked about the positive influence of Walk the Moon on my life but I recently had a really fun encounter thanks to this band. I’ve seen Walk the Moon four times live at this point, so I would call myself a bit of an expert on attending their performances.

So while sharing this fact with a freshman on my floor, she excitedly told me that she was going to see them in Ohio in a few months. What followed was a really fun conversation where I got to tell her all about the performance traditions – like painting your face a la “Anna Sun.”

Or, the Walk the Moon fan rite of passage – taking part in the pre- “I Can Lift a Car” meditation.

There’s so much about this band that fosters a sense of community. From the traditions, to just the feeling of the music, I could feel it that afternoon chatting with this girl, who sounded so excited to experience a performance herself.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little jealous of her. She’ll get to hear whatever new music they’ll be releasing in the coming months live! It’s exciting.

More to come from this band in the future.

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A Year of Surprises – Top 30 Tracks of 2018

And in the blink of an eye it appears another year has come and gone here on Absoludicrous. Well… not only here, everywhere, since that’s how time works… but you get what I’m saying.

New Years is an exciting time for me on this blog because January 1st is Absoludicrous’s official birthday, which means in a few short days I will have been running this blog for two whole years! So, just like the last two times I’ve done this, I wanna celebrate this blog’s birthday as well as the coming new year with a look back at all the music I loved in 2018.

2018 was a year of surprises in the music world, both good and bad. Some artists took a chance on entirely new genres and made crazy fascinating art with them, while other old favorite artists made some weird conceptual choices that kinda worked but kinda… didn’t. Still other old favorites stagnated, and really sent me into a tail spin of disappointment with their 2018 work.

It was a year of personal surprises too, the most relevant being the pleasant surprise my time co-hosting my own radio show for my campus radio station has been. Not only has it introduced me to many of the songs that ended up making the list this year, it’s also been a great chance to unwind every week with a good friend and listen to music, something I definitely need in my life.

It’s also worth mentioning that this list, more than the previous two lists, was a really tough one to make. I had a huge list of possible contenders, and every song deserved a spot, but only 30 could ultimately make the cut. That means some songs I did really enjoy this year won’t show up on the list, unfortunately. In the end, I had to narrow it down to those songs that still made an impression on me sometimes months after their release, or those songs that, despite having only been recently released, have already become a huge favorite.

So, with that all said, let’s get to the list, the cream of the crop, the best tracks of 2018.

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I Am Destroyed – “Am I a Girl?” Review

My feelings toward internet pop sensation Poppy have always felt a little confused. On one hand, I think her music is endlessly catchy, her image is really fun and cheeky and humorous, and her whole shtick is really well done, but on the other hand… well… it’s pretty clear that Poppy is meant to be a parody of the modern pop star.

So when I’m enjoying her catchy pop songs… am I the target of Poppy’s derision? Am I even supposed to be enjoying Poppy’s music?

…I’m thinking too hard about this, maybe.

But either way, I think many people, myself included, were surprised at Poppy’s newest album, “Am I a Girl?” It dropped on Halloween this year, and featured musical and genre influences that I’ve never heard from Poppy before. The perfectly polished android pop star we were all used to was suddenly putting on a new image.

How well did it work out? Let’s find out.

In a Minute

What I think surprised me the most about this album, putting aside some of the genre influences, is the lyrics.

Before, in songs like “Money” and “Moshi Moshi,” Poppy’s lyrics are mostly concerned with talking about vague concepts that many people would relate to, as the genre she’s parodying tends to do, without any interest in making a statement on those concepts that is personal to the singer. “In a Minute” immediately destroys this usual habit of Poppy’s.

This track is a repetitive, electro-military track that seems to strongly imply Poppy’s dissatisfaction with how her popularity as a singer has made her decisions less her own and more at the whims of the entertainment industry. She repeats the things she has to do in order to appease her fans, because she’s “busy and important” and that is simply what she must do.

Yes, instead of lampshading just pop music, “Am I a Girl?” throws punches at the entertainment industry as a whole, and in my opinion, reflects more of Poppy’s character than ever before. I don’t think this song is the best one to illustrate the latter development, so I’ll expand on that later.

As for quality though, “In a Minute” is catchy, clean, and tight and sticks with you forever afterward. It also has a simplistic but trippy music video that goes along with it, one that pays homage to Poppy’s fondness for Illuminati symbols, to boot.

Fashion After All

Befitting a song with a title about fashion, this track sounds exactly like something that would blare as supermodels in weird haute couture strut down a runway. That pounding electronic beat, and the distant echo of Poppy’s vocals makes a catchy little track, but I appreciate this song for its lyrics as well.

Perhaps a little sarcastically, Poppy decries the nature of fame, of having people watch her every move, declaring her either a perfect paradigm of morality or a devil, viewing every fashion choice she makes as gospel. It’s an interesting blur of character. Normally, it seems like Poppy is adamant about sticking to her shtick of distant, perfect android pop star. But here it seems like the musician behind the image has stepped out from behind the curtain to discuss how all the sudden attention has made her feel.

And yet, that same clean Poppy sound persists. It’s what makes this album so odd, and so intriguing, at least to me.

Iconic

Though I’m fascinated by the way this track is constructed – similarly to the track before it with a very high-fashion runway kind of beat, but with less of a commitment to sticking to that sound throughout – it doesn’t quite work for me. I think it sticks to a message repeated throughout the album, poking fun at the popular terminology used to describe our pop icons. Poppy seems to wax philosophical on what exactly makes someone “iconic.”

The lyrics are fine enough, the song itself just doesn’t work for me. I think the way the vocals switch pitch and emotion throughout is interesting, but doesn’t do enough to differentiate this track from the rest.

Chic Chick

Here’s the weird thing about this album. If Poppy had released a song like “Chic Chick” on any other album except this particular one, I would have assumed that this song is meant to make fun of your stock “rah rah girl power” pop fare. But with all the surrounding content of “Am I a Girl?”, I can’t help but feel like this song is 100% honest. Poppy really means this song, and that’s actually kind of charming.

If you’ll allow me to speculate on the lore of this album for a moment, I wonder if this album is Poppy’s android character exploring the concept of humanity, finally starting to understand some of the subjects of all the pop songs she’s obviously studied and copied. And this album is that character attempting to find how she feels about many of these subjects, hence the question in the title – “Am I a Girl?”

Time is Up ft. Diplo

If we take that meaning of the album, that provides an even deeper look into this track.

Story-wise, I think this song is pretty clear. The lyrics, from Poppy’s robot perspective, discuss the destruction of the Earth by humanity, ruminating on her immortality, and how she will outlive humanity’s self-destruction. Taken in the context of how Poppy is also perhaps trying to align herself with humans in this album, the song takes on a double, sad meaning. It’s as if Poppy is attempting to warn humanity about its demise so that she can continue living among them.

I think the music video adds credence to this theory too, especially during the ending, when humans dance in a carefree way around Poppy, standing grimly in the center, a spotlight shining on her. She’s a part of the celebration, sure, but also she’s apart from it as well, gleaming, celebrated, but not really dancing with the rest of them. Maybe she wants to join in, but she knows getting close would be silly?

The song itself is nice too, though I wouldn’t call it a favorite. I like Diplo’s beats well enough, and I think with his contribution this track has an unmistakable Daft Punk quality to it, though I can’t say it lives up to that particular standard. I like the spacey, distant sound of it as a whole, though, really fits the message, even if my added interpretation wasn’t the real intention of the song, and it was truly meant to be a song about a robot killing off humanity because she’ll outlive it.

Aristocrat ft. Garibay

Though this was not the point of this post, it’s unfortunately difficult to talk about Poppy without also mentioning the abuse allegations leveled at her producer, Titanic Sinclair. I’m inclined to believe these accusations, and though it definitely does change the way I look at Poppy’s music, I still believe it’s possible to appreciate Poppy while also acknowledging the role this cruel man plays in her music.

That all being said… it does make it easier when the album brings a new producer on board for this track. And it may be the “hatred of abusers” talking, but I think Garibay does a much better job with Poppy’s voice than Titanic Sinclair usually does. It kinda makes me long for a possible future where Poppy still gets to make her cool music without her disgusting producer but… alas, I’m not sure that’ll happen.

It’s interesting how human Poppy sounds in this. And the less-artificial sounding vocals alongside the catchy Latin beat makes this song infectious. But the differences aren’t so much that it doesn’t feel like a Poppy song, either. The parts of the song where Poppy puts on an exaggerated aristocratic tone of voice sounds like the Poppy we’ve come to know.

Plus, the lyrics are really clever and full of excellent rhyme schemes and puns. I love the idea of a formerly impoverished girl bragging about how she’s clawed her way to the top. And considering what we’ve seen what this album so far, I can’t help but see it as a bit of an allegory for a little-known YouTube musician clawing her way into the public consciousness.

Though I don’t think I would say I want Poppy to drop her pop android persona, it’s refreshing to hear something a little different.

Hard Feelings

So I told you about the Titanic Sinclair lawsuit in the last song because…. oh boy, this song.

You know, even as Poppy herself defended Titanic Sinclair, and denied the accusations, this song makes me wonder if that was truly how she felt about the situation. A song where she wonders if she was created only to replace someone her creator loved before… how can you not make the connection to how Mars Argo accused the Poppy persona of being a direct copy of her act?

Plus, this song is also produced by Fernando Garibay, like the last one. I really do think the note of humanity his production adds to Poppy’s sound is an incredibly effective part of this album. Putting aside all the real life implications of this song, it also connects to the mental crisis Poppy’s character is going through. She wonders – if she is truly meant to always be an android, how can she feel resentful toward her creator?

I also enjoy the call-outs to Poppy’s previous character quirks, specifically the “porcelain skin” line. It feels a lot like the unearthly perfection Poppy’s character has always possessed in previous songs, especially “Bleach Blonde Baby.” This Poppy is questioning everything about her character before, and it really explains what makes this album so much different than what we’ve heard from her before.

Girls in Bikinis

We’ve gone through quite a bit of existential crisis up to this point, but we’ve finally settled back into what Poppy started out this album doing – criticizing entertainment. Whew.

I have a real soft spot for this song. The emotionless way Poppy lists off images of sexual appeal all too familiar to most of us really calls to mind some sort of mindless entertainment executive listing off all the images they think will attract the most buyers.

But Poppy seems to question this, throwing in a “Dear lord, what’s next?” and even saying she wants to see “Boys in bikinis too.”

It’s a silly, fun little song, and actually one of my favorites. If not for it’s depth, for the infectiousness of it, that bouncy electronic sound and Poppy’s interesting sounding vocals. It’s a solid entry on an album I’m already heavily sold on at this point, so no complaints here.

The Rapture Ball

There’s a great intensity to this track that I really enjoy. It’s a staple of this album at this point to contrast Poppy’s high, light vocals with heavy electronic beats, but this song is particularly fun in just how hard it goes with that concept.

This track actually reminds me quite a bit of a few tracks off of Gorillaz’ “Humanz” (which I reviewed here), which has several tracks that, like this one, puts scenes of luxury and partying against images of the end of the world. Unlike the earlier Daft Punk comparison, though, I think Poppy lives up to the allure of that album, from the seductive sound of her vocals to the sudden build of the chorus.

This sounds like a song that would be incredible to dance to, and of course that must be the point.

Am I a Girl?

Here’s another thing that surprised me about this album. I was not expecting to see Poppy question her gender identity in song form.

Yes, you heard me right. While this song does obviously ask this question as an android wondering if she is human, it also takes it from the direction of an android wondering what the definitions of “girl” and “boy” even are, and whether possessing traits from both ends of the binary make her something in between.

What I think is kind of cool about this song, though, is the solution it comes to. Instead of characterizing her confusion over gender as a problem, she feels that trying to call herself one or the other is the thing that’s over-complicating the situation. She seems to argue that if she were just left to identify somewhere in between, she wouldn’t have this confusion.

It’s refreshing to see, and not a message I was expecting. Plus, I love that big guitar riff toward the end. Get ready, that’s not the last of the loud guitar we’ll see in this album.

Play Destroy ft. Grimes

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about this album coming out, and I went to its Spotify to give it a listen, I had every intention to start at the beginning and listen all the way through. That’s how I try to first listen to any album, as it’s how the artist intended it to be listened to, and all.

But then I peeked down the song list and saw that GRIMES was on this track. GRIMES!!!!!

Hello, Grimes. Are you finally coming back to music after having your fun dating horrible capitalist monsters? Please tell me you are. Please? I miss you. I love you.

But oh my god. This song is my favorite off the album. It destroyed my life. The combination of Poppy and Grimes was something I’ve never thought of, but now that I’ve heard it I’m convinced it’s all I’ve ever wanted in this life.

What’s so incredible about this song is that it toes a very fine line between being a Poppy song and being a Grimes song. I mean, it totally sounds like it could have come straight off of “Artangels,” but it’s got a bunch of Poppy touches that we’ve seen throughout this album. It’s almost like this entire album was built just to get Poppy’s sound to a state where she could take a cut song from “Artangels,” perform it, and we’d all be convinced it’s a Poppy song.

I’m mostly joking, but even if that were true I wouldn’t mind. This song is good enough that it justifies that.

It’s just… ugh, it’s so good. It’s obviously meant to critique how entertainment makes violence seem fun, but it also works played completely straight as these two cutesy characters taking a sadistic glee in destroying everything around them. I think that’s the beauty of this album as a whole. Even though the commentary on the entertainment industry is clear, it still feels legitimate. Like Poppy, for all her knowledge of and disdain for all the little ways entertainment fools and takes advantage of us, she still wants to play along.

She still wants to be human, despite what we humans do.

God, that’s brilliant.

X

“Ooh! Heavy!”

But if you thought Poppy threw down the gauntlet in the last song, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

You know, Poppy’s doing metal now, and after everything I’ve just heard, I’m really not even surprised. You’ve done it, Poppy. You’ve made me accept you even when you’re doing metal. If that doesn’t make this album a success, I don’t know what does.

It’s this song that really convinces me that this album as a whole is Poppy’s character questioning everything about herself. The very structure of this song is at war with itself, the soft, 70s pop verses conflicting with the violent lyrics, heavy guitar, and screaming of the chorus. It’s Poppy attempting to reconcile the squeaky clean, beautiful nature of her pop android character with her desires to be flawed and angry and emotional and human.

Ugh, it’s such a fantastic way to end this album. Poppy longs to go back to where she began, but after all we’ve heard, we know she can’t go back. Perhaps that’s the most human thing she expresses throughout this whole album – regret.

“Am I a Girl?” is just a fantastic and surprising entry onto Poppy’s discography, and it fills me with excitement for where she’ll be going next. I’m definitely going to be coming back to many of the tracks here for months and months to come.

Spooktober Week 4: Best Vocaloid Scares

Last week, I got a little controversial with 5 Vocaloid horror songs that have never quite impressed me. This week I wanted to go a little more positive, and a little more spooky, with my top ten best Vocaloid horror songs.

As much as so many horror-themed Vocaloid songs can come out hammy, overly edgy, or just puzzlingly weird, there are a ton of really great ones too – ones that truly fright me, or tell a great story, or do cool things with visuals or music… or all of the above!

As with last week, some of these songs cover possibly triggering topics, so I tried to mark everything I could think of. We want everyone to be safe and happy here on Absoludicrous!

So, hope you enjoy this jaunt through the best scares of the Vocaloid world!

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Spooktober Week 3: Vocaloid Scares That Missed the Mark

Based on the honestly wild number of people who still read my previous post about Vocaloid daily, you all seem to like it very much when I drag up my old, somewhat embarrassing past love of this kind of music.

Okay… maybe not past love. I still do love Vocaloid. But I’ve had enough experience in the cringy bowels of YouTube to know that not all of Vocaloid is so brilliant.

In fact, relating more specifically to the theme of Spooktober, a huge amount of these songs are bad because they try really hard to be scary and just… fail. And I’m not interested in talking about “scary” songs that are just flat-out obviously bad like this monstrosity, I felt like talking about songs that either kind of get close or are popular enough to make it seem as though they succeeded.

So strap in, let’s talk about some bad Vocaloid Horror songs. Five, in fact. Prepare to experience no fear whatsoever.

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Spooktober Week 1: A Lyrical Analysis of “Unfinished Business”

October is here! And if you’re a human person in the world, that means you’re either getting excited for or are already annoyed by the constant and all-consuming Halloween fever everywhere. The weather is getting colder, the leaves are changing colors, the pumpkin spice lattes are being made, and it’s time to get spooky.

Or, if you’re a regular here on this blog, you might remember that last year I had a themed month. A musical themed month, actually. And I thought that was a pretty fun time, so I decided to do another theme for this October. Will this be a yearly thing?

…Maybe!

But for this October I suppose we’re going a little traditional. For all this month I’ll be taking on spooks, scares, horrors, and more. And for this first week, I wanted to start with a song I’ve been lowkey thinking about doing an analysis of since the beginning of this blog. “Unfinished Business” by White Lies.

First, a note. While this song is originally by White Lies, I became familiar with this song via the Mumford and Sons cover. There’s two reasons why I prefer the Mumford and Sons cover to the original, and one is that I heard the cover first. The second reason will come up in a bit, promise.

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Heck, Let’s Start a Radio Show!

Shorter post this week because I have a really cool announcement for you all!

First of all, this one’s a bit time sensitive. My blog posts always go up at Sunday at 8:30 a.m., so if you’re here close to that release time, you might still have a chance to listen to our show live! We’ll be on here at 11 a.m.!

So, I was involved with my on-campus radio station, WIUX, all of my freshman year, but at the time I was kinda too… well, anxious to do any actual on-air work. But this year, with an entire year of college under my belt I decided now was the time to have a show.

And then, sitting down to apply for the show, the full weight of what I expected myself to do laid down on my shoulders. Right then, as if spurred on by fate, my good friend Marisa was like “Hey, are you applying for a WIUX show? Do you need a co-host?”

And so, Marisa and I began to formulate an idea for a radio show – Pork Soda n’ Peaches. A show where the song selections aren’t based on genre themes, but instead based on lyrical themes. Every Sunday at 11 a.m. we’ll have a new lyrical theme – like “songs that seem like love songs but actually aren’t” or “songs where the singer has weirdly specific expectations for their lover.”

As you probably know from the content of this blog (I’ve already done two lyric analysis posts here and here), this show’s theme is really up my alley and I’m excited to share my lyrical enthusiasm with the world! Plus, I think having Marisa with me as my co-host will really diversify the music we play. So not just the same old hipster stuff from me over and over again! Yay!

And what’s with that title? Well, I’ve been keeping it hush on the interwebs for the most part because that will be covered in our first episode, but since it’s entirely possible you’ll be reading this far after our first episode has come and gone, our title is a reference to two songs. One is Pork Soda by Glass Animals, a song I’ve analyzed right here on this blog. The other is a favorite of Marisa’s, a song called Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America.

These songs aren’t random selections either. For us, they represent the spectrum of lyrics that deserve appreciation. Pork Soda is a deep song that’s fun to dive into the lyrics of, but just as fun are the simple, humorous lyrics of Peaches. Both are worthwhile and fun lyrics.

Anyway, this blog will return to its regularly scheduled programming next week, but I hope this week you’ll consider checking out our show (or if you missed it, check us out next week at that same link!) Or, you can follow the show’s twitter here! (You’ll be able to get sneak peeks of our themes every week there, and even a chance to contribute music to our show!)