Tracks of the week reviewed: Lauryn Hill, Grimes, Pet Shop Boys
Guarding the Gates
“Everybody wants to know, what you’re gonna do, where you going to.” Yes, Lauryn, probably because they’re making a seven-part Netflix biopic about you - or more specificially, the whole sad cavalcade that has dogged the biggest talent of 1998. It is jarring to hear her as she is now – singing with the weathered drawl of a woman with a Wikipedia subhead for “Further Activities and Imprisonment”. However, this lost soul howling into the storm still sounds as though she never let the fire die. After all, as she sings: “You can laugh at me. But I’m in love. Don’t you wish you had been in love?”
It is now evident that Beck achieved his final form on Sea Change. Peel back the onion of weird-folk, slack-rock, sex-funk, alt-hop, and underneath is just a gelatinous cube of singer-songwriter. Who knows why it happened, but somewhere along the line we have come to expect the same from him as we do from a late-period Springsteen: 1,700 warm words in Uncut that equate to “perfectly serviceable modern rock songs”.
Pet Shop Boys
Burning the Heather
“Featuring Bernard Butler,” it says here, but as Bernard seems to be doing nothing more than strumming open chords, that’s a bit like getting André the Giant to open your pickle jars. One of those plangent, world-weary shuffling ones Tennant and Lowe seem to think we all expect from them, and more autumnal than seasonal affective disorder.
KSI ft Rick Ross, Lil Baby & S-X
Down Like That
KSI has recruited Rick Ross and it’s not immediately clear who is doing whom a favour. In 2019, what do big-time rappers think when they get the call to guest on YouTubers’ tracks? Now that “the game” is “Fifa on Twitch and some kind of food challenge”, is Rick simply grateful for the exposure? I mean, there’s everyday hustlin’ and then there is being the icing on someone else’s vanity-rap career.
So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth
The Pixie Enya Chillout Room is open. When reports of the musician’s new daily routine began filtering through this summer – flotation tanks, sword fighting, an alphabet soup of nootropics – it sounded as though she was having a creative breakdown. Turns out she was just becoming bulletproof. Heavy is the size of it: all this ethereal nonnying would sound trite if it weren’t welded to such a dense, sleek groove.