Changing it up a bit this week on NMT(OW). Each of us took half the responsibility of bringing you the week’s best.
PORTER’S PICKS OF THE WEEK
”Not Long” - Ludacris X Usher
In 2004, this song would have been huge. Both were at the peak of their powers. Usher put out an all-time classic R&B album in Confessions, with songs like “Burn”, “Caught Up”, and “Confessions Pt.II” were killing it on the charts. Ludacris was fresh off his first Fast & Furious role and his chart-topping Chicken-n-Beer and Red Light District albums. The two, along with Lil Jon had the song of the summer in “Yeah!”, which still gets solid play in clubs.
This song should be a big deal because it’s smooth as hell. The production sounds like it’s straight out of a 70’s action flick, with with a strong conga beat, jangly guitar and just the right amount of trumpet. Usher, usually one to display his range, finds himself in the right pocket as he croons throughout the track. Meanwhile, Luda holds his own. The beat provided doesn’t give him room to rap in double time and display virtuosity, but that’s never been his style. His rhymes ride the beat, and lines like “I don't dream big my dreams are astronomical/So when critics write articles of my chronicles/I wonder if my hunger is felt in they abdominal” work for the overall song.
It’s been awhile since these two have been on top, but on “Not Long” they prove that they’ve still got it.
”All Of Me Wants All Of You” - Sufjan Stevens
I have slept on Sufjan for too long. I listened to him for the first time at work yesterday and was absolutely blown away. His music is like a fine tapestry: it's so delicate but at the same time so powerful. "All Of Me Wants All of You" is a good example of his capabilities. The instrumentation doesn't have strong dynamic changes, but the whispery vocals mixed with Sufjan's soft acoustic strumming makes it feel like it could shatter at any moment.
What holds it together are his lyrics. Carrie & Lowell chronicles the fractured relationship with his late mother, and this song does a great job of displaying her effect on his life. His relationship with his partner falls apart ("You checked your texts while I masturbated/Manelich, I feel so used.") and he retreats to his native Oregon with his significant other. He feels the relationship has a void, explained when he "traced your shadow with my shoe/empty outline changed my view/Now all of me thinks less of you."
The refrain juxtaposes "all of me thinks less of you" and "all of me wants all of you" brilliantly. Her rejection of him, when he wants every part of her -- absolutely devastating. Sufjan's ability to make his audience feel his pain is a gift.
DARREN’S PICKS OF THE WEEK
"Frozen Pines” - Lord Huron
Lord Huron has been quietly putting out some dope tunes ahead of their second full-length album Strange Trails. (The album’s official release date is April 7, but it’s streaming here and on iTunes Radio First Play if you’re interested.) “Frozen Pines” along with ”Fool For Love” and ”World Ender” (which belongs in a Better Call Saul episode) points to Strange Trails being a stellar record.
”I Can’t Explain” - Surfer Blood
Surfer Blood are a derivative of My Morning Jacket (spoiler alert: you’ll see them below), which is an undeniably good thing. There are two takeaways here: 1) The band can include ”methylenedioxyamphetamine” in their lyrics without missing a beat and 2) they can create straight-up gorgeous instrumental interludes. I dare you to listen from 2:54-3:40 and not enjoy yourself.
”Spring (Among The Living)” - My Morning Jacket
That slow, spacey, bent guitar note at the beginning of the Surfer Blood song above? That’s a tool straight out of MMJ’s toolbox. They use it in “Spring (Among The Living)”, which is an expansive journey for the listener, one in which we’re wandering but never lost. “Done hibernating / we animals roam out of our holes” Jim James proclaims before a laser-sharp guitar solo. MMJ are one of the best rock bands out there, and I’m eagerly awaiting The Waterfall, which comes out on May 4. Mark your calendars.