Tracks of the week reviewed: Hayley Williams, Mitski, Stephen Malkmus

Hayley Williams

Hayley Williams was first signed as a solo artist, at age 14, to a major label who wanted her to become a mall-rock teen queen à la Lavigne. But she decided she wanted to be in a band instead. Now, finally shorn of her Paramore boy guard, Williams is showing the world exactly what she is made of. Turns out, she is made of marketable good taste, a bit like Mitski and Haim fornicating on the doorstep of Columbia Records’ accounts department. Simmer is the sound of Williams shape-shifting into her “angsty, F-ed up early 30s” form.

Cop Car

Well this is confusing. It seems as though Mitski is trying to be Evanescence this week. Maybe everyone is shifting one-over, a bit like when Doctor Who turns up in EastEnders for Comic Relief. In Mitski’s case, this turns out to be because Cop Car is from an upcoming horror film set in 1994. In that context, it is a decent slab of pastiche-rock, but if I were her, I wouldn’t give up the day job, doing a so-so Fiona Apple impression.

Stephen Malkmus
Xian Man

Mumble in my general direction, Steve: you know I love it. Mumble dirty to me. Go on. What was that? “Backwardisation make you amend, Tête-à-tête long math”? Anyone? In the great Malkmus-ian dichotomy between “songs that start off slack, then fire to life” versus “just slack”, this falls into the latter camp. You won’t understand it: just accept the unimpeachable vibe and move on.

Do U Wanna

We never quite got round to closing the book on what we should call post-chillwave: that oily splodge of androgyny, somewhere between Frank Ocean and M83. It was fun for six months in 2015, but we’re in the 20s now. Porches sound a bit like when 80s synth bands kept going, after acid house, and having minor hits that lodged in the lower reaches of the Top 40.

Pearl Jam
Dance of the Clairvoyants

People never mention AOR any more, maybe because all rock has become adult-oriented. But it is nice that Eddie Vedder and pals have found a tasteful, perky groove that works for some kind of ill-advised fitness challenge. The rhymes of this ancient mariner are as grandiose as ever; I’m convinced he has got a side-hustle writing national anthems. The addition of “funky” synths also makes this sound a bit like Men Without Hats. Again: no bad thing.


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