Welcome, time-crunched and over-stimulated music fan, to All Shook Down's High Five -- a place where Byard Duncan wades through the shit to find you the hits. Well, five of them, anyway.
Sad times here at the High Five. With one notable exception, this week's picks take different approaches to the subject of melancholy. They remind us that there's no real endpoint to heartbreak -- just new ways to craft the art that helps us cope.
Tyler, the Creator - "Jamba, Feat. Hodgy Beats"
How far can nihilism get Tyler, The Creator? Throughout his latest album, Wolf, he struggles -- brilliantly, profanely -- to make the same strides toward earnestness that some of his successful Odd Future compatriots seem to have already taken. But if Frank Ocean's album, Channel Orange, and Earl Sweatshirt's recently released single, "Chum," read like confessions, Jamba is more guarded -- a distant consideration of what confessing might imply. It covers an impressive chunk of ground: his father ("Papa ain't call/ Even though he saw me on TV/ It's all good"), critics who "Take bets about how quick Tyler can reach maturity," smoking weed. You get the impression that Tyler is orbiting around something tragic and groundbreaking. A triumph, given its self-imposed limitations.
Watch the Duck - "Freedomville"
Taken as an extended dick joke masked as a crunk-laced R&B workout, "Freedomville" is easy to dismiss. But taken for what it actually is -- a psychedelic meditation on narcissism, sex, and male insecurity - it's a rich and perplexing head-trip. The lyrics, delivered with glossy perfection, are equal parts pathos and id: A discussion of a "theoretical nude place" wilts into a repeated, almost desperate, proclamation of love. It's a slow jam, sure -- but one that nevertheless begs to be decoded.
The Pastels - "Check My Heart"
Try though you may, you will not find anything to dislike about "Check My Heart," a bouncy and sweet-as-honey jaunt from the Pastels. Does it sound a bit like a dusty, plaid-clad relic of pre-crash America? Yes. But is that okay in the same way that poring over old high school yearbooks for hours is sometimes okay? Also yes. The band, which formed in 1987, hasn't put out an album for more than 15 years. "Check My Heart" is the first single from its forthcoming release, the aptly titled Slow Summits. Here's to a continued ascent.
James Blake - "Life Round Here"
Not quite Thom Yorke's brand of mournful electronica, not quite vintage Destiny's Child, "Life Round Here" is somehow perplexing and incredibly satisfying at the same time. "Part-time love is the life I live," Blake warbles again and again, his brittle voice flitting through the blips and swells like a butterfly dipping through rush hour traffic. For all its pleasing textures, the song features moments of menace, too: a muted police siren, a morose admission that Blake is back "at square one." A dirge, but a dirge beautifully delivered.
Nadine Shah - "Dreary Town"
"Let's toast to a short-lived love and drink to all the rest," Nadine Shah suggests near the beginning of this heartbreaking waltz. Where others might focus their songwriting energies on ethereal things like "true love" and other rote items, Shah does something unique here: She mourns the emptiness of a relationship that was pretty much over before it started. About time we had an ode to the soggy ruin of hookup culture.