In VH New Music Fridays, the Life staff covers this week’s new music releases, from pop to country to alternative.
Hip Hop: Brendan Sawyer
“Best Life,” Danny Brown
Danny Brown is two for two in singles for his upcoming album “uknowhatimsaying¿” Q-tip’s production holds the trademark sampling that Danny’s last single lacked, but the Detroit rapper’s lyricism is as on point as ever. At only two and a half minutes, “Best Life” is short and sweet, getting straight to the point with just two verseus and a hook. Both the beat and bars seem to ride the line of optimism and cynicism, as the hook claims “There ain’t no next life, so now I’m tryna live my best life.” Since Danny’s rap career has been helping him both mentally and physically, it’s hard not to see how he’s living his absolute best life right now.
Country & Americana: Alexa Bussmann
“Ocean,” Lady Antebellum
Lady A’s latest single is a powerful ballad, featuring dramatic piano paired with Hillary Scott’s vocals. “Ocean” is a mature song with mature lyrics, so don’t expect to hear it on country radio. Scott sings about yearning and love, resulting in a beautiful song that’s more serious than most of Lady A’s discography. “Ocean” is the title track of Lady Antebellum’s upcoming album, which will include a collaboration with Little Big Town. If the musical mastery of “Ocean” is any indication, a collaboration with LBT is more than worth the wait.
“Platonic,” Ryan Hurd
You might not have heard of Ryan Hurd– he’s one of those country artists that has been putting out music for a while now, but hasn’t broken through to country radio. Hurd’s EP, “Platonic,” is a window into his brand of country music: a mixture of sunny pop and country elements, always fun and light but never fully country. The title track is catchy and simple, despite its uncreative lyrics. “Wish for the World” is a sweet song about hoping for a simpler and slower world. Hurd’s vocals are strong throughout the EP. Maren Morris, his wife, is featured in backup vocals on “To a T,” the first song off this EP. Hurd’s release of “Platonic” comes just two weeks after Morris released her first album with new supergroup The Highwomen.
“The Owl,” Zac Brown Band
ZBB’s latest album is another few steps down the electronic, genre-less road that they’ve been on since “Jekyll + Hyde.” The Zac Brown Band of “Colder Weather” and “Goodbye In Her Eyes” might be a thing of the past– “The Owl” is far from country music, and even further from the authenticity of the ZBB that their fans have always loved. You might have already heard the single “Need This” from this album, and if you have, you basically know what to expect from the other ten songs on “The Owl.” “Finish What We Started” features Brandi Carlile, but I expected much more than what they delivered; the excessive production constantly competes with their vocals. Don’t even get me started on “God Given,” it takes the basic premise of Thomas Rhett’s “Look What God Gave Her” and twists it into a disrespectful cacophony. It’s the kind of stuff that Florida Georgia Line can almost get away with, but just sounds wrong from the Zac Brown Band. “The Woods,” the album’s first track, says “To each their own/ Ain’t that right”– ZBB has certainly gone their own way with “The Owl.”
Indie & Alternative: Angela Karas
“Tangled Up,” The Shelters
“Tangled Up” is ultimately an unimpressive and forgettable offering from indie rock band The Shelters. There is nothing inherently terrible about the song; it simply falls prey to a sense of familiarity that characterizes the single even at first listen. Lyrically, the song is rather cliché, featuring lines such as “I can’t live without the way you make me feel” and “You get me higher than I ever thought I’d be.” Overall, this song is unmemorable at best.
M83’s latest album, “DSVII,” is an ambient offering which lead singer Anthony Gonzalez characterizes as being heavily influenced by the science fiction of the early 1980s. The band describes that “DSVII” is a sequel to 2007’s “Digital Shades Vol. 1.” “DSVII” would perhaps make a strong late-night studying soundtrack, as it radiates an introspective vibe. While a somewhat niche album, it nevertheless proves an intriguing release from the band that demonstrates they are not afraid to break from the indie rock status quo.