Shuffle Everything – Vol. 5

Everyone likes Screaming Females, or at least I think that’s the general consensus. They won last week with ‘Starve The Beat’ (a live performance, no less). We have a slow week this time – no instant favourites jumping out – but Cocteau Twins finally find a way to hook me with their Beach House-isms, or maybe that should be Cocteau Twins-isms?

Unstoppable – Sia

Sia’s second comeback album, This Is Acting, is brimming with pop excellence. The most unfortunate thing about it was that it came with the unofficial tagline of ‘songs other people rejected’ so it came with the assumption of a compilation. Nevertheless, ‘Unstoppable’ stands among ‘Bird Set Free’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’ (minus the horrific Sean Paul version) as a sign Sia is on top form. She just has a knack for writing the perfect pop song, and has the vocal gymnastics to make a huge song. Have you noticed that every Sia song relies on a massive drum sound? Listen to ‘Unstoppable’, ‘Elastic Heart’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’, it’s definitely noticeable.

Lazy Calm – Cocteau Twins

Cocteau Twins are a band I always remind myself to get further into, and never actually do. I’ve listened to Treasure, Garlands and what seems like the go-to Cocteau Twins record, Heaven Or Las Vegas, but it’s never properly stuck, which is weird as I can hear one of my favourite bands – Beach House – in them. ‘Lazy Calm’ is a long-ish song that’s all spacey synths, reverb and Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal vocals. It begins in an ambient setting before real magic starts. Cocteau Twins do have their own magic, an atmosphere that’s summed up in the title of this compilation – Stars And Topsoil. It’s both up in space and nestled in the earth at the same time. I’d never heard ‘Lazy Calm’ up until this point, but it’s giving me the temptation to back and explore the band more.

Insight – Joy Division

I distinctly remember hearing Joy Division for the first time. This was back in secondary school, when people were starting to listen to Joy Division and the Smiths and wearing the t-shirts, with that hypnotic front cover that seems parodied and reduced to a stereotype at this point. I also distinctly remember hating Ian Curtis’s voice the first time I heard it. It’s grown on me considerably, and when it comes to ‘Insight’ I can’t imagine any other person attempting those bleak words. The song is a bit of a precursor to New Order with its bright synths that somehow manage to work around Curtis – It turns into a sci-fi fest at one point.

Distance Equals Rate Times Time – Pixies

‘Distance…’ is a fairly standard late-period Pixies song. It’s short, punchy, and the most interesting thing about it is the buried guitar sound that comes along in the chorus. I’m guessing it’s a guitar, I have no idea really. The song is about a terminated television broadcast of the Apollo 12 moon landing, but I don’t think it’s just that. ‘Looking into the sun’ screams Frank Black, several times. Maybe it’s a premonition of Pixies’ breakup – ‘We got to get some beer / We got no atmosphere’. Even the album title – Trompe Le Monde – comes from the phrase Trompe-l’œil, a painting technique where the painter uses realistic painting to create the illusion of three dimensions. I always saw that as Frank Black essentially creating the illusion that Trompe Le Monde was a Pixies album, when Kim Deal’s role was much reduced and the band was on the verge of breakup, and so it was more of his first solo album. Maybe I read into it too much.

Come Back From San Francisco – The Magnetic Fields

Our first repeat album comes from an album that was hard to not repeat, 69 Love Songs. Stephin Merritt is replaced by Shirley Simms on lead vocals and it’s a stripped down guitar song, fitting for such a sad love song. Merritt pleads ‘Come back from San Francisco / And kiss me, I’ve quit smoking’ as he tells himself that his lover doesn’t need him at all, but he needs him. 69 Love Songs has a tendency to have some filler tracks (It’s near-impossible to keep the standard high for 69 songs), and though the instrumentation is bare-boned, the lyrics are just as good as the others, even if it lacks a lot of Merritt’s sarcasm and loads itself with heartfelt pleading instead.

Best Of The Week?

‘Lazy Calm’ surprisingly takes the lead. Prior to ‘Lazy Calm’ I saw Cocteau Twins as a bit of a sleepy dream-pop band, but ‘Lazy Calm’ might be my entrance to them properly. I’ll finish off the rest of the compilation and see where it leads next.

Track Review – Cheap Thrills / Sia

Sia’s faceless comeback has resulted in some of the best chart-topping pop around. ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Alive’, both lead singles from 1000 Forms Of Fear and This Is Acting, let Sia’s vocals fly and had relatable too. ‘Cheap Thrills’, now the fourth promotional single from Sia’s upcoming album is a twist on her tried-and-tested formula to incorporate a more eccentric tropical house synthetic drum pattern with a the cheerleader chant of ‘I love cheap thrills’. Like a lot of the songs on This Is Acting, ‘Cheap Thrills’ was a rejected song meant for Rihanna, which explains a lot of the island instrumentals and melodic outro, but the lyrics are where the rejection makes sense.

Rihanna made news with her ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ video and song, but the catchy hook on ‘Cheap Thrills’ is ‘I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight’. It wouldn’t have worked in Rihanna’s grand Anti scheme, where she’s going to take the money and have fun, but Sia is happy just to dance it out. You might think that the different instrumental style, which is very different from the trap/glossy pop of her biggest hit so far, ‘Chandelier’, but it changes up what have been some very formulaic singles since ‘Alive’ was good enough just to let Sia bellow her vocals out. ‘Cheap Thrills’ is a decent, if only slightly more quirky, pop song.