“I can’t remember last time you were smiling.”

“Can’t Remember” by Jason McCue | Perhaps not the song I should be posting on Valentine’s Day, a day of, err, loving, considering this song is essentially a break-up song wrapped around themes of continental drift. (Well, that is an apt metaphor, come to think of it.) Jason McCue is a young man from Seattle, just 21, and just prepping to release his debut album, Pangaea: this, his first single, drops on Friday. There is a reason for the earth-based metaphors: he was taking up environmental studies. I have yet to go through the whole album, which drops next month, but this song feels earthy (that metaphor was inevitable) and also youthful. And pleasant, simply said. I find this song pleasant. Can’t wait to bite into the whole record. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

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“You gotta be seen to be seen.”

“Individual” by Måntra | I’m in the mood for something quick and loud, relatively, and the inbox giveth. Off the western side of London, three-piece Måntra (yes, the accent is deliberate) have released a couple of EPs last year and are preparing to release their first full-length later this year. But, for now, we have “Individual”, which does end quickly, at just over two minutes. Maybe I was expecting things to go further considering the repetitive chorus. And yet it says everything it has to say and then some, with those loud riff-y guitars that I was somehow looking for at this time of the day. Night. Week. Let’s see what happens next. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

“Doo doo doo, ah.”

“Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey | The “fun game” on board my Cebu Pacific flight to, er, Cebu last Friday was the “guess the song” one. I won that once, but as I had little sleep I never really gave it my all this time. The first song went “eh eh eh” and automatically I knew it was 2NE1 – but not that it’s “Fire”. Three people guessed it right. The second song went “doo doo doo, ah” and people actually complained – or so the flight crew leading the game claims – thinking no such song exists. There is. I even got the artist right: Mariah Carey. Of course it’s her iconic “Always Be My Baby”, a fact that I forgot because, due to an extraordinary series of events, when I think of that song I think of David Cook’s cover instead – because somehow radio stations believe that’s the only song he’s ever released, never mind that he has released three albums, with a fourth under way. He never did go “doo doo doo, ah”. But what if he did? I may have guessed “David Cook!” out loud on the plane. [NB]

Review: Microshift by Hookworms

Microshift by HookwormsHookworms’ third album Microshift comes with that usual narrative of upheaval. For this one, they’ve had to pretty much start all over, after a flood wrecked the studio of their frontman Matt Johnston – and, perhaps more importantly, took most of their back catalogue with it, too. Here’s where you expect a band who’s primarily traded in muddled psychedelic sounds to turn inward and be a bit more brooding, but no – Microshift is actually jubilant. It’s a weird, fun record, this: a shift towards synths does not diminish the band’s tendencies, but somehow highlights them, focuses them, making for something far more accessible than their previous work. And easier to dance to, in the case of the sprawling, intense “Ullsworth”, definitely the high point of the album. It struggles with keeping the energy up in the long run though, but still, it’s a weird, fun record. [NB]4/5

Review: Man of the Woods by Justin Timberlake

Man of the Woods by Justin TimberlakeI’ll admit to being a little wary of Man of the Woods. I mean, after the two 20/20 Experience albums – the last half being quite a chore – I wasn’t sure if I’m willing to trust Justin Timberlake with my ears ever again. This isn’t some anti-pop sentiment cool people (not that I am) are ought to do. He did good songs. He’s just trying too hard and fumbling these days. Man of the Woods continues that, er, tradition. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is the title. It feels homey – an allusion to how Justin merged the worlds of country and modern soul in this record? – but instead I think of a man who got lost in the forest and dealt with it by choosing to live there rather than be found. The album does not sound fresh, although he tries so hard. It feels like a retread, a redo of his hyper-indulgent tendencies. It’s not horrible, but I must admit to automatically tuning out about a third of the way through, the record already feeling a bit too much, me coping by relegating it to background noise. It’s heavy in expectation, the sort that’s shoved down on you. Be proud of me. I can’t, Justin. [NB]2/5