My son is 7, and he recently discovered—via his 8-year-old friend—the joys of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” the smash hit that entered the zeitgeist in late 2014 and never really left. It’s one of those songs that just completely dominated, winning Record Of The Year at the Grammys and selling a jillion copies. (Wikipedia says that the song earns $100,000 per week on Spotify spins alone!) And whether you can stand listening to it or not, it’s clear that there’s something primal about “Uptown Funk,” some kind of fairy dust that can’t be engineered in a recording studio, and that only finds its way onto a record every couple of years. It’s the thing that makes 8- and 80-year-olds love it.
Now do I love it? I always kind of liked it. I’m not sure I ever willingly chose to listen to it, but it was in the air, and the hooks—all of ’em!—are great. The horns, Bruno Mars’ uber-confident “Don’t believe me, just watch,” even the corny lyrics—alchemize into something sort of undeniable. In the past few weeks I’ve both gotten very, very sick of “Uptown Funk”—which will happen when you’re forced to listen to it many times a day—and also somehow gained an entirely new appreciation for it. Somehow I never heard either the “make a dragon want to retire” or “smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy” lines the first thousand times I heard it, and now I can’t get their silly greatness out of my head. And when your 7-year-old son perfectly intones “If you sexy then flaunt it,” without knowing what either of the most important words in that sentence means, it might make you re-appreciate it, too. Now, do I ever need to hear it again? Probably not. Will I be hearing it tomorrow morning? Almost certainly. [Josh Modell]
Released in January, Rick Rude’s debut full-length may be one of this year’s best overlooked albums. On Make Mine Tuesday, the New Hampshire quartet melds familiar indie-rock stylings with evocative, linguistically playful lyrics for an idiosyncratic, fresh-sounding album. Following the crescendoing wail of album opener “Bald & Fat In Houston, TX” (the band’s comparison to Built To Spill feels most apt there), “Sunhead” is exuberant punctuation, a meta, head-bobbing ditty about songcraft. (In the second verse, guitarist Ben Troy sings, “Verse two, I change the words around / It turns itself into a song.”) “Sunhead” shines a shade brighter than the rest of the songs on the album, with its catchy, energetic guitar riffs, offering a counterbalance that’s more substantial than its two minutes’ runtime. [Laura Adamczyk]
By now, it should be obvious that I’m a sucker for the aural equivalent of vintage reproduction dresses: Music that sounds like it could be from the ’60s or ’70s, even though it was written and recorded in the 21st century. One of the leading practitioners of this style is Cat’s Eyes, a Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra-esque pop duo composed of Italian-Canadian soprano Rachel Zeffira and The Horrors lead vocalist Faris Badwan. Cat’s Eye’s shtick is adding a hint of sexual menace to florid ’60s chamber pop—they notably, and appropriately, composed the score to the 2015 BDSM romance The Duke Of Burgundy—a quality that’s epitomized in “Drag,” the second single off of their 2016 album Treasure House. Over romantic strings, Zeffira breathily describes what could either be a forbidden romance or an abusive relationship—“The things we do when we’re together / If they ever knew, they would keep us apart,” she sings—punctuated with deceptively sweet flutes and shimmying tambourine. The video for the song makes the lyrical theme explicit; take this as a warning that it could be disturbing to those sensitive to depictions of domestic violence. [Katie Rife]
If you Google Hus Kingpin, you’ll find his social pages and a Stereogum article from earlier this year (where I first read about him), and that’s about it. I’ve flitted through a few of his many mixtapes fondly, but still didn’t even know that Cocaine Beach, his proper debut, came out at the beginning of the summer. In a year full of great, grimy New York rap, it’d be easy to overlook, but it’s worth making some time for: It’s a portal to another universe of summer-hot soul samples; gloomy drums; mountains of drugs; and effortless, whispered menace. Production on the 11 uniformly good tracks flits through 9th Wonder bombast, Madlib exuberance, and giallo-style Havoc saturation, but Hus takes each with the same measured, poetic cool. Every track here is good, but start with “Three The God Way,” a dusty little stretch of broken-limbed guitar loops that Hus lets loose on alongside a couple other like-minded ’90s kids. If this is your type of shit, you’ll know immediately. [Clayton Purdom]