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Best Songs Ever: How low can Linkin Park go? – and more singles, reviewed

Our regular round-up of new songs and singles, this week featuring Kane Strang, SWIDT, TLC, Kimbra (kinda) and more…

SONG OF THE WEEK

Kane Strang – ‘My Smile Is Extinct’

The new single from New Zealand’s new indie export

While first impressions indicate that Kane Strang’s new album Two Hearts and No Brain will be a step towards shedding some of the influences the Dunedin native so proudly wears on his sleeve (anyone else get mad Interpol flashbacks?), ‘My Smile Is Extinct’ sees him still reckoning with the emotional disconnection that lingers around his music. Put it down to the song being nothing new; first released in 2013 as part of his since-deleted record A Pebble and A Paper Crane, the track gets a slick makeover here that rightly brings it to life. But as usual for Strang, the heart of everything lies in the love ‘em or hate ‘em lyrics, which can be interpreted as either sardonic or just plain snide, depending on where you stand on things. – Hussein Moses

KANE STRANG

Amber Maya – ‘Back Pedal’

New Zealand-based Bajan hip pop

Amber Maya, a Bajan musician based in New Zealand, describes her new single as “90s Dancehall meets present day’s pop-ified hip hop”. You can’t have Barbados and “pop-ified hip hop” in the same sentence without circling in on one name: Rihanna. Her influence is strong on the bouncy, driving ‘Back Pedal’ – but it’s a better song than “sounds like Rihanna” might suggest. That’s a lot down to the production by Rei, the self-described “choirboy turned rapper” Callum McDougall of Wellington (who put out a single of his own, Out Dancing, last year). Built over a circling vocal loop, ‘Back Pedal’ sounds confident and fully-formed, with enough tics to be interesting – in the vein of Tkay Maidza before she had the edges smoothed off for her major-label debut. “At its heart, it’s a song about forging your own path,” writes Amber, and I buy it. – Elle Hunt

SWIDT – ‘Little Did She Know’

Onehunga’s favourite sons continue their winning streak

An ode to mums and all the shit we hope they’ll never find out, SWIDT’s latest heatseeker ‘Little Did She Know’ doubles as a coming-of-age story from a time when $20 used to go a long way and all it felt like anyone listened to was Dr. Dre’s 2001. You can basically hear the nostalgia dripping off of every bar. Along with ‘Alfred & Church’, a song that cleverly detailed what Onehunga was like back before it was drowning in gentrification, this is one of the group’s four new songs due in the coming weeks. At this point, there should be little doubt that they’ll be able to keep the ball rolling. – HM

TLC feat. Snoop Dogg – ‘Way Back’  

I heart the 90s

TLC were set to call it a day after the release of their fourth album 3D (and the passing of founding member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes), but instead they decided to hang in there as a duo, still actively touring and eventually using kickstarter to help fund an as yet untitled farewell album set to arrive in June 2017. Lead single ‘Way Back’ signposts the extent of the ambitions that surviving members Rozonda Thomas and Tionne Watkins for the record; it’s an unashamed throwback to the mid-’90s, a new jack swing track which could have been released on La Face around 1996, right down to Snoop Dogg popping up for a smooth cameo. The lyrics call out Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye, and it would all threaten to get a bit too high on its own nostalgia if it wasn’t such an ebullient and unabashedly good time. In the end it is a perfectly fitting way for the greatest girl group of the ‘90s to kick off their long-deserved victory lap. – Pete Douglas

Floating Points – ‘Silurian Blue’

Less electro more guitar

If you saw Floating Points at this year’s Laneway Festival and liked their noodling Floyd-rock more than their electro-jazz-lounge album Elaenia, you’ll love this. – Henry Oliver

Fyfe – ‘Belong’ (feat. Kimbra)

‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ 2.0

Man-versus-Kimbra indie duet ‘Belong’ could well be ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ 2.0, and Fyfe knows it. At least it seems he’s trying to preempt the comparison with his clarification to the press that his and Kimbra’s voices present “the same narrative, rather than a conversation between two members of a relationship”. Well, too bad! Both ‘Belong’ and ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ start out small and build to something bigger, and Kimbra proves herself once again as a featured artist, contributing more fully than a guest spot demands. But it’s not 2011 anymore: in keeping with modern backyard BBQ trends, this has more of that fleshy, Miike Snow-Chet Faker groove than Gotye’s modern classic. – EH

Linkin Park – ‘Good Goodbye’ (feat. Stormzy and Pusha T)

No Push, no…

There’s no way you’re expecting this review of a Linkin Park song released in the year 2017 to be positive, and you’re right. ‘Good Goodbye’ is one of the most objectively bad songs I’ve heard in a long time, absent any redeeming features bar a guest spot from Pusha T, and you’ve got to withstand more than a minute just to get to that. Chester Bennington reprises his trademark nasal angst for a sing-song hook that is somehow irritating before it’s even repeated, then Mike Shinoda launches into a verse that is – how can I put it – not very good. Cocksure defiance, I believe, is the intended effect, but Shinoda doesn’t quite pull it off with jabs like “highly illiterate”, “you idiot” and ones about riding the bus. Criticising someone who “Can’t understand the fact / That it’s over and done” when you yourself are a member of Linkin Park also suggests a lack of self-awareness. The real question is, what are Pusha T and Stormzy doing on this song? I understand the answer is CA$H MONEYYY, but for Push in particular, is the need that great that it’s worth aligning oneself to this dross? Everyone, go stream ‘Numbers on the Board’ 20 times today or something. – EH


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