Listen to this: ABBA’s latest release ‘Just A Notion’ teases their upcoming album

Read about this week’s most notable singles by Gracie Abrams, Mastodon and more.

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Susan Behrends Valenzuela

Check out these new tracks you may have missed from this week. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

ABBA is back with a new song ahead of their album release next week. If you somehow haven’t heard about the band’s return, we’re pleased to inform you that “Voyage” comes out on Nov. 5. The group will be playing shows in London next year, performing as holograms. Yeah, we’re confused too. Aside from the Swedish group’s latest work, this week we also review new songs that span indie pop, indie rock and heavy metal. It’s midterms season, so maybe it’s the perfect time to relive your middle school emo phase. Read on for more.

“Just A Notion” by ABBA

Holden Lay, Staff Writer 

I wouldn’t call myself an ABBA fan. I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about the band. But what I do know is that “Just A Notion” is one of this year’s bangers. The song sounds like a funky polka jam and it’s absolutely irresistible. There may be implicit fears surrounding the ABBA reunion — that it’s a cash grab, that it’ll sound dated, that their hearts won’t be in it — but “Just A Notion” washes all those fears away. As the lead single from the group’s upcoming album — their first since 1981 — this track is a shift to a more 21st century sound. It fits well alongside their classic catalog, while still taking an exciting, new sonic direction. ABBA’s familiar, squeaky-clean harmonies are coupled with a piano straight out of a wild west saloon, rockabilly horns and a crunchy guitar. This stellar instrumentation makes “Just A Notion” a superbly executed and upbeat pastiche of their many influences, held together by sleek, modern production that features a wall-of-sound ethos. It’s a beautiful song, and even the most devout ABBA fans might be surprised by the energy behind this reunion effort 40 years in the making. You’d be forgiven for being skeptical of the legendary group ABBA, but you’d be wrong in doing so.

“Rockland” by Gracie Abrams 

Candace Patrick, Staff Writer

Gracie Abrams released “Rockland” on Oct. 22. Her second single this month, “Rockland” is a melancholic reflection on a destroyed relationship and the love that could have been. The song was co-written and produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, who is known for his work on Taylor Swift’s albums “folklore” and “evermore.” Evoking those two Swift albums, “Rockland” features a plucky folk guitar melody. Nevertheless, the song retains Abrams’ typical sound, with her airy “heys” at the beginning of each verse showcasing her signature breathy and whispery vocals. The soft, pulsating percussion and Abrams’ rising and falling vocal line in the background emulate an irregular heartbeat and concentrated breathing. This production supports the lyrics in the bridge, where Abrams laments the emotionally taxing relationship, singing, “I see you every night in my sleep / Anticipating every bad dream / Like falling with a knife, you cut deep.” The serene delicacy of “Rockland” reinforces the fact that Abrams is an exciting emerging artist to look out for. 

“Sickle and Peace” by Mastodon

Jack Solomon, Contributing Writer

“Sickle and Peace,” the third single off of Mastodon’s upcoming eighth studio album, “Hushed and Grim,” lives up to the album’s title. A high-pitched voice sings the chorus hook before leading into a measured and driving groove, with a harmonized guitar riff punctuating the jolting rhythm. After a couple of tense verses, the band drops the “Hushed” and goes all in on the “Grim,” with a pummeling chorus of “Death comes and brings with him sickle and peace.” All the trademarks of Mastodon’s sound are on display here, including an excellent guitar solo from Brent Hinds backed by eerie arpeggios and a grand, sweeping outro jam. It’s another great track from a band that has rarely missed across their 20-year career.

“Bound” by Wet with Blood Orange

Sebastian Zufelt, Staff Writer

“Bound” is the latest single off of Wet’s new album “Letter Blue.” Featuring the alternative indie artist Blood Orange, the song is a relaxed R&B-pop tune. In the song’s first minute, Wet establishes the haunting atmosphere of the track through a slow, chilling chord progression played on a Wurlitzer keyboard. A hi-hat-driven trap beat cuts through before we hear Blood Orange’s laid-back, muted vocals set up the verses. Both verses are sung by Wet’s frontwoman, Kelly Zutrau, as she reckons with the idea of being bound to someone, while Blood Orange occasionally chirps in with supportive “whats” and “yeahs.” In the chorus, Zutrau expresses her disappointment and frustration, singing “And I’m screaming in the palm of my hands / Waiting for a love that never could land,” as a wistful acoustic guitar joins in. The outro may be bare-bones — only consisting of drums, Wurlitzer, acoustic guitar and a synth melody — but it still has the same sinister feeling as the rest of the track. The synth is largely responsible for that feeling, as it sounds like wind rushing through an empty house. Zutrau ends the song with “What seems worse? / Trying not to care.” She may have grown too attached, but at least she cared.

 

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