Listen to this: Metallica covers growl alongside lush pop tunes

Read about the most notable singles this week by Mac DeMarco, Troye Sivan and more.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

This week’s reviews range from covers of Metallica’s “The Black Album” to a slinky Big Thief song about certainty. They discuss Radiohead’s upcoming triple-album release and dissect Aussie pop star Troye Sivan’s latest single. Look, you’ve already read this far. Why not read on?

“Enter Sandman” by Mac DeMarco

Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Abroad Arts Editor

Mac DeMarco — the charming, gap-toothed indie sensation every high schooler seems to adore — might not be the first person that comes to mind when you think of Metallica. Then again, if anyone were to cover a Metallica song in 2021, it’d probably have to be the goofiest pop star around. In what aptly sounds like a recorded jam sesh among a couple of hard-metal-lovin’ musicians, Mac DeMarco’s cover of “Enter Sandman” upturns Metallica’s hard-hitting rock anthem by replacing its guttural belting with cheesy deliveries. In DeMarco’s hands, its dialed-up drumming and riffing is transformed with a strange, jazzy twist. DeMarco understands the humor in the idea of a band named Metallica, composed of four long-haired, hard-edged, black-leather-wearing men who look like dads pretending to be hip. He runs with it, presenting their music in a tongue-and-cheek manner that playfully acknowledges that hair metal was a thing. At the same time, however, DeMarco pays respect to Metallica’s legacy as a band whose instrumental prowess transcended the macho-camp aesthetic of the rock scene. Like many of DeMarco’s strange little projects — such as “Fuck the Toronto Raptors” and his feature on The Garden’s “Thy Mission” — “Enter Sandman” is a labor of love produced by a couple of snickering buffoons. It is a reminder that, at the end of the day, Mac DeMarco will always be the absurd type of singer-songwriter who loves Jar Jar Binks and lighting his farts on fire.

“Angel Baby” by Troye Sivan 

Candace Patrick, Staff Writer

Troye Sivan’s latest release, “Angel Baby,” is a tribute to the thrill of romance as he gushes over his loved one. In an announcement on Instagram, he described the power ballad as both “juicy” and “doting.” Released alongside a slightly risqué music visualizer, his saccharine lyrics refresh, in stark contrast to the heartbreak ballads that dominate the charts these days. In the chorus, Sivan belts, “I just wanna live in this moment forever/’Cause I’m afraid that living couldn’t get any better,” leading listeners into the romantic and melodic post-chorus, during which he affectionately addresses his beloved “angel baby.” While remaining true to Sivan’s mega-pop sound, the song has certain retro elements, including a light, ’80s-like synth that supports his vocals throughout the track. Sivan’s final return to the chorus contains reverb so expansive that it would be hard not to be drawn into a reverie.

“The Unforgiven” by Cage The Elephant

Holden Lay, Staff Writer

While fans continue to wait for new material from the beloved garage rockers Cage The Elephant, the band’s cover of Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” should certainly hold them over. It is a standout track on the album-length playlist “The Metallica Blacklist,” a tribute to the heavy-metal band. “The Metallica Blacklist” features a spread of reinventions of songs from “Metallica (The Black Album)” by artists as disparate as Phoebe Bridgers, Elton John and Kamasi Washington. Cage’s contribution is notable in the band’s eagerness to leave their own mark — their signature shimmering guitars and sliding synth lines meet Mellotron-esque woodwinds, with lead guitarist Nick Bockrath taking a smoother, lower-key approach to Kirk Hammett’s original solo. In doing so, Bockrath gives the track a spacey feel, while maintaining the confessional emotionality of the original. Lead vocalist Matt Shultz slips into the role of James Hetfield with ease; his delivery is fantastic, both as an homage and a reinvention of the original. All in all, Cage The Elephant rises to and surpasses the daunting task of covering one of Metallica’s classics.

“If You Say the Word” by Radiohead

Victoria Carchietta, Contributing Writer

Radiohead released new music for the first time since 2017 with their latest song, “If You Say the Word.” It is the first single off of their upcoming triple-album “KID A MNESIA,” which will feature reissues of both the “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” albums.“Kid Amnesiae” will be released alongside “KID A MNESIA” and will contain offcuts from the “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” studio sessions. To the uninitiated,“If You Say the Word” is a fitting introduction to “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” containing the electronic distortion of the former and the subdued despair of the latter. Fans of classic Radiohead will appreciate the new iteration of the band’s typical sound. Thom Yorke’s haunting voice floats over atmospheric sustained guitar and a driving hi-hat pattern that borders on, but still manages to evade monotony. If you’ve been longing to hear more of what made Radiohead the iconic band they are today, “KID A MNESIA” comes out on Nov. 5. 

“Certainty” by Big Thief

Sabiq Shahidullah, Staff Writer

“Certainty” is indie-folk band Big Thief’s new song, following their release of two other singles, “Little Things” and “Sparrow.” The quartet was recording material in upstate New York when a power outage halted production for three days. Instead of waiting around, the group used a four-track and an F250 cigarette lighter to record “Certainty.” The song has sparser and simpler production than “Little Things” and “Sparrow,” but Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek’s harmonization creates a gentle yet dynamic vocal performance. The lyrics, co-written by Lenker and Meek, are longing and contemplative. “My certainty is wild, weaving/For you, I am a child, believing,” Lenker sings as she explores the hazy line between love and pain. The pair captures the feeling of drowning in thought on a road trip and questioning conflicting emotions. As the cover art suggests, “Certainty” sounds like the band members spontaneously playing around a campfire. While Big Thief hasn’t announced plans for an official album drop yet, their three recent singles hint at a new project in the works. 

“Beside April” by BADBADNOTGOOD

Victoria Carchietta, Contributing Writer

“Beside April” is BADBADNOTGOOD’s second single release ahead of their upcoming fifth studio album, “Talk Memory.” So far, every release from the neo-soul-alternative-jazz combo has been a surprise and “Beside April” is no different. Though the instrumental track mainly features a jazz-centric groove, there is something for fans of many different genres. “Beside April” opens with a sweet violin melody, accompanied by syncopated, ricocheting drums that employ plenty of ghost notes and flams. A warm electric guitar soon joins in, later transitioning into a solo, with a fuzz-effect added to the instrument. “Beside April” runs the risk of seeming like a confused muddle of genres, but BADBADNOTGOOD blends styles fluidly and effectively to create a distinct sound. “Talk Memory” comes out on Oct. 8, after which the band will embark on a 2021-22 world tour.

Contact the Music Desk at [email protected].