Playlist: A Tale of two pop queens

News  /  Music

By Loring Wirbel

Taylor Swift broke global supply chains recently by releasing 10 physical variants of her new album Midnights (Republic), along with a downloadable extended version called 3am. Pity Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, known here for “Call Me Maybe,” who released her album The Loneliest Time (School Boy/Interscope) the same day as Swift. Swift’s new work warrants an extended royal reign, but Jepsen wins a “less is more” accolade.

The Dessner Brothers, who helped craft Swift’s last two folkie albums, are absent for Midnights, but Jack Antonoff returns as a producer for 13 Swift bitter ballads spanning several years. Many tracks like “Anti-Hero” and “Vigilante Shit” resemble a Dessner-era Swift, though vocally modulated electronic tracks like “Lavender Haze” seem pulled from 2017’s Reputation. Lyrically, Swift’s minimalism fits 30-something exasperation as much as her constant use of expletives.

Jepsen has neither the vocals nor the interpretive cachet of Swift, but casual listeners might fail to realize how her best tracks like “Bad Thing Twice” and “Talking to Yourself” have improved from her decade-old works. Maybe the Autotune is heavy, maybe Jepsen occasionally reaches for the 1980s ambience of a too-boisterous Madonna. Still, she deserves both an honorable mention and a medal for surviving Swift Day.

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Archers of Loaf, Reason in Decline (Merge) – Those nostalgic 1990s types complain that Archers of Loaf’s reunion doesn’t sound like the band of yore. Vocalist Eric Bachmann spent 20 succeeding years leading Crooked Fingers, arguably a more important band. The finest tracks here may display poppiness in “Saturation and Light,” or simple guitar minimalism in “Mama Was a War Profiteer,” but that’s just Bachmann trying to keep his band relevant. The Archers sound better aligning with 2022 instead of resurrecting 1995.

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