REVIEW | BELLA THORNE: “Just Call,” won’t you?

HOT MUSIC | Bella Thorne and Prince Fox put it all on the (telephone) line in "Just Call."

"Tell all my friends how much you suck, and they hide my phone..."

What's worse than a phone call you don't want to receive? Not receiving a call at all. That waiting and wondering, worrying about what could possibly going unsaid, is by far the worst part about having phones at all. And if you've ever wanted to sing-shout your feelings about how fed up you are with waiting for someone to just pick up their phone and hit "call," Bella Thorne and Prince Fox are here for you, my friend.

"Just Call," which premiered yesterday on Nylon and was released officially today, is an anthem to shout at anyone who's ever kept you waiting. It's for every waiting-for-that-second-Tinder-date, wondering-what-your-weekend-plans-are, please-just-let-me-know-if-this-fight-is-over moment you've ever had or might have or have totally sympathized with your best friend over. After weeks of hype on social media and much-lauded photo shoots between Thorne, a renowned actress and singer, and Prince Fox, a producer-slash-musician, fans can finally sate their anticipation with what is a satisfyingly unsatisfied hit.

The track trades off between Thorne and Prince Fox singing in what feels refreshingly balanced (instead of merely obligatory). Their laments pair well together - Thorne is frantic and worried, and it's almost easy to see her lying on a bed in the dark somewhere, trying to sleep but actually scrolling through Twitter while waiting for that call.

"It's my demise stuck here in this phone, waiting for your name to light up on my face."

Prince Fox, in contrast, is angrier - "Tell all my friends how much you suck, and they hide my phone because they know that I'd pick up. I shouldn't care about your calls, but I miss your voice and I can't sleep at all." His bitterness, though, is still akin to Thorne's, and the two make a perfect set of fed-up lovers.

photo via Facebook / Neil Favila

"Just Call" follows in the same tried-and-true line that Prince Fox has been laying out with his other recent releases. 2016's "Fragile," featuring the otherworldly Hailee Steinfeld on vocals, and "Oxygen" with the musically towering Michelle Buzz, both go the route of deep-house dance tracks of late, taking advantage of how incredible women are and using their sweet, sweet chops to add flavor to bouncing, zooming beats. Where both those songs feel like club tracks, however, "Just Call" is more fit to be blasted in a car with its windows down than in a club with the lights out. Despite the emotional vulnerability in Steinfeld's lyrics, the track is still undeniably a banger. "Just Call" takes the emotions and lets them run where they well - which is anxiety, bitterness, desperation, frustration.

In the debates that always rage over the annual "song of the summer," it's not likely that "Just Call" will make the final cut. But that's alright - it's not a song one would want to be the soundtrack to their summer. (What a miserable three months that sounds like.) Instead, it's the song for the moments in between the song of the summer. The ones where your friends, your boyfriend, your date, your crush, hasn't made those plans yet. Because they still. Haven't. Called you. And honestly, we could all use a little musical relief in those moments.


REVIEW | SHAKEY GRAVES is now more than just a bootleg favorite

MUSIC | Finally! Shakey Graves has made more of his music legally accessible and it's like blues Christmas.

Shakey Graves, the performing moniker of Austin, TX born and bred Alejandro Rose-Garcia, is releasing a two-disk set of previously unofficially released recordings. A compilation of his records Nobody's Fool and The Donor Blues, Shakey Graves and the Horse He Rode In On is going to be available, through Dualtone Records, as a digital download or limited-edition clear vinyl pressing, and both will be put on streaming services.

With this move, Shakey is literally going to double the amount of his music that you can legally engage with outside of that special annual period of days surrounding Shakey Graves Day. The situation is so notable that when the blues rocker, equally stunning as a one-man wonder and as a bandleader, announced the release of The Horse He Rode In On, the press release noted that "The Donor Blues is available only via Bandcamp, and Nobody's Fool is currently even harder to find, passed around as an online bootleg by fans." (Never mind that this reporter has had copies of those albums for years; the already not-so-challenging feat of music piracy is made so much easier when the artist in question releases their music for pay-as-you-want once a year and even does you the courtesy of announcing it in their email newsletter.)

The release is a shocking delight to fans who haven't heard about Shakey Graves Day (or who missed it, or haven't been fans long enough to get a chance to experience it). It's certainly a boon to Shakey, whose music can now be streamed on popular services that pay him royalties. Most significantly, Shakey is now that much less of an underground enigma. It's true that he's been far from a fan-kept secret of late; "Dearly Departed," his duet with singer Esme Patterson, made huge waves following its release and "Hardwired" was recently featured in a commercial for Samsung's new virtual reality headset. Both of those songs, though, were from Shakey's sophomore album And the War Came. His debut LP Roll the Bones was so lo-fi that it's hard to imagine it got many synchronization deals, but it did create a loyal fan following. Outside those two albums, listeners had to rely on the (admittedly vast) collection of his live performances on YouTube.

But now, screw YouTube and their questionable practices with the music industry. Forget marking the calendars you don't look at for February 9th. Fans can listen to four separate Shakey Graves albums at will, and they can make sure he gets paid for them, too. Better yet, they can listen to four different Shakey Graves albums. Listeners can opt for And the War Came, Shakey's first step away from solo recording and towards recording with a full four-man band (plus several duets with Patterson). Or, if they're in a darker, more enigmatic mood, the debut Roll The Bones, complete with a borderline-scary cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," classic folksy love songs, and the requisite wanderer's anthem and title track.

And now, the personal and dramatic Nobody's Fool gives a grittier version of Shakey with the added bonus of scratchy recordings of a woman telling bad jokes (see "Haven't You Noticed" for jokes and the title track for personal rumination). Donor Blues rounds out the set with a wholeheartedly folk repertoire, including "Stereotypes of a Blue-Collar Male" and "Family Tree," which toe the line with Shakey's enigmatic smirk between cheesy Americana and achingly melancholy tunes that make you want to sip a bourbon on your front patio before remembering that you neither own a patio nor bourbon. (Well, maybe you have the bourbon, you lucky duck.)

You can order

Shakey Graves and the Horse He Rode In On on the Dualtone Records webstore, and find the rest of Shakey's (legally available) music on the usual channels. He'll also be embarking on a tour of the US and Canada later this summer - see dates on his website


INTERVIEW | The Technicolors on noise and bringing worlds together

LISTEN | The Arizona indie rockers are playing at the edges of worlds and the center of your mind.

"We were very conscious of trying to tiptoe along this line between who we are as individuals and as working musicians in a band, and this line between that and this bigger idea, this larger-than-life thing, that music is capable of providing."

Listening to Brennan Smiley, frontman of Arizona-based rockers The Technicolors, talk about the band's new album Metaphysical, is like watching someone try to pinpoint exactly what it was about the sunset they find beautiful. His words are slow to come at times, and quick at others, but they're all very carefully thought through and intentional. At the Arlo NoMad, trying to find a balance between blasting A/C and New York's scorching concrete heat trap, Smiley and his band are also trying to find a balance in the music they make and the lives they navigate.

The album, which comes out July 7th on 8123, was recorded just under a month ago during three weeks in the studio where the band was under a few strict rules. No phones were allowed in the studio - "very, very strict" - and "we also had a rule that we weren't allowed to reference any band or musician specifically if we wanted like a certain sound or a thing." No name-dropping, no copy-pasting, just your own sweat in making what you want and trying to articulate that to bandmates and your producer (in this case, Bob Hoag). Smiley described the rule as one that was imperative to how the album was made.

"You're trying to create, and it forces you to create something completely new and completely your own. So that was one way that we just took ourselves out of the real world for a little bit, for a moment, and just lived in our imaginations."

Living in one's imagination can be hard, lately. The onslaught of media, whether social, digital, or traditional, is frequently overwhelming, and now that fake news is a real concern, the plethora of information - fact or otherwise - can feel like a crashing tidal wave. Metaphysical is The Technicolor's response to that wave.

"Our album isn't really so much an attempt to cut through the noise, but more of an attempt to create something that is beautiful and is a work of art that somebody might come closer to listen to," Smiley said. "It's soft-spoken at times, it's loud and rambunctious at times. It's not like we were trying to create an escape from the noise, but more of just our idea of the importance of art."

For Smiley, that art is crucial, and the work that went into making the album is only half the job. He has spent the last three weeks touring the United States and parts of Canada on his own, playing solo shows in cafes and fans' homes and hosting listening parties for the new album. In his words, it was "trying to use the internet to do something that is far more than personal than just being on the internet." These weeks - effectively the entire time between recording the album and releasing it - were both a way to keep himself busy and engage with music in a way that goes back to the way he started, with just an acoustic guitar and himself to offer to listeners. In fact, the scaling down has been crucial - for Smiley, less has become more."I practiced really hard for this tour, and I'm able to bring in a new thought, a new dynamic that's so personal and it can be so quiet," he mused.

"I think in the really quiet moments, there can be just as much tension as we may have during a loud moment on stage with the full band. And that's something that's really powerful."

The songs from Metaphysical that the band has released as singles - "Imposter," "Lilies for Lily," "Little Charmer," and "Congratulations, You're a Doll," call to life impressions of The Strokes and The Killers, but with a quieter intensity than both. It truly is just Smiley and his bandmates, Troy Lowney, Sean Silverman, and Mike Nicolette. The vocal production is clean and, if affected, in a very clean-sounding way. Guitars and bass remain simple as well, and there's not even much echo or distortion to muddle the sound into something grunge-y or punkish. Lines like "I'm not sorry for the way I used to be" in "You're A Doll" and the opening kicker "I liked you better when you lived inside your head" in "Little Charmer" revel in their frankness and open candor.

More than 2016's EP Sweat or any of their previous albums, the band has pulled back and taken away the veneer to let their own truth shine through. Truth, in a way, might be one of the bigger ideas that Smiley so admires in other artists that The Technicolors have found themselves addressing in Metaphysical. He admitted to being drawn to "the things that are larger than the song - the ideas that go on and become thoughts outside of music or songs, but because of the songs."

Whether planned or not, it seems that a simple honestly is

Metaphysical's bigger thing. Goodness knows, we could use it.