There are plenty of heavy lessons tucked throughout Wakin on a Pretty Daze, but “Wakin on a Pretty Day”, its nearly-10-minute opening track, is a paean only to ecstatic oblivion, to living low, low, low: “Don’t worry about a thing/ It’s only dying,” Vile sings in his gentle drawl. It might be a sleepy kind of truth, but there’s still something spectacularly freeing about it, especially when paired with Vile’s spacious guitar riffs, which unfurl like prayer flags in the forest—soft and easy. All he wants is for everyone and everything to slow down a little: let your phone ring, think up some good jokes, be fried. The worst thing that can happen, he intimates, is that it all ends, and there’s not much we can do to change that anyway. In our hyper-accelerated times, there’s something subversive about Vile’s live-and-let-live vibe. It’s been awhile since submission sounded this good. — Amanda Petrusich
There’s a Margaret Atwood poem that goes: “You fit into me like a hook into an eye—a fish hook, an open eye.” The Knife, who named two interludes onShaking the Habitual after Atwood works, share a thought or two on hookiness. Comeback single “Full of Fire” doesn't adhere to the comparatively compact sounds of 2006's Silent Shout or the crowd of cheerily synthy, proudly Knife-loving acts that followed, yet it is undeniably catchy—like a trap for prey, perhaps—as it careens through nine-plus minutes like a tilt-a-whirl hitched to a tower of terror. It’s among the group’s most sonically inventive, even playful, songs—there is a dick joke in there—but everything the Knife throw in, which is a considerable amount, is repurposed into a weapon. This includes Karin Dreijer-Andersson’s vocals, gender-bent as usual and pitch-screwed into an exhausted fry; here, they almost work as call-and-response, each mode weary of the last.
The lyrics are half-gasped and clipped, like a stream of omnidirectional weariness: toward men, powerful men, men’s stories, powerful men with women’s stories, and everyone who gave that list a smarmy nod. “Liberals giving me a nerve itch” is like a pre-emptive strike against all the lazy social-justice plaudits Shaking the Habitual would receive, while its most “accessible” line, “let’s talk about gender, baby,” is tacked on like an afterthought and twisted into a sneer. Dreijer-Andersson sings questions that trail off with a sickly trill, leaving the answers inside the dystopian music. There’s nothing about gender on Shaking the Habitual that isn’t best expressed when it sounds like neurons shaking themselves into panic. — Katherine St. Asaph
Everyone has their own brand of worst behavior. For some, it means taking a shit with the bathroom door open. For others, it's about telling a parent that their child resembles a cartoon character. It could involve stunting down some stairs, eating in a pool, or perhaps getting "drunk enough for everyone who has a birthday this week." In a way, we are defined by our worst behavior—even (especially?) when such behavior takes the form of pudding farts.
Drake's worst has him flexing, ogling the zeroes on his checks, and defeating a handicapped Serena Williams on the tennis court. But "Worst Behavior" isn't so much about the what as much as the why—it's powered by a blinding sense of indignation that's spring-loaded for maximum comeuppance upon any and all who have ever doubted this middle-class Canadian child star. The song begins with what sounds like a flying saucer landing, as if the rapper rented a UFO from Area 51 and flew it to a poor old hater's backyard just so he could tell them to fuck off. Drake's Tourette's flow matches the beat's halting clatter, each incensed shout—remember?!... muhfucka?!—hitting like a bomb in the dark. Yet for all of the track's brutal vengeance and YOLO 2.0 recklessness, the wounds at its core place it beyond bluster; to get to #MadDrake, you still need #SadDrake. So this one's also for those who were told they'd never amount to much, who couldn't do anything right, whose mom never came to pick them up. Remember? How could you forget. — Ryan Dombal