Monday, September 6, 2021

Monthly Mix: August 2021



(1) Telethon - "House Of The Future, Pt. 4"

Starting this mix with my three favorite albums of the month, led by Telethon's Swim Out Past The Breakers. It's just a remarkable album start to finish, though by using an iconic 90s alt-rock lyric as their album title, they have ensured that Ilana and I will spend zero time talking about the album itself and hours trying to think of other good album titles in a similar vein. Favorites so far range from Man It's A Hot One to Ambition Makes You Look Pretty Ugly, but we would love to hear your suggestions.

(2) Alien Boy - "Dear Nora"

Alien Boy's Don't Know What I Am is equally great and well worth your time. I have heard them described as "Galaxy 500 meets Blink-182" and also "Guided By Voices meets Gin Blossoms" and somehow both of those comparisons are roughly accurate.

(3) Dazy - "The Perfect Crime"

My third favorite album of the month is Dazy's MAXIMUMBLASTSUPERLOUD, a collection of big loud fuzzy songs that some guy just recorded in his house. 

(4) Phoebe Bridgers - "Kyoto" (Glitch Gum Remix)

I expected the novelty to wear off almost immediately, but it hasn't in the slightest.

(5) Charli XCX - "Good Ones"

Technically a September release, but why wait?

(6) Kacey Musgraves - "Justified"

A good song that will be forever overshadowed in my mind by Shay incredulously telling a boat full of people that she's charging $550 for floor seats for her upcoming LA show. Truly a woman of the people.

(7) Strand Of Oaks - "Jimi & Stan"

As frontman Tim Showalter explains it, "my sweetest buddy/cat Stan sadly passed away, and the only way I could describe my love for him was imagining Stan and Jimi Hendrix hanging out in heaven together smiling and going to shows and having the best time." This is the sweetest, purest, most heartwarming song I have ever heard.

(8) Fortitude Valley - "All Hail The Great Destroyer"

Somehow this is also a song about a cat, though this one is still with us.

(9) Church Girls - "Separated"

Strong Hold Steady vibes here.

(10) Kitner - "Beth Israel"

Sort of a lo-fi Get Up Kids, which weirdly checks a lot of boxes for me.

(11) Big Thief - "Little Things"

It makes me a little bit sad to say this, but Big Thief is really teetering on the line between "music I actually like" and "music I know I'm supposed to like." It wouldn't hurt them to write, like, one chorus at some point.

(12) Laura Stevenson - "Don't Think About Me"

Laura Stevenson's voice has such a unique texture to it. Sadly I am no closer to explaining exactly why I find it so interesting.

(13) Sturgill Simpson - "Juanita" (feat. Willie Nelson)

There are very few people in the world who get to do whatever they want all the time, and I'm pretty sure Sturgill Simpson and Willie Nelson are two of them.

(14) Silk Sonic - "Skate"

I want to know what happened in the meeting where they decided that "Leave The Door Open" was a better first single than this one. Just objectively wrong.

(15) Chvrches - "Final Girl"

New album Screen Violence is an encouraging new direction for Lauren and the boys. It's not perfect, but at least their EDM phase seems to be behind them.

(16) Katy B - "Under My Skin"

Singles Jukebox really undersold it.

(17) Dave - "Clash" (feat. Stormzy)

This one has been out for awhile but the video of the two of them performing together at Reading Festival really pushed it over the top for me.

(18) Turnstile - "Mystery"

If nothing else, they have given us maybe the weirdest music-related headline of 2021.

(19) Meet Me @ The Altar - "Brighter Days (Are Before Us)"


(20) Low - "More"

Consistent Minnesota excellence.

(21) Halsey - "I Am Not A Woman, I'm A God"

Given Trent Reznor's involvement, I was hoping for something darker and weirder but, my misplaced expectations aside, this is a pretty solid album.

(22) Kim Petras - "Future Starts Now"

It's possible I've been a little too harsh on her lately.

(23) Lizzo - "Rumors" (feat. Cardi B)


(24) Lorde - "Mood Ring"


(25) Kanye West - "Hurricane"

He can do ... actually no, this is probably about the best we can expect from him at this point.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Monthly Mix: July 2021



(1) Torres - "Thirstier"

I think I could convincingly argue that each of the first three Torres singles could be the best song of 2021. Just a phenomenal album.

(2) Telethon - "Positively Clark Street"

Power pop from Milwaukee, featuring what I am confident will be the best saloon piano breakdown you hear this year.

(3) Snow Ellet - "Wine On The Carpet"

Just signed with No Earbuds management, something they have in common with literally every other good band.

(4) Dim Wizard - "Whole Lotta Nothin"

Side project from David Combs (Bad Moves), it's the kind of song that just sounds like it must have been so much fun to make, which I hope it was.

(5) Spanish Love Songs - "Phantom Limb"

Putting the Good Vibes Song of the Month and the Bad Vibes Song of the Month back to back on the playlist for some reason. They're both great. I don't know if it's possible for lyrics to cause physical pain, but:

We sat in front of the TV
As the news report came in
Another fucking manifesto
I polished off the vodka, you dug for some Vicodin
Our phones lit up at the same time
You said the body count don't phase you
You're still terrified to die
Just not as much as you are used to

Yeesh.

(6) Johnny Football Hero - "Sister Hellen"

TELL HIM HE PLAYED A GREAT GAME! TELL HIM YOU LIKED HIS ARTICLE IN THE NEWSPAPER!

(7) Strand Of Oaks - "Galacticana"

I hear an American version of The Verve, Ilana hears Jason Isbell, it's possible we're hearing the same thing.

(8) Caroline Polachek - "Bunny Is A Rider"

Surprised by the tepid response this got from TSJ (and the fact that no one referenced "Are You That Somebody"), it's probably a 7 from me.

(9) Magdalena Bay - "Chaeri"

I'm sure this makes me an elitist, but I would like this band so much more if they were actually from Scandinavia, and not just people from LA who sound like they're from Scandinavia.

(10) Sleigh Bells - "Locust Laced"

A welcome return from these blog-rock legends, and a convenient opportunity to remind everyone that "Crown On The Ground" is the perfect at bat walkup song.

(11) Lil Nas X - "Industry Baby" (feat. Jack Harlow)

Lil Nas X's actual musical output is almost beside the point by now but, to the extent that it matters, this is his best song yet.

(12) Vial - "Something More"

Would have been a strong contender for Twin Cities Achievement of the Month were it not for Suni Lee's gold medal.

(13) Alien Boy - "Nothing's Enough"

A solid argument for doing mushrooms alone.

(14) Kississippi - "Moonover"

The background percussion is specifically credited as “Lexapro shaker and Guayaki can,” so, y'know, up and down.

(15) Gang Of Youths - "Unison"

The Stereogum feature on the band was titled "Are Gang Of Youths Too Earnest For America?" and it's really one of those "if you have to ask, you already know the answer" type questions.

(16) The War On Drugs - "Living Proof"

It's hard to talk about concerts right now since it's starting to seem unlikely that any of them will ever happen, but I was surprised to see that these guys booked the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. I had no idea they were that big but hey, good for them.

(17) Illuminati Hotties - "U V V P" (feat. Buck Meek)

On the one hand, Sarah Tudzin can do no wrong. On the other hand, I could really live without the Edward Sharpe-esque spoken word section toward the end.

(18) Clairo - "Amoeba"

"strong Stevie Wonder influence" is not something I expected to say about a Clairo song, but it works.

(19) All Time Low - "PMA" (feat. Pale Waves)

I'm here for the Pale Waves far more than that All Time Low, but both bands sound great.

(20) Fortitude Valley - "Baby, I'm Afraid"

It's half of Martha! Making songs that kinda sound like Martha!

(21) Indigo De Souza - "Hold U"

Pretty much the exact opposite of her first single ("Kill Me"), and this time around I'm choosing to side with optimism.

(22) Courtney Barnett - "Rae Street"

Time is money, and money is no man’s friend

(23) Brandi Carlile - " Right On Time"

Just making sure Shay still reads these all the way to the end.

(24) Orla Gartland - "You're Not Special, Babe"

Just making sure Carl still reads these all the way to the end.

(25) Don McCloskey - "First In Flight"

I honestly can't tell if this song is good or not. The argument in its favor is that it kinda sounds like Paul Simon, or the new Bleachers songs that also sound like Paul Simon. The argument against is that it sounds like that cheesy eighties "Break My Stride" song that used to be in every rental car commercial. The reason why I don't care is that this is the song that plays at the end of the last episode of Mythic Quest, and I will always love it for that.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Monthly Mix: June 2021

 



No words this month, just music.

(1) Torres - "Hug From A Dinosaur"
(2) Illuminati Hotties - "Pool Hopping"
(3) Alien Boy - "The Way I Feel"
(4) 2nd Grade - "Superglue"
(5) Pip Blom - "Keep It Together"
(6) Lucy Dacus - "Brando"
(7) Flight Mode - "Sixteen"
(8) Big Red Machine - "Renegade" (feat. Taylor Swift)
(9) Gang of Youths - "The Angel of 8th Avenue"
(10) Squirrel Flower - "Hurt a Fly"
(11) Pom Pom Squad - "Drunk Voicemail"
(12) Hurry - "How To Cope"
(13) Los Campesinos! - "Allez Les Blues"
(14) Fortitude Valley - "Cassini"
(15) Jake Shears - "Do The Television"
(16) Teenage Sequence - "All This Art"
(17) Foxing - "If I Believed In Love"
(18) Laura Stevenson - "State"
(19) Bleachers - "How Dare You Want More"
(20) Lunar Vacation - "Shrug"
(21) Wild Pink - "Ohio" (feat. Samia)
(22) Lightning Bug - "The Right Thing Is Hard To Do"
(23) Low - "Days Like These"
(24) Efterklang - "Living Other Lives"
(25) CHVRCHES - "How Not To Drown" [Robert Smith Remix] (feat. Robert Smith)

Friday, June 4, 2021

Monthly Mix: May 2021

 


(1) Me Rex - "Galena"

Technically a June release, but we need to talk about it now. I can't wait until next month. 

Me Rex, a band near and dear to my heart (their "Stellar Abattoir" was my #2 Song of 2020) has announced their new project, and its brilliance makes my head hurt. 

Their new album, Megabear, consists of fifty-two snippets of music, each about thirty seconds long, meant to be played in any order. In advance of the proper release (June 18), they created a website which automatically shuffles the songs in near-infinite combinations, and ... I hope you find this even one percent as fascinating as I do. 

As a lead single, "Galena" is kind of a proof of concept - it's actually six songs pieced together, and it's beautiful. Somehow they plan to tour behind this album later in the year, which seems impossible, but I absolutely have to see it.

(2) Torres - "Don't Go Putting Wishes In My Head"

I was obsessed with this song for most of May, and I finally figured out why all of the disparate elements work so well together: it starts with a sinister synth throb before quickly transitioning into a propulsive rocker, adding layers of anthemic grandiosity, culminating in the addition of a choir of backing vocals. Add it all up and what you get, I think, is one of the top three Killers songs of all time. That's the formula, and it works.

(3) We Are The Union - "Make It Easy"

New Album Today! Adorable, aggressively queer ska revival from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Now that you've read that description, you already know whether you love or hate this band. I am firmly in the former camp. 

(4) Wolf Alice - "How Can I Make It OK?"

New Album Today! The title of Best Band In The World is theirs until the next Martha album comes out. 

(5) Lucy Dacus - "VBS"

"Thumbs" is still the runaway winner for the title of Most Lyrically Devastating Lucy Dacus Song of 2021, but for those of you who, like me, are veterans of that institution known as Vacation Bible School, I ask you, which of these hits harder:

"You say that I showed you the light / But all it did in the end / Was make the dark feel darker than before"

or

"When I tell you you were born and you are here for a reason / You are not convinced the reason is a good one"

(Also, please listen to the Greatest Podcast of All Time.)

(6) Bleachers - "Stop Making This Hurt"

The Jack Antonoff battle lines have already been drawn, and this song probably isn't going to change anyone's mind, but personally I support his decision attempt a remake of "You Can Call Me Al."

(7) Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen - "Like I Used To"

Springsteen-off! It's a Springsteen-off!

(8) Olivia Rodrigo - "Brutal"

The new rock revolution is being led by an actress from High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, the Italian Eurovision winners, Will Smith's daughter, and one of the worst white rappers of all time. And honestly, that sounds amazing.

(9) Baby Queen - "Dover Beach"

Queen of Singles Jukebox, that's for sure.

(10) Japanese Breakfast - "Savage Good Boy"

New Album Today! Crying in H Mart was so, so good. The fact that Jubilee might be even better is mind-blowing. Quite a year for Michelle Zauner.

(11) Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall - "Two-Step Down To Texas"

Three great country songwriters got together, recorded a bunch of demos on an iPhone, and just released them without any additional editing or producing or anything. Pitchfork said that listening to it sounds like taking a vacation, and that is absolutely right.

(12) Mdou Moctar - "Taliat"

After three great singles, the full Afrique Victime record does not disappoint. I'm usually bored by guitar virtuosos, but this just works.

(13) 2nd Grade - "Favorite Song"

I've been playing last year's Hit to Hit quite a bit lately - it's a great early summer record. "Favorite Song" is the lead single from their new project, re-recording a bunch of old homemade demos.

(14) Cherym - "Listening To My Head"

Everyone's second-favorite Derry Girls keep building their war chest of pop-punk classics.

(15) Cowboy Boy - "Inconvenient"

Love a good half-speed middle eight.

(16) Georgia and David Jackson - "Get Me Higher"

This would have been fingernails-on-a-chalkboard for me two months ago, but between the warmer weather and improving Covid statistics, I am finally ready to embrace escapist pop music again, and this seems like a great place to start. Feels like this should be on the playlist for every boat trip of the summer.

(17) Wednesday - "Handsome Man"

Hanif Approved! That's really all I need to hear.

(18) Alien Boy - "Stuck"

Everyone's favorite "loud gay band from Portland" returns, louder and gayer than ever.

(19) Mannequin Pussy - "To Lose You"

The new songs are great, but MP will always have a soft spot in my heart for taking Pinkshift on tour with them. Are we planning a trip to Minneapolis around this? Maybe.

(20) Alex Lahey - "On My Way"

I still haven't seen The Mitchells vs. The Machines, but I can tell you that the music is impeccable. Every movie from now on should be required to feature two Los Campesinos! songs.

(21) Rostam - "From The Back Of A Cab"

New Album Today! It took me a few listens for the drums to go from "unsettling" to "fascinating," but we got there eventually.

(22) Origami Angel - "Footloose Cannonball Brothers"

New album from the revered DC emo duo. It's enjoyable, but it feels like they may have spent more time coming up with joke song titles ("Bed Bath & Batman Beyond," "Neutrogena Spektor," "Mobius Chicken Strip," etc.) than in actually writing and recording the songs themselves.

(23) Iron Chic - "Catgut"

Punk heroes return after a three-year absence, sound exactly the same, which is a good thing. I am literally wearing an Iron Chic t-shirt as I write this.

(24) NATL PARK SRVC - "The Deadline"

Minneapolis band who has been compared to Los Campesinos!, Titus Andronicus, and Ra Ra Riot, not sure why I don't love this more.

(25) The Glow - "Heavy Glow"

Easing out of this month's mix with seven minutes of shadowy, shoegaze-y atmospherics.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Monthly Mix: April 2021

 

(1) Snow Ellet - "Brick"

This is why I love new music so much. As far as I can tell, this is just some random guy from the Chicago suburbs who wrote and recorded a perfect five-song EP. Oso Oso and Built to Spill are the obvious reference points, but there's some Beulah here, too. And it didn't require a major label or a big-name producer or a global promotion budget. Maybe we all have a project like this inside us.

(2) Rosie Tucker - "Barbara Ann"

The singular joy of hearing a song for the first time, thinking "yeah, this is a pretty good chorus," and then slowly realizing "wait ... this is just the pre-chorus, here comes the real chorus." It's like that little pause at the top of a roller coaster. Happens between 1:00 and 1:10 here, and I still get chills every time I hear it.

(3) Fresh - "My Redemption Arc"

Like most of my favorite artists, Kathryn Woods has somehow found a way to turn blinding rage into sing-along pop songs. If we're just projecting things into the world: Fresh/Martha Tour 2022.

(4) Manchester Orchestra - "Telepath"

It's been a big year for me "discovering" bands that have been around for years, making album after album that sound like they were written with my specific taste in mind, and yet I am only hearing them for the first time now. Everything I've been saying about Tigers Jaw is equally true of Manchester Orchestra. The Million Masks of God is a fantastic album, but diving headfirst into their entire back catalog has been even better.

(5) Hit Like A Girl - "Monsters" (f/ Bartees Strange)

Sort of the house band for a transgender non-profit called No More Dysphoria, in that frontperson Nicolle Maroulis runs both of them. Hard to pick a favorite from Heart Racer, but "Monsters" is an especially good intro to their sound. If you like this one as much as I do, go check out the full album. 

(6) Remember Sports - "Sentimentality"

Felt like I didn't enjoy their first two singles as much as I was supposed to, but ... wow. I get it now. A great pop song that just keeps adding layers of guitar effects.

(7) Home Is Where - "Assisted Harakiri"

There is a small pocket of Twitter that absolutely will not shut up about Home Is Where's EP I Became Birds, and I'm thankful for them because this didn't grab me at first, but now I love it. It's more abrasive than I normally enjoy, but the hooks are there. Would be incredible live.

(8) Semler - "Thank God For That"

On the one hand, I want Grace Baldridge to become a massive star. On the other hand, I do understand that that market for aggressively gay Christian Rock that sounds like "With Arms Outstretched" by Rilo Kiley is probably somewhat limited.

(9) Illuminati Hotties - "MMMOOOAAAAYAYA"

By the end of the year, I will know how to spell this without having to look it up. First of at least three Sarah Tudzin projects on this list.

(10) Pinkshift - "Mars"

Darlings of my 100 Songs for 2020 list, they have not done a single thing to make me regret that. Like I said at the time, there is absolutely no rational explanation for why Ashrita Kumar is not a massive star.

(11) Wolf Alice - "Smile"

Maybe not as revelatory as "The Last Man On Earth," but absolutely succeeds in building excitement for next month's Blue Weekend.

(12) Foxing - "Go Down Together"

A dark twist on some very light influences (Passion Pit, Cut Copy, MGMT), Foxing seems to be headed in several directions at once, but all of them are interesting.

(13) Lucy Dacus - "Hot & Heavy"

I still haven't listened to "Thumbs" because, from what I've heard, I'm still not emotionally prepared. Glad she went with lighter fare for her next single.

(14) Wormy - "Hungry Ghost" (f/ Samia)

This is going to sound like a backhanded compliment, but I honestly mean it as high praise: This is a perfect Better Oblivion Community Center impression.

(15) Hiss Golden Messenger - "Hardlytown"

Reliable folk excellence.

(16) Pom Pom Squad - "Head Cheerleader"

Feels like I'm saying the same things over and over. This one gets an "Every good song of 2021 is connected to either Sarah Tudzin or Bartees Strange in some way" and an "I love it when indie bands level up on production values." I should make shortcut keys for those sentences.

(17) Downhaul - "Standing Water"

It's always humbling when a band talks about their influences and you don't know any of them. Anyway, these guys either have an original sound or they sound just like a bunch of bands I've never heard of. Either way, it's new to me.

(18) Cartalk - "Anyone"

One more from the Sarah Tudzin Extended Universe. She has legitimately never made a bad song.

(19) Pronoun - "I Wanna Die But I Can't (Cuz I Gotta Keep Living)"

As Stereogum put it, this "lands somewhere between Springsteen and Tegan And Sara." Before you say, "wait, isn't that true of literally all music?," listen to the song. That is spot on.

(20) Jessie Ware - "Please"

Looking forward to the day when the weather will allow me to enjoy songs that sound like this. We are not there yet.

(21) CHVRCHES - "He Said She Said"

Honestly, a little bit of a disappointment. They seem to be taking more chances with their sound, and I'm relieved they seem to have moved past their "every song needs to have a festival-ready EDM drop in the middle of it" phase, but I just think they can do better.

(22) Evan Greer - "Back Row"

"The Tyranny Of Either/Or" is probably the best song on Greer's Spotify Is Surveillance EP, and "Emma Goldman Would Have Beat Your Ass" is definitely the best-named song on the EP, but "Back Row" is a strong opener.

(23) The Mountain Goats - "Mobile"

Has it really taken this long for John Darnielle to write a song about the Book of Jonah? Surprising.

(24) Parannoul - "To See The Next Part of The Dream"

Korean shoegaze! This is the title track for an album that's been out for awhile but just showed up on Spotify. If you're looking for interesting work/study headphone music, I would start here.

(25) Mdou Moctar - "Afrique Victime"

African guitar god with a new album out later this month. I've honestly never heard anything like this before.

I'm doing my best to keep these at twenty-five songs per month, but this was especially hard for April.

Honorable Mentions:

Olivia Rodrigo - "Deja Vu" (not often you get to use "clattering" as a compliment, but the drums on this are great)
Porter Robinson - "Look At The Sky"
Kings of Convenience - "Rocky Trail"
Smol Data - "Emotional Labor Day" (real contender for the Good Band, Horrible Band Name Hall of Fame)
Waxflower - "Not Alone" (probably disqualified on account of just how much Ilana hates this specific "o" sound in an Australian accent)
St. Vincent - "The Melting Of The Sun" (Justice For Emma Madden!)
Rostam - "Changephobia"
Japanese Breakfast - "Posing In Bondage"
Yola - "Diamond Studded Shoes"
Kero Kero Bonito - "21/04/20"

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Monthly Mix: March 2021

 


(1) Tigers Jaw - "I Won't Care How You Remember Me"

Title track from my favorite album of the month. I honestly can't say enough good things about this record.

(2) Future Teens - "Guest Room"

Self-described "bummer pop band from boston," they are severely underselling themselves, because there's a lot more here than just sadness.

(3) Harmony Woods - "Good Luck Rd."

Earlier this month, a few in-the-know people I follow on social media started talking about this secret album that was about to drop, and how incredible it was. People started speculating on what big-name indie band it might be. It turned out to be Harmony Woods' Graceful Rage, which was a slight disappointment to me since I had never heard of Harmony Woods and so, by definition, any album they put out was a secret album to me. That disappointment lasted about ten seconds into album opener "Good Luck Rd." This is a fantastic record start to finish.

(4) Adult Mom - "Breathing"

Kind of a midpoint between Waxahatchee and Imogen Heap, which is right in the sweet spot for me.

(5) Rostam - "4Runner"

Rostam's music always has a dreamy quality to it, and it's interesting how often he matches that with lyrics explicitly about falling asleep ("Bike Dream," "Osaka Loop Line," etc.)

(6) beabadoobee - "Last Day On Earth"

As Bea explains it, "'Last Day on Earth' is about all the things I would have done had I known we were going into a lockdown." It begins with lyrics about killing someone and burning down a church, so ... I guess you can interpret that however you want.

(7) Grrrl Gang - "Honey, Baby"


(8) Japanese Breakfast - "Be Sweet"

As always, I love it when indie artists make straight-ahead pop music.

(9) Mannequin Pussy - "Control"

More polished than their previous work. That said, it still turns into a wall of noise in the best way. As Philly as they come.

(10) Elle King - "Drunk (And I Don't Wanna Go Home)" (f/ Miranda Lambert)


(11) Hiss Golden Messenger - "If It Comes In The Morning"

A nice vibe for our fake spring, real cabin-in-the-forest music.

(12) Ratboys - "Go Outside"

One of at least three songs on this month's list with fairly overt pandemic/lockdown imagery ("Breathing," "Last Day On Earth"), but they all work because they aren't explicitly tied to a particular time and place. Themes of isolation and longing are eternal, and I think all of these songs will work in whatever future awaits us.

(13) Taylor Swift - "You All Over Me" (f/ Maren Morris)

Honestly, I'm surprised by the lukewarm reaction to this one, but maybe I'm just a sucker for anything with a harmonica.

(14) Signals Midwest - "I Used To Draw"

"I SPOKE TO THE CITY AND IT SPOKE BACK"

(15) Foxing - "Speak With The Dead" (f/ WHY?)

Any seven-minute song will be a test of my attention span, but the highs here are well worth it.

(16) Meet Me @ The Altar - "Hit Like A Girl"

I still love them and everything they stand for, and this is a solid song, but it is going to be very hard for them to keep releasing singles as part of weird Facebook PR campaigns and still stay on the right side of things.

(17) Fresh - "Girl Clout"

It seems like about half the songs on this month's list are women expressing their fury at society as a whole, and ... honestly there should probably be more.

(18) Bachelor - "Stay In The Car"

Jay Som side project, doing everything they can to bring the Pixies back, which is a good goal.

(19) Evan Greer - "The Tyranny Of Either/Or"

On the one hand, it's exciting that so many trans artists are vocally standing up for their rights. On the other hand, it's horrifying that they still have to do that.

(20) Worriers - "Letter From An Occupant"

One of my all-time favorite bands covers another of my all-time favorite bands. Nowhere near as good as the original, but who cares? All I can think about is how much fun Lauren and co. sound like they're having.

(21) St. Vincent - "Pay Your Way In Pain"

I trust Annie Clark's vision, but this is right on the line where homage becomes imitation. You're not going to out-Bowie Bowie.

(22) Kero Kero Bonito - "The Princess And The Clock"

As hyperpop continues to expand in influence, KKB have gone from the fringes of pop weirdness to something more mainstream without really changing their sound at all.

(23) No Rome - "Spinning" (f/ Charli XCX and The 1975)

Apparently I like this one more than anyone else.

(24) Sydney Sprague - "Object Permanence"

The Alternative called her "pastel goth Kacey Musgraves," which is about the highest compliment I can imagine giving anyone. Not sure she fully lives up to that, but this month's maybe I will see you at the end of the world is absolutely worth your time.

(25) Palette Knife - "Hungover Brunch At Tiffany's"

Scans as bratty pop-punk, with a joke title, and yet it has lyrics like:

This year’s rеsolution consists of saying “hey man, I love you” 
In a way that is neithеr cringy nor ill-timed
Relearning to find comfort in intimacy

So I honestly have no idea how seriously I'm supposed to take any of this. It's good, though.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Monthly Mix: February 2021



(1) Wolf Alice - "The Last Man On Earth"

The best song I've heard this year by a significant margin. 

The Singles Jukebox is covering it next week, and I've been so preoccupied with getting my thoughts exactly right that I actually wrote two different reviews. This is the one I'm not using:
“The Last Man on Earth” premiered on February 24 at 7 PM. It was a Wednesday. It had been a hard day. I don’t remember why. There have been a lot of hard days. Covid. Winter. Darkness. Isolation. I hadn’t moved from my desk in hours, and I hadn’t been outside since before sunrise. I listened to “The Last Man on Earth” for the first time, thinking about how badly I wanted that light to shine on me, seething about just how far away that light felt. Before I fully realized what had happened, I was out the door, and I wandered the dark, empty streets of Amsterdam listening to this song on repeat for almost an hour, slowly realizing that it was not meant to provide any easy comforts. Lyrically, Ellie Rowsell pulls no punches, and there’s no obscuring the song’s message: Get. Over. Yourself. Musically, though, the song’s intimate-then-anthemic structure recasts Rowsell as a concerned friend and softens the message to something more like “you need to get over yourself because that would be better for you.” Somewhere in those repeated listens it dawned on me that my ambient anger about the state of the world and my conviction that I somehow deserved better was actually pushing me further away from that light. The unspoken optimism at the heart of this song is that we can choose to let go of that feeling of unearned entitlement at any time. Whether any of us will, though, remains to be seen. [10]
(2) Katy Kirby - "Traffic!"

Just a delightful shape-shifting song where I constantly find myself thinking "This is my favorite part! ... No, wait, this is my favorite part!" "Traffic!" was a late 2020 single, but I missed it until hearing it as part of Kirby's consistently magical 2021 full-length Cool Dry Place. A significant amount of the best music of 2021 is being made by people trying to overcome the trauma of growing up deeply religious, homeschooled, or both.

(3) Gordi & Alex Lahey - "Dino's"

Alex Lahey is a long-time Burn Your Hits favorite, but I hadn't really followed the career of her girlfriend Gordi until they co-wrote Maggie Lindemann's fantastic "Crash and Burn," which you'll remember from last month's list. Their collaboration on "Dino's" is even better, as more of their own personalities shine through. If you're in a serious relationship, I think a fun lockdown game is to try to figure out whose fault it is that the two of you still haven't written a great song together yet.

(4) Cassandra Jenkins - "Hard Drive"

I can't describe this song in a way that doesn't make it sound absolutely horrible: it's got, like, a smooth jazz vibe, and a heavy reliance on spoken word sections, and the title is a painful play on words, and ... look, you'll just have to trust me that, despite everything I just said, this is a great song.

(5) Julien Baker - "Relative Fiction"

Let's hit my three most-anticipated February releases, all three of which managed to exceed my already high expectations. Baker's Little Oblivions is the biggest leap of the three, trading sparse solo meditations for a bigger, full-band sound. "Relative Fiction" is my early pick for the best of the non-singles, but "Ringside" is also excellent, and I don't think there's a bad song here.

(6) The Hold Steady - "Me & Magdalena"

Next up, The Hold Steady! Craig and Co. remain impossible for me to review in any objective sense. They're my favorite band of all time, and it's just such a gift to see them back at full strength and still making great music after almost twenty years. Open Door Policy finds the band aging gracefully, even if the characters in their songs are doing anything but. It seems like the critics have settled on "Spices" as the album's standout track, but I'm going with "Me & Magdalena" for a few reasons. 

One, I can see very clearly how this song will be performed live: Craig will do this kind of exaggerated sputtering, confused look during the "first they're into KISS, then they're into Crust" section, which will transition into a halting, bad-on-purpose dance break for the "the record that the DJ played, they didn't move us like thе way the used to make us movе" section. 

Two, the way all of the angular rhythmic elements smooth out when they get to the "told her she should probably prepare to be let down" section is one of those "black and white film turns color" moments that always feel like magic to me.

Three, like so many of the best Hold Steady songs, it's told in the first person but about someone else. There's a Me, for sure, but this song is about Magdalena, and that kind of present-but-removed narration always adds a fascinating element to the storytelling.

(7) Wild Pink - "Family Friends"

Rounding out the trio, it's Wild Pink's A Billion Little Lights. As a record it blurs a little bit since it's all so warm and woozy and comforting, but every song is still strong enough to stand by itself. As Ian Cohen pointed out, "Family Friends" shares some of it's DNA with the greatest song ever written, Broken Social Scene's "Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl," so that's my pick.

(8) Tigers Jaw - "New Detroit"

Ryan put these guys on my radar last year around the release of "Cat's Cradle," the lead single from their upcoming album. I had heard the name but wasn't familiar with their music. Since then, they've been popping up everywhere I look, as it turns out they are a foundational band for a very specific subset of late-millennial, early-gen-z music obsessives - basically the people who got really into Tumblr in the early 2010s. And I get it. "New Detroit" is the fourth single from the new record, and they have all been great.

(9) Noods - "Donkey Kong"

Further evidence for my theory that great new bands are giving themselves the dumbest possible names in order to keep me from listening to their music. This seems counterproductive and I wish they would stop doing that.

(10) Cherym - "Kisses On My Cards"

Basically if "Future Me Hates Me" by The Beths had a punk little sister, which is really the highest praise I can give a song. From Derry, Northern Ireland, which reminds me that I need to go back and watch Derry Girls for a third time.

(11) Baxtr - "Grace On Fire"

Trying to describe your band in one sentence for the "About" section of your social media pages must be a weirdly stressful exercise. So, credit where credit is due: "Just 3 nerds making joy noise on a morphing crystal ship in Dreamspace" is pretty solid.

(12) Pale Waves - "Easy"

In the same way that you'll always view your younger siblings as kids long after they've become adults, I will alway think of Pale Waves as a band you see at a tiny club, or an insultingly early festival slot. Meanwhile, in the real world, their new album debuted at #3 on the UK charts. Like, I still want Heather and the gang to take over the world, but it's going to feel really weird when they do.

(13) Nervous Dater - "The Dirt"

Stereogum recently named Call In The Mess its Album of the Week, and the accompanying review didn't even mention this song, which demonstrates just how strong that record is.

(14) Hannah Jadagu - "Think Too Much"

As a Black girl growing up in Mesquite, Texas, it's only natural that you'd be drawn to ... dream pop? I don't get it, either, I'm just thankful this song exists.

(15) Semler - "Bethlehem"

Starting with her crowdsourced Relient Gay project, Grace Semler Baldridge has been a consistent force for chaotic good. Her Preacher's Kid EP hit the top of the iTunes Christian Music charts, leading off with "Bethlehem," which, if you're still not sure what we're doing here, includes the lyric "I passed blunts the day I married my wife." 

(16) Craig Finn - "Eventually I Made It To Sioux City"

Quite a month for our buddy Craig. In addition to the new Hold Steady record, he also released All These Perfect Crosses, a collection of b-sides from his solo projects. "Sioux City" is mostly a Bob Dylan homage (in Minnesota rock circles, it must have been getting pretty awkward that Finn was devoting so much of his attention to the Replacements, and even Soul Asylum, but not Dylan, so hopefully this clears the air), but it's also kind of a woozy version of "Harlem Roulette" by The Mountain Goats. Either way, it's good.

(17) The Natvral - "Why Don't You Come Out Anymore?"

The Natvral is a new project from Kip Berman, formerly of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. He probably doesn't read this blog, but if he did I imagine he would be pretty surprised to hear that this was not the most Bob Dylan sounding song of the month.

(18) Manchester Orchestra - "Bed Head"

Not from Manchester, not an orchestra. Still good.

(19) Bad Boy Chiller Crew - "Don't You Worry About Me"

Like many of you, I'm never sure if we're supposed to take white British hip hop acts seriously or not, and this is the toughest test case yet. Regardless, this one is a lot of fun and I'm sure most of you will hate it.

(20) For Those I Love - "Birthday / The Pain"

Trying to describe this song makes me feel insane. It's ... an Irish dude telling incredibly dark stories from his childhood over breezy club beats better suited for the beach in Ibiza. Or something? I have no idea how it works, but it does.

(21) Kitten - "American Football"

I firmly believe that, if you replayed the last twenty years a hundred times, Chloe Chaidez would become the biggest pop star in the world in at least one of those simulations.

(22) Citizen - "Blue Sunday"

Similar to Tigers Jaw, above, Citizen built a cult Tumblr following that normies like me will probably never truly understand. I can still enjoy the tunes, though.

(23) PONY - "Chokecherry"

A great example of the kind of band that you just know is Canadian, but can't explain why.

(24) Gender Roles - "So Useless"

In the same way that every good American band is from Philadelphia, every good British band seems to be from Brighton. (Once we get near the end of these posts, it's pretty much just unsupported generalizations all the way down.)

(25) Remember Sports - "Pinky Ring"

First, if we're talking about songs called "Pinky Ring," Remember Sports is always going to be looking up at the Wu-Tang Clan, but no one should be held to that standard. This one is still solid.

Second, I remain kind of morbidly fascinated by Spotify's "Fans Also Like" section. I hate any effort to turn music discovery into an algorithmic process built on selling the things I love back to me, but I can't ignore the fact that, of the twenty artists listed for Remember Sports, thirteen have appeared in a prior 100 Songs list (Charly Bliss, Kississippi, Bully, Camp Cope, Dude York, The Beths, Slaughter Beach, Dog, Martha, Crying, LVL UP, Sidney Gish, Thin Lips, and Swearin'). Like I said last month for Cheekface, I apparently love this band already, it's just up to me to realize it.