Friday, October 2, 2020

Monthly Mix: September 2020

As the wise men of Harvey Danger so eloquently put it, "If you're bored, then you're boring." I didn't find much in the way of good new music this month, but I'm pretty confident the fault lies with me. I'm sure it's out there.

(1) Bruce Springsteen - "Ghosts"

Bruce is 71 years old. Donald Trump is 74. I don't believe in karma per se, but I am willing to consider the possibility that there is a moral component to how well people age.

(2) Teenage Halloween - "Drown"

Pretty much every music writer I follow adores this record. I'm not quite there yet, but it's good.

(3) Snow Coats - "Navy Blue"

Big moment for me in that Snow Coats are the first Dutch band I actually like. Only took a year and a half.

(4) Sløtface - "Doctor"

There aren't many punk bands that could get me excited about an acoustic album, but Sløtface has yet to encounter a genre they couldn't master.

(5) The Mountain Goats - "Get Famous"

In which "you should be famous" functions as a "may you live in interesting times" level curse. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

(6) Me Rex - "Tannika Pacts"

Just a reminder for those who missed last month's post, "Stellar Abattoir" is one of my favorite songs of the year. Here's another good one from the same EP. 

(7) Porridge Radio - "7 Seconds"

Porridge Radio put out an album called Every Bad earlier this year which met with rapturous critical acclaim, including a Best New Music review from Jenn Pelly. Unfortunately, that album came out on March 13, and I was too busy watching the world end to give it a serious listen. This new single caught my attention for sure, though, and I look forward to revisiting the album. 

(8) Annie - "The Streets Where I Belong"

If it helps set the scene, the streets she's talking about are in Bergen, Norway.

(9) Fleet Foxes - "Sunblind"

Fleet Foxes releasing their new album on the autumnal equinox (down to the second) shows an incredible level of self-awareness. A gezellig album from a gezellig band.

(10) The Sonder Bombs - "What Are Friends For?"

Newly signed to Big Scary Monsters, the record label that seems to have all of the best bands of 2020. From Cleveland somehow.

(11) PUP - "Rot"

Lead single from a new EP consisting of songs the band says were "too frenetic or too unhinged" for their last record which, if you've listened to PUP at all ... how is that even possible?

(12) Drive By Truckers - "The New OK"

Second new album of the year for DBT, who are pretty clearly just using songwriting as a stand-in for therapy, which I guess is fine to a point.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Monthly Mix: August 2020


(1) Me Rex - "Stellar Abattoir"

I don't remember the last time I was this thoroughly obsessed with a song. I don't remember the last time I actually put a song on repeat. I absolutely cannot get enough. And, to be honest, I can't figure out why.

There are obvious positives. It has a strong Los Campesinos! influence. It does that thing I love where the pre-chorus and chorus have the same chord progression, so after going through them a couple times the lead and backing vocals diverge and sing both at the same time (I need to figure out what this is called, there must be a term for it, listen starting at 2:48). Also, it's just a really good song.

But there's something else here, and I'm going to figure out what it is. Stay tuned, I guess.

(2) Meet Me @ The Altar - "Garden"

Many of you know my shameful secret: I love guitar music. Really. Still. In 2020. I know that shows my age even more than my ever-greying hair, or the fact that I still care about baseball, but it's true. And it makes me sad that guitar music, be it rock, indie, punk, whatever, seems to be dying. I'm not upset about the rise of hip-hop, or the continuing dominance of pop. I don't need my rock stars to be the biggest celebrities in the world. I just want people to keep making the music that I love. I want garage bands playing claustrophobic clubs, I don't need them to play the Super Bowl.

As I see it, guitar music is dying for the same reason that everything is dying: racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia ... the prevailing view is that guitar music is for straight white dudes with beards who stand at the back of the concert venue with their arms folded, watching other straight white dudes with severe haircuts standing still onstage, refusing to show any outward signs of enjoyment because that doesn't fit with the aesthetic. Sadly, I can't really argue with that stereotype. If anyone who is not a straight white dude feels iced out by indie rock culture ... I get it. It makes me sad, but I get it.

The more I started going to pop shows, the more I realized how much I hate the crowds at rock shows. It turns out that music is more fun when people are enjoying it, and when every member of the crowd doesn't look exactly the same. Who knew?

I don't think there's anything wrong with guitar music itself. We just need to open the doors. All I really want is for us as a society to take our historically male-dominated genres and put them in the hands of women, POCs, queer and non-binary artists. Call it rock reparations.

So here is Meet Me @ The Altar, three women of color making some of the best pop punk I've heard in a long time. Since they show up first on this month's playlist, they get this extended blurb, but this could apply to a bunch of artists on this month's mix (Oceanator! BLACKSTARKIDS!), and last month's (Pinkshift! beabadoobee! Bartees Strange!), and all through 2020. 

There has never been a better time for guitar music made by non-straight white dudes.

So I guess what I'm saying is: I'm planning to print a run of shirts that say FEFE DOBSON DIED FOR YOUR SINS. Please let me know if you want one.

(3) Rico Nasty - "IPHONE"

It is not possible to listen to this song loud enough. This is what the Spinal Tap amps that go to eleven were made for. Are you listening to it right now? Not loud enough. Turn it up. More. MORE.

(4) Dream Nails - "This Is The Summer"

It's a climate change anthem, which is a depressing series of words, but it's even more depressing that it was written in 2018, and has only gotten more relevant in the summers since. I'm pretty confident in its continued relevance going forward.

Preceding paragraph aside, it's somehow also really fun? I don't know how that works.

(5) Fresh - "Going to Brighton"

In honor of how much I love that Me Rex song above, here's Myles McCabe's other band (which is to say, his main band). This came out last year, but it's great and I think you need to hear it.

Fresh is on Specialist Subject Records, along with a bunch of my other favorites (Muncie Girls, ONSIND, Jeff Rosenstock, Woahnows). For whatever reason, Myles put out the Me Rex EP on Big Scary Monsters, a label which features two other bands on this list (Oceanator, Into It. Over It.) as well as Illuminati Hotties and the best band in the world, Martha.

I bring this up for two reasons. One, when trying to find new music, it turns out that starting with a band you love, figuring out which label they are on, and then listening to other bands on that label works better than any algorithm. Two, I think if I could have any job in the world, I would either run an indie record label or a very small concert venue. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone reading this, but maybe I just need to put statements like that out into the world. I mean, really, how much could it cost to start a record label?

(6) Oceanator - "Heartbeat"

Third single from the wonderful Things I Never Said, which came out last week, and it's amazing that all three sound so different, yet the album works as a cohesive whole. Elise Okusami is a magician.

(7) The Killers - "Caution"

You know that 2020 feeling where you see a stray bit of news, maybe a headline, maybe the first few words of an embedded link on social media, and you think, "hmm, that sounds bad," then later you learn more about it and it is inevitably even worse than you thought it would be?

Well, here is the exact opposite of that. I could not possibly have had lower expectations for a Killers album, but somehow it's great? Like, really, legitimately great? I don't get it either, but I am so excited to use the words "pleasantly surprised" for the first time in what seems like years.

(8) Into It. Over It. "We Prefer Indoors"

I often joke about how there is a very "Philadelphia" sound to a lot of lo-fi indie rock, but it's worth noting that there is also a distinct "Chicago" sound, and here it is. You still have a chip on your shoulder, and it's still cold and dark all the time, but you also kinda like Fall Out Boy, so you haven't totally given up on melody.

(9) Pharrell Williams - "Entrepreneur" (f/ Jay-Z)

There are so many things to dislike about this song. I don't really care for Pharrell's whispering or his falsetto, and the entire first two minutes are bland and forgettable. On top of that, we are long past the point in his career where Jay-Z is likely to say anything interesting, and the bootstrap-y nonsense that these lyrics are built around, the idea that capitalism could ever be a tool for Black liberation and not the actual, proximate cause of Black oppression, is so harmful that I almost feel guilty by association just talking about it.

And yet ...

And yet, from the moment Jay starts his verse (2:25), Pharrell starts building something behind it. Don't listen to the actual substance of Jay's lyrics, listen to his voice as an instrument, propulsive, energetic, driving. Listen to Pharrell start layering the backing track - the strings at 2:42, the "black man, black man" backing vocals matching the return of the "you wanna be let out of here" sample (2:52), the return of the falsetto (it makes sense now!) (3:05), the horns (3:30) - to the point where the horns hit that high note at 3:32 and the song has been fully transformed, the first two minutes forgotten (or maybe they were necessary to set the stage), you didn't even realize that Jay's verse ended almost twenty seconds ago and it's just the backing track now, riding out, on a loop, getting bigger and bigger, hitting a level of texture that can really only be described as symphonic, and it feels like it should just keep looping forever, you would be fine with that, if it just never stops ...

And then it does stop, abruptly, at about 3:50, dropping down to the sparse initial beat, and as a listener it feels like you've gone somewhere, in less than 90 seconds. Pharrell remains one of the greats, even if he doesn't show it very often anymore.

(10) The Japanese House - "Dionne" (f/ Justin Vernon)

If you're too cool to love "exile," well, I feel sorry for you. "exile" is great and you're missing out. But, if you are that person, and you're looking elsewhere for your fix of Justin Vernon guest vocals on a moody, atmospheric track readymade for headphones and colder weather, well, here it is.

[Pointless Aside: "exile" is credited as Taylor Swift featuring Bon Iver, but "Dionne" is credited as The Japanese Hose featuring Justin Vernon. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what could account for that distinction. It turns out that, while I just think of Bon Iver as Justin Vernon alone, there are other people who are technically in the band, and one of them, Rob Moose, plays violin and viola on "exile." So it turns out both credits are accurate. (This is why I'm a pretty good lawyer and maybe not always that much fun at parties.)]

(11) Bon Iver - "AUATC"

In 2001, the delightful Welsh band Super Furry Animals released an album called Rings Around the World, including a song called "Receptacle for the Respectable" which featured the sound of Paul McCartney chewing carrots and celery as a percussion track.

I bring that up because both Bruce Springsteen and Jenny Lewis contributed vocals to this track, but I had to break out the good headphones to get to a point where I think I can hear them. Even then I'm not sure.

(12) Mo Troper - "Your Boy"

Indie rock feuds are painfully embarrassing. Mo Troper makes great power pop, as evidenced by this song. He is also a dedicated student of the genre, and earlier this month he self-published a list of his 100 favorite power pop artists of all time, along with 8,000+ words of commentary. It was a great piece. I learned a lot, and discovered a few great new artists.

However, within those many thousands of words, Troper said some fairly unflattering things about one of the guys from The Posies (though he still ranked the band near the top of his list). This led to an extended rebuttal from the Posies guy, then a Twitter flame war, and ended with Troper deleting both his Twitter account and his blog, which means that (a) the post that started this whole thing no longer exists, which is a real shame, and (b) the vast majority of music fans still have no idea who Mo Troper or The Posies are.

(13) Lydia Loveless - "Wringer"

It turns out that the stereotype that country music is nothing but breakup songs is not entirely inaccurate.

(14) Samia - "Big Wheel"

Samia is getting an incredible amount of positive press right now, and it certainly seems like she deserves it.

(15) FRITZ - "Arrow"

Let's get back to basics: this blog is here to share awesome songs made by hyper-talented Australian teenagers.

(16) Supercrush - "On The Telephone"

From Seattle, which means you'd think they would know that there is already a Vancouver hair accessories company called Supercrush which is really going to mess up your SEO when someone googles you looking for a few fun facts for a blog post.

(17) Gum Country - "Somewhere"

The band refers to themselves as "harsh twee" which is not a genre I am willing to accept yet. Maybe eventually.


It's hard to figure out what "success" means for an indie band at this point, when both "record sales" AND "ticket sales" are terms from a bygone era, but this is three kids from Kansas City who just signed to The 1975's label and got this song on Spotify's New Music Friday playlist last week, so I'm choosing to believe they are blowing up, as they should.

(19) Burna Boy - "Time Flies" (f/ Sauti Sol)

I need to spend more time with this album. When in doubt, pick the Sauti Sol feature.

(20) Phoenix - "Identical"

Hey, Phoenix has a new song! You remember Phoenix! From, like, 2009?

Sarcasm aside, this is a pretty good song, and it will feature on the soundtrack to an upcoming Sofia Coppola film, which is how I learned that Coppola and Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars have been married for almost ten years and have two kids. So, your definition of success may vary, but "start a band, become both commercially successful and critically acclaimed, marry an artist as interesting and talented as you are, then just kinda hang out and sometimes make music for your wife's movies" seems like one that we can all agree on.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Monthly Mix: July 2020

Okay, it's been five days and I haven't written anything. Turns out my brain is broken this month, but there are a bunch of really good songs here that I think you need to know about.

(1) Taylor Swift - "exile" (f/ Bon Iver)

(2) Pinkshift - "i'm gonna tell my therapist on you"

(3) City Mouth - "Sanity for Summer"

(4) illuminati hotties - "frequent letdown"

(5) Woods - "Light of Day"

(6) The Winter Passing - "Melt"

(7) Troye Sivan - "Easy"

(8) Weave - "Wallflowers"

(9) Oceanator - "I Will Find You"

(10) The Beths - "Acrid"

(11) Bully - "Every Tradition"

(12) beabadoobee - "Care"

(13) Eaves Wilder - "Won't You Be Happy"

(14) Remi Wolf - "Down the Line"

(15) Into It. Over It. - "Living Up To Let You Down"

(16) Lydia Loveless - "Love Is Not Enough"

(17) Taylor Swift - "mirrorball"

(18) Fenne Lily - "Berlin"

(19) John K. Samson - "Fantasy Baseball at the End of the World"

(20) Young Jesus - "(un)nowing"

(21) Bartees Strange - "Mustang"

(22) Buddie - "In Aquamarine"

(23) Caribou - "Home"

(24) Sun-El Musician - "Emoyeni" (f/ Simmy)

(25) illuminati hotties - "free dumb"

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Monthly Mix: June 2020

After the tragic events of September 11, a surprising number of public intellectuals declared The Death of Irony, surmising that a tragedy on this scale would change the way we thought about sarcasm, cynicism, and even comedy in general. We were entering into an Age of Sincerity. Everything we did would now be meaningful. There would no longer be an appetite for cheap laughs based on current events. Late night talk show hosts presented themselves to their audiences with something like contrition, as if to say, "well, what are we supposed to do now?"

Those intellectuals were, of course, wrong. Comedy still exists. Irony still exists. We probably have more of it than ever before. Almost twenty years later, it's tough to tell if September 11 had an impact on comedic discourse at all. As humans, we are fantastically skilled at returning to normal.

Today, I am refusing to learn the lesson of those public intellectuals. It feels weird to force a two sentence reaction to, like, a BLACKPINK song when the world is still very much on fire. If you are spending even one minute reading something I wrote and not reading something about police violence, or Black Wall Street, or prison abolition, or mutual aid, I feel like I'm wasting your time.

It won't always feel like that. We (or at least those of us who have the privilege to choose whether or not we want to pay attention to any of this) will all get back to normal sooner than anyone thinks.

For this month, though, I'm going to do something different: instead of song reviews, links to things I read, watched, or listened to over the past month or so that changed the way I see the world. I'd love to hear what had an impact on you.

(1) Phoebe Bridgers - "I Know The End"

(2) Bad Moves - "Toward Crescent Park"

Miriame Kaba, Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police (New York Times)

(3) Anderson .Paak - "Lockdown"

Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?

(4) Beyonce - "BLACK PARADE"

(5) Bright Eyes - "Mariana Trench"

Matthew Dessem, Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide (Slate)

(6) Shamir - "On My Own"

Osita Nwanevu, The Deep Amnesia of Our National Conscience (New Republic)

(7) Jessie Ware - "Soul Control"

(8) Oceanator - "A Crack In The World"

Aaron Gordon, There Needs to Be Consequences (Vice)

(9) The Beths - "Out of Sight"

Rebecca Carroll, You Should Be Feeling Miserable (The Atlantic)

(10) The Foxies - "Anti Socialite"

(11) Songhoy Blues - "Worry"

Jack Mirkinson, Which Side Are You On? (Discourse)

(12) Burna Boy - "Wonderful"

Kelefa Sanneh, The Fight to Redefine Racism (New Yorker)


Jia Tolentino, Where Bail Funds Go From Here (New Yorker)

(14) Annie - "American Cars"

Hanif Abdurraqib, The Vanishing Monuments of Columbus, Ohio (New Yorker)

(15) Dadi Freyr - "Think About Things"

Nikole Hannah-Jones, What Is Owed (New York Times)

(16) The Killers - "My Own Soul's Warning"

Blair McClendon, Such Things Have Done Harm (n+1)

(17) Phoebe Bridgers - "Chinese Satellite"

(18) Fenne Lily - "Alapathy"

Jelani Cobb, Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom (New Yorker)

(19) HAIM - "Leaning On You"

Ishmael Reed, America's Criminal Justice System and Me (New York Times)

(20) Sonny Falls - "Filling in the Blanks"

Vicky Osterweil, In Defense of Looting (New Inquiry)

(21) BLACKPINK - "How You Like That"

David Roth, Twilight of the Cop Consensus (New Republic)

(22) Lil Baby - "The Bigger Picture"

(23) Noname - "Song 33"

(24) Katie Malco - "Animal"

Jamil Smith, The Power of Black Lives Matter (Rolling Stone)

(25) Bad Moves - "End of Time"

Michelle Alexander, America, This Is Your Chance (New York Times)

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Monthly Mix: May 2020

(1) Simmy - "Ngihamba Nawe" (f/ Sino Msolo)

Three minutes and thirty-eight seconds of perfect, weightless calm, always there when you need it. I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up as my most played song of the year on Spotify solely based on the number of times I've played it this month.

(2) Phoebe Bridgers - "I See You"

The best musical moment of 2018 was Phoebe screaming "I WANNA BE EMACIATED" at the end of boygenius' "Me & My Dog." The best musical moment of 2020 may well be Phoebe screaming "I'LL CLIMB THROUGH THE WINDOW AGAIN" at the end of "I See You," while the background effects make her voice sound like a table saw cutting through metal. (If you disagree, please listen to it louder.) The fact that these are almost exactly the same moment does not bother me in the slightest.

(3) Jeff Rosenstock - "The Beauty of Breathing"

I have no idea how songwriters deal with the pace of world events. Rosenstock wrote this song well before the world fell into the grip of COVID-19, and it's pretty clearly about battling personal demons ("I'm tired of knowing what about myself is wrong / But never mustering up the control / To really try and change it"), but it's also called "The Beauty of Breathing" at a time when thousands are dying from a respiratory virus, and it includes lyrics like:

I walk outside and people say, "Hey!"
And sometimes I just wanna say
"Hey! Go away! Go away!"
So I guess I better stay inside

So it's hard not to view it as an anthem for our bizarre, socially-distanced lives, and ...

Or, wait:

I have no idea how songwriters deal with the pace of world events. Rosenstock wrote this song well before the United States succumbed to a historic wave of police brutality, and it's pretty clearly about battling personal demons ("I'm tired of knowing what about myself is wrong / But never mustering up the control / To really try and change it"), but it's also called "The Beauty of Breathing" at a time when the singular image seared into our collective brain is a man with a knee on his neck, fighting for air, and it includes lyrics like:

Maybe some day I'll wanna breathe
And maybe the people that I meet
Won't lead to a certain future where
I'm betrayed

So it's hard not to view it as an indictment of our senseless, terrifying police state, and ...

Or, you know what:

I have no idea how songwriters deal with the pace of world events, but ending your song by yelling "And that's why I'm so fucking sad!" has a pretty good chance of keeping you eternally relevant.

(4) Bad Moves - "Cape Henlopen"

Hyper-catchy punk song about (a) trying to escape the gender binary and (b) going to a beach in Delaware. I love this band so much.

(5) Carly Rae Jepsen - "Window"

Now this is exactly what a b-side should be. I get why this didn't make the cut for Dedicated. It doesn't fit. It's a very un-CRJ instrumental, and it's "risky" to the extent that a catchy, three-minute pop song could ever be. It was written with two musicians who (according to my very brief googling) have never worked with her before. It sounds "live" in a way her music doesn't usually sound. 

But, at the same time, it's great. So yeah, release it as a b-side. And hopefully people with more influence than me will say, "yes, we want more like this!"

(6) Lady Gaga - "Rain On Me" (f/ Ariana Grande)

I wrote something about this song, but I'm not sure it made sense, and maybe I shouldn't be writing about this song at all, especially when others are doing so in a much more personal way. There are some beautiful reviews of this song over at The Singles Jukebox, but it's the first one that really got to me. 
Wayne Weizhen Zhang: When was the last time you felt queer joy? a friend recently messaged me. It’s not the only message that I’ve gotten like it, coming from someone reflecting on how hard it is to find love in our queer identities when the spaces and support networks we’ve spent our adult lives creating are no longer easily accessible. Lockdown is hard for everyone, but queer people have it especially rough. I have friends who chose to stay alone rather than return to uncomfortable family situations; friends who chose to find shelter in other countries rather than go home; friends in nominally progressive, loving environments who still feel constantly micro-aggressed against. Due to COVID, I’ve been forced to live with my parents for four months now, during which time we’ve managed to avoid a huge confrontation about my sexuality–but I still feel so lonely and unseen. “Rain on Me,” however, sees me. This song is big and dumb and flawed, and probably designed as fan-service, but it is so, so gay. The more-is-more sound, the delightful camp aesthetic of the promos, the millions of memes, the outrageous Chromatica merchandise are all as extra as I wish I could be. For God’s sake, at one point, Ariana literally sings the words, “Gotta live my truth, not keep it bottled in.” Two of the biggest gay icons in the world coming together to sing about their traumas in the pouring rain would have been cathartic pop under any circumstances, but under these, it feels like nothing short of triumphant, torrential queer joy. 
(7) I'm Glad It's You - "Every Sun, Every Moon"

For me, May was the month of long-awaited albums that I couldn't wait to hear and, now that they are finally here ... I haven't really processed any of them. I think this is the best non-single from this album, but who knows? You should go listen to it and then tell me.

(8) Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - "It Gets Easier"

Jason Isbell. Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee). Michael Hadreas (Perfume Genius). Matty Healy (The 1975). If there is one positive trend in this otherwise horrible year, it is artists getting sober and proceeding to make some of the best work of their careers (in Waxahatchee's case, I would say the very best). In the past, I know I've fallen victim to the dangerous lie that, when it comes to art, sober = boring, and I hope this year puts that to bed for good.

(9) Dixie Chicks - "Julianna Calm Down"

Takes awhile to get going, but absolutely gets there in the end.

(10) The 1975 - "Roadkill"

The uncomfortable but important question is: Does Matty Healy have the right to say "f**" in this context? That's not my call to make, and I get why he thinks he's in the right here, but I kinda wish he hadn't.

The perfectly comfortable and utterly meaningless question is: Why do I have such a soft spot for British acts who try to make country music? Because, seriously, dating back to "Wild Horses," it's always good.

(11) 2nd Grade - "Boys In Heat"
(12) 2nd Grade - "Summer Of Your Dreams"

Hit to Hit, 2nd Grade's new album, has twenty-four songs and clocks in at forty-one minutes. These aren't even traditional songs as much as sketches, but they're such good sketches. "Boys in Heat" is a perfect Big Star song in a minute and sixteen seconds. Do I wish it were longer? Sure, but why should it be?

(13) HAIM - "Don't Wanna"

I guess I would also choose to push back the release of my album if I had an endless supply of killer singles I could release one at a time in the interim.

(14) Gorillaz - "How Far?" (f/ Tony Allen and Skepta)

There's a dark but accurate joke that if you see a random man's name trend on Twitter, it either means he died or has been accused of sexual violence. Tony Allen died, like so many other musicians have recently, though not from Covid-19, as if it matters. Allen's wasn't a name I knew, though it turns out I was already a fan of his work as Fela Kuti's drummer. Brian Eno called him "perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived." I thoroughly enjoyed going back through Allen's work with a renewed focus (just like I did with John Prine, and Adam Schlesinger ...) and it makes me wish we could conduct these retrospectives while the artists are still alive, though I'm not sure how we would do that. Maybe we schedule them on an artist's fiftieth birthday, or seventy-fifth. Maybe we ask modern artists to write about their lesser-known influences. Something.

(15) Run The Jewels - "JU$T" (f/ Pharrell Williams and Zack De La Rocha)

The fun comment here is that I'm definitely going back to grad school so I can write an MFA thesis on the line "Got a Vonnegut punch for ya Atlas Shrug."

The more accurate comment is that I've just been sitting here staring at this:
Beep beep, Richie, this is New York City
The x on the map where the pain keep hitting
Just us ducks here sitting
Where murderous chokehold cops still earnin' a livin'
Funny how some say money don't matter
That's rich now, isn't it, get it? Comedy
Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food
Get killed and it's not an anomaly
But hey, it's just money

(16) Dagny - "Come Over"

She has to pay CRJ royalties for those background "HEY!"s, but she pays them with Katy Perry's money, so it's cool.

(17) Celeste - "Stop This Flame"
(18) Pussycat Dolls - "React"

Both of these songs have been out for a few months already. Both have received glowing reviews elsewhere ("Stop This Flame" / "React"). Of the several dozen people who read this blog, I know for a fact that most of you already know and love them. But I can't shake the fear that, somewhere out there, exists a person who only hears about new music through this blog, and therefore is not aware of these songs. Well, to that one hypothetical, likely apocryphal person: these songs are good, you should check them out.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Monthly Mix: April 2020

(1) Sauti Sol - "Brighter Days"

It's four minutes of uncut pan-African joy, which should be enough for you, but for me it's also a handy canary in a coal mine for judging my daily depression levels. Most days, it puts a smile on my face and fills me with hope. Every so often though, it feels like a cloying, syrupy slap in the face. Our goal going forward is to limit those days. With a gospel choir!

(2) Phoebe Bridgers - "Kyoto"

Just found out that Phoebe and I share the same birthday, and I am absolutely putting that on my resume.

(3) I'm Glad It's You - "The Silver Cord"

Timeless in the best possible way. This is exactly how I want rock music to sound. From "band I've never heard of" to "most anticipated album of the month" almost instantly.

(4) Charli XCX - "forever"

No idea why so many big artists are delaying albums right now. The Charli plan makes way more sense to me - while everyone's locked in their homes, take over the world.

(5) Rina Sawayama - "Who's Gonna Save U Now?"

I still can't get over how good this album is. Honestly, how many genres does she hit in 43 minutes? It's the entire history of TRL in a blender.

(6) Fiona Apple - "Cosmonauts"

Perfect 10 in Pitchfork, the first on in ten years (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, if you're looking for the trivia answer). So many Album of the Year articles have already been written, edited, and scheduled for publication. Just take the rest of the year off, music journalists.

(7) The 1975 - "If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)"

If you're like me, it's the starting point for your wife playing you versions of Laura Branigan's "Gloria" in five different languages. We're all dealing with the crisis in our own ways.

(8) The Beths - "Dying to Believe"

New Zealand: Eliminated coronavirus and The Beths are from there. What has your country ever done?

(9) Bad Moves - "Party With The Kids Who Wanna Party With You"

Okay, your challenge is to write a super-catchy song that includes the following lyrics:

"I'm not trying to say we won't see the day there's a genocide of the poor, it just might come in a heatwave."

"Consent isn't complex, just no one taught it to you"

Good luck! (I love this band so much.)

(Totally random aside: there's an allusion to "The Ballad of John and Yoko" in here. Is that the most famous song about Amsterdam? What are the other options?)

(10) 2nd Grade - "Velodrome"

Yes, we need way more power pop in our lives! I'm treating this band's very existence as a cosmic tribute to Adam Schlesinger. 

(11) I'm Glad It's You - "Silent Ceremony"

Just learned that the bass player is currently in law school, and now listening to them feels like a rescue mission - there's still time to make this band big enough that he can drop out.

(12) The Killers - "Fire In Bone"

Passes the only test for a Killers song, which is "Could my Dad and I dance awkwardly to this at a wedding reception?" We could! I didn't think they still had it in them!

(13) Big Thief - "Love In Mine"

I want to know so much more about how artists choose which songs make their albums. Because Big Thief put out two records last year, and this wasn't on either of them. This is an outtake. This is something we weren't supposed to hear, but they wanted to put out something new during the crisis. They were going to throw this away. And it's wonderful. 

(14) Dizzy - "Sunflower"

If we're just ranking songs that came out in the last twelve months called "Sunflower," this one is way ahead of both Vampire Weekend and Post Malone.

(15) HAIM - "I Know Alone"

Somehow Rostam has a songwriting credit on every song on this album but one ("Hallelujah"). Is Rostam just in the band now? (Not against it.)

(16) Sam Hunt - "Hard To Forget"

It hasn't quite come together in my head yet, but I have no doubt I could write 5,000 words about this song. You decide whether that's something the world needs. Until that happens, just know that Sam Hunt has apparently been crowned this year's "country artist it's okay for non-country fans to like." Would be a contender for Song of the Summer in a world where we have a summer.

(17) Megan Thee Stallion - "Savage (Remix)" (f/ Beyonce)

There's also a dissertation to be written about how we're collectively reacting to the pandemic scraps we've been thrown by pop royalty. We all immediately forgot about that Rihanna feature, and I have literally not heard one word about Nicki Minaj on that Doja Cat song, but apparently this one passes the bar. It's ... fine.

(18) DaBaby - "JUMP" (f/ YoungBoy Never Broke Again)

Look, you'll never hear me say a bad word about Xanax, but I do blame it for what seems like an entire generation of anaesthetised mumbling sad-boy rap. (Might just be easier to blame Drake.) This, though ... this I like.  This is the minimum level of bounciness I require from my hip hop singles. Are there more artists like this I just don't know about?

(19) 100 gecs  - "ringtone" (Remix) (f/ Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, Kero Kero Bonito)

This has been around for awhile, but it's the song that's been in my head most often this month, so I had to find a place for it on the list. It's a credit to 100 gecs that a different subsection of the internet seems to find out about them every couple weeks, with very different reactions, mostly light mockery of their aesthetic (check out the "Money Machine" video), but no such thing as bad press, right?

(20) The Homeless Gospel Choir - "Art Punk"

Not a choir, just one guy from Pittsburgh still recovering from an evangelical Christian upbringing so yeah, I feel like we'd have things to talk about. "It shouldn't have to be so hard / To get back to who you are."

(21) PUP - "Anaphylaxis"

The band says they deliberately tried to make their guitars sound like bees for this one. I guess I hear that.

(22) Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - "She's There"

Maybe, just maybe, finally starting to get into a band people have told me I should love for years.

(23) Hayley Williams - "Over Yet"

Probably the catchiest of the many, many new Hayley Williams songs, which is really saying something.

(24) Chari XCX - "claws"

At first I was disappointed this song isn't longer but upon reflection this is exactly as long as it needs to be.

(25) Bright Eyes - "Forced Convalescence"

Somehow Flea plays bass on this?

(26) Woods - "Strange to Explain"

Now that I'm very, very old, I have all of these long-term relationships with bands that I still don't really know anything about. "Suffering Season" came out in 2010. A handful of Woods songs have made my Top 100 lists. And yet, can I tell you one fact about the band? I cannot.

(27) Fenne Lily - "To Be A Woman Pt. 2"

How much time do you still spend looking at concert dates? Fenne Lily is playing Bitterzoet October 6. There's at least, like, a chance that happens, right? Am I still in denial?

(28) Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - "Dreamsicle"

Someday Jason Isbell is going to write a novel, and it is going to be amazing, and it is going to be the single saddest thing ever put down on paper.

(29) Bon Iver - "PDLIF"

Artist mythos has such an impact on how I react to their work. When Charli XCX puts out a song she wrote at home yesterday, it's fresh and exciting, a bolt of lightning from a kinetic genius. Bon Iver isn't supposed to be that way. Justin Vernon is supposed to emerge from the woods after living on nothing but psychedelics for the past five years with a masterpiece album in his hands. So when he writes a song quickly, I tend to dismiss it, like this one. But that's on me, really.

(30) The 1975 - "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America" (f/ Phoebe Bridgers)

Finally understand why most comic book nerds hate crossovers. Turns out you can't just mash two great artists together and get a great song. This is the worst thing either Phoebe or The 1975 has done all year, and yet ... it's still pretty good.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Monthly Mix: March 2020

(1) Waxahatchee - "The Eye"

Saint Cloud is a perfect album, start to finish. I have listened to it at least once a day since it came out. I recommend you all do the same.

(2) HAIM - "The Steps"

We all remember when this song came out, back on March 3, which according to my calculations was six hundred years ago.

(3) Worriers - "End of the World"

It's fun that a song about the end of the world is obsolete by the time it comes out. Fire, earthquake, hurricane ... feels like you're missing one.

(4) Dixie Chicks - "Gaslighter"

You know those people who think they are being clever by pointing out that nothing in Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" is actually ironic. That's basically how I feel about the use of "gaslight" here. Still a great song, though.

(5) Dua Lipa - "Levitating"

It's such an accident of history that these are going to be the COVID-19 albums, forever. This is the music you will remember when thinking about this time period years from now. Future Nostalgia doesn't fit the prevailing mood in the slightest, but here it is. While we were all sitting at home trying to manage a sense of overwhelming dread, we had this perfectly weightless disco revival album. I don't get it either, but it's working.

(6) Fenne Lily - "Hypochondriac"

Perfect for the time and place. Even though I had heard this song before, I will always remember it as the first song from Phoebe Bridgers' isolation playlist.

(7) Bright Eyes - "Persona Non Grata"

Is this already my favorite song with bagpipes? Can't really think of what its competition would be.

(8) All Time Low - "Some Kind of Disaster"

As the world changes rapidly, it is a comfort to know that pop punk will remain exactly the same forever. It will outlive all of us.

(9) KennyHoopla - "how will i rest in peace if i'm buried by a highway?//"

If you're a black kid making rock music, it makes total sense to me that you would look to Bloc Party as a role model. This song is fighting for space on 100 Songs for 2020 and 100 Songs for 2005 at the same time.

(10) Dua Saleh - "mOth"

Such an inspiring story (non-binary Sudanese refugee living in Minnesota), probably will have to settle for being the second most famous Dua for the foreseeable future.

(11) Hayley Williams - "Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris"

boygenius backing vocals!

(12) Waxahatchee - "Can't Do Much"

You know when a major pop star releases a new album and Spotify's New Music Friday playlist has like nine songs from the album interspersed throughout? That's what I want to do with this Waxahatchee record. Please just go listen to the whole thing. I know you have time.

(13) The Aces - "Daydream"

Since HAIM pushed their album release date back, can I interest you in Mormon HAIM in the interim?

(14) somegirlnamedanna - "hello i am"

So it turns out there are two people from rural Minnesota who think "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap is a perfect song.

(15) Carlie Hanson - "Daze Inn"

The only good trend of 2020 is pop songs with prominent electric guitar. More of that, less of everything else.

(16) KennyHoopla - "the world is flat and this is the edge//"

I did not know who this person was at the beginning of the month, and now I am anxiously awaiting new KennyHoopla material. It just checks all the boxes for me.

(17) Dogleg - "Kawasaki Backflip"

I've been reaching for calmer, quieter music lately, but if your quarantine response shades more toward restless energy and aggression with no place to put it, I highly recommend Dogleg.

(18) Bloods - "I Hate It"

Apparently directly inspired by the band watching 10 Things I Hate About You. Waiting to see if "retroactive soundtracks" becomes the new trend.

(19) Tove Lo - "I'm Coming"

This is good, but the original is probably ten times better.

(20) Dua Lipa - "Break My Heart"

A good song on its own, bonus points for reminding everyone that INXS were great too.

(21) Perfume Genius - "On the Floor"

Consistently great work from Perfume Genius, but I'm interested to know why he has also released radio edits for both of his first two singles. Is that an artistic decision or just an admission that the general public does not have the attention span for a five minute song?

(22) Laura Stevenson - "Time Bandits"

It's so easy to interpret all art in the light of our current emergency, but I think "Quit smoking baby, even though the world is ending" would be a great opening line in any era.

(23) Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - "Only Children"

Most people probably shouldn't work with their significant others. Boundaries, creating a separate space for the personal and the professional, etc. The exception is Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, who should keep harmonizing like this forever.

(24) Craig Finn - "All These Perfect Crosses"

I saw Craig with The Hold Steady in London on March 7. It is striking now how much that day belongs to the Before Time: international travel, three airports, frequent use of public transit in two cities, restaurants, bars, a large public gathering in a small space, a gathering where I was smashed up against multiple strangers at all times for hours. It all seems impossible now.

(25) Brian Fallon - "Hard Feelings"

Every Brian Fallon solo project will always come with a tinge of disappointment that it's not a Gaslight Anthem project. Unfair, sure, but it's there.

(26) Eerie Gates - "Saw You Through the Trees"

Tender instrumentals brought to you by the guy from Wild Pink. Comforting!

(27) Georgia Maq - "Cold Summer"

As with Brian Fallon, I would love to hear some new Camp Cope, but this will certainly work in the meantime.

(28) Susanne Sundfor - "When The Lord"

Maybe you're not really into god-damaged orchestral Scandinavian pop, and that's fine, but you're missing one of the great choruses of the year.

(29) Empty Country - "Swim"

Probably not that many Cymbals Eat Guitars fans in the audience tonight, but since they broke up this is what Joseph D’Agostino has been up to. A lot more pedal steel, which is probably what I would do with my first solo album, too.

(30) Christian Lee Hutson - "Talk"

Key player in the greatest podcast episode ever. Just listen, I know you have time.

(31) Margo Price - "Twinkle Twinkle"

Co-produced by Sturgill Simpson, which you could have guessed based on ... literally everything about it.

(32) Muncie Girls - "Blankets"

Every band should follow Muncie Girls' lead and just start throwing their old b-sides out there. We need them now, even if they're not that good, it's fine!

(33) Sjowgren - "What Goes Around"

Always keeping an eye on the Bay Area music scene, pleasantly surprised that there still is one.

(34) U.S. Girls - "4 American Dollars"

Spoiler Alert: You cannot actually do all that much with four American dollars.

(35) ELIO - "My Friends Online"

Born in Wales, raised in Canada is a pretty solid pop pedigree. And, as literally every review of this song has mentioned, timely since all of our friends are now online.