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.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Monthly Mix: February 2020

February 2020

(1) Worriers - "Big Feelings"

The album comes out on Friday and I'm so excited that I'm not even thinking about whether or not Lauren took into account the fact that calling your record You or Someone You Know is just going to make people like me think of Matchbox Twenty.

(2) The 1975 - "The Birthday Party"

Every single better than the last. I love them so much.

(3) Christine and the Queens - "People, I've been sad"

Six songs on the La vita nuova EP and they'e all wonderful, we now start the arduous process of trying to figure out which one will be on our year-end lists. For now, let's go with the single. If Chris thinks it's the best, that works for me.

(4) Phoebe Bridgers - "Garden Song"

Okay, yes, the song is great, but here's the thing that's making me doubt my sanity: the opening lines ("Someday I'm gonna live / In your house up on the hill / And when your skinhead neighbor goes missing / I'll plant a garden in the yard then") at least imply that the skinhead neighbor went missing because Phoebe killed him, right? Right?!?

And yet I have not seen one review that references this.

(5) Grimes - "Delete Forever"

I reserve the right to change my opinion in the future when we've all been enslaved by Elon Musk's demon spawn, but as of right now Claire Boucher can pretty much do no wrong.

(6) Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - "Be Afraid"

Lead single from Amanda Shires' husband, his first new music since 2017 (unless you count most of the good songs from A Star Is Born). 

(7) I'm Glad It's You - "Big Sound"

The album isn't out until May, but the critics I follow on Twitter who have advance copies are unanimous that it is going to be one of the year's best. Future Poet Laureate Hanif Abdurraquib wrote a really good introductory essay for it.

(8) Archers of Loaf - "Raleigh Days"

I've never really listened to Archers of Loaf despite the fact that (a) a lot of people whose taste I respect love them and (b) the one song of theirs I know ("White Trash Heroes") is amazing. Now they're back with a new single that makes me want to revisit everything they've ever done.

(9) Hamilton Leithauser - "Here They Come"

I've never really listened to The Walkmen despite the fact that (a) a lot of people whose taste I respect love them and (b) the one song of theirs I know ("The Rat") is amazing. Now frontman Leithauser is back with a new single that ... look, you get it.

(10) Allie X, Mitski - "Susie Save Your Love"

The impressive thing about this song is that it doesn't really sound like Allie X or Mitski, and yet it's still really good.

(11) Waxahatchee - "Lilacs"

Doesn't seem fair that we're still twenty-five days away from hearing this album.

(12) Banoffee - "Contagious"

The first line of the Pitchfork review for Look At Us Now Dad mentions that Martha Brown played synths for Charli XCX on Taylor Swift's Reputation tour, and the review could just stop there. That's it. That is what this album sounds like. 

(13) Christine and the Queens, Caroline Polachek - "La vita nouva"

As an American abroad, there are so many ways to feel inadequate, but speaking one language in a country where everyone seems to speak several dozen is probably #1. On this EP, Chris sings in three languages over six songs, and ... come on, we all feel bad enough already.

(14) Sløtface - "Stuff"

New album Sorry for the late reply is consistently great melodic punk, but I'm highlighting this one because I respect a Britpop homage. It's like they're consciously angling to open for a Blur reunion tour.

(15) Purity Ring - "stardew"

For those of us who can already somehow feel nostalgia for 2011.

(16) Lady Gaga - "Stupid Love"

Look ... it is four degrees. It has not stopped raining since we got back from Africa. I'm sure this song is great. Please come back in three months.

(17) Sauti Sol - "Suzanna"

They love her in the chorus, but seem to hate her in the verses? Guys, I think I get why she left.

(18) Phantogram - "Pedestal"

You guys remember Big Grams? The supergroup made up of Phantogram and Big Boi from Outkast? 2015 seems like a different lifetime.

(19) Jay Som - "A Thousand Words"

Even though I now live 5,000 miles away, I will always have a soft spot for East Bay indie rock.

(20) Christian Lee Hutson - "Lose This Number"

Phoebe co-conspirator with an album out in May. This song is absolutely heartbreaking, but it starts out with a joke:

Bobby helped me track you down cause
I just saw your name in the paper
You said "Of course that reminded you of me
Don't you know that's how a name works"

And the fact that he can somehow do both in the same song is really impressive.

(21) Perfume Genius - "Describe"

A few spots above I mentioned that Hanif Abdurraquib write an introductory essay for the I'm Glad It's You album, and I guess this is a trend because Ocean Vuong wrote an "impression" for the new Perfume Genius record. This is my favorite trend of 2020, and it's not too late for Sally Rooney to write something about the new 1975 album.  (And now I'm going to spend the rest of the day thinking about band/author pairings.)

(22) Spanish Love Songs - "Losers, Pt. 2"

You know how some people get weird when you use the word "champagne" to refer to sparkling wine not actually from the Champagne region of France? That is how I feel about this band not being from Philadelphia. Feels like I've been lied to.

(23) The Radio Dept. - "The Absence of Birds"

Always room on a mix for Swedish dream-pop.

(24) The Strokes - "Bad Decisions"

I'm in favor of The Strokes trying to sound like The Cure. I'm opposed to it being almost five minutes long.

(25) Car Seat Headrest - "Can't Cool Me Down"

I love LCD Soundsystem, but I cringe a little bit whenever I hear that someone's new project has an LCD influence. Kinda wish this sounded more like Car Seat Headrest, to be honest.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Monthly Mix: January 2020

2020 Goal: Blog More Than Once

It's been a month, and there are so many great new songs, so let's talk about them! 

For me, a monthly mix is almost harder than a yearly retrospective, since in some cases we're talking about songs that came out days (if not hours) ago, and sometimes it's tough to form an opinion in such a short time. (For instance, "Physical" isn't on the list this month. It didn't really grab me on the first couple listens. By this time next month I could be telling you it's the song of the year. I have no idea.)

Anyway, all caveats aside, here are 35 songs to kick off 2020.

(1) Ethan Gruska - "Enough For Now" (f/ Phoebe Bridgers)

Phoebe Bridgers is now a genre unto herself. If she has any involvement in a project, it is guaranteed to be worth your time, and "Enough For Now" is no exception. That said, Gruska deserves his share of credit as well. The fact that he can sing lyrics like:
And there's no other life
There's no living in another light
There's nothing special about you and I
We're on our own like everyone else
and make them sound comforting is what makes this song so special.

(2) The 1975 - "Me & You Together Song"

After years spent moving in a more transgressive direction both lyrically ("Love It If We Made It") and sonically ("People"), The 1975 return with a straight-ahead pop song whose lyrics could be the plot to a sappy rom com. And yet it's still great.

Also, please come to this awesome mini-festival with us in July:

(3) Banoffee - "Count on You"

Look, you know me. You know I wouldn't say something like "Imagine if Charli XCX wrote 'I Know a Place'" unless I really meant it.

The guitars at 0:58 are the best thing that has happened so far this year.

(4) Bacchae - "Hammer"

Greek tragedies are the new punk rock.

(5) Floral Tattoo - "She"

Somehow living up to the greatness of this Tweet:

Also, the fact that Los Campesinos! is such an obvious influence for so many young bands makes me feel both very old and very proud.

(6) Hayley Kiyoko - "she"

Pretty surprised this was not the best song called "she" released this month.

(7) L Devine - "Boring People"

I had never heard of L Devine before this year. I missed the meeting where we apparently decided that she has to be on every single "Artists to Watch in 2020" list.

That said, I get it.

(8) J Hus - "Repeat" (f/ Koffee)

This is a J Hus song on J Hus' album, and yet Koffee raps both verses while J Hus just handles the fairly minimal chorus. Seems like a strange decision on his part to take such a supporting role in his own song, but it works.

(9) La Roux - "Automatic Driver"

With most artists, I want innovation, experimentation, growth, etc. With La Roux, it turns out I just want her to make exactly this song over and over.

(10) Soccer Mommy - "circle the drain"

Twenty-two year old genius manages to incorporate basically every late-90s alt-rock hit into one song, despite most of those songs coming out before she was born. I truly believed I was the only person in the world who still remembered "High" by Feeder, and yet:
Vikram Joseph: Nostalgia is a hallucinogen; it blurs the distinction between times you miss and times you simply happen to remember more vividly than others, and, more disconcertingly, between places you have been and places that have only ever existed in your internal world. There’s something about “Circle The Drain” – with its soft golden hour hues, its fuzzy edges – that drives deep into whichever ganglion or cortex is responsible for nostalgia, and sends uncoordinated sparks and signals across its synapses, triggering a slideshow of fragmented memories that may or may not be memories at all. It reminds me of so many tangible things – the late 90s / early 00s guitar-pop of Natalie Imbruglia and Avril Lavigne, the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today”, and (strangest of all) second-tier Brit indie band Feeder’s tender teenage stoner anthem “High” – but also of so much that is unreachable and unnameable – walks home from nowhere, composite daydreams from a hundred train windows, summers disintegrating into the building blocks of memory. As if getting older isn’t frightening enough, if I have this much capacity for nostalgia at just past 30 won’t I be slowly crushed under its weight by 70? But for now, while I can still think of myself as young, I’m grateful for this song – a gorgeous, dreamy downer – and for the synthesis of new memories from the glowing rubble of ones that came before.
(11) Waxahatchee - "Fire"

First single from an upcoming album called Saint Cloud, which, given that Katie Crutchfield is from Alabama, is almost definitely a reference to Saint Cloud, Florida, and not the Minnesota exurb where I went to college. Probably a good choice on her part.

(12) Mura Masa - "Teenage Headache Dreams" (f/ Ellie Rowsell)

I really like this, but if it kept Ellie away from making the new Wolf Alice record for even five minutes, it wasn't worth it.

(13) Hayley Williams - "Simmer"

Learning fascinating things about the alternate history of pop music:
The possibility of a Hayley Williams solo album has been on the horizon since the very beginning. In 2003, the 14-year-old Williams was signed as a solo artist to Atlantic Records, which envisioned her as a Top 40 pop singer, à la Avril Lavigne. She insisted on being in an alternative rock band. She won. And so, alongside the rest of Paramore, she wrote empowering anthems for misanthropic teens to mosh and rip their tights to.
(14) Wolf Parade - "Julia Take Your Man Home"

Of all the weird things Julia's man does in this song, the one that always sticks in my head is "He keeps talking about New Jersey!"

Am I going to talk myself into going to Utrecht alone to see these guys next month? Probably. (Really the only thing holding me back is that apparently they don't play anything from EXPO 86, which is a shame.)

(15) Twin Peaks - "St. Vulgar St."

We'll be in Africa, but they are playing Den Haag on February 15 if you hear this and instantly fall in love with them.

(16) Sløtface - "Tap the pack"

As we've learned, the quickest way to Maeve Wiley's heart.

At Cinetol March 31!

(17) Georgia - "24 Hours"

Fourth artist in a row with an upcoming concert to mention: if you don't feel like going to that Twin Peaks show, maybe go see Georgia at Paradiso. Please keep up our concert-going pace while we are on holiday.

(18) Rina Sawayama - "Comme Des Garcons (Like The Boys)"

There are some cringeworthy lines in here ("Every time you see me / It's like winning big in Reno / Don't fuck with me, hoe / Take you down like judo"), but if there was some way to wager on a song becoming a massive hit, I would put some cash down on this one.

(19) U.S. Girls - "Overtime"

In the St. Vincent tradition of completely reimagining your old songs, this one originally came out in 2013 and sounded nothing like this. (This is Jake Clemons from the E Street Band on saxophone, keeping up his dad's tradition of randomly showing up on great pop songs.)

(20) 070 Shake - "Guilty Conscience"

Not just the best thing about underwhelming Kanye projects anymore!

(21) Westerman - "Blue Comanche"

(22) Caroline Rose - "Feel The Way I Want"

Frequent readers of this blog will remember that Carl was all in on her back in 2018. If you're coming to her a little late, like I am, let me assure you there is still time.

(23) Frances Quinlan - "Your Reply"

For the subset of people who (a) read this blog, (b) obsess about the lyrics to pop songs, and (c) grew up spending way too much time at church, do you think this lyric:

"According to John / Fear softens into doubt"

is a reference to 1 John 4:18: 

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." thinks so, but they are pretty consistently wrong about everything.

Anyway, that's a really good like, wherever it comes from.

(24) TORRES - "Dressing America"

If, like me, you're bummed out that Mitski has announced she's taking some time off, might I suggest TORRES?

(25) Margo Price - "Stone Me"

I did not expect to be listening to this much country music at this point in my life. A pleasant surprise.

(26) Worriers - "Terrible Boyfriend"

It remains true that Worriers have never made a bad song.

(27) Beach Bunny - "Cloud 9"

Do you understand Tik Tok? Me neither.

(28) Andy Shauf - "Neon Skyline"

First paragraph of the Pitchfork review references both Phoebe Bridgers and Jens Lekman, and if you can imagine what a synthesis of those two would sound like, you're pretty close.

(29) AJJ - "Loudmouth"

If you're looking for a fun topic for your moral philosophy thesis, let me suggest: "There's no such thing as truth / And you don't need to be a dick about it"

(30) Disq - "Daily Routine"

The Wisconsin renaissance continues. Following in the footsteps of Carlie Hanson, this is now two really good songs by people from towns I played sports against in high school (hello Viroqua!).

(31) Destroyer - "Cue Synthesizer"

A dozen albums into his career, it seems like this is finally Dan Bejar's moment.

(32) Twin Peaks - "Cawfee"

Twin Peaks are the only band to get two songs on the January list, which is a high honor for a band I didn't know existed two weeks ago. If you think the Rolling Stones were at their best when they were trying to make country music, you will love Twin Peaks.

(33) Pearl Jam - "Dance of the Clairvoyants"

Do you think Pearl Jam has wanted to be Talking Heads this whole time, or is this a recent development?

(34) ONUKA - "ZENIT"

Actually a December 2019 release, but if you're like me and you get your Ukrainian pop weirdness on a delay, you'll forgive its inclusion here. I just feel like people should hear it.

(35) Chromatics - "TOY"

Every Chromatics song is the soundtrack to a slightly shinier life than the one you are currently living.