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"


"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"


(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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Monthly Mix: January 2021

(1) Julien Baker - “Hardline”

The first great song of the year. My first [10] for The Singles Jukebox. Either this will be my favorite song of the year or a better song will come along, which is a comforting thought. 

(2) Camp Trash - “Bobby”

The first band of the year that I’m irrationally obsessed with. One of the guys writes for The Alternative, and he’s been talking about his band on Twitter for years, but the running joke was that it wasn’t actually a real band since they had never recorded anything. So this month they put out a four song EP, and ... somehow it’s perfect? That plot doesn’t even work as a movie pitch. Anyway, this is in that hallowed Oso Oso strata where emo is so catchy that it becomes power pop.

(3) The Hold Steady - “Heavy Covenant”

My excitement for this month’s Open Door Policy has reached completely unsustainable levels. Of the two new singles, I like this one a little better than “Spices.”

(4) Wild Pink - “Oversharers Anonymous”

Okay, now we’ve hit all three of my most-anticipated February releases. I have a lot of emotional eggs in the “awesome new music is coming soon” basket.

(5) Maggie Lindemann - “Crash and Burn”

I’ll be honest, I have no idea who Maggie Lindemann is, but Alex Lahey wrote this and it sounds like The Veronicas, which is honestly everything I want from pop music.

(6) Baby Queen - “Raw Thoughts”

I’m not going to go back and double-check, but I think this is the year’s highest scoring song on The Singles Jukebox. Not sure it’s quite that good, but I’m looking forward to hearing more from her this year.

(7) Pale Waves - “You Don’t Own Me”

Following The 1975’s album release cycle model where you put out so many singles that it’s hard to keep track of them. This is, I think, their fourth single from the new album, and it might be their best.

(8) The Sonder Bombs - “k.”

Clothbound is one of two contenders for my favorite album of the month, if you like this song or “What Are Friends For?” from 100 Songs for 2020, you should check out the whole record.

(9) Lande Hekt - “Undone”

Here’s the other AOTM contender. Going to Hell is Hekt’s first solo release, her day job is leading longtime Burn Your Hits favorites Muncie Girls.

(10) Olivia Rodrigo - “drivers license”

Isn’t everything just better when the biggest song in the world is actually good? (If you’re interested, I made it too personal at The Singles Jukebox.)

(11) Bill Wurtz - “Here Comes The Sun”

This is how the internet used to be: you’d stumble across some weird thing, and you wouldn’t really be able to tell if you were supposed to take it seriously, and it’s impossible to describe (“easy listening” and “smooth jazz” are basically insults, really, but that’s the closest I can get), but it’s catchy and it gets under your skin and you can’t stop thinking about it (so much that you miss the submission deadline). Anyway, you might hate this, and I might hate it in a month, but for right now it’s great.

(12) Kynsy - “Happiness Isn’t a Fixed State”

More support for one of my most strongly-held beliefs, which is that The Strokes should have had a girl singer.

(13) PONY - “Couch”

If you google “pony couch” at least she shows up once.

(14) IAN SWEET - “Drink The Lake”

IAN SWEET is not the name of a person, it’s the name of a band, but the band is just one person, and that person’s name is Jilian Medford. Some artists are just trying to be confusing on purpose, aren’t they?

(15) Citizen - “I Want To Kill You”

Former hardcore band now making mid-2000s blog rock. I will always be here for a Bloc Party homage.

(16) Arlo Parks - “Hope”

I should have put this in the “best albums of the month” section above. Collapsed In Sunbeams is consistently comforting.

(17) Jazmine Sullivan - “Girl Like Me” (feat. H.E.R.)

Maybe you’re tired of hearing me talk about The Singles Jukebox. I hope not. Anyway, one issue that I’m struggling with is how to rate and review music from genres that I don’t really have a personal connection with. Like, I think this is near-perfect execution for a neo-soul song, but I also don’t think I’ve listened to it since I submitted my review.

(18) Sweet Soul - “Noises Drown”

On the other hand, this is a pretty derivative pop-punk song. By any objective, critical standard, it is not as good as Jazmine Sullivan. And yet I know that I will listen to this so much more often. It’s a hard realization that my tastes might actually be somewhat pedestrian.

(19) The Whiskey Talking - “Staggers and Jags”

As I’ve mentioned many times before, the only person to both appear on 100 Songs and submit their own Guest List is Ilana’s high school classmate Maya from the sadly-defunct The Colourist. To be honest, I didn’t think we’d ever have a second, but our prospects are looking up due to this month’s release of Grounded, the debut album from The Whiskey Talking, led by great friend of the blog Scott Lawson. I first heard “Staggers and Jags” sometime around 2007, so it’s weird to think of it as a “new” song, but it is newly-released in this form, and it’s still great, so I’ll allow it.

(20) Buck Meek - “Pareidolia”

Not just “the other guy in Big Thief” anymore! What is the funniest way to describe this? Is he the Kelly Rowland to Adrienne Lenker’s Beyonce? The Andrew Ridgely to her George Michael? The Oates to her Hall?

(21) Teenage Fanclub - “I’m More Inclined”

I never know what to do with these. Teenage Fanclub are one of my favorite bands of all time, and it’s cool that they keep making good music, but they’ve made literally dozens of songs better than this, so why should I listen to this when I could just listen to “Sparky’s Dream” or “Alcoholiday” or “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From” for the millionth time?

(22) Slaughter Beach, Dog - “Do You Understand (What Has Happened To You)”

There’s always at least one really good album that comes out in late December after everyone has finished their lists, and this year it was SBD’s At the Moonbase. I have no idea why bands choose to put out records that close to the end of the year.

(23) Cicala - “Turn It Off”

I think we’ve reached the point where the term “alt-country” has lost all meaning, but if you’re the kind of person who likes the kind of music that used to be called alt-country, I think you’d like Cicala.

(24) Hospital Bracelet - “South Loop Summer”

Philadelphia is still the American city where all good new bands come from, but Chicago is certainly climbing the rankings.

(25) Cheekface - “Emotional Rent Control”

Still not sure if I like these guys or not, but their Fans Also Like page on Spotify includes: illuminati hotties, Rosie Tucker, Bad Moves, Antarctigo Vespucci, Oceanator, Radiator Hospital, and Slaughter Beach, Dog. The algorithm has already decided that I love them, I just need to get there.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

2020: Guest List Week Year in Review

GLW.20.01: Ilana Bergstrom

GLW.20.02: Curt Trnka

GLW.20.03: Remko Van Knippenberg

GLW.20.04: Jem Woodward

GLW.20.05: Erik Kristjanson

GLW.20.06: Marisa Plaice

GLW.20.07: Russell Abdo

GLW.20.08: Garrett Bukunt

GLW.20.09: Megan Swidler

GLW.20.10: Garrett Tillman

GLW.20.11: Scott Lawson

GLW.20.12: Carl Anderson

GLW.20.13: Ryan Joyce

GLW.20.14: Nick Leddy

GLW.20.15: Desa Warner

GLW.20.16: Tony Schoenberg

GLW.20.17: Kim Dickson

GLW.20.18: Lukas Brooks

GLW.20.19: Lucas Posada

GLW.20.20: Ben Evangelista

GLW.20.21: Shay Corbett

GLW.20.22: Nicole Sabes

GLW.20.23: Jamie Pfeifer

GLW.20.24: Dillon North

GLW.20.25: Tom Morgan

BOOKS: Chris MacDonald



Today marks the end of the increasingly inaccurately titled Guest List Week. Counting my own list, twenty-six of us wrote about the year in music, a new record! Thanks to everyone who participated! Next year it will be Guest List Month. (Or, why limit ourselves? Maybe Guest List Season, or Guest List Festival, or … I am now accepting suggestions. What should we call this?)

As I did last year, I have put together a quick post aggregating and summarizing the year in lists. It’s interesting to see the consensus that we managed to reach when we weren’t trying to reach a consensus at all. Everyone approached this project from a different perspective: 

  • Lists varied in size from ten songs to one hundred. (Jamie, I love your four hundred song throwback list, but I’m excluding you from the year-end summary because otherwise I think Lil Kim winds up being our #2 Artist of the Year. I hope you understand.) 

  • Most were exclusively 2020 songs, some broke that rule once or twice, some broke that rule as often as it made sense to do so. 

  • Some were ranked, others were partially ranked, others weren’t ranked at all. 

  • Some considered the entirety of the year’s musical landscape, while others limited themselves in fun and interesting ways (Women Only, Latinx Hits Only, Taylor Swift Only). 

  • Curt succeeds every year in his annual attempt to limit his list to songs I haven’t heard.

And yet, when you add it all up, it creates a fairly coherent picture of the year that was, a great year for music and a terrible year for everything else. (Spoiler Alert: This will likely be true for 2021 as well.) Here’s a quick rundown of the songs and artists that helped get us through it all.


I'll be honest, this one surprised me.

Before we get to the results, a quick review of the rules: We judge this based solely on the number of lists on which a song appears. Since not everyone ranks their lists, and others rank only a part of their list, it would skew the importance of ranked lists if we tried to account for where on specific lists these songs appeared. So, one point per list. Simple. (Honorable Mentions count.)

Also, we’re grouping all versions of a song together: this includes remixes (Troye Sivan gets points for “Easy” with or without Kacey Musgraves), edits (we were evenly split on whether people preferred the shorter Single Edit for Jessie Ware’s “Save a Kiss”), alternate versions (like Phoebe Bridgers’ Copycat Killer EP), and live versions (like Taylor Swift’s Long Pond Sessions).

For 2020, that remix rule proved dispositive, because our Song of the Year is Miley Cyrus’ “Midnight Sky,” appearing on a total of eight lists (three original, five remix).

Tied for second are the two songs I would have wagered on for Song of the Year: Rina Sawayama’s "Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)" and Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me” with Ariana Grande.

Rounding out the top five are (no surprise) Chappell Roan’s “Pink Pony Club” and HAIM’s “The Steps.”

In total, forty-two songs appeared on three or more lists. They appear below and in the playlist above. (A full list of all 100+ songs to appear on two or more lists can be found here.) It is incredibly impressive that Dua Lipa and Rina Sawayama both landed four songs in the Top Forty-Two. And yet neither is our Artist of the Year.

8Miley Cyrus"Midnight Sky" / "Edge of Midnight"
7Rina Sawayama"Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)"
7Lady Gaga"Rain On Me" (feat. Ariana Grande)
6Chappell Roan"Pink Pony Club"
6HAIM"The Steps"
5Rina Sawayama"Bad Friend"
5Soccer Mommy"circle the drain"
5Christine and the Queens"People, I've been sad"
5Megan Thee Stallion"Savage" (Remix) (feat. Beyoncé)
4Taylor Swift"betty"
4Dua Lipa"Break My Heart"
4Will Ferrell"Husavik (My Hometown)"
4Phoebe Bridgers"I Know The End"
4Phoebe Bridgers"Kyoto"
4Dua Lipa"Levitating"
4Shamir"On My Own"
4Perfume Genius"On the Floor"
4Dua Lipa"Physical"
4Jessie Ware"Save A Kiss"
4Daði Freyr"Think About Things"
4Cardi B"WAP" (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)
4Rina Sawayama"Who's Gonna Save U Now?"
3MARINA"About Love"
3Bon Iver"AUATC"
3Lady Gaga"Babylon"
3The 1975"The Birthday Party"
3Soccer Mommy"bloodstream"
3L Devine"Boring People"
3Waxahatchee"Can't Do Much"
3Fiona Apple"Cosmonauts"
3Grimes"Delete Forever"
3Troye Sivan"Easy"
3070 Shake"Guilty Conscience"
3Dua Lipa"Hallucinate"
3The 1975"If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)"
3SG Lewis"Impact" (feat. Robyn & Channel Tres)
3The Chicks"Julianna Calm Down"
3Busta Rhymes"Look Over Your Shoulder" (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
3Pussycat Dolls"React"
3Rina Sawayama"XS"


For 2020, we’re trying something a little more expansive in our attempt to name an Artist of the Year. Last year, the criteria was “most different songs named on at least one list,” the idea being that this would demonstrate the breadth of an artist’s influence, and in this way we could honor an artist who made a great album, or maybe even multiple great albums, not just one great song (that’s what the Song of the Year category was for). This worked fine last year (and, also, it was very easy for me to tabulate), but it didn’t feel quite right (an artist with four songs that each showed up toward the end of one list would rank higher than an artist with three massive hits at the top of a bunch of lists).

So, this year, we’re ranking artists based on Total List Mentions. If you had three Jessie Ware songs on your list, she gets three points for that. Simple. We’re including all mentions, including features, so artists who didn’t release much music of their own (Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, even Stevie Nix!) show up higher than you might expect. 

This brings us to what I will call The Taylor Swift Laws. Nicole’s list, as you may remember, consisted of thirty-two Taylor Swift songs. Shay, as is his tradition, included the whole of folklore on his list. I can’t give her a combined forty-eight points for those two lists. Instead, I’m giving Taylor two points for Nicole’s list, and one for Shay’s.

And yet, despite the fact that I had to make up multiple rules to limit her dominance, our Artist of the Year is Taylor Swift, by a significant margin (which is fascinating to me since she only had one song in our Top Forty-Two, and even that one song was tied for tenth place. We all found our own T Swift favorites this year).

No surprises at the top, as Dua Lipa, Rina Sawayama, Lady Gaga, and Phoebe Bridgers round out our Top Five.

Finally, a word of encouragement to all of the forgotten little cishet white boys out there who feel like the deck is stacked against them: If you work really hard, and never give up, and maybe catch a few breaks along the way, you ... could potentially wind up tied for fourteenth on an aggregated year-end list, just like Matty Healy and The 1975. Anything is possible!

Below is a list of all artists with four or more mentions this year. The full list of artists to appear on two or more lists is here.

25Taylor Swift
20Dua Lipa
19Rina Sawayama
15Lady Gaga
13Phoebe Bridgers
12Ariana Grande
11Jessie Ware
11Megan Thee Stallion
10Miley Cyrus
9Christine and the Queens
9Soccer Mommy
8Fiona Apple
8Perfume Genius
8The 1975
8The Chicks
6Bon Iver
6Chappell Roan
6Róisín Murphy
6Troye Sivan
5Bad Moves
5Tame Impala
5Stevie Nix
4Busta Rhymes
4Cardi B
4Carly Rae Jepsen
4Caroline Polachek
4Charli XCX
4Chloe x Halle
4Daði Freyr
4Kylie Minogue
4Little Mix
4Nicki Minaj
4SG Lewis
4Will Ferrell
4My Marianne