January 28th, 2014 1:45pm
For some reason I didn’t really notice that TV on the Radio actually released a couple singles last year – I thought that blogs were just posting live videos of unfinished songs and I generally ignore that kind of thing. But no, “Million Miles” came out for real last summer, and it’s one of the best songs they’ve ever done. It’s a ballad that mourns the ending of a once lovely relationship, which is a topic they’ve touched on before in Tunde Adebimpe’s “You.” But whereas that song expresses confusion as to how and why it happened, Kyp Mallone’s perspective is both far more sentimental and hugely pessimistic. By the end of the song he’s so defeated by realizing that all love eventually fades away that he’s swearing it off forever – “Don’t you let love break your heart / Givin’ all your power to a flame that falls apart.” But in context, you can sense that his words are very hollow, and he’d easily fall in love all over again without hesitation.
January 27th, 2014 1:56pm
I love the way this track sounds as if Mouse On Mars are poking and prodding the soundtrack of a vintage video game til it screams, or bouncing it off the walls like a rubber ball. They’re geniuses of making you feel like you’ve been tossed into some insane cartoon world, and the rules of animation apply to pretty much everything except for you. Everything’s bending and shifting and bouncing around you, and you just have to dance around it somehow.
January 23rd, 2014 1:39pm
It’s funny how artists who seem very concerned about us all losing touch with some kind of authentic humanity never seem all that bothered by all the ways previous generations have made life “inauthentic.” It’s always about whatever the popular technology is around at the time – in the 80s and 90s it was always people convince that television was destroying everything, now it’s all about the internet and social media. No one ever wants to roll back the clock much further than what they remember of their childhood, or what they imagine their parents or grandparents’ lives to have been like based on what they’ve gleaned from…media. The video for this song really hits this idea home – the music is very “we’re all like computers now, maaaan,” but the footage is very nostalgic for the late ’80s and early ’90s. I can’t tell whether the band is thoughtlessly undermining itself, or they are intentionally contrasting these ideas to make a point. I do think the song is far, far better than the video, which is so shoddy and devoid of imagination that it threatens to ruin the music by association.
January 22nd, 2014 3:09am
It occurred to me the other day that the songwriter Dee Dee from Dum Dum Girls has the most in common with is actually Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian. They both adhere to a very classic sense of pop songwriting and structure, and their respective catalogs follow a loose timeline of trends in 20th century pop, as though they could not consider doing different sorts of pastiche out of chronological order. Too True is the Dum Dum Girls’ ’80s album, and the aesthetic suits Dee Dee very well. In the broadest sense, the record is like a Bangles album produced for 4AD, or if The Go-Gos merged with The Cure. She’s always done best with songs that have a bit of romance, and the rich, echoey ambience of ’80s pop is ideal for that. A lot of the songs on the record are about some transcendent emotion or lust cutting through the murk and gloom of life. “Too True To Be Good,” a particularly Cure-ish number, really drives this idea home — it’s basically about being fascinated with a woman who makes you feel more alive until you start to suspect she’s draining something from your life.
January 21st, 2014 3:59am
Adult Jazz is a self-deprecating name, I guess? Because this is certainly an adult type of pop music, and while it’s not jazz, the musicians are definitely invested in a balance of precise chops and loose, expressive performances. “Am Gone” reminds me a lot of Grizzly Bear – it’s there in the melodies and guitar tone, and in the way they let melodies and percussive sounds linger in the air. It’s a very beautiful song, but sort of hard to peg emotionally. Though that’s sort of the point – the lyrics are full of ambivalent phrases and questions, and the singer opens the song by telling you straight up that they have a history of running away from problems, but aren’t doing much better by taking a new approach as a “forgiver.”
January 16th, 2014 1:17pm
Loneliness is that corrodes your life very slowly, gradually dissolving your hope for connection until it’s entirely gone and you forget it was ever there. “Hi-Five” is about life after the hope is gone, and all you’ve got left is this void you’ve given up on ever filling. It’s a sad, bitter song, and the joke is that at the end she recognizes the same loneliness in someone else and sarcastically offers a high five while feeling like she’s stuck with them, as if life was just one long draft and you just get stuck with other unwanted people in the end.
January 15th, 2014 1:33pm
“Unconditional Love” is as happy as the songs on Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues get, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that it was actually the last song written for the record. Most of the record is focused on the intense anguish of experiencing dysphoria, or struggling to shift your identity and relationships with people you’ve known for years. “Unconditional Love” isn’t a resolution of any kind, but it’s a little further along the process of change and upheaval – it’s at least at a place where unconditional love is being offered by those closest to you, and realizing that while that’s good and useful, it’s just not enough to make it. If self-loathing runs deep enough, it blocks out everyone else’s love. You disqualify it, you doubt it, you twist it into something else. But even in knowing that, the song still feels a bit jolly and triumphant. “Unconditional love” is still a lot more than Laura Jane Grace was expecting.
January 13th, 2014 1:24pm
This is such a totally unromantic love song, to the point that I assume the band knows this and the title is meant to be a little ironic. It’s not that there isn’t love in there somewhere, but that the singer is so confused and overwhelmed that every tentative step towards adulthood — thinking about paying off student loans, trying to have a serious girlfriend — has him stumbling around gracelessly. But it’s like this for most everyone – after all, it’s not as though anyone really shows you how to do any of this stuff right. This song works well mainly because it acknowledges the humor of this hapless dude while also honoring his feelings and understanding what it’s like to fuck up something you thought you were close to figuring out.
January 8th, 2014 1:27pm
I closely associate the first Hospitality record with the dead of winter, and so it’s not a surprise that their second album suits that time just as well. Trouble is a lot more minimalist and chilly than the debut – about half the songs sound like they’ve scraped out a lot of the arrangement with a scalpel, and even a relatively robust track like “I Miss Your Bones” has little embellishment beyond the sound of a few core instruments and a lot of implied negative space. There’s a vague anxiety in this music – it comes out most obviously in these occasional manic bursts of melody, but it’s mostly there in the empty air. It’s an uncertain feeling that isn’t specific, so it just ends up coming out sounding like an absence.
January 7th, 2014 1:35pm
Out of all the songs on Beyoncé’s excellent new album, “Superpower” doesn’t come up a lot – it doesn’t really have any super-quotable lines, it’s not an obvious hit, it’s not at all flashy. But it may be the best ballad she’s ever recorded, and also the most subtle: The song seems to move in a slow motion circle around her vocal performance, which is quite solemn and intense. It’s a love song, but it’s framed in political terms – she evokes Civil Rights-era language; she makes having a stable relationship seem like a challenge to the world. This is a song about true partnership. It wasn’t very long ago that Beyoncé sang about love in economic terms – “Upgrade U” makes her marriage sound like it’s based mainly on corporate synergy. But she’s matured a lot since then, and I think a lot of the songs on her last two records are the work of an artist who has become unafraid of expressing deep love and affection in her music – maybe she thought of it as a weakness when she was younger, a threat to her autonomy and identity. But now she sees it as a strength, and that’s exactly what she’s singing about in “Superpower.”
I wrote a lot more about Beyoncé’s new album here.