Spirit Night - "Country Roads" (from @Boringstein)
I love that this song's casing is 'indie rock', but the gigantic power chord slamming in the chorus reminds me more of....HAIR METAL? It's exponentially anthemic. Missing mountaintops and Wal-Mart parking lots...the sentiment in this song reminds me of when I've taken trains up and down the East coast and marveled at how fascinatingly ugly American industrial stuff is to look at, and how it just lives within nature and everyone has agreed to deal with it. Country roads, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Dim Wizard – “Ride The Vibe” (Feat. Jeff Rosenstock, Illuminati Hotties, & Steve Ciolek) (from @Mick_Marley)
Not another MEGA ROCK CHORUS for me to enjoy??? If I can parse some common themes of these fave songs, I gotta get out of this town is definitely up there. According to a statement from Dim Wizard's David Combs, the song was written in 2020, about a moment in 2010 when he listened to his friend Kevin Morby's demo tape and was impressed by its potential. "Ride The Vibe" is about "the funny feeling of noticing your relationship to someone shifting from friendship to fandom, and about being so impressed when someone has what it takes to really 'go for it' with music." Oh I can relate to that — watching people start really succeeding and going oooooh they're really doing it...could I do it too? "It feels like a wasteland / I wonder how much I can take, man / And give it to a daydream that swallows a lifespan" — Boy oh boy, this is scream-along catchy.
HEALTH - "UNLOVED" (from @crimenpunishman)
Taking a turn away from the indie punk Americana rock block. We're getting synthy again. We're getting dark. We're getting gloomy. We're getting industrial. My rave cave antennae are tingling. HEALTH lives in my personal hall of fame because they were the first-ever band I saw at my first-ever Coachella. They played at 2:35pm which...let me be clear...is not the ideal time for a band like HEALTH to play — ideally it would be dark out at the very least — but they rocked it regardless. Anyway shout out HEALTH for some of the most twisted lyrics on this song docket: "It was not my fault you were unloved as a child / I wasn't there." Your trauma is not HEALTH's problem! They are setting boundaries! When I was looking up this song on the internet, the dire state of music journalism was made plain; everyone wrote blurbs about the multigenerational goth music video and no one wrote about the message of the song, which I find far more compelling.
Mitski - "Heaven" (from @spookyraejepsen)
The big story from Mitski's The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We was her first ever charting hit, "My Love Mine All Mine," which continued her tradition of singing while looking at the moon, and provided a bunch of TikTokers with a soundtrack for adoring videos of their...cats? That's a beautiful song, but I actually think I might favor "Heaven," a countrified, string-swollen ballad that savors the uncomplicated moments in a romantic relationship. Mitski is so good at sketching out spaces within her songs — "All of our love filling all of our room" — and maybe that's why the social media teens love her so much, having been trapped within their own small spaces for their whole damn lives.
Youth Lagoon - "Prizefighter" (from @TwoHeadedBoy98)
A curious little song! The lyrics ("Tommy was always a tough guy" "He had knuckles that could make the devil shy") honestly sound like they could get ported over into a Bruce Springsteen tune with no problem, but the music is bright and prismatic like a slab of quartz. I haven't listened to Youth Lagoon in forever — I was obsessed with "Dropla" in college — and forgot how one of a kind Trevor Powers' voice is.
This got two votes, so I knew I had to cover it. It's so calm and retro — the little string hits remind me of classic Motown — and at face value, the repeated question in the chorus "Was all my love wasted on you?" suggests a regular-style heartbreak. But this song is actually the beginning of an album about a guy named Norm who starts stalking a romantic interest he espies in a grocery store, his obsessed aided and abetted by God Himself. "Wasted On You" is a conversation between God and Jesus that opens the album, as they plot out the future of Christianity: "What happens when they die? Maybe eternal life / But only if they find me." So I just saw Poor Things yesterday, and one of the themes of the movie was trying to understand love as science, love on an empirical level: if one person's concept of love is just another person's irritating (or even dangerous) obsession, how can anyone agree on what "love" is? And that tracks with this song's concept — like in the early Old Testament, when God is just a weird vortex of light and if you make eye contact, he'll kill you. Is that love??
This got THREE votes. I'm gonna keep it real. I listened to Javelin a little while after it came out and I had to turn it off because something about the album was stabbing me in the heart too accurately. It was too large and pure. It was reminding me too much of mortality and I didn't need to be reminded at that point. Giving "Shit Talk" another try for the blog was a good thing though. What can you say about Sufjan Stevens? No one is doing it like him. He says exactly what he means. I don't think there's a single veiled metaphor in this song. Something I learned this year is that when terrible things happen, the first impulse I have is to shield the badness with language — talk around the bad thing, lessen its potency by using euphemisms. It doesn't sound like Sufjan Stevens has any use for that, and there is something to be learned from it.
NewJeans - "Super Shy" (from @RadioTFB)
Back to back with "Boy's a liar Pt. 2", this might be the most Now song of the year. K-pop, like any other kind of pop, has trend waves, and the rise of NewJeans shows that the bombastic and maximalist era of K-pop — the one in which every song sounded like five songs at once, and all of those songs kind of sounded like the Black Eyed Peas — is probably over for a while. A simpler and sweeter era has taken its place. Every time I listen to "Super Shy," it's stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Not to toot my own horn, but drum and bass music was on my list of 2023 trend predictions and look what we have. Drum AND bass. And UK garage. And Jersey club. Aren't we in clover?
Four Tet - "Three Drums" (from @normalhairline)
The pitch for this one was "So much criticism this year has been made about how iterative contemporary pop music is (some good some bad), but no song has felt ripped from the past quite like this one. It feels like Four Tet doing Moby better than Moby. A 'shoulders of giants' moment." Yes yes yes. I got giddy listening to this one. It is so late-'90s lush and special, creating a sort of Chillout Tent Of The Mind. I'm always going to have a soft spot for this type of electronic music because I was a kid when it was really popular, and it just feels so damn utopian to me. End of history music for an unfortunately non-end of history world.
The Beths - "Expert in a Dying Field" (from @RusstySspoon)
Apparently this came out in 2022 but I'm giving it a pass, because anything that reminds me of vintage Rilo Kiley — "bad neeewws" Rilo Kiley, "test sites keep me up at night" Rilo Kiley — is a big fat win for me. Upbeat sadness, tidy guitar, cheerfully melancholy lyrics, the occasional well-deployed C#minor chord...catnip, babe.
Thanks for reading. Tune in real soon for the next batch of songs. And if you like I Enjoy Music? Tell a friend about it.