The personal hit parade continues. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 if yer catching up.) Wouldn't it be funny if I pump-faked and instead wrote a Maestro review below instead? "Don't threaten me with a good time," you will all say in unison.
Last year one of my favorite songs on my favorite album was "Belinda Says" by Alvvays. The central line in that song, which nods to Belinda Carlisle, is "Bеlinda says that heaven is a place on еarth / Well, so is hell." Now we have Jess Williamson's "Hunter" (which got two votes in my mentions) with a verse that stabbed me in the gut: "Remember when it was for fun and for free? / All of my visions, they dance around me / When you're young you'll live through through hell for the dream / But Hell is a real place." Hell is a real place on earth, and sometimes you don't know you were there until you leave. It's weird to me, being old enough to understand that it's okay to tolerate a certain amount of torture in the name of doing exactly what you want to do, and it's also okay to reject that torture after a while — that you won't get soft just because you choose something other than abject suffering. I compare this realization to the classic childhood roughhousing tactic where a sibling grabs your hands and hits you with them: Stop hitting yourself! I don't know what Jess Williamson did to make those twinges of piano on the chorus sound so luminous...
Brother Marshall and the Choir of Fire - "All the Gold In California" (from @egressfilms)
This is a cover of the Larry Gatlin original sung by Sturgill Simpson, performed as his militia member character from The Righteous Gemstones, a show that somehow keeps getting better with each season. The music on Gemstones is incredible — I spent a good portion of 2019 murmuring "runnin' round the house with a pickle in my mouth" to myself — and this song was such an interesting humanizing moment for the otherwise disconcerting crew of doomsday preppers. I should listen to more Sturgill Simpson. His SNL performance of "Call To Arms" from 2017 is wild. He can cook.
The National feat. Sufjan Stevens - “Once Upon a Poolside” (from @JeremyWingert79)
Are you people trying to kill me????? I'm just kidding. I feel like this year was maybe the year The National started really getting really razzed for their National-ness (Nationality?). A New Yorker profile titled "The Sad Dads of the National." A lot of hateration about First Two Pages of Frankenstein. Deserved? I dunno. All bands become clichés if they stay together long enough. Did you know the etymology of the word cliché? I just looked it up. It's a French technical word, a bit of printer's jargon referencing the clicking sound from a stereotype plate. Not anyone's fault to enjoy the sound of a particular click. My personal hit from this year's The National offerings was "Tropic Morning News," but I'll take Matt Berninger's solemn intonation of "teenagers on ice" anytime.
Mapache - "Rainbow Song" (from @Livin2Tweet)
Ahhhhh. A much-needed sun-drenched tranquilizer dart. Trees, stars, crickets...summer vibes fer shure. We will always need songs like this. I'm hailing a cab and saying "Laurel Canyon, and step on it." Reminds me of "Box of Rain" by the Grateful Dead, which is currently the only Grateful Dead song I like (don't get mad at me, I'll get really into the Dead in three or four years). I really appreciate this bit in Mapache's Bandcamp bio: "Their sound is not an exercise in pop nostalgia, but rather a distinctly independent link in a chain that stretches far behind and ahead of them." It has me now thinking hard about what is "retro" and what is "tradition"...
Slowdive - "Kisses" (from @NorgeDan)
After all of the shoegaze discourse of the past several days, it's funny to put on a Slowdive record from this year that I missed and be like "hmm.....no one is gazing at shoes here...this is...atmospheric '80s New Wave?" It sounds like The Cure if Robert Smith were falling asleep into a pleasant dream. I very much like it. Please don't tell me if this song is actually shoegaze. I'm too scared to talk about it now.
Diners - "The Power" (from @tetris_enjoyer)
This song is def in my personal Top Tunes of the Year. I saw the Diners release show at venue-slash-Chinese-restaurant Genghis Cohen, thanks to my friend Luke, and it was such a lovely time. "The Power" is a very special song, and I admire the ease and composure of its message ("It ain’t too late to understand, too late to try / Too late to recognize the power that’s inside"), which Blue Broderick delivers with a friendly affection. The melody and power pop instrumentation feel so familiar that "The Power" sounds like it should have been a hit song in another era entirely, but it's difficult to say which era exactly. Which makes it timeless...which makes it, of course, Now.
Blake Mills - "Jelly Road" (from @danielphippstho)
This writing exercise has inundated me with perfect nuggets of lyrical phrases. "Skin meadow" was one. "Jelly road" is now another. The freewheeling jazz drums on this one sound like someone falling down the stairs. The background vocals are so smooth and tantalizing. I, too, wish to know about this jelly road, and want someone to tell me about it again. In my cursory research of Blake Mills, whose artistry I was unfamiliar with by name, I learned that he was responsible for the original music for Daisy Jones & the Six. The current state of the media industry baffles me, a child of the wild and monocultural 1990s; every television show's potency has been watered down into oblivion. The Daisy Jones soundtrack would have been a massive hit if the show were a movie, and that movie was released twenty years ago. Ah well, nevertheless. Blake Mills was also a touring guitarist with Jenny Lewis, which means that Jenny Lewis is statistically more likely to work with you if your name is Blake than almost any other name.
I'm such a sucker for this type of relaxed, refrigerated beat. I was playing this song while "hiking" (Los Angeles-ese for "walking up a hill") and the super-panned ad-libs ("GRRRRT!" "AHHHH") scared the shit out of me when they first came in. I thought someone was walking up behind me and trying to startle me. Hard to pick a favorite line on this one, but I think my favorite is "Heard that little shit that you dropped...we was not compelled." Does this song end with TAP DANCING?
Bombay Bicycle Club - "Meditate" / "Rural Radio Predicts the Rapture" (from @carrowinabox)
This is far out. Really reminds me of the dance-y, bassline-forward indie rock golden age at the turn of the 2010s, the time when everyone was keeping things so tightly aligned that they were all alliterating their band names (Broken Bells....Friendly Fires....Ra Ra Riot). "Meditate" sets up the vibe and "Rural Radio Predicts the Rapture" knocks it down, with a brass fanfare that dissolves into a tasty, bleepy, head-noddingly hard drum break.
Hobby - "Take a Hit" (from @civilizedplanet)
Yeehaw dude. Never opposed to some country that you can dance to. I don't know how it happened but in my early days living in New York, a place I often ended up by the end of the night was Doc Holliday's, an East Village honky tonk / dive that's been open since 1994, with a window pane crowded with stickers, a good deal on pitchers of beer (ah yes, that's why I often ended up there...Good Beer Deals) and country + country-ish music always on the jukebox. "Take a Hit" would have a warm home at Doc Holliday's.
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.