You thought I was done? No way. I continue my journey to the center of your favorite songs of 2023. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 to catch u up.) This is one of the most varied lineups yet. I'm having a ball.
Sleep Token "The Summoning" (from @FaceTheEarthRD)
Call this song "Mr. Toad" because damn this is a wild ride. Just when I got used to the melodic goth-rock mood, the falsetto vocals kick in on the chorus and things become theatrical...and then there's a breakdown with screaming and punishing death metal double bass drums...and then a surprisingly beautiful interlude with keyboards that somehow remind me of John Tesh...and the vocals get even higher...and then it gets atmospheric...and then somehow SOULFUL and even a touch FUNKY? The last minute of this song somehow sounds like an extremely heavy version of an early Maroon 5 single. 'Gradual and consistent surprise' might just be part of the essential nature of music that is 'prog', and it's very fun to get progged in real time. Keep in mind I heard all of this before learning that Sleep Token is an anonymous, masked, cloaked band whose lead singer goes by the name Vessel.
Gregory Pepper & His Problems "I Miss Drugs" (from @muffledsuitcase)
Speaking of gradual and constant surprise, I was not prepared for the way this song's mournfully crooned opener ("I miss drugs") leads into a dementedly cheerful stomper with Beach Boys-style harmonies ("Missin' the drugs"), nor how it turns into a warped "Smooth Criminal" interpolation ("Daddy are you okay?"), nor the screamy speed-freak ending ("IIIII MIIISSS DRUUUGS"). This song comes from what is being described as a "posthumous" album for Gregory Pepper (and his Problems) so now I'm going to have to dig into the back catalog for sustenance. The one-man-band version of "I Miss Drugs" is worth a watch!
Jessie Ware "Begin Again" (from @rebuldarkspice2)
A lot to love on this dance bonanza, most of all the unrelentingly groovy drums. Some of those fills had me waving my hand like a fan and making this face: 🥵 Jessie Ware is incontrovertibly fabulous. "Begin Again" sounds like a Bond theme song, but not with James Bond doing his usual secret agent work; rather, it's a How Stella Got Her Groove Back-style narrative where he quits working for MI6 and rediscovers his passion for life at some sort of tropical resort's Friday-nite discothèque. I would greenlight this script.
Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter - "I'M GETTING OUT WHILE I CAN" (from @wizardamphibian)
I will hand it to this one: it scared the everliving shit out of me. The warbling vocals invoke the End Times without any youth ministry warmth or fuzziness, just a paranoid, desperate seclusion: "I've shuttered my windows and locked myself in / I won't succumb to a world full of sin / I'm staying put 'til God tells me His plan / To run for my life and get out while I can." And the intentionally warped production makes this song sound like it was happened upon while spinning on a battered record player in an abandoned house after the Rapture. Shiver me timbers.
Mk.gee & Two Star - “How Many Miles” (from @caracaraphilly)
Oh, this is gorgeous. In a different production context this could be mistaken for a Frank Ocean song — it has the same sort of resigned ache to it. The guitars sound like "Purple Rain" if "Purple Rain" was sunken treasure at the bottom of the ocean. Recommender Caracara (I am a big fan!) said this in their rec: "infinite love to dijon, absolutely is an incredible lp, but a lot of people are sleeping on where all that perfect production is coming from." This refers to Mk.gee's co-productions with musician and producer Dijon on Dijon's 2021 debut album Absolutely. I count 10 production credits on Mk.gee's Wikipedia page...I'm closing my eyes...vibrating slightly....humming a low note...making a prediction...we will be seeing lots more Mk.gee production in the mainstream in the next few years. Very easy to see he has the special sauce. The top YouTube comment on a live performance of his 2020 song "Dime: Quarterback": "feels like the kind of music I could listen to while driving alone at night probably overthinking about every aspect of life."
Haken - "Alphabet of Me" (from @MackVargas94)
Another genre fakeout for an uninitiated listener such as myself. The zippy synths at the beginning suggest EDM. The added programmed drums and whooa-ooohss hint at more of a "stadium emo" approach. Then we start rocking out, even getting a little math rock moment. It's a feast for the ears. I love the lightning-fast guitar licks that get matched note-for-note with the drums, a tactic that reminds me of the music of the French electronic music duo Justice. And I hope this isn't a weird interpretation of Haken, but their eclectic, virtuosic aesthetic reminds me of some of the more metal inclusions in the Eurovision Song Contest, and I feel like they (being English) could be real contenders there. So I googled "haken eurovision" to see if anyone else thought so, and at least one person did. This is what the internet is for: realizing that, though you are a unique person, none of your thoughts are ever 100% original.
Aesop Rock - "Living Curfew" feat. billy woods (from @SweetLikeGravy)
I am a big and longtime fan of Aesop Rock. My gateway into the Aesop Rock world was 2007's "None Shall Pass," a song that I sat on my bedroom floor, played on repeat, and spent several hours memorizing. What can I say, I like words. "Living Curfew" finds Mr. Rock in fine form, rapping about walking around a crepuscular New York — "Flatbush Avenue forest-bathing," as he calls it — and observing the unlikely beauty of the city as seen on foot. I used to do shit like that! I used to do a big sweaty summer walk over to Prospect Park and up to Prospect Heights and end it at the 7-11 near the DeKalb stop so I could quench my thirst with a refreshing Dr. Pepper Big Gulp! "Bodega spangled in a merе thirty five / Octillion lumens at a low angle / Through incense smoke from a folding table / It's basically nature's stolen cable." How does he think of this shit. God damn it Aesop Rock, I'm homesick now!
Cherry Glazerr - "Bad Habit" (from @thom_not_tom)
Nothing more and nothing less than an icy-cool synth rock song. "You are my bad habit" repeats throughout the song, sometimes sampled and stuttered, sounding like dazed and confused, like a software-powered doll's signature catchphrase. I keep thinking "Bad Habit" has a very "2009" aesthetic and I'm trying to figure out what I mean when I think that. Like I close my eyes and listen to this song and an iPod Nano rotates in my mind. I close my eyes and listen to this song and it sounds like it should be played on a very special episode of original Gossip Girl. But why? I'm going to have to conduct a Vibe Investigation.
Immortal - "Wargod" (from @ThinkinParke)
This is officially the blog's metal edition. Between the Sleep Token, the Haken, and now the Immortal, I have my hands full. The bass drum pummels me. The guitars continue their relentless chug. I would bang my head to this but my neck is still a little sore from bopping too hard at Holiday Kirk's nu metal holiday party. When I read the lyrics to "Wargod" I was interested in the reference to "Blashyrk" — "Warlord above men / Feared by mortals / Blashyrk's own / Eternally grim / The one to rule the raventhrone." Turns out Blashyrk is a fictional, "demon-and-battle-filled" realm, inspired by the Immortal members' home of Bergen, Norway. In this age of "internet music," it is good to remember how actual physical landscapes and climate will affect one's musical outlook. Living in wintry, often pitch-black Norway might result in music about fantastical Nordic realms. Living in Pittsburgh might result in music that sounds good in a dive bar where you can smoke inside.
Glockenwise - "Besta" (from @98MigRocha)
Is this my most international batch of songs yet? England, Norway, and now Portugal. Glockenwise are a Portuguese rock band. Without knowing the language, "Besta" sounds to me like a breezy, upbeat, 1980s-inspired song to sway along to; running the lyrics through a translator, the mood darkens considerably: "Give up / This life sucks / And what little remains / Licking the wound / Kiss my friend / Count on me / To be a beast." Aw, man. I sampled a bit of Glockenwise's past catalog and was interested to see that their earlier records were a little more garage rock-flavored, and in English to boot. 2018's Plástico expanded their rock palette, softened their vocals, and focused on Portuguese-language lyrics. Below, a Glockenwise meme featuring their last two records that will be legible to pop culture fans. I love the internet!!! It's truly the World Wide Web.
Thanks so much 4 reading. Tune in real soon for the next batch of songs...as sooon as tomorrow! And if you like I Enjoy Music? Tell a friend about it.