We are veering dangerously close to the end of 2023 and I still have 40 more songs to blog about!! Ahh!! So let's do another ten...right...now.....
University Drive - "Eraser Days" (from @OckerNong)
Dark, sludgy, pitched-right-down-the-middle emo. I love the nervous skittering drums. I love the vocals!! I love harmonies. I love anyone who rhymes "cigarette" with "silhouette." University Drive ID's as "4th wave" emo on their Instagram bio. You know what's funny? You're wee and spry and you think your wave is the wave. You cannot conceive of a future wave. All you know is now. You will be young forever. And then another wave crashes: familiar, but not your own. Of course, "my wave" was third wave, the emo that got popular and almost instantly ridiculous. Can you tell I have been blogging diligently for seven days? I am at almost 7,000 words for this series.
Katy Kirby - "Cubic Zirconia" (from juliancd38)
Yes, yes, 1000 times yes. Over a crackling rock suite accented with acoustic strumming and resonant piano, Katy Kirby's bright and reasonable voice carries the weight of a sneakily sour narrative. "Face framed by hoodie like an oyster in a shell / And your eyes are rolling at me as a pair of angry pearls / You're the prettiest mermaid in the souvenir shop / But if you're coming home this late, you know, you'd better be drunk." Ooh. Trouble in paradise. Also — every girl who came of age when print media was still popular will nod knowingly at the lyric "Magazine quiz called you apple-shape." Why were they always reducing women to fruits?
Thelma and the Sleaze - "Hands Tied" (from @dennyutter)
Well first, major props for the name Thelma and the Sleaze. Second, this slow burn piano-rock ballad has a moaning, lolling guitar that lives in the eaves of the second half of the song, and it's very cool. It sort of haunts the song, which is already quite haunting already, thanks to the mournful, regret-steeped vocals of lead singer Lauren "LG" Gilbert.
Fever Ray - "Even It Out" (from @hiiiikat)
Even in their most romantic and dreamy mode, Fever Ray's Karin Dreijer's vocal delivery has always sounded a bit like a wintry witch who has come to lay a curse on you for something bad you did. On the sinister electro dirge "Even It Out," that vibe becomes literal: someone named Zacharias bullied the singer's kid in high school, and it's not looking good for him: "There's no room for you / And we know where you live / One day we might come after you / Taking back what's ours / And then we cut." They repeat the word "cut" 32 times, each syllable sounding clearer and more threatening. According to an interview with the FADER, "Even It Out" was based on a real-life scenario for Dreijer, who was still struggling with its outcome: "I think it’s so important to take back your self-respect when you have been wronged...how do you overcome a situation like this? When will you ever feel okay about it? There has to be some punishment for a person who behaves like this, for a bully, and it didn’t really happen." A little bit of knife-shaped songwriting catharsis certainly can't hurt.
Nas - "Reminisce" (from @snakeplisskin86)
If we're going to let anyone indulge in exultant nostalgia, it might as well be Nas. Andre 3000 told GQ that it was starting to feel "inauthentic" to rap in his late forties. All power and respect to Andre 3000 (I loved the flute album) but Nas doesn't seem like he has that particular problem, having put out three albums in the last 12 months alone, the last on his 50th birthday. On "Reminisce," he looks back at the time when "crack cash was my math class" and compares it to his elder statesman status, which has him relating "to Tom Brady goin' for seven in Tampa Bay." And though he's happy to rekindle the flows that helped forge his early career success — aka "purposefully soundin' like '9-3" — on a throwback beat with a Mary J. Blige sample, this song's gassed-up outro proves Nas does not fear a newfangled drill beat either, and that's cool to me.
Sincere Engineer - "Anemia" (from @maryJblond)
Okay not to turn into Nas and start Reminiscing but boy, "Anemia" sounds like a song from a certain golden age of pop punk / alt rock where a cheeky (snotty, loud, abrasive, generally youthful) song wouldn't be out for two minutes before it'd get sucked up into the soundtrack of some deeply rude and gross teen comedy movie. This was a beautiful time, a simpler time. I could listen to Sincere Engineer's Deanna Belos screaming "I'm a walking open WOUUUNNNDD" all day. She has a tattoo of Norm Macdonald on her ankle. That's amazing.
The Mountain Goats - "Cleaning Crew" (from @spermeconomy)
A prompt tweet went around a few weeks ago that had people sharing their "glad you all love this, by virtue of my taste and demographics it should be my thing, too, but I don't get or enjoy this at all" artists. I was struggling to think of my own. A perk of getting older is having the time to re-evaluate bands that I once placed in this category, which is how I am now a Guided By Voices fan and a Pavement fan. My next boss might be The Mountain Goats. I know a lot of people adore John Darnielle, but I have simply never delved into the catalog. When I was digging into the background of "Cleaning Crew" to write this blog, I found some intertextual lore, and it's always a bit intimidating to get into an artist whose work merits its own wiki. But this is all to say that, before I sullied my interpretation of this song with research, I simply played "Cleaning Crew" while making my traditional Christmastime ragù alla bolognese and I very much liked the simple instrumentation and plainspoken delivery. I'm not sure if I have the bandwidth yet to go full Mountain Goats quite yet, but I dug what I heard here!
Worriers - "Trust Your Gut" (from @mcflynnthm)
A tidy lil rock number about feelin' just a little off lately??? I'll have what Worriers are having. What do you call it when the drums are whacking along and then they stop dramatically, missing a downbeat before kicking back in in the next measure, and then all the blood rushes to your ears? (Please tolerate my basic and possibly incorrect stab at music theory, I just watched Maestro AGAIN.) This this song has that thing. It's like a more dramatic version of what happens on the chorus of Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle." Also I was getting slight Bleachers vibes from this song (I am a generalized Antonoff production h8er but Bleachers is a yes for me) and turns out Worriers covered "Rollercoaster" excellently a couple of years ago. Good vibes on a song about mixed feelings.
Del Paxton - "Spiritual Gymnastics" (from @anecdxche)
I am not gonna write a better blurb than recommender Crit, who described this song thusly: "This is like if Braid and Texas is the Reason and Into It. Over It. and Signals Midwest all had a 90s alt-pop loving child." The lyrics of this song express a quiet gratitude, drawing up a cozy scene of people who like each other watching a movie together: "I'm good with all that I have / We're watching 8½ / Just happy to be here / We don't even need to expand / To get back." "Spiritual Gymnastics" embodies one of my favorite and most aspirational qualities: equanimity. In fact I would say the pursuit of equanimity might be my main 'thing' in life.
The Whiffs - “It’s Not Over” (@nortonfortune)
Pardon my French but this song is catchy as fuck. I've listened to it several times and all I can think about is how happy my dad will be to know that people are still listening to music that sounds like the music he listened to in college. You could call this power pop, but I also want to invoke a genre-definer from my favorite internet radio show, Time Crisis, "trad wave" — too hip to be square, too formal to be punk, a bit New Wave but more like Newish Wave. Not sure if this fits, but it could?
Thanks so much for reading this blog. Tune in real soon for the next batch of songs! And if you like I Enjoy Music? Tell a friend about it.