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Sunday Songs: 4/23/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.

I may be slightly sick, but I did not lose my lack of coherence, so today, I give you a very famous banana, Wall-E, and the only band that can make a Black Sabbath song sound dainty. Have fun trying to bring it all together. I certainly did.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Heavy Bend” – Big Thief

With full sincerity, I mean this in the absolute nicest way possible: the beginning of this song sounds like an Apple ringtone. An Apple ringtone, but the kind that has no business being as much of a banger as it is. Like the Piano one. Did any of that make any sense? I need a Taskmaster-style choreography to this one now. Would this give Noel Fielding shrew vibes?

My Big Thief/Adrianne Lenker conversion has begun, thanks to my brother and his girlfriend, and every day I’m inching closer to listening to Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. But this song is unique—everything, from the echo of Adrianne Lenker’s sighing into the microphone to the hypnotic, harp-like strums that feel like the auditory answer to dew-covered spiderwebs in the early morning. That hypnotic quality reminds me a lot of “Bicycle,” another song that I raved about a few months ago, that shares the quality of feeling enchantingly impressionistic, like a painting imbued with motion. And as much of a cliche as this is, “Heavy Bend”‘s biggest crime is being too short. Some songs work as short and snappy (see “We’ve Got a File on You,” “Pam Berry,” “A Little Bit of Soap,” etc.), but this song feels like it’s begging for a key change, a bridge, just something to propel it beyond a minute and 36 seconds. On the other hand, that makes it tantalizingly easy to play on repeat. If you play it enough times on loop, you can just pretend that it’s longer. Denial is the first stage of grief.

“All Tomorrow’s Parties” – The Velvet Underground & Nico

nothing like cackling at niche jokes alone in your dorm, amirite?

I’ve finally got around to listening to another classic album—one that I’d heard about half of beforehand anyway, but still enjoyed, for all of its legend, discomfort, and strange beauty. A classic story of a disaster and a sales flop becoming a tried-and-true classic, every song feels like its own world—a very seedy, eerie, and hazy world, but a world all the same. I doubt anybody will ever describe Nico’s voice better than the journalist Richard Goldstein, who described it as “something like a cello getting up in the morning.” I wouldn’t automatically put it on my top 10, but it’s clear that its lasting legacy isn’t without reason.

“All Tomorrow’s Parties” is one of the songs that was relatively new to me, and it quickly became my favorite of the album. There are so many layers to it, more than the peelable, bruised, Andy Warhol banana on the album cover. It chugs along like a great machine, elephantine in its size, slow in its looming progress. Nico’s distinct voice, thick, resonant and cavernous, plows it along, drawing a long shadow over the music. Each piano chord seems to plod along, even with how rapid each chord is. It almost feels like a dirge in the way it seems to crawl, certainly for the fate of said “poor girl” that the song describes. Unlike “Heavy Bend,” this song is the perfect length—the typical 3 minutes doesn’t give it enough time to loom over the listener, but just over six minutes gives it all the time in the world.

“I/0” – Peter Gabriel

“gay rights” – Peter Gabriel 2023

Oof, another beautiful one…I’m just glad this one is easier to swallow than “Playing for Time,” but it’s just as powerful.

Peter Gabriel’s had his fair share of movie involvement, from writing various film soundtracks to providing the tearjerking end-credits song “Down to Earth” for Pixar’s Wall-E. So it’s not surprising how easily he can slip into that cinematic smoothness with such ease. Certainly helps that the Soweto Gospel Choir, the same choir that performed with him on “Down to Earth,” provided backing vocals for “I/O” as well. Even though every song from the forthcoming i/o (stop trying to capitalize the i STOP TRYING TO CAPITALIZE THE i) has been paired with a visual so far, this one is practically begging for its own Pixar movie, or even just some animated music video. You can feel every bit of nature creeping through this song, from every creature mentioned in the lyrics to running water and green hills.

was this another gateway to sci-fi for baby Madeline? probably.

If we’re keeping with the Pixar theme, that would be two Pixar movies that he would hypothetically contribute to with a deeply environmentalist message. I’ve never been a die-hard Disney or Pixar fan, but Wall-E is special to me in so many ways—it was one of the first movies that I ever saw in theaters as a kid, and 15 years later (Jesus, I feel old), it reflects on humanity’s disconnect from nature, and the dangers of thinking that we’re the masters of everything that we can grab at. The scene where Wall-E reaches up to touch the stars still fills me with incredible awe. But, as with everything, we didn’t listen, and now we’re in the landscape where a handful of corporations are responsible for polluting a large part of our planet. And that is why we’ve become disconnected: as soon as we forget that we’re as much a part of the Earth as every other plant, animal, and other entity, we think that we can get away with all of this. And that’s what Wall-E tried to tell us in 2008, and it’s what “I/O” is telling us now: “So we think we live apart/because we’ve got two legs, a brain and a heart/we all belong to everything/to the octopus suckers and the buzzard’s wing.” Here and now, I’m glad that at least one other old white guy besides David Attenborough recognizes this. Happy belated Earth Day.

“Step On Me” – The Cardigans

I can’t pull the “I LiKEd tHiS sOnG bEFoRe IT wAS a tIKtOk sONG” card because I technically didn’t know this song in particular, but with David Bowie as my witness, I can swear that I did grow up listening to The Cardigans in the car quite a bit. I’ve had the luck of having very few songs I know become “tiktok songs,” but I’ve found that it’s no use griping over it and insisting that “[you] liked it before it was cool.” People are just going to assume that you got a song from some popular place, and that is the case sometimes, as much of a pretentious hipster I am. I vehemently despise tiktok’s obsession with speeding up every song that gets popular (WHY), but either way, it led me back to The Cardigans and to First Band on the Moon, and I’m happy with that—and happy that everybody else seems to be enjoying it.

(Does anybody know if this song was attached to a certain trend? I know that it’s vaguely trending, but I’m not sure how or why—I’ve just seen it with a few unrelated art videos…)

“Step On Me” is one of many lovely bites of pop on First Band on the Moon, and one of the best—certainly my favorite track on the album. Nina Persson casually just created the national anthem for people-pleasers with this one—a song about dodging your own needs, letting people walk (sorry, step) all over you: “go on and step on me,” even as the object of the song stands on her left foot and breaks it. With a crunching, muted intro that continues to punctuate the end of every chorus, everything about this song is proof that The Cardigans. got the recipe for a good pop song down to a science back in the 90’s—Nina Persson’s deceptively delicate, ringing voice, no shortage of hooks and catchy lyrics, and radio friendliness without over-simplicity. Every time the scratchy, muted intro comes on shuffle, I can’t help but drop everything and turn up the volume. Like I said—The Cardigans had pop music down to a science. No wonder they’re trending again. If you can make a Black Sabbath cover sound dainty (MULTIPLE TIMES), you can pretty much do anything.

“New York City Cops” – The Strokes

Like Jack White, Julian Casablancas is just one of those musicians who I really want to hate, but then I hear songs like this that are just so undeniably catchy that I just can’t hate him all the way. That being said, the thought of him still makes me want to roll my eyes all the way back in my head, mainly because of flashbacks of him taking over Sirius XMU and saying something along the lines of “now, this next song is from a 60’s punk band from Peru…oh, you don’t know them?” I really wish I was kidding.

Even though the beginning feels a little manufactured to me (the staged-feeling quality of Casablancas screaming, then going back on it: “ahahaha………didn’t mean that at all 🫦”…oh, please), the rest of the song is a masterfully tight piece of post-punk (oh, post-punk revival…okay, fine). It’s delightfully uptight—it all feels boxed in a cramped room, but it takes the confines of that room runs with it, never once loses momentum after the first drumbeat. The rough edges of Casablancas’ voice contrast perfectly with each scratchy guitar chord, a constant buffet of sound that never loses its sandpapery texture. I mean that as a compliment—it’s not a grating sandpaper, but more of the hard-edge, punk sandpaper that makes The Strokes sound the way they do. And although this song was subject to some abysmally bad timing in the U.S. (the song was initially removed from the U.S. release because the album was released so close to 9/11—the chorus of “New York City cops/but they ain’t too smart” was, understandably, a massive no-no so close to such a tragedy, even if it was completely unintentional), I’m glad “New York City Cops” ended up seeing the light of day a significant amount of time after the fact.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!



book blogger, aspiring author, music nerd, comics fan, stargazer. ☆ she/her ☆ ISFJ ☆ bisexual ☆ spd ☆ art: @spacefacedraws pfp by @cybersoybean (picrew)

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