Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
Here we are at the end of April, and my cough finally seems to be letting up. The weather’s consistently warm again, the trees are starting to bloom, and I’m doing my best to ignore the fact that the latter will definitely trigger some allergies in a few weeks, because hey, the trees are starting to look beautiful. All is green and new!
Enjoy this week’s songs!
SUNDAY SONGS: 4/30/23
PACK YOUR BAGS, FELLAS, WE’RE GONNA GO WEAR EXCESSIVELY LONG DRESSES AND DANCE IN THE WOODS
T. Rex, Marc Bolan’s self-titled debut, was the last hurrah of his hippie roots (you really can’t go back from album titles like My People were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair…But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows, huh) before going full-on glam rock, as well as the first album under his newly shortened name (no longer the full Tyrannosaurus Rex). But even as he’d gotten a crisper, cleaner name to call himself, he hadn’t fully abandoned the original, psychedelic fantasy that was Tyrannosaurus Rex, and this song—and, judging from most of the song titles on the rest of the album, everything else—is proof. It’s got everything—druids, spell casting, black cats, tall hats. What else does one really need in life? It’s whimsical. It’s lovely. It’s light. It’s a classic. Revel in the joyous whimsy!
And it seems like it was the perfect storm—for a short time, anyway. Arriving in 1970, right at the end of the sixties when the world was still clinging to the flower-child mentality, this was the perfect piece of escapist hippie music. It was Bolan’s first hit as T. Rex, and it was what launched him into stardom in the early seventies. From what I can tell, most of his career after his (excellent) third album, The Slider, was an attempt to rekindle some sort of hit, both in the U.K. and in the U.S., and despite his efforts and his complicated relationship with fame, never ended up being fruitful. Especially knowing that he died so prematurely and that most of his efforts were in vain, it always makes me sad to think about that stage of his life. Bolan was obviously such a creative soul at heart, a skilled frontman and a master of oddball wordplay, and thinking about he wasted so much of that talent by trying to please other audiences really seems to me like one of the great tragedies of rock music history. It doesn’t feel right to reduce Marc Bolan to a lesson to all of us creatives intending to make a living, but I think his story speaks more to the music (and any creative) industry as a whole; he’d gotten a taste of fame, and this fame pressured him to try and crank out hit after hit. It’s not so much an issue of Bolan as a person, as flawed as some of his fame-induced decisions were, but the way that the music industry has shaped people to behave in that way. Art should be art for art’s sake, not a pursuit of money or stardom. The music industry did Marc Bolan an unforgivable disservice, and I’ll die on that hill.
Anyways, listen to The Slider. God-tier album.
“A Love of Some Kind” – Adrianne Lenker
Alright, I’ll step off my Marc Bolan soapbox for a moment. Let’s cool down a little.
This lovely spring weather has made me feel the same way that this song does. Even if the album cover for Hours Were the Birds wasn’t set against a backdrop of dewy pine branches, I have no doubt that it would still sound the same. Adrianne Lenker seems to have captured the art of making an unrelated smell like petrichor and gently rock about like a wooden boat on a lake. There’s a slight melancholy to it (nothing quite compared to “Disappear,” another track I love from this album—I need to listen to the whole thing), but it’s undeniably hopeful; it’s a plea for reciprocation and love after a rocky period, a star-staring hope and yearning: “I know we’re strangers, so it’s okay/ You don’t have to say it/Strange is better anyway/And I think that we can make it.” There’s a certain talent that the best singer-songwriter artists, in my experience, have: the ability to hinge an entire song with a single instrument and their voice. Most of the time, it’s an acoustic guitar, and Lenker hits the nail right on the head. With just her gentle, misty voice, and the strums of her guitar, she evokes all of those sensations I mentioned earlier with such relatively little material. Even her birdlike whistles bring to mind the feeling of plants stretching their feelers after the snow melts away. I really need to listen to more Adrianne Lenker.
“House of Jealous Lovers” – The Rapture
The beginning of “House of Jealous Lovers” functions to me like the sound engineering of the screams in Jordan Peele’s Nope: are they screams of ecstasy? Are they screams of fear? Who knows. They’re all shrouded in a deliberately-placed layer of fuzz that makes it impossible to tell. And by the time you’ve started to contemplate if it’s one or the other, it’s too late: it’s Uptight White Boy Music Time.
And even without knowing much about said Uptight White Boys, it’s clear how “House of Jealous Lovers” took its place in the early 2000’s post-punk-revival movement in New York City, sliding right next to the likes of The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and others. There’s not much going on lyrically, but there’s a frantic urgency to the hoarse scream that Luke Jenner (no relation to…any other infamous Jenners, luckily) delivers every line in that makes every word feel like a command. Cloaked in endlessly delayed guitars, it feels like it’s hiding something the whole time, even if part of the bridge just consists of the band counting to eight in unpredictable, wavering tones. Throw in some cowbell (as one does), and you’ve got such a strangely suspended moment in time: shaky and uptight, but somehow still self-assured in a way that makes this song hold up after almost 20 years. It feels like the world’s most neurotic club jam. I love it.
I stole this one from the great Julien Baker, who named it on boygenius’ episode of Pitchfork’s Pass the Aux series, as her hype music when she was a senior in high school, right next to…Drake? I can’t forgive the Drake, but…we all did questionable things in high school, I guess.
Drake aside, I’m so glad that Julien Baker introduced me to this song. Just like that, I’ve got another album on the Sisyphean list of albums on my notes app. Just like “House of Jealous Lovers,” we’ve got another hoarse white guy (I’ve got cough drops for everybody, take your pick) who somehow makes it work. Wonderfully. There’s so much that “The Cradle” does in such a short amount of time. It seems to invert the formula of musical buildup. Apart from the first few guitar chords, the first seconds of the song explode into delightfully crunchy guitars, letting the music take center stage, making the quiet, abrasive vocals linger in the background like a sinister afterthought. There’s something sinister about this song that I can’t quite pin down—maybe it’s that inversion, the way that the song explodes in the beginning, and only goes quiet and plodding during the last 30 seconds, as if you’re in a horror movie, waiting for something to drop from the rafters. There’s something compellingly intricate about this song, even more impressive that The Cradle was an album made in the aftermath of Colour Revolt getting dropped by their former label and three of their five original band members jumping ship. Even if this is my only exposure to Colour Revolt right now, I can still say how impressive of a feat that is.
Inside of you there are two wolves. One of them wants to listen to “Sunshine” by The Arcs. The other wants to listen to “Sunshine” by Sparklehorse. You are incredibly pretentious, and you also probably need a nap.
When I first heard this song, I seriously thought that the light, tinny piano intro was going to be the start of a sample. To any artists reading this (I doubt there are, but still): THIS HERE. SAMPLE THIS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
I’m not up to date on any of my Arcs lore, but the jump from the songs that I heard on heavy rotation on Alt Nation back when I was in middle school to this is nothing short of gutsy. But somehow, it makes complete sense. Just like the animations in the music video, it’s vibrant and polished to a shine, bursting with neon color. From the backing vocals to the smooth piano intro, it’s clearly a song that’s been in the studio for extensive amounts of time, a piece of art being chiseled out of stone. And what came out when the dust settled was an irresistibly pop-sounding indie tune of a perfect length. Every move feels exceedingly deliberate, from when the backing vocals kick in with the “sha-la-la-la-la-la”s in the last third to the quiet explosion of different instruments in the background. The only other song I can think of called “Sunshine” is an exceedingly melancholy one (as with pretty much any Sparklehorse song…sorry, Mark), but if anything, this is a song that more than lives up to its title.
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!
7 thoughts on “Sunday Songs: 4/30/23”
Part of the Uptight White Boy sound you’re hearing is that they were produced by James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem (not sure if this song though). And now you can’t unhear it.They were covered a bit in Meet Me In the Bathroom.
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he’s the uptight white boy overlord
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THE JEALOUS LOVERS HOUSE