Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!
I’m not sure if putting Fiona Apple and Radiohead one after the other is the best way to start off the month (and I know I’ll never beat the manipulator music allegations), but that’s how it’s gonna be, so I’m sorry. You’re listening to (reading from?) the same person who broke into tears after seeing The Smile live, so keep that in mind for all future posts.
thomb yorkie ⁉️
Enjoy this week’s songs!
SUNDAY SONGS: 3/5/23
I wish I could say that I didn’t steal this from both my brother (DUDE SORRY I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE PUTTING IT IN YOUR POST THIS WEEK TOO HAHAHA) and the second-to-last episode of Only Murders in the Building, but I HAVE HEARD IT BEFORE!! AND LIKED IT VERY MUCH!! It’s one of those songs that I have a very vividly mundane memory of; it was back when we used the radio in my mom’s car, and we were on the 90’s station. The grass looked unusually green in my memory, like some kind of saturated filter. It must’ve been summertime, but I guess my brain decided that the memory was worth turning up the brightness on. My mom made a remark about remembering the exact length of this song: 5 minutes and 42 seconds.
And 5 minutes and 42 seconds of pure artistry is what “Criminal” certainly is. There’s times that I feel like a fraud for liking a band’s most popular song, but sometimes, songs are that way for a reason—it’s a good song. Apple’s voice is immediately hypnotic, rich and sultry like silken fabric and smoky perfume. All at once sleek and eerie, it never loses a note of momentum in its nearly 6-minute duration, crawling along with the juxtaposition of an airy, resonant flute section and pounding piano notes. But behind Apple’s vocals is the creeping sense that something is inches away from going wrong (the…incredible discomfort of the video only adds to that, especially knowing how young she was when it was filmed…ick), but the music toes that line without falling over the edge. I’m almost afraid to get into the rest of Fiona Apple’s discography, in no small part due to the fact that she once held the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest album title (respect for that, though, but…whew), but this song will always remaining hauntingly alluring.
“Climbing Up the Walls” – Radiohead
Yeah…right after “Criminal,” the vibes are…not the best, I’ll admit. Probably too late to break out the candles and the nice tablecloth to set the mood. This song knocked over the candle and set the tablecloth on fire. Chaos reigns.
There’s a reason why OK Computer has been one of my favorite albums for years now—for the first time, it was explosive proof of the range that Radiohead was capable of, and the results were often chilling. Songs like “Karma Police” and “Paranoid Android” will always be plenty sinister, but this is just spine-chilling. And yet, once it came on shuffle recently, I couldn’t stop listening. The way this whole album and this song were crafted will never cease to astound me: the distortion at the edges of Thom Yorke’s already creaking voice, the croaking, industrial echoes that form the fabric of the background, the way that the guitars have been destroyed to the point of no return, the screeching from both the electronics and Thom Yorke himself at the very end. It’s the musical version of an abandoned, crumbling shack in the middle of nowhere, complete with rusty nails falling off their hinges, a constant scratching at the walls, and wooden planks hanging on by a single fiber. I know that’s a terrible sell for the song, but if there’s one thing that Radiohead are the masters of, it’s building atmosphere. It may not be a nice, comfy atmosphere, but it sure is an atmosphere.
“You Really Got Me” – The Kinks
See? I told you that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. In the middle? Semantics. But either way, who’s more worthy of carrying that light than Ray Davies and company?
I’m frequently ashamed of how often I forget that this song exists, but then I feel silly for feeling ashamed, because nothing matches the feeling of remembering a great song after not listening to it for ages. Especially when it’s a song as delightfully sixties as this. Apart from the stylishly scratches edges of Davies’ voice, “jangly” is the most fitting word I can think of to describe it, and I love me some good jangly guitars—sometimes I find myself missing how guitars sounded in the sixties and seventies, but it’s not like you can’t replicate it. But knowing that this was some of the first of its kind to sound like this, it’s easy to see how much the Kinks have permeated into all kinds of branches of rock—the earliest forms of punk and even metal have taken some notes from them. You can’t deny the power of a 2-minute sixties song.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – The Beatles
Back to the British Invasion, and back to one of my favorite albums of all time. See? I can be coherent!
Again, sometimes it’s good to let songs sit. This one happens to be my favorite Beatles song, off of my favorite Beatles album, and one of my favorite songs in general. I know it’s been said to death, but there’s something special about the hidden, secret-weapon power of George Harrison. Most every Beatles song is filled with magic, but there’s something instantly transporting about this song; the instrumentation, up until the solo famously contributed by Eric Clapton, it lets Harrison’s air-light voice soar to unseen heights, wailing—weeping, I should say—along with Clapton’s…weeping guitar. Gently weeping. Sorry. Every time I listen, it’s like being gently scooped up by a giant, benevolent hand, lifted in the air, and left to watch the clouds pass by for 5 minutes. The collective efforts of the Beatles can never be understated: despite their (many) quarrels, their genius put together contributed to a musical movement that really did change the landscape of rock music and beyond forever. And yet, sometimes, it’s more personal songs like these that leave an imprint—I know George Harrison certainly did. And a happy belated birthday to you, too.
“Angelcover” – The New Pornographers
How else can we end this post but with a New Pornographers song with the most New Pornographers-y song title since…every single track off of In the Morse Code of Brake Lights? Those sure were some Titles…
There’s something about The New Pornographers that I will never quite be able to put my finger on. Apart from their consistently and delightfully random-word-generator-sounding titles, their lyrics have always felt oddly off-kilter to me. Something about the particular word choices they use, hidden in exceedingly tight and steady indie rock beats. And I love them for that. It’s something that’s never really gone away through any of their discography—again, I don’t claim to be the ultimate New Pornographers historian (that would be a very…suspect title to have), but it seems like they’ve stayed true to that part of themselves, which, in a world where even some indie musicians are often forced to conform to a more palatable sound, is something I will never stop admiring.
As for “Angelcover” itself, it’s a song that took longer to grow on me than the previous single, “Really Really Light,” but is nonetheless a compelling addition to the forthcoming Continue as a Guest. A.C. Newman’s echoing vocals in the verses contrast with Neko Cases’s soaring notes as perfectly as they always have, and every instrument meshes in perfect harmony, from the foundational pianos to the ringing flute notes that accent the song throughout. And as always, the lyrics remain indescribably off-kilter, but in the best way possible: “angels on the bed/with their unplugged electric.” Does it get more indie than that?
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!