Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 5/28/23

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

This is gonna be a fun one. By coincidence, the fault lines of Palehound Panic™️ and my recently reawakened Blur Breakdown™️ have collided in the span of a week. Let’s hope the results won’t be cataclysmic.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Black Friday” – Palehound

I’ve finally finished my quest to catch up on Palehound (the albums, at least) before Eye on the Bat. Over the past week or so, Black Friday has been in heavy rotation—it feels like El Kempner’s most cohesive and lyrically strong album, and it might just be my favorite of theirs so far. It was a feat to pick just one song from this album—“Worthy,” “Aaron,” and “Killer” were all strong contenders (GO LISTEN THEY’RE ALL SO GOOD)—but the title track, “Black Friday,” stuck out to me in so many ways.

Palehound often leaves the introspection for a handful of songs at the end of each album, but the personal threads run deep throughout the entirety of Black Friday. This song in particular hits a particularly emotional note—it’s a continued story of catching up with old friends, all the while having a nagging feeling that they don’t care about you now, and that they never cared much about you before, either. Yet somehow, you still feel tied to them by some kind of desperate obligation, a lingering thought that maybe things can change, but knowing they won’t; Kempner sings that “I’ll take being the last one that you call/You’re Black Friday and I’m going to the mall.” The chorus of “Before you said we’d keep in touch/I don’t hear from you too much/If you need to call me, I’m too weak to hold a grudge,” with Kempner’s layered harmonies, glitter like the edges of stars and ring out like a faint sound of a jet flying overhead. It was a song that felt like a punch in the stomach, all while I was just trying to give myself a nice manicure. Afterwards, I had to sit back for a minute…there will always be those songs that hit a little too close to home for comfort, and they always come when you least expect them to. But songs like “Black Friday” give a voice to the feelings that we think, in our darkest moments, are isolated only to only us. So thank you for that, El Kempner. Here’s to making friends with people who really do care, and not chasing after people who don’t.

“The Narcissist” – Blur

All is right in the universe. Nature is healing. We’ve got a new Blur album out in July…everything’s okay again…

…and this song is testing my ability to spell the word “narcissist.” I could’ve sworn that there was another ‘c’ in there somewhere…

I’ve got to hand it to Damon Albarn at this point—he’s having not one, but two of his projects (this and Gorillaz) releasing albums this year, and even if Cracker Island was a bit of a disappointment, the sheer creativity and talent is all there regardless. Knowing that the forthcoming The Ballad of Darren was a spur-of-the-moment kind of reunion makes it all the more impressive—they didn’t plan on making another album in the first place, and then they come out with this?

That being said…I’m not sure if it’s Blur’s best, but it’s still a great song. I didn’t listen to it on repeat while cleaning out my closet last week for no reason. It’s such a catchy tune—the instrumentals are a little understated, but it’s clean, it’s smooth, and it’s proof that Blur have mastered the art of a polished Britpop tune. My only problem, as much as I’ll sing praises for Damon Albarn, is that there’s too much Damon Albarn. It’s not something that I’d ever picture myself saying, but we live in strange times. “The Narcissist,” delightful earworm that it is, feels more like a solo Damon Albarn effort than a Blur song. Even though we do get Graham Coxon’s backing vocals, I find myself missing his captivating, intricate riffs. You can hardly hear the presence of Alex James’ iconic basslines. And Dave Rowntree’s precise drumming is still there, but again: understated. I just want more Blur, less Damon Albarn.

All that is to say that, for once, the fact that we’re getting a whole new Blur album overshadows most of the nitpicks I have about “The Narcissist.” I have a feeling that I’m gonna enjoy Hot Blur Summer.

“I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer” – The Cardigans

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought this was a Giant Drag song—it’s got a very similar kind of bite. I’ve only listened to First Band on the Moon, but this song has me wondering what happened between that and their final record, Super Extra Gravity. I wouldn’t call it a sea change—it’s still got the pop sensibility that Nina Persson perfected to a science, but there’s an undeniable roughness to the song that pushes it more towards the edges. Persson’s voice, although it retains her signature, dainty tone, curls into a rasp as the song begins with half-spoken dog commands—”Sit/good dog/stay/bad dog/down/roll over.” The rest of that song is as bitter as the intro suggests, singing of a relationship gone sour, dulled by alcohol and fleeting visions of lost love. The Cardigans have toyed with these kinds of songs, but this one really makes the feel come through—it’s still a pop song through and through, but the sharpening of the guitars on this one make the image really come to life. “I Need Some Fine Wine” is, in short, Nina Persson’s hairdo in most of the video—it coexists as the neatly braided crown and the spiky hairs coming out all at once.

“Sinnerman” – Nina Simone

Full disclosure: I hoard reaction images. Too many. But even a refined reaction image connoisseur such as myself knows that some images are only suited for very specific, sacred times. You can’t go about wasting them willy-nilly, even if they are just…well, sitting on your phone. It’s not every day that something can evoke the feeling contained in this image, for instance:

But that’s how “Sinnerman” feels. All the way through.

Every TV show and film that this song has been featured in has cut it tragically short; and no, I don’t mean to call Gerard Way and Taika Waititi cowards, because they clearly aren’t, but also…if you’re going to include this song in anything, you have to go the whole mile—the 10:19 mile, to be exact. And if there’s any song that commands the listener to sprint through its entire length, it’s this one.

I can take longer songs, but there’s a specific art to crafting them: for me, if a song goes past the 6 or 7 minute mark, there has to be something that keeps me listening—that applies to any song, technically, but if you have that long of a song that mostly consists of repetition, you’ve started to lose me (lookin’ at you, LCD Soundsystem…you can pull it off sometimes…). Oingo Boingo’s sprawling, nearly 16 minute long swan song “Change,” for instance, has plenty of recurring musical motifs, but it keeps you on your toes, whether that be with artfully-placed oddball instrumentation or bizarre samples. But there’s a way that long song repetition can be done—my favorite song of all time, in fact, does just that; Blur’s “Tender” has a somewhat tidier format, but they bypass the LCD Soundsystem syndrome not just with breaks for Graham Coxon’s bluesy riffs and choir, but by fueling it with nothing but Emotion with a capital E—”love’s the greatest thing,” after all.

“Sinnerman,” however, does both of those things—it’s essentially the mother of every epic, extensively long song that you can think of. Even knowing the years that Nina Simone was active, it still amazes me that this was released in 1965. I could almost understand it if it had been the late sixties, when everybody started to realized how freeing musical experimentation was. Simone’s musical career was defined by pushing against so many barriers, from her protest music to her incredible piano skills, but this song pushed the envelope in such a wildly different way. Through all 10+ minutes, there’s an energy that seems to live and breathe and never stop—even when the music begins to die down in favor of Simone’s piano and a chorus of clapping. It’s a song on a desperate mission, one that takes no prisoners and never stops to catch its breath. Even though the song is an amalgamation of scattered 50’s songs, gospel, African spirituals, and remnants from her own religious upbringing, it can be easily reduced to a single word, one that Simone famously belts out near the song’s climactic ending—”power.” I can’t think of many other songs that grab you by the shirt collar and keep you hanging there quite like this—nothing comes close to how propulsive Simone is, with how purely propulsive both her voice and her piano playing are. Again—take my word with a grain of salt, but this really is a masterpiece. And knowing that she used to end her live shows with this song…WHEW. What a song.

“Sea of Blood” – Palehound

Whether or not it was intentional, it’s fitting that this song shares space with a song called “YMCA Pool.” Two dubious bodies of liquid on one single.

With some songs that end up as singles after the released of an album, you’re left wanting—what could’ve changed if that track was on the album, as originally intended? (see: “Bicycle”) But some songs were made to be tiny, standalone packages, never leftovers for works past or teasers for what’s to come. “Sea of Blood” works exactly this way—it’s got the sprightly beats and guitar work of something circa Dry Food or even Bent Nail – EP, but there’s something about the short, snappy atmosphere of it that doesn’t confine it to any of Kempner’s previous works. It might fight the catchier, brighter side of Dry Food, but it doesn’t quite match the introspection. It’s got the experience that Bent Nail hadn’t fully achieved yet. And yet it still sounds like a home demo, but so fully realized—a neat drum machine accompanies Kempner’s signature rasp, sharp lyrics, and climbing guitar fingerings all come together in what has the sound quality just above an iPhone voice memo, but the polish that comes from nurturing a tune like this for a long time. And leave it to Palehound to name a song something like “Sea of Blood,” a title you’d expect to come with throat-burning, heavy metal screaming, but start off the song with a line as innocuous as “I’m every bit as fragile as a baby bird.” You sly dog, you…hound?

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!

Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 5/21/23

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

This post was brought to you by the never-ending Dark brainrot (it consumes), my disappointment in Kindred’s TV show adaptation, and the continued Palehound Panic™️. But this is all merely the calm before the storm, because now we’ve got the news that Blur is coming out with a new album in July…BRACE YOURSELVES

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“What a Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong cover) – Soap&Skin

Somehow, it was this song, and not the original, that made me realize that the line was actually “the dark, sacred night” and not “the dark, say goodnight.” Whilst I was crying my eyes out at the Dark finale. Whatever it takes.

It’s been about two weeks now since I finished Dark and got through that gut-wrencher of a finale, and I can say with absolute certainty that I doubt I’ll ever emotionally recover from…well, anything about that show. I’ll spare you any spoilers, other than the fact that this song is present. But hopefully that part shouldn’t be a surprise, at least, with how the show-runners have now tripledipped with the Soap&Skin needle drops, including the theme song itself. I may be an atheist, but the atmospheric covers of Soap&Skin and the eerie, dew-covered-forest, small-town-murder-mystery-that-turns-into-something-way-worse aesthetic of Dark together is a match made in heaven. There’s something that she brings to this near-untouchable song (except for a third grade singing program that I did? I think), that no one else could have—it’s got all of the makings for the same haunting instrumentals of her cover of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil,” but it’s impossible to take any of the love or hope out of this song. The synths make it sound like something that would’ve been in the running for a Golden Record candidate (or at least the backing track to a shot of a satellite in space), and Anja Plaschg’s rich, cavernous voice create a shadowy atmosphere, but one illuminated by an undeniable light at the end of the tunnel. It’s impossible to make this song sound anything but hopeful, but there’s different ways that hope can sing—and this was a perfect fit for the tearful, bittersweet ending to a series that’s taken up a welcome amount of space in this brain.

But while I’m here, I will offer the following…this was a great song to send off Dark with, but consider: “Blood of Eden?” Again, no spoilers, but…it’s all right there.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” (Beatles cover) – Junior Parker

Except this time, one show is a time-travel masterpiece, and the other is FX’s adaptation of Kindred. Octavia Butler deserves better than THAT. (@ the showrunners: Kevin being a somewhat static character in the book was NOT a sign to make him into a total dudebro. The X-Ray Spex shirt isn’t fooling anyone.)

However, as generally peeved as I was with that show, if there was one great thing I got out of it, I’d point to this deliciously eerie Beatles cover. I’ve since given up the whole “don’t cover the Beatles” mindset, even if we are living in an uncharted sea of awful “Here Comes the Sun” covers, because with how influential they were on…well, almost every aspect of rock music that you can think of, there’s infinitely many things that can be done with these songs, classics as they are. Take picking this song to cover—the original song is nothing short of experimental, psychedelic insanity, deliriously noisy and filled with rubber duck noises at random intervals, as one does. It’s glorious. It’s a childhood staple of mine. But Junior Parker’s taken all of the trimmings off of it, slimming it down like a tree stripped of its bark. When the dust settles, all we’re left with is bass, soft drums, scattered keyboard chords, and Parker’s sonorous, bluesy voice. The bare-bones construction of this cover makes “Turn off your mind/Relax, and float downstream” feel like a chilling whisper of coercion, not a famous allusion to psychedelics. I never thought that this song could get quite this ominous—and, despite my general beef with the Kindred show, it was a perfect fit for the show’s atmosphere—definitely the best needle drop of the show, right at the end of episode 2. It wasn’t all bad, I guess.

“Night Time is the Right Time” – Ray Charles

Listen. I only know the basics of studio recording technology, but somehow, it’s “Night Time is the Right Time” that makes me appreciate what they were trying to do in the 50’s—not necessarily what it could do, but what it caught. The version I have on my iTunes library is plenty scratchy, cloaking almost everything in that signature fuzz you get from most recorded music up to the 60’s or the 70’s. It’s charming—it’s the sound of the era. But here’s the thing—the key word is almost. In almost every recording that I’ve listened to, no matter when it was mixed, Ray Charles’ voice sounds as clear as day. You could probably chalk that up to the main goal of said recording technologies being to record his voice first and foremost, but I can’t help but romanticize that in my head, Charles’ resonant voice soaring through any technology and defying any attempts at being aged. But no matter how fuzzy or remastered any recordings get, it’s always a beacon, the foggy gleam of a lighthouse across the sea.

And on the other side of the coin, there’s Margie Hendrix’s iconic voice—not spared the fuzz, but with what I’d argue is an almost equal amount of power. She put everything into that first call of “BABY!” and never slowed down. Her voice did fall victim to the scratchy fuzz, but her declarative growl of a voice almost fits with it; there’s a rough edge to Hendrix’s voice, the kind that makes my throat raw just thinking about belting out those notes. Knowing she was in her early twenties when she sang that makes it all the more impressive. It’s a voice that instantly conjures an image—screwed-up eyes, mouth open wide, putting every ounce of lung power into the verse that you have. The song is a testament to both of their talents, what little that I know about either of them—but either way, there’s a reason that they called Charles “The Genius,” and just as much of a reason for the influx of YouTube comments declaring their love for that iconic shout of “BABY!”

“See a Light” – Palehound

Another find on my quest to absorb as much of Palehound as I can before Eye on the Bat comes out, here’s a single that El Kempner released about a month before it all went wrong. February 27, 2020, to be exact. Yeesh. Simpler times.

I noticed a pattern after listening to both Dry Food and A Place I’ll Always Go—indie-rock lightness and guitar fun are the main priorities, but Kempner always has a few melancholy, slower tracks to balance everything out, nudged just past the middle (“Dixie”) or nestled at the end (“Feeling Fruit”) of any given album. “See a Light” allows this breed of Palehound to stand on its own. It’s the perfect vessel for Kempner’s whispery voice to flourish, drifting along like fog amidst the homegrown, shoegaze-y, bedroom production. It gently crawls along to a slow drum machine and glossy guitar notes, settling in your lap like a kitten. Distortion creeps in at perfectly calculated moments, fuzzing up the edges of the instrumentals and Kempner’s voice. Beyond all of that, it’s one of the best instances of album covers (or single covers, in this case) perfectly matching the feel of the song(s) itself—the combination of the handwritten typeface and the basketball hoop taken over by bright green vibes, set against a cloudy, gray sky, matches all of the bits that make me go back and listen to this song.

“Cubist Castle – Part 1” – Alan Peter Roberts (a.k.a Jim Noir) and Steve Wareing


Ever since Jim Noir has started said Patreon, we’ve gotten a handful of his older catalogue in between the new EPs. One such offering is this—a collaboration from 2000, between himself and a longtime friend, now remastered from the original ten tracks and expanded to 30 (!). (For reference, the tracks are grouped into four chunks on the Patreon link.) It’s not the first time that Jim Noir, under whichever name, has offered up his experience with making ambient music (see Omission Sound, also available on Patreon). I’m not as well versed in ambient music in general, but I’ve gotten tastes of it from him over the years; usually, I’m ambivalent about it—for me, his ambient music functions mostly as background music, plus the odd sample with a nice layer of distortion thrown in. But “Cubist Castle – Part 1” feels different than Omission Sound’s Solutions—there’s something cheerier about it that sets it apart. Including an early version of “Everytime” (a bright soundtrack to many a painful hour studying during the pandemic), “Cubist Castle – Part 1” has calm woven into it. Although some of the later parts get plenty ominous, there’s something so gentle about this first chunk—the tinny, bubbly synths, samples of birdsong and beach sounds…it’s just nice, simply. Nice. Nice is often such an inadequate word, but given the background-music nature of this album, it fits. It’s like the auditory version of a baby sensory video. I’m just glad that all of the essay writing that I did to the tune of “Cubist Castle” didn’t ruin it.

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!

Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 5/14/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles, and happy Mother’s Day!! Eternally grateful for my wonderful mom—who knows what I’d do without her. Love you 🫶🏻

Alas, even though “Cool About It” is still my most listened to song of the year so far, the Boygenius Breakdown™️ has made way for some Palehound Panic™️ (or, alternatively, a Palehound Party™️?) so I can catch up on everything before Eye on the Bat comes out this July (!!!!). Feast your eyes on the spring color scheme.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“The Clutch” – Palehound

And just when I thought that I’d already gone through almost all of my most anticipated albums of the year…

Even though I haven’t filled in the sonic gaps between this new sound, Black Friday, and A Place I’ll Always Go, I’m all on board with this new Palehound! There’s power in every note of “The Clutch,” from first notes of Kempner’s voice to the unrelenting chords that follow the rest of the song. El Kempner has such a unique voice—it’s hard to think of any other artist whose voice is simultaneously whispery and rowdy, and she embraces the rough edges on every part of this song. Underneath all of the pounding drums and incredible guitar work is some of Kempner’s sharpest lyricism to date: “I didn’t mean to hurt you/You didn’t mean to show me how,” followed closely by “I’m glad that you know better now/And I’m glad that you found yourself/But you didn’t need my help…” WHEW those are some LINES right there…and what better way to close the song with a shouting outro of “you didn’t need my help”? If this song is any indication, Eye on the Bat is gonna be the perfect summer album—and a fantastic album in general. SO glad I got on this Palehound kick all the way back in September. Haven’t regretted a single minute of it.

“Humdrum” – Peter Gabriel

The only acceptable way to dance to this song is to dance like you’re one of those wooden snakes from the craft store. The ones that make those crack-crack-crack noises when you wiggle them around?? Please tell me somebody knows what I’m talking about, please…

right, THESE ones. Just gotta feel it. Flail. Castanets do that to a gal.

Usually I try to put my album listening in the hands of fate (read: the list randomizer), but after the Palehound Panic/Party subsides, I think it’s shaping up to become Peter Gabriel Summer 2: Electric Boogaloo. Why? It’s only taken 3 songs to convince me to listen to Peter Gabriel 1: Car (because he’s That One Guy who puts out 4 self-titled albums for kicks and giggles and refused to make any title more than one word long after that). I’d already heard this album’s iconic hit “Solsbury Hill,” but after hearing this back to back with the equally wondrously weird “Moribund the Burgermeister,” I just know that Car is gonna be a wild ride.

Fresh off of his split from Genesis, Peter Gabriel’s prog rock action has never quite ceased, but from just this song, it seems to have taken on a life of its own, morphing into something that’s purely him. It’s a song of many faces—starting with quiet synths and weary vocals for the first minute, and then breaking down into some absolutely INSANE castanet/accordion-aided craziness that lasts for all too short of a time. The instrumentals just feel so delightfully kooky (you know it’s gonna go nuts when the accordion comes out) before bursting out into some classically prog sprawl as Gabriel’s voice and lyrics deepen in scale: “from the white star/come the bright car/our amoeba…” And the amoeba, as it happens, was his first daughter, Anna-Marie Gabriel, who had just recently been born. I don’t know about you, but I’d be honored to have a song this weird to commemorate my birth. Just saying.

“Room” – Palehound

I was going to say that this was a left turn from the other Palehound song on this post, but…no, “The Clutch” is probably the one that’s a left turn, really, though I can’t say how much of one it is without having listened to Black Friday…nevermind, this is pointless without context…ignore me

After “The Clutch” came out, I made it my mission to start dipping my toes into more Palehound before Eye on the Bat comes out in July. A Place I’ll Always Go was next chronologically, so I went right in—I’m still torn on whether I like it better or as much as Dry Food, El Kempner’s debut, but it’s packed with songs that have kept me listening long after the first run-through. This one quickly became my favorite track off the album; it’s got a sound that’s so close to being fully-realized—all at once, it sounds purely like Palehound, but still reeks of Wilco influence. Kempner’s wry, meticulously constructed lyricism bursts forth in every measure (“Sun above her/never had a lover in my room”), but the instrumentation, even though it’s all her, just screams Wilco—the neat percussion and soft, restrained guitars have Jeff Tweedy written all over it. I can almost see the guy in a buttoned-up denim jacket and a beanie holding his acoustic guitar in a completely horizontal line somewhere in the background. But Kempner’s whispery rasp of a voice, slowing coming out of its burrow, makes sure that this track is all her own—and it’s an excellent one. I can’t help but nod at the endlessly hooky chorus—”she keeps me up/she keeps me up/she keeps me up/at night,” the last word drawn out intoxicatingly.

“Dawncolored Horse” – Fenne Lily

I haven’t made a habit of consulting any of Apple Music’s auto-generated playlists like I used to when I first started using the platform. But sometimes, when I’m in a musical drought, or if I’m just bored, I’ll have a look. Usually, I only ever find one or two interesting songs, but sometimes there are ones worth keeping.

All I knew about Fenne Lily beforehand was that she’d toured with Lucy Dacus somewhere along the line. But this song is so calming; sometimes, songs linger on the precipice of exploding into sound without ever getting there, but this song never feels the need to stretch itself to places it can’t go. It’s subdued, but subdued in the exact way that it should be. Lily’s voice is smooth like mercury, whispery at the edges but moving along like frigid water in a creek—the perfect indie-folk kind of voice. The song’s title was what originally grabbed me, but from what I’ve heard of her newest album, Big Picture, I love its thesis—trying to write songs about the small things and forgettable days that we let fly by. There’s a comforting coziness to everything about “Dawncolored Horse”—the soft, sparkly guitar riffs scattered throughout, Lily’s voice, and the gentle percussion. It almost feels like I’m in the tiny, model house on the album cover, looking through the glass. And just like the album cover, it really does feel like a tiny memory under a glass case.

“Times to Die” – Car Seat Headrest

And now, let’s end with a relic from my “not-like-other-girls” period in 8th grade trawled up by the enigmatic deep-sea fishermen of my iTunes library on shuffle, shall we?

I got swept up by Car Seat Headrest right in the middle of middle school (and not because of my early teenage crush on Will Toledo…yeah), and if I had to put a soundtrack to 8th grade, they would dominate the glut of it. Every bus ride, vacation, and absentminded hum were probably along to them—probably kind of concerning, given their lyrics, but we all do weird stuff in middle school. I’m almost positive that I bought this one off of an iTunes gift card that I’d gotten for…graduation? Maybe? It’s a distinctly April-May 2018 song for me—I can’t place a specific memory to it, but the feeling is so distinct that it’s become its own little time capsule.

And now, having not listened to it in years, some of these lyrics remind me of what endeared me to Car Seat Headrest all that time ago. Even though I didn’t quite understand it at the time, I still smile at a particular line near the end of the song—”most of the time, I’m just getting older/but I’ll get to heaven standing on your shoulders.” Despite most of this song’s complex grappling with religion (with the many references to both Judeo-Christian religion and Hinduism scattered throughout—he really just loaded this one up, no wonder it’s almost 7 minutes long) and life itself, there’s a darkly humorous element to it; “God” isn’t always God, but Chris Lombardi, the founder of Matador Records (“got to believe that Lombardi loves me”), and the strained chanting of “hey man, we listened to your demos” throughout. This one’s definitely a little contrarian as far as lyricism goes—early on, Toledo claimed that he was attempting to let the lyrics flow naturally and let the words speak for themselves without putting symbolism in beforehand. And yet…after that first verse, he just stuffed it with enough references and idiosyncrasies to fill a Thanksgiving turkey. It’s a rich song, from the callbacks to so much of his earlier catalogue to the thick web of lo-fi instrumentation surrounding his muffled, honeylike voice.

Or maybe that’s all for naught. Maybe it’s just as he claims:


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!

Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 4/30/23

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!


“Ride a White Swan” – T. Rex

there has never been a better visual descriptor for how this song makes me feel


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.

“The Cradle” – Colour Revolt

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.

“Sunshine” – The Arcs

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!

Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 4/16/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

Casually just started coughing up a lung for a week, but at least the sun’s out for the first time in about 3 months, so a win is a win in my book. It would be nice to be able to sleep without waking myself up from said coughing, but maybe if I just listen to the record another time through…hmm…

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Hammer Horror” – Kate Bush

Oh, the beauty of unflattering YouTube thumbnails.

I always feel guilty for not liking Kate Bush as much. She’s clearly been such a groundbreaking artistic genius for most (if not all) of her career, and she’s an undeniably incredible storyteller as well. But music taste is music taste, and everybody’s got a different one.

I used to think that Kate Bush was generally just hit or miss for me, but as I’ve started to listen to more of her work, I think the root of it is that I’m just more into earlier Kate Bush. I haven’t pinned down a rhyme or reason, really—I haven’t listened to The Kick Inside or Lionheart yet—but they’re really just so fun. There’s an infectious, early-70’s-inspired undercurrent that runs through all of them, combined with high drama that only a 19-year-old Kate Bush could produce. Take “Hammer Horror,” which combines an operatic, orchestral element in the first 30 or so seconds, but slips into a Hunky Dory-like groove, punctuated by lightning strikes of bright guitar—man, I miss how guitars sounded in the 70’s. It’s pure theatre—and even though I’ve never claimed to be a theatre kid, there’s something about the way that she leans fully into all of the clawing-at-the-camera drama that makes it all the more fun to listen to…if you just forget the music videos of that whole period. (*coughcough “Them Heavy People” coughcoughcough*)


can somebody pass the Dayquil? seems I’ve got some—*C O U G H*

“Satanist” – boygenius

Worry not: the Boygenius Breakdown is far from over. I’ll spare you from the rest of it after this week for the sake of adhering to my self-imposed color schemes, but behind the facade, I’m still curled up in the fetal position listening to “We’re In Love.”

Penned by Julien Baker and sectioned off for each of the powerhouse members of boygenius to shine, “Satanist” was an instant hit for me from the record after the singles had been released. Backed by steady guitars, this song stands as a fun, cheeky dare about pushing the limits friendship—”will you be a Satanist with me?/Mortgage off your soul to buy your dream/Vacation home in Florida.” It all feels like a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun, but with boygenius’ strong connection and shared friendship, there’s an intangible, genuine feel to it, as if the song could’ve stemmed from a genuine question. (Again: “Were In Love” feels like its lyrical twin, in that sense. Lots of callbacks and intertwining on this album.) But at its culmination, when Phoebe Bridgers’ sharp-edged scream fades into a hazy, sunset background, the music suddenly sinks underwater, all three of their voices seeming to fade under the waves in a haunting, enchanting conclusion. I can almost imagine that, with the image of the record, that the end of this song is their hands reaching up from the ocean—”you hang on/until it drags you under.”

“Amoeba” – Clairo

“[Clairo’s] a lebsian” was an easy sell from my brother’s girlfriend for this song before I could actually hear it playing, but it was a worthwhile sell beyond that. Most of what I know of Clairo comes from snippets of some of her viral songs and Lindsey Jordan (a.k.a. Snail Mail) making the crowd sing “happy birthday” to her over FaceTime during one of her shows, but I’m glad that I’ve been exposed to this song. It flows effortlessly, easily: never does it feel the need to elevate itself or explode entirely, and its gentle existence is what continues to endear me. The vocals scream 2010’s, but some of the instrumentals feel like they traveled in a time capsule from the 70’s—quiet as they are, the funky keyboard licks and bassline make me sway in my seat every time. Everything in this song is understated, but that’s its hidden power—if everything is quiet, no part can overpower another, making for a seemingly perfect melding of each element. I don’t know how much of that is Claire Cottrill and how much is Jack Antonoff (who my feeling are still divided on—he produced the betrayal that was MASSEDUCTION and then the masterpiece that was Daddy’s Home right after…?), but whatever the case, it’s a lovely, gentle pop song.

“Worrywort” – Radiohead

This song might as well be an endangered species. A hopeful Radiohead song? I almost don’t believe it…

I still have plenty of Radiohead’s discography left to trudge through, even after 4 years of them being second only to David Bowie for me, but the joy of that is that, for now, there’s always something new to discover. I’m just hoping that it’ll stay that way for longer—every cell in me is hoping that A Moon-Shaped Pool was their last project, but…hurgh, that’s a story for another day. Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood’s Fear Stalks the Land!: A Commonplace Book, a collection of lyrics, poetry, and art from the Kid A/Amnesiac era turned me onto this one, snugly tucked away on Knives Out – EP. Amidst…well, everything else that came from that period—a mass airing-out of early 2000’s paranoia and fear—”Worrywort” feels like the only light of hope that was produced at that time in Yorke’s life. Aside from how much I love the spelling of “Worrywort,” like it’s some sort of medicinal plant, there are so many delicate parts to this song, much like the tiny fibers inside of a leaf. All of the synths layered on top of each other feel like a visual representation of if you hooked up guitar pedals to plants and heard what tiny, thin sounds they made while photosynthesizing or spreading their roots. With that making up all of the instrumentations, Thom Yorke’s plaintive murmur stays shadowy, only resorting to his signature keening in tiny parts of the background. And as I said before, it’s one of the only Radiohead songs that I can think of that seems, at least on the surface, to feel lyrically optimistic (no pun intended); “There’s no use dwelling on/What might have been/Just think of all the fun/You could be having.” What? Who are you, and what have you done with Thom Yorke? Not that I’m complaining. Glad he was at least fleetingly cheery for a brief moment sometime in 2001.

Against the backdrop of…well, everything else that Radiohead has put out there, lyrics like these almost feel like a ruse, like there’s some sly, cynical commentary hidden in there. But there really doesn’t seem to be—if anything, it feels like Yorke confronting his own demons, a battle between the voice of depression and the reassurance that he’s trying to bring to the surface. But either way, it’s strangely comforting—there’s something of a beautiful mantra in the song’s outro: a repetition of “it’s such a beautiful day.” Sure is.

“Bath County” – Wednesday

Nothing heals the soul quite like an excess of crunchy guitars.

Getting through my album list is proving to be a Herculean (but still enriching) task, so who knows if or when I’ll end up listening to Wednesday’s new album, Rat Saw God, but I’ve heard it’s been getting good reviews? Pitchfork, like Rotten Tomatoes, is always something I take with a grain of salt (JUSTICE FOR DADDY’S HOME), but an 8.8 from them is still pretty impressive. Laced with urban legends, Southern heat, and abandoned houses, the atmosphere of “Bath County” shines through, pioneered by Karly Hartzman’s mercurial voice—capable of being all at once smooth and soothing, but cracking and abrasive at other times. The guitars are an extension, screaming when the time is right (and even when it isn’t), making the whole song feel like watching a bonfire tower into the sky. I’ve seen Wednesday be compared to everything from grunge (makes sense) to shoegaze (…nah, I don’t see it), but either way, from my limited experience with the band, they’re very 90’s—but still very them.

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

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

Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 4/2/23

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

Not to worry, folks: the inevitable Boygenius Breakdown™️ is scheduled for next week to allow for some time for everything to sink in. As per the never-stated-but-generally-just-implied agreement, however, this week’s Sunday Songs meets the required Queer Quotient™️ that every Bookish Mutant post is required to pass before entering the blogosphere. I’m running a tight, gay ship over here, and I’ll see to it that it stays that way.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Born on a Train” – The Magnetic Fields

In the span of about a week, “Born on a Train” sprung from just being downloaded to my third most listened-to song of this year, according to Apple Music. Maybe that says more about my penchant for wearing songs into the ground than it does about the song itself, but I swear there’s an infinite magic woven into every note of it. Snugly fit in The Charm of the Highway Strip, a loose concept album about traveling and roads, this third track gently chugs along like the train the chorus speaks of. (And another example of the band’s generally wry humor—I haven’t listen to Charm in full yet, but the fact that “Fear of Trains” is only four tracks away from this song always cracks me up. Duality of man.) The drums and muted, acoustic guitar strums throughout recall the machinery of a train, in contrast to the ringing chimes as Stephin Merritt finishes out each chorus. And as with most Magnetic Fields songs, it’s laced with bittersweetness to the core; there’s a sense of the narrator grappling with their own nature, knowing that they’re bound to leave everyone that they love, that same lonely, fleeting, twilight feel as the “ghost roads” that Merritt describes in the first verse. Merritt’s voice has the same resonance that you feel inside a cave, reverberating through your bones—it was easy to feel, hearing this song live at a smaller venue, which I still count myself incredibly lucky to have experienced.

On that habit of riding songs into the sunset, I think I get sick of only about half of them—”Born on a Train” feels like one of the ones that’ll stick.

“Drooler” – Palehound

At this point, all that’s keeping me from listening to more Palehound right now is the fact that A Place I’ll Always Go is too complicated of an album cover to draw on the door whiteboard on my dorm (wait, I forgot about posting those…maybe once school’s out? Don’t hold me to it), and for some reason, even though I can listen to any other artist’s discography out of order, I’ve stubbornly decided to do so with them. (With the albums, at least—I didn’t know this EP existed until recently…oops…) But…Dry Food was just so good. I couldn’t get enough of the whole album. Something about El Kempner’s talent for letting every instrument go loose and reining them back in just as quickly keeps me listening over and over again.

So I ended up finding and promptly listening to her very first musical outing as Palehound, 2013’s Bent Nail – EP. The decision to make “Drooler” the first track was a clearly calculated one—it lulls you in with Kempner’s brightly-toned guitar notes that seem to gently roll like a loose wagon wheel, but drops off just as quickly, breaking into a bluesy, catchy groove, strangely accented at times with the sounds of pots and pans clanging against each other. All the while, Kempner’s voice does similar gymnastics, slipping into lower tones and spiking airily high in the space of seconds. It’s hard to keep that balance—something that she frequently tests on songs like “Pet Carrot” (which works on the EP, and bafflingly maintains on her performance of it on her Tiny Desk Concert), but “Drooler” toes the line with ease. And just like that, everything that Kempner builds devolves into riotous fuzz at the end, a skidding, spark-flying crash to a perfect piece of guitar-driven indie-rock.

“Eye Patch” – De La Soul

So I’ve got another De La Soul album to add to my never ending album list, huh? I’m not complaining. Anything for another experience of wonderful, creative music, that Pos, Dove, and Mase seem to exude from their very pores, or something…

Two albums after their breakout Three Feet High and Rising, De La Soul had made a point to shed the sunshine-colored, mislabeled hippie image that had followed them everywhere, but even though that image was a major point of resentment for Plugs 1, 2, and 3 after the album’s release, listening to songs like “Eye Patch” leads me to believe that, at least musically, that spirit never quite left. Backed by the endlessly catchy samples of Jimmy Reed, the Outlaw Blues Band, and the same French language learning program that they sampled for Three Feet High and Rising, it’s another earwormy patchwork that, even from my limited experience with the band, feels like their trademark. It’s smooth, rolling like waves over your skin, the perfect walking soundtrack for a movie, or just walking to class and feeling the sun on your skin. And despite the more serious undercurrent that emerged in everything post-De La Soul is Dead, there’s still samples of sheep and children laughing—there’s no denying of the original, three fresh-out-of-high school friends making music in the basement ethos that have made De La Soul so lasting.

“Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh” – David J.

Part of what I love about this song is that there will never be another song called “Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh.” If there is, I can guarantee that it’ll be ripping this title off.

I can never claim to be fully goth (even though I can and will go overboard with the black eyeliner, without hesitation) partly because both Bauhaus and Love & Rockets (a.k.a Bauhaus – Peter Murphy) have historically been hit or miss for me. I’ve still found some of the latter that are already classics for me (“Holy Fool,” “Bad for You,”…why do I keep putting off listening to Lift?); the solo careers have been similarly hit or miss, though I’ve been hoarding a small handful of songs from Murphy, Ash, and David J., respectively as of late. Strangely, even though I’ve only heard two songs of his (the other being “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur”) David J. has been the one that I’ve liked the most consistently. As much as I love and respect the eclectic spirt of Love & Rockets (okay, scratch that: I can’t forgive them for “The Purest Blue,” there’s NO excuse for that nightmare fuel), sometimes you have to sit back and linger on the gentle side of things. That’s exactly what “Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh” feels like for me: it slings a reassuring arm over your shoulder, and lets you relax while the breeze tugs at your hair. Filled with tiny packets of clever wordplay (“I read you like a book/Seeing through/without ever losing my place”), it’s an unassuming, acoustic piece with hidden bits that glisten in the dark.

“VBS” – Lucy Dacus

I finally got around to listening to Home Video last week, and although I wasn’t as wowed as I was with her sophomore album, Historian, it still exists as an insect trapped in amber. The album chronicles Dacus’ childhood and adolescence in Virginia, grappling with her latent queerness in contrast to her Christian upbringing, as evidenced in “VBS,” a slice-of-life recounting of church camp. Musically, Home Video wasn’t as expansive and vast as its predecessor, but Dacus’ lyricism throughout the entire album is as strong as ever—I can’t stop thinking about the lines “Sedentary secrets like peach pits in your gut/locked away like jam jars in the cellar of your heart.” For such an unassuming-sounding song (in the beginning), there are so many tiny layers to peel back, from the underlying seeds of questioning everything she’s known to the explosive burst of guitars as Dacus describes, “There’s nothing you can do, but the only thing you’ve found/playing Slayer at full volume helps to drown it out.” The latter makes me wish for more of the guitar work that Dacus displayed on songs like “Timefighter,” but that moment as a self-contained piece, like the glass butterfly boxes that form each song, makes the storytelling even clearer and cleverer than ever.

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!

Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 3/26/23

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

It’s finally spring. Sprouts are crawling out of the crumbly earth, the fog is lifting, and I have a depressingly gray color scheme to show for it. My overexcitement for getting Peter Gabriel tickets (HUUUAUAAAAAAAAAAAAGGHGHGH BIG THANK YOU TO MY PARENTS) trumps any hope of a springtime aesthetic for this post.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Darkness” – Peter Gabriel

Picture this. It’s early in the morning. You have a 9 AM class you have to get ready for. You’ve decided to listen to Up, so you put it on while you start putting your makeup on. Track 1. You turn the volume up, because nothing much seems to be happening. 0:29 hits. All hell breaks loose.

And yet, even though I do my SPD jumpscare dance every time it rolls around, I find myself listening to this song like an adrenaline junkie. Peter Gabriel knows how to open an album—lulling you into near-silence, then hitting you with a concentrated, almost industrial opening that probably keeps Trent Reznor up at night wondering how he could top it. More than that, “Darkness” is another song I’ve added to my internal list of reasons why Gabriel is such a uniquely talented musician—he makes creating a musical atmosphere that mirrors the lyrical story look so easy. As he speaks of being consumed by fear, the instrumentals crash in, enveloping all else as his voice grinds to a gravel-edged plea for solace. It was enough to give me a heart attack, and, if I’m going by the YouTube comments, enough to give people nightmares. Gabriel whispers of fearing “swimming in the sea/dark shapes moving under me/every fear I swallow makes me small,” and in the edges of the near-silence, a strained moan sounds, like a distant whale call or the grinding of a boat. The imagery is startling in its clarity—if I had the patience, I’d jump at the chance to make some kind of stop-motion or claymation music video. Unlike other artists, Gabriel’s instrumentally darker, more abrasive side doesn’t surprise me—after the first listen, all I could think of is that it was the next natural evolution of “Intruder.”

But over two decades after the release of “Intruder,” (which, unlike this song, was enough to keep me up at night—on the first night alone in my dorm, no less…good times) Gabriel has a deeply nuanced understanding of fear. Even as these fears swallow him like the whale in Pinnochio, he finds a way through the tangled woods, knowing that fear will pass—”I have my fears/but they do not have me.” Well. I needed to hear that. Sometimes it’s hard to hear these things when we’re swallowed up so easily—which I can relate to a little too well, with my experience with general fear over various things, as well as the truckload of anxiety that came along with making the move to college—but as the song ebbs and flows from monstrous crescendos to something more bare and gentle, so too do our fears. It’s all too easy for me to think that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel when I get in a place like this, but fear, like everything else, is impermanent. And when we look back, like Gabriel, we can “cry until [we] laugh.” Maybe that’s why I find myself seeking out this song so much—I love when I can give myself a musical mantra. It has no control over me.

“Nobody’s Fool” – Shakey Graves

I’ve been meaning to listen to Shakey Graves and the Horse he Rode In On solely because of how much I love that name, but I’ve got more motivation (not that I didn’t have any—the eternal album bucket list waits for no man) after hearing this one in my brother’s girlfriend’s car. Shakey Graves can make anything seem natural, be it the more experimental wanderings of Can’t Wake Up to the classic folkiness of this song. And like a classic folk song, there’s something inherently haunting about it—even without the lines about drinking and deep-seated regret, there’s an off-kilter waver to “Nobody’s Fool,” a shadow creature that’s emerged from under the bed, hanging over Alejandro Rose-Garcia’s shoulder. If that’s the case, he’s probably given said creature a banjo or something since this song, but here, it lingers. “Nobody’s Fool” is a song so atmospheric that it feels like there’s a tangible coat of dust over it—again, the lingering eeriness about it, but something of a good kind of dust, given this song’s bizarre pull.

“Love Goes Home to Paris in the Spring” – The Magnetic Fields

I love the irony in the fact that I just got an ad claiming that “99.9% of women will chase you when you do this” above the search results for this song. At that point, you can’t even say that YouTube has bad gaydar—it just doesn’t have any gaydar whatsoever…

There’s a solid chance that I’ll be blabbing about The Magnetic Fields for the next week or two afterwards, but I had the incredible privilege of seeing them last Friday night! At a small venue, too—no annoying drunk people, no jostling for a good view, just cellos, sad gay breakup songs, and Stephin Merritt’s three mugs of tea. And other than the pure genius of playing “The Book of Love,” getting everbody sobbing (it’s me I’m everybody), and then launching into “The Biggest Tits in History” (IT’S ABOUT THE BIRD IT’S ABOUT THE BIRD I SWEAR GUYS GUYS) directly after, this show made me remember how many pockets of Merritt and co.’s genius that I hadn’t heard of, or just forgotten about. Take this song; with the amount of wry, folky breakup songs that they’ve produced, you’d expect for there to be an eventual formula. Bitterness is a constant, but it’s delivered in such a clever, creative way that I can’t help but smile and nod along as if Stephin Merritt is singing about rainbows and kittens. He’ll never outright say “you broke my heart” or “I can’t forgive you for what you did”—like clay, he pulls that core emotion into “don’t you know love/goes home to Paris in the spring?” That’s the kind of wry, tongue-in-cheek magic that draws me to The Magnetic Fields again and again—Stephin Merritt never has any boring ways of interpreting love and heartbreak. Still, it’s been a few decades since they’ve started the band—I just hope he isn’t in for any “I Don’t Believe in the Sun” relationships anymore. Dude deserves a break.

“Playing for Time” – Peter Gabriel

Before I get into the song itself…another reason why I admire Peter Gabriel so much—skip to 1:00 in the video and you’ll see him performing an early, unfinished version of “Playing for Time” without any lyrics. The prospect of performing…well, anything is already nerve-wracking enough for me, but playing something that you haven’t even finished live? That’s a feat, but I guess you can just do that when you’re Peter Gabriel. I can barely even make myself share in-progress bits of writing with friends.

Onto the song itself…I’m not gonna survive this album. I barely survived this song. Gabriel’s ability to dig into our most base emotions has never faded away, and “Playing For Time” is no exception. It’s a meditation on aging, on time, and on the memories we share between loved ones. He envisions a planet comprised of the memories made by a couple— “any moment that we bring to life/will never fade away.” It’s a song that came tragically late for Arrival, but maybe that’s the way it should’ve been—the movie, and the message that mirrors this song, already made me ugly cry three separate times. I could barely hold it together after listening to this twice. But along with this song and this movie, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot; I’ve always treasured moments with my loved ones, but moving to college and being alone and independent for the first time has made me realize how precious it really is. But it’s also made me realize that these memories really do never quite go away, as long as we keep them close. Don’t let these things pass you by.

Okay, I need to stop. I think one sitting is the only time frame that I can listen to this song without curling up in a ball.

I need a minute…

“Pencils in the Wind” – Flight of the Conchords

“And people are like paper dolls/paper dolls and people, they are a similar shape…”

“Hey Jude” who? Paul McCartney wishes he could’ve come up with a line as raw as that. The voices of a generation, truly peerless.

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!

Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 3/12/23

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

It’s finally starting to feel like spring again. The birds are singing, the grass looks much less dead, the sky is bright and decidedly un-cloudy, and Those Dudes™️ are still wearing nothing but tank tops, shorts, and flip flops in 30 degree weather. Which, I should clarify, is an outfit choice that has not changed from a few weeks ago, when it was cold enough for ice to form in my water bottle. I wish I was kidding.

But we are filled with springtime warmth and joy this week! The sun is shining! For once! Joyous whimsy prevails!

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“A Little Bit of Soap” – De La Soul

Like a many other music nerds out there, I celebrated last Friday (March 3) by listening to De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, finally back on streaming, along with their other first 5 albums, after decades of legal troubles. I’d been hearing tracks like “The Magic Number” and “Me Myself and I” from early childhood, and I got worried that I’d hyped myself up far too much, but this album is as groundbreaking is as everybody says it is. Despite the years of misinterpretation and the record label’s hippie branding of the group (and “Me Myself and I” becoming their equivalent of “Creep,” so much so that all of their non-televised performances of it are always introduced by them telling the crowd to chant “we hate this song!”), it’s been taken all the way to the Library of Congress as a pivotal piece of music history. I’m not up to date on my hip-hop history, but even without that context, it’s easy to see what a sea change this was for a genre—it’s the work of three friends, barely out of high school, with the goal of having fun and playing with samples. And it’s a masterpiece.

This spirit is something that the delightfully goofy “A Little Bit of Soap” embodies. It’s not even a minute long (part of which is still taken up by a piece of the game show skit that continues through the album), it samples an obscure 60’s pop song of the same name, and the lyrics are just about B.O. And it’s GREAT. It proves that those middle school boys who barely showered and used AXE body spray to cover up the shame have existed since time immemorial. There’s something to be said about shorter songs like this, ones that clearly exist just for fun—creativity, for me at least, is primarily to amuse myself before it turns into something else. And that seems like exactly what Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo were trying to do—having fun with each other, and making something innovative in the process. Happiness and genuine joy and fun should never be dismissed as low art just because it’s not “deep”—that mentality is the enemy of creativity.

And it’s been a month now since we’ve lost Trugoy the Dove. One the one hand, it’s deeply tragic that he never got to live to see his music return to the world, but I’m comforted by the fact that he at least could rest easier knowing that the years of legal battles had come to an end, and that De La Soul would finally be able to reach the wider audience that it always deserved. You will be missed. 💗

“Mutha’uckas” – Flight of the Conchords

When Bret said “Then ************ Granny Smith ******** ******** ** an avocado ********mango ********” ? Man, I felt that. I really did. “He’s gonna wake up in a smoothie”? Never before has such an assertive display of power and dominance been made in music history. Bret McKenzie is the ultimate alpha male. Sigma, even. Take notes. Fear him. It’s gonna get vicious and malicious. (He wants his Red Delicious.)

“Captain Chicken” (feat. Del the Funky Homo Sapien) – Gorillaz

I already talked about this song briefly in my review for Cracker Island, but I can’t praise this song enough. Never in my very brief years of Earth would I predict that I would have a song with looped chicken clucking sound effects on repeat, but life is full of surprises, and Gorillaz is here to deliver. I thought the days of Gorillaz collaborating with Del the Funky Homo Sapien (as Del the Ghost Rapper) were gone before my time, and whether or not this is a nostalgia grab, the 20+ years of waiting has paid off. Just like every track they made together on Gorillaz, Albarn and Del have created another pop masterpiece, just under two minutes but packing a punch than most of Cracker Island itself. Some songs are too long or too short for their own good, but like “A Little Bit of Soap,” “Captain Chicken” is the perfect, short-and-sweet time capsule of two exceptional musicians sounding like they’re both having the time of their lives. This is the fun, pure Gorillaz spark that most of Cracker Island was missing for me, but this song is out now, and I don’t think it’s a reach to say that we’re all grateful for this little gem.

“Girl” – The Beatles

I’ve got a confession—I love all of the Beatles in their own way to some extent, but I’d put John Lennon as my least favorite, as much as I love his voice. Probably heresy, and who wouldn’t love his message of peace, but after watching Get Back recently, he just seemed kind of insufferable? There’s no denying his musical genius, but every joke he made there just felt more like trying to be funny than actually being funny. And I haven’t even gotten to the wife-beating aspect. Yech. Don’t go deep-diving into 50% of singers from the 50’s to the 90’s, kids. Disappointment awaits.

None of that is excused, but it’s songs like this that make me go back on the obvious musical prowess of people like John Lennon. I think Rubber Soul is the only Beatles album left on my list that I want to listen to, and it’s songs like “Girl” that make me want to listen to it. In this day and age, it’s hard to see how groundbreaking it was, but at the time, it was rare for a pop band as big as they were in 1966 to make a love song quite like this. It’s not the (undoubtedly catchy) sunshine and rainbows of their first few albums; it’s more than a little folksy, and it starts to dig into a melancholia that the genre had barely touched with a ten-foot pole at that point. Every detail makes it such a strange, wonderful pop song—John Lennon’s hissing inhalations in the chorus, the eerily beautiful harmonies of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison (which I can never praise enough), and the guitar work, which was apparently played with the capo extra high on the neck to make the sound resemble a bouzouki. From what I’ve heard, Rubber Soul served as the Beatles’ gateway into their truly innovative work, delving into pure psychedelia on Revolver, which came out later that same year, and to this day, “Girl” and many of the album’s other track are a time capsule to the Beatles just before they leapt off the precipice and into the musical unknown.

“Life’s a Happy Song” (from The Muppets) – Amy Adams, Jason Segel, & Walter

Nothing like the realization that Amy Adams was in this movie hitting you like a train directly on the heels of ugly crying to Arrival, amirite? That’s some whiplash. Needless to say, that’s some impressive range.

And if you take one thing away from both this song and this post, it’s that Bret McKenzie did NOT have to go that hard with the Muppets soundtrack. I’m just picturing the guy just coming into the studio with a notepad, eyes glowing red and levitating, and laying the lyrics to this and/or “Man Or Muppet” down on the table, and everybody just refusing to question it. I can still remember having this as the first song on a scratchy CD, and only ending up hearing it and “Eight Days a Week” because it conked out on me after track 2. I have many fond memories of sunny afternoons listening to this song while organizing the Calico Critters house that I got for my birthday that year. The voice of a generation. What can I say? Life’s a fillet of fish.

Since this post consists of all 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!

Posted in Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 3/5/23

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!


“Criminal” – Fiona Apple

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!

Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 2/26/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! Hope this week has treated you all well.

Here we are at the end of the shortest month of the year, and we’ve got a bit of a…chaotic mishmash of songs for the occasion this week. I suppose it always is, but even though the album covers are somewhat coordinated, the songs were strung together like angry children reluctantly getting shoved into a family photo. I like them all, though, and I hope you do too. Climb aboard the (emotional) rollercoaster, you never know what’ll hit you. Hopefully not whiplash.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“The Court (Dark-Side Mix)” – Peter Gabriel

“Justice is a luxury for the rich” HERE KING YOU DROPPED THIS 👑

I end up sacrificing color schemes for chronology in these posts more than not, but in the end, it’s more about talking about the music I’m generally liking, so I’ve abandoned the guilt at this point, even though we’re closer to the next full moon to when “The Court” actually came out. Anyway.

I talked a bit about “Panopticom” last month, and I liked it, but it felt like there was something missing. Turns out that this song was what was missing—I was already excited for i/o, but “The Court” is getting my hopes up. From the barely audible, slowed-down laughter hidden in the intro, there’s a creeping, sinister feel to the whole song; you can almost feel a shadow being cast across your body when the chorus echoes with “And the court/Will rise/While the pillars all fall.” It’s a slow build, but unlike “Panopticom,” which left a sort of void that I was waiting for the entire time, “The Court” weaves into an ominous spectacle, that, regardless of the Dark-Side or Bright-Side mix, wraps you up in a cloud of smoke. A bit of theatricality, almost reminiscent of some of Gabriel’s orchestral reimaginings of his earlier songs, creeps into the bridge as his voice (still just as rich even when he’s in his 70’s…oh, happy belated birthday, by the way!), making for a song that functions as an individual piece, but has the feeling of a great album opener. I’m not even sure. I think it would be a good opening, but we won’t have any semblance of order for i/o until the end of the year, so we’ll see…

“MFSOTSOTR” – Sidney Gish

As of now, it’s been a few weeks since the actual announcement, but Sidney Gish is back!! She’s been teasing a new album that was originally set to be released in January, but as of now, is still being worked on. But for now, she’s released two singles as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club—this song and “Filming School,” which is just as great. On the process of writing “MFSOTSOTR,” Gish said that “the lyrics were freestyled while staring at a meme of a buff man wearing high-waisted jeans. No edits were ever made to ‘MFSOTSOTR.’ It has haunted my hard drive for three years.” And if that doesn’t sum up the wonderfully oddball spirit of Sidney Gish both in her songwriting and personality, then I don’t know what does. Even though it’s barely a minute long, this song is packed with everything that endeared Gish to me back in 2019—it’s the definition of carefree, building off of freestyle riffing without any worry about meaning. From the deliberate mispronunciation of “question” to the delicate layering of Gish’s harmonies, it’s made me so excited for what the future has in store for her—let’s hope that album comes out soon (whenever she feels like it’s ready, of course), but for now, we have some bite-sized, joyful weirdness to enjoy for the time being.

“Enter One” – Sol Seppy

And now we’re at the polar opposite of the spectrum of sadness. Whoops. Apologies for the emotional whiplash.

I can thank my mom for this one after she found it in the soundtrack of Dark (which I still haven’t seen, oops), and all I can say is that it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. This is my first exposure to Sol Seppy (a stage name for Sophie Michalitsianos), but knowing that she was part of Sparklehorse’s backing band for several years (most notably on their 2001 album It’s a Wonderful Life) makes the sound of this song make even more sense. It has the same bare, melancholic sparseness, with a delicate piano as the only instrumentation for most of the song. That should be enough to signal how rough of a ride this song is, but I digress. Seppy’s voice does no small amount of heavy lifting as its layered over each other, rising like an impending tidal wave that casts a long, creeping shadow over the beach. And given that, from what I can sort of glean from the lyrics, it seems to be about letting go and welcoming/coming to terms with death (“Fear not this light/We are on this light divine/Welcome/Enter one”), the atmosphere is palpable—it’s a painfully beautiful song, and it’s difficult to listen to, but nonetheless a gorgeously written piece of music. I guess that’s why at least 3 different death (or somehow emotional) scenes from several different movies or TV shows came up when I searched it on YouTube…

“Rotten Ol’ me” – Shakey Graves

Alright, here we go. Back to happy times again. The dark clouds have parted, and in the sunshine comes Shakey Graves.

I haven’t had the time to listen to Deadstock – A Shakey Graves Day Anthology in its entirety, but I decided that I’d listen to the iTunes previews of the songs that sounded promising to me. I sifted a handful out of that initial listen, but “Rotten Ol’ me” has quickly risen to my favorite of the bunch. The opening riff perfectly captures the feel of this song—darkly mischievous and playful, with the feeling of a tiny devil with a pointy goatee sitting on your shoulder with a guitar. (Or maybe the giant, hovering skull on the album cover instead? Either one fits the vibe, really.) Alejandro Rose-Garcia is, without a doubt, one of the more innovative alternative/folk musicians to come out of the past few decades, and that’s not even talking about some of his drum techniques, but “Rotten Ol’ me” is proof of his sheer guitar prowess. With its multilayered melodies and a rapid plucking style that makes my fingers hurt just think about it, each note feels like a thread in a giant tapestry, each one knotted to the other to create a lively folk song full of hooks.

“D.I.Y.” – Peter Gabriel

I thought I was done doubling up after two weeks ago, but Peter Gabriel will always be just that good. This one’s worlds away from the feel of “The Court,” and it comes off of his second album, Peter Gabriel 2: Scratch (you know, the one where he’s got the frighteningly long acrylics—oh, those are scratches, you say?). My first thought upon listening to this was that it reeked of Berlin Trilogy-era David Bowie (Low, “Heroes,” and Lodger, for reference). Scratch was released just a year after both Low and “Heroes,” so there’s no doubt that this guy was leaning over Bowie’s shoulder and taking notes and hoping that he wouldn’t notice. Robert Fripp produced this album and worked with Bowie around the same time as well, so I guess there weren’t any hard feelings. Still a few years fresh off of Genesis, “D.I.Y.” is full of art-rock defiance, jangling and bright but ready to spit in the face with it’s pre-chorus: “Come up to me with your ‘What did you say?’/And I’ll tell you, straight in the eye, hey!/D.I.Y.” With its climbing instrumentation and Gabriel’s simultaneously bright and rich vocals, it’s instantly catchy, proof of his versatility even that early on in his career.

Since today’s 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!