Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!
I probably should’ve said something before tweaking my blogging schedule without warning, but I’ve decided to do a little something new instead of my weekly updates. I figured that I ended up saying most of the stuff I said in my weekly updates in my monthly wrap-ups, so this seemed like a more fun and creative use of my time.
Since last summer, I’ve been making graphics of songs that I’d been listening to during the week and shared them every Sunday, inspired by my brother. I’ve wanted to write about music more on this blog for a while, so I figured that I’d move my Sunday Songs to this blog as well to get the chance. As I said, these will probably replace my weekly updates, but you’ll be able to see everything that I’ve been reading in my wrap-ups at the end of each month. I know I’m going to enjoy writing about music more, and I hope you all enjoy the results!
SUNDAY SONGS: 1/8/23
Gorillaz – “Left Hand Suzuki Method”
I can’t say anything about the whole album, but you know a band has endless talent when even the B-Sides (or G-Sides, in this case) sound just as good—if not better—than the original album material. I’ve been a huge fan of Gorillaz for years, but I didn’t hear about this one until it showed up in my YouTube recommendations out of the blue. And of all the things I expected to get from a Gorillaz song, Suzuki flashbacks was not one of them. I feel like I got whiplash the second I heard the sample of “Long Long Ago”, and suddenly, I was experiencing every piano lesson that I had from ages 5-7 (or something) as well as every recital that I ever attended at my old music school all at once. Whew.
But the way Damon Albarn utilizes this sample in “Left Hand Suzuki Method” is a testament to his creativity as a musician; building off a creaky sample that’s meant to teach kids how to play music, he creates a collage of funky keyboards and thick, punchy guitar intervals that transform a simple song into a collage of instantly catchy sound. Genius. Again, how was this a B-Side? (Sorry, G-Side…)
David Bowie – “All the Madmen”
I forgot up until a few days ago that this Sunday also happens to be what would have been David Bowie’s 76th birthday, so I’m glad I’m writing about him today. Happy birthday, sir. ⚡️
This one’s a bit lesser known than most of his (extensive) catalogue, but it’s crept up to become one of my favorite, underrated songs of his. Taken from The Man Who Sold the World, it’s loosely based on his schizophrenic half-brother, who was in and out of the institutions that the song fictionalizes. As you’d imagine, it’s appropriately chilling in that sense, but it has a lighter, almost nursery rhyme feel to certain parts of it—flutes and light drums that almost sound tinkling—before launching into epic, sweeping electric guitars that have come to define much of his early 70’s material. It all culminates into one of the most simultaneously creepy and catchy outros that I can think of in any song—as the guitars blend into synths as the song closes, Bowie begins a clapping chant of “Zane, zane, zane/ouvre le chien” (open the dog), a line which he later confirmed to be nonsense, seemingly the final nail in the protagonist’s loss of sanity. “All the Madmen” makes me appreciate Bowie so much more a songwriter—with his combination of sharp lyricism and musical craft, every song is a story.
Missy Elliott – “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
At last…I finally know what my mom was referencing every time she said “Beep beep!/Who got the keys to the Jeep?”…
And my mom is also the reason why I found this song, after I told her about how I rediscovered “Get Ur Freak On”, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop ever since. Hip-hop isn’t usually my go-to, but even from the two songs I know her from, Missy Elliott is masterful at making a song so smooth and seamless that you miss the samples within—I just found out that the main structure of the song was sampled from Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” Like “Left Hand Suzuki Method,” “The Rain” creates a collage of smooth, instantly catchy sound out of a single, looped sample, creating a wider soundscape that keeps my head nodding through all 4+ minutes of the song. This phrase is definitely going to come up constantly in these posts, but…yeah, I need to listen to more Missy Elliott. So good.
I know shamefully little about this band—before hearing this one on a friend’s Instagram story, the extent of my knowledge of Fontaines D.C. came from their glowing Pitchfork reviews (I think this album that this song is from came out on the same day as Everything Was Beautiful and got best new music instead of it? Come on, Spiritualized deserved it…I digress…why am I so fixated on these things?) and some guy’s hoodie that I saw in passing at the Smile show (“oh, the album with the elk on it?” – my internal monologue). I’m liking this song enough to explore more, though; through my first and only exposure so far, I love how “I Love You” slowly builds tension and breaks it just as quickly. With the faint bass and twinkling guitar notes in the quite first few minutes, the drums build to a slow, tight crescendo as the vocals intensify and then return to the peaceful, strangely sinister place where the song came from just as quickly, fading to nothing but a few strained strums in the very end.
So thanks, anonymous friend, for the new song and possibly new band to listen to! Maybe another album to add to my hydra-like list of albums that I have yet to listen to?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair (Acoustic Version)”
Going back to a mainstay favorite of mine for several years, here’s a beautifully uplifting song to take us into the rest of the new year. I know, look at the title, but stay with me: the song is more about overcoming despair than the despair itself, don’t worry. We’ll save my sadgirl songs for later. Although the original makes the uplifting message all the more prominent (because how else would Karen O. dancing on top of the Empire State Building in a rhinestone-studded jacket make you feel? Really?), there’s a certain intimacy that I glean from the acoustic version; whereas the original is a rallying cry for optimism and hope in spite of the darkness that life brings, this feels like a gentle comfort, a reassuring word whispered as you’re tucked into bed, promising that the monsters under your bed won’t hurt you after all. “Through the darkness and the light/Some sun has gotta rise.” Leave it to Karen O. and company to keep the light going in these uncertain times.
Oh, and I just realized that the original is almost 10 years old now, OW…
Since this post consists of all songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.
I hope you all enjoyed my first time doing Sunday Songs! I love writing about music almost as much as I like writing about books, so hopefully you can enjoy it too. I look forward to writing more about music in the future outside of just album reviews (although I’m VERY excited to review Cracker Island when the day comes). Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!