Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well. 💗
I’m not even touching the fact that we’re somehow already halfway through March, but the passage of time is fine, right? Right? Hopefully the shades of red in this week’s songs are blinding enough to distract you from the fact. Would’ve been a more fitting color scheme for Valentine’s Day, but I’m a non-conformist if nothing else.
Enjoy this week’s songs!
SUNDAY SONGS: 3/15/23
It’s been a few years since I found out about Suki Waterhouse via Apple Music and “Johanna,” but now, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s only ever made…one or two different songs. Is she good at it? I’d say so. A good 90% of the time, at least. Strangely, her songs work better solitarily for me; after listening to her debut album I Can’t Let Go in full, I had a decent listening experience, but, again—same song 10 times. It got a little tiring, but I got some nuggets of goodness out of it.
So after I found out that “To Love” had been released, I went in expecting more of the same. Lyrically, it’s still the same song, but it’s gotten me so excited that the instrumentation has started to change! Waterhouse has embraced sweeping maximalism in this song, with starry guitar tones reminiscent of the 70’s, an orchestral hum in the chorus, and no shortage of grandeur as she sings of losing herself in a once-in-a-lifetime love. And with all of her songs, her airy, sparkling voice provides an anchor for the journey that the instrumentation goes on—light on one verse, then diving straight into an ocean of orchestral wonder. It easily separates itself from most of her other catalogue, and although I can easily see her riding the same wave for the rest of her musical career, part of me is still holding onto hope that she’ll embrace this feel.
After I heard about Sorry and “Starstruck” from my brother a few weeks back, I went on a brief frenzy and downloaded a handful of songs from their 2020 album 925 and then left it alone. I still need to listen to said album, but when the dust settled, I was left with “Heather” as one of the standouts. In contrast to the wry, post-punk sensibilities of “Starstruck,” “Heather” gently sways, a listless stare out the window as a spring drizzle trails down the glass. Threads of chaotic instrumentation linger in the background, but the song remains a gently rocking hammock, keeping momentum but never snapping loose. Asha Lorenz’s voice comes off continuously tired, slipping at the edges, but it’s the perfect fit for this song, singing of “The only one you’d choose/to spend your rainy days with.” Somehow, this song is able to make the line “we’ll lie like dead birds in the heather” sound bizarrely romantic, just as innocuous as the acoustic guitar strums. Even with Lorenz’s voice croaks in the background of the chorus, there’s still a gentle whimsy to it, an easy head-nodder to stare up at a sunset to.
“Black Math” – The White Stripes
The cycle never ends. I see any interview with Jack White. I want to hate his guts. And then this comes on shuffle, and I really can’t…WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS TO ME? CAN YOU NOT BE SO OBNOXIOUS SO I CAN PROPERLY APPRECIATE HOW FANTASTIC OF A GUITARIST YOU ARE, DUDE? He’s the kind of guy with the misplaced bravado to say that, on the eve of him filming the documentary “It Might Get Loud” alongside The Edge and Jimmy Page, they would probably “get in a fistfight.” Most of the time, that kind of bravado doesn’t have the talent to back it up. I’m not justifying…him™️ at all, but for once, he has the sheer musical talent to back it up. There’s a reason that he was put alongside the likes of The Edge and Page.
Just like the way it unexpectedly appeared on my shuffle not too long ago, “Black Math” immediately kicks in with a sudden and propulsive burst of guitar. White’s fuzzed-out notes, all at once tightly controlled and wild and reckless, never steer off course—every intricate riff tossed in feels intentional, as though they were lined up like chess pieces, stationary but ready to attack at any second. Though the momentum skids into a sludgier, crunchy, slow-tempo area in places, there’s never a sense that either White or White (that’s not confusing at all, and again, Jack White specifically did not have to make it even more so…really, dude, why) have let the reins go free, still holding a tight grip on a timelessly tight song.
Black? Burgundy? We’ve got an interesting musical color scheme here…surely I won’t be piling both of these songs on my “songs with color names in the title” playlist that I made because I got bored…nuh uh…
My tendency to give mediocre to bad things “just one more chance” hasn’t led me anywhere 95% of the time. It applies to way too many parts of my life. But sometimes, there’s that 5% off-chance that an artist will prove me wrong, dredging up an occasional offering of brightness, and that’s what I’ve found here. Hopefully, this won’t be the reason that I keep doing it with music, but…
Most of what I know of Warpaint boils down to two songs. I’ve loved their cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” which my dad turned me onto shortly after Bowie passed away, and when we still had the radio in my mom’s car, “New Song” was on heavy rotation on the indie station. I tried to listen to their 2014 self-titled album a few years back, and though the details of the music itself are fuzzy, the disappointment I felt was distinct—nothing about it really did anything for me like I thought at least one song would. And yet, when I saw this appear on an Apple Music playlist the other day, I had a morbid curiosity to see if there was anything of worth in this song—lo and behold, there was. Bare and quiet, it ambles along gently, with Stella Mozgawa’s subtly syncopated drums. Emily Kokal seems content to let her vocals fade into the soft, unseen corners of the song’s musical landscape, making for an atmosphere that seems to drift like fog around your hear, constantly evaporating and reforming itself, ever-changing. It may not be enough to give the band as a whole another chance, but “Burgundy” is a song that I’ll surely keep in my back pocket.
“Of Course” – Jane’s Addiction
I suppose we’re ending on a weighty one, aren’t we?
Jane’s Addiction is one of those bands that’s been ever-present in my life, but they only land with me every few songs. It took me a long time for this one to grow on me, as most of their songs do, but upon listening to it again, I was first struck by just how fantastic this violin is—I never knew his name before this song, but can we appreciate Charlie Bisharat for a moment? Against the rolling-wave, cyclical feel of the song (more on that later), his playing is fiercely frenetic, all at once jagged and rich with vibrancy, brighter than the red on the borders of the album cover for Ritual De Lo Habitual. Even when the other instruments take center stage, Bisharat’s playing shines through, translating itself into the lyrics themselves—I love how sharp and stinging the notes become after the line “When I was a boy/My big brother held onto my hand/And he made me slap my own face”? I’m a sucker for instances where the instruments become just as much a part of the lyrics as the lyrics themselves.
Lyrically, on a surface-level listen, it would be easy to take this song cynically—there’s images aplenty of human animals eating and clawing at each other to reach the top, the constant motif of getting slapped in the face. But the slap in the face is key here—all of that dog-eat-dog cynicism is flipped to the chorus of “a sensation not unlike slapping yourself in the face.” All you’re doing with that violently competitive mentality is screwing yourself over. It’s easy to miss, but it’s an important distinction to make—I could go on for ages about how capitalism has infected so many of us, especially in the U.S., with this mentality, but beyond the song, I like to take it as proof that working against each other is what will drive us into the ground. It’s become a little too relevant in the past few years, but even though “Of Course” has a somewhat universal message, it’s one that resonates a lot with these troubled times. Biting at each other’s heels is never getting us anywhere, and it never has. Jane’s Addiction may be generally hit-or-miss for me, but they struck gold when they put this out into the world.
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!