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!
SUNDAY SONGS: 4/16/23
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*
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.”
“[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.
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.
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!