Sunday, May 20, 2018

Redux No. 1: Sadie Dupuis and Her Works

Anyone who has followed this site closely has probably caught me fretting over how I consume music - specifically, the idea of going so fast that I am, in effect, like a rock forever skipping across the surface of popular music. I’ll spare you the agonies, but this post launches a (fitful) project of going back to look at artists that, between the New to Me and Bins Project posts, I’ve profiled in the past. One part of that includes going back to tighten up the writing (a lot of gibberish), and to try to nail down a cleaner format/purpose on those posts, so that, ideally, I can write better, richer posts for this site going forward.

So…why’d I pick this artist, Speedy Ortiz,  which happened to be Number 17 in the New to Me project? A lot of that had to do with Spotify connecting me to Sad13, the side project for Speedy Oritz front-person, Sadie Dupuis. As such, this post is as much about her as it is about Speedy Ortiz and Sad13. I’ll be closing with more programming notes/aspirations, but let’s take another look at Sadie Dupuis. And her many works.

“I can't and wouldn't want to make a record that speaks for everyone…”
- Sadie Dupuis, Frontdemon, Speedy Ortiz, Sad13, plus some side shit
My original post connected to Dupuis took a long, surprisingly thorough look at Speedy Ortiz’s middle album, Foil Deer, by way of Foiled Again, the EP that featured “Death Note,” the song that introduced me to Speedy Ortiz. I liked the format I came up with for those New to Me posts and, personally, I rate that write-up as one of the better representations of what I want to accomplish with those. The “Gateway Drug” section, the part that reviews a single song, makes me put some thought into what I like about just one song, to dig into mechanics, lyrics and dynamics of what works for me in pop music. I rounded out those New to Me posts by looking at the album rest of the album(s) and the artist(s) who made them and, again, I didn’t often do it as well as I did with Speedy Ortiz/Foil Deer.

For this edition (and in a series I never even though to name…shit), I dug up more interviews - I have more in the original post as well - and that’s where I stumbled on the quote above. That gives a pretty decent shorthand, both for Dupuis’ approach to music and the kind of music and, the kind of art generally, that appeals to me (caveat lector). And, if you go back to that first post, you’ll see me toe a sloppy line between geeking out and losing my shit over Dupuis and Speedy Ortiz. With this post, I looked into the rest of her/their ever-exploding catalog (in one interview, she mentioned wanting to put out an album a year till she’s dead), with the focus on Speedy Ortiz’s most recent album, Twerp Verse, and Dupuis’ self-recorded solo album project, Sad13 (based on her twitter handle, for the record).

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The May 2018, Week 1 Playlust Playlist: The Last of Its Kind...

Sometimes the memory needs a little knock.
Before anyone comments upon, notes, or ridicules it, I’ll just state outright that this week’s research inspired the upcoming round of tweaks to format. In other words, blame Echo & the Bunnymen.

I kid, because I’m actually grateful for the steer. A nice fella (on twitter as @mschofer) suggested a deep-dive into Echo & the Bunnymen. I remembered them from growing up (yep, old!), but would have only survived the proverbial “gun-to-your-head” test (thanks to @shotboxer, btw, for that phrasing I’ve borrowed so many times) to name even one of their songs if my executioner was willing to make it multiple choice. That only violates the spirit of the game, not the law, as I see it.

And, to answer the one question the same nice fella put to me, the name “Echo & the Bunnymen” was a piece of nonsense offered up by a friend of the band that, per the quote I read, “was just as stupid as the rest.” It could have been “The Daz Men” or “Glisserol,” apparently, but they went with the name they went with. Personally, I’m partial to the back-story the band denied - e.g., see, when they started, they had this drum machine called “Echo…”

As for the format change - which I’ll get to elsewhere - it comes from wanting to pay proper respect to a musical artist’s work, even when I’m not crazy about him, her or them. As I learned this week, that will come up more with the playlist than what I post. As you’ll see in the playlist below, there’s just a whisper of Echo & the Bunnymen in it, while there’s a shit-load of this week’s other featured artist, Low Cut Connie. Not to put to fine a point on it, but I love the latter so much that you could convince me someone designed it in a fucking lab from my pilfered DNA. I mean, it checks an obscene number of my personal boxes. Even as I’m (literally) dragging this to press, I’m still struggling to get Low Cut Connie’s cut on the 30-song playlist under 1/3. Echo & the Bunnymen, meanwhile, come out of a musical era/style that I’ve just never liked - what passed for popular rock in most of the 1980s. That runs from new wave(?), what I’m told is “post-punk” (more later, and all kinds of mischief), and through glam metal. On the plus side, new wave and post-punk kick glam metals ass so far as I’m concerned.

At any rate, and before moving on, I’m genuinely thrilled that @mschofer suggested Echo & the Bunnymen. I’ve always known the name and, as it happens, a couple songs (“Lips Like Sugar” and “Seven Seas”), and, honestly, I’ve always liked their name enough that I would have given them a shot at some point. So, why not now?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The April 2018 Playlust Playlist: Cut Your Own, People

Sure. Give it a mouth.
With this, I round into a new model I’ve been stumbling toward over the past couple months. This monthly playlist post - and all the ones after (until I change my mind) - will just list and link to all 30 songs that made the final playlist. I’ll wrap up with a list of the Top 10 Rejected Songs (ALL CAPS) for the month just passed, and a quick note on why I think each is worth one more shot, if for someone who isn’t me.

Because I made notes on all (or nearly all) the songs on the final April 2018 playlist earlier this month, I’m skipping it here (and going forward). But, for anyone wanting more information and the 30 songs below, along with…48 more songs (I think?), the links below will take you to the three posts where I took notes on all 30 songs below, plus those 48 other ones.

Gawd, enough mechanics. Just real quick, I keep trying to build a better mouse trap on learning/finding music. Most of those contraptions die on the drawing board, but I’m still finding a lot of things I love…while keeping track of what’s failing.

Anyway, it’s never fun reducing 78 songs you like to a Top 30 you think will hold up for you, and other like-minded folk. I took some shortcuts - e.g., Ciara/Missy Elliott "1, 2 Step" (if you don’t know them you don’t want to); Jeff Rosenstock, “Nausea” (most famous of the songs that matched its profile in his stuff); Hosoi Bros. “Unholy Hand Grenade” (could only find the whole album on the web; it's good for metal people); Paul Simon/Nico Segal, “Stranger” (because who forgets Paul “Fucking” Simon?) - when choosing the last songs I’d send to whatever the fuck Spotify calls perdition (and relates incoherently to other hells). Still, I’d encourage anyone who likes what’s below to check out those three posts above, because you’ll probably find something else you like.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Playlust, April 2018, Week 3: A (Contemporary) Punk Hero and More Songs from 2013

Seriously, that's brilliant.
I never mean to overwhelm myself, but I often do. Some of it comes from a delusional sense of what’s possible, but the rest comes from ignorance. For instance, when I decided to tackle Jeff Rosenstock, I had to know idea that meant wrestling the life of an indie rock legend to ground. I managed to pin at least one foot to ground, maybe a foot. At time of writing, I haven’t heard even one song by his former projects, The Arrogant Sons of Bitches or Bomb the Music Industry! - which makes this entire interview where he ranks all that band’s albums Greek to me - so there’s still…just so, so much left to go.

From what I gather (here), Rosenstock himself isn’t entirely clear what to do with the fame since he released Worry., his 2016 solo album that the few people I’ve read so far called his “magnum opus.” Even the review for his 2018 release, Post-, dropped Worry. on the other side of the scale. Then again, same guy, same outlet (Pitchfork), so that’s a man who has his theory and he’s sticking to it.

He’s not far wrong, either, or at least I don’t disagree with him. I didn’t realize that I’d dragged well over half the songs from Worry. onto this week’s playlist until I started the work of whittling it down. Still wound up with six of ‘em in the end - if with three included to make a point. I have an excuse. That album is fucking incredible, down to the album cover (which I love like a lost friend I’ve never met; not sure where I read it (probably the review), but the photo comes from his wedding, apparently).

Only one of Rosenstock’s albums fell away in the end - his first, I Look Like Shit, which was, again, really fucking good - but, after listening to the rest (the two named above, plus We Cool?), the biggest realization was how long it’d been since I’d heard good punk rock. “Good,” while always personal, communicates a few things, especially when it comes to punk: it’s not just the same three-chord songs with minor modifications, and well-constructed, heart-felt and, most important, natural lyrics elevate the standard-issue angst into something…well, something special for me, at least.

While everyone but musical adhedonists listen to music to connect with something, I can’t keep track of all the ways I connect to Rosenstock’s music, intentions and world-view. An old friend of mine once confessed to me that he might have taken punk rock too seriously, and that’s definitely in play here. Rosenstock draws ready comparisons to Minor Threat/Fugazi’s legendary front-man Ian MacKaye (whose name I never really get clear intel on how to pronounce), and they definitely share attitudes about the music business (e.g., a name like Bomb the Music Industry!). To commit a bit of deep-cut taboo, it occurred to me over the past week that the punk ethos picked up what far too many hippies laid down when they gave up. By way of example, Rosenstock started out by giving his music away under a pay-what-you-can-afford approach to album sales, but, per a nice catch-up posted on Noisey, he’s still pushing to find venues that will let him charge under $15 for admission to a show. (NOTE: Rosenstock is playing Portland May 24. Unless you just hate everything you hear down below, this will be an awesome fucking show.) Turns out that’s harder than you think…then again, rents in Portland. And everywhere anyone wants to live for no better reason than a co-mingling of grudge and identity.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Playlust, April 2018, Week 2: SXSW, The Grass Was Greener in 2013...

It's like your home, but someone else's.
Have I mentioned how these things, both posts and playlists, have started to enjoy a life of their own. Sometimes I believe that…they build me.

Yeah, that’s some shit. All the same, what started as an earnest attempt to know and understand the South by Southwest Music ‘n’ Everything Festival wound up parked in a sort of King Tuff cul-de-sac longer than intended. Long story short, I kept getting sucked into “just a couple songs” by one artist (e.g. Baby Bee and…eh, it’s good), then another (e.g., Hosoi Bros, a good kick up the backside), but blame Pitchfork for letting me know King Tuff dropped a new album this week (aside: I often type “ablum,” instead of “album,” and that makes me think of Mitch Ablom…also, turns out its “Albom,” so, false alarm, still, feels a little like a sign I’m about to die and meet all those people “I’m supposed to meet’ in heaven).

Whatever I did or didn’t learn about SXSW - and I’ll wrap with that - this week did take me back to the dimly-lit Memory Lane of culling the massive free download that came out around the 2013 festival - which, just to mention it, and per Wikipedia’s history, marks the second year auteurs used the festival to launch “big-budget films.” It took weeks to make much sense of that download, and I spent most of my time holding on to songs I could conceivably, and in any way see myself liking at some point in the future, maybe someone else’s too. By that I mean I was flexible. And I still threw away over 500 free mp3s because I knew, in my soul, I’d never come around to any of them.

There’s a sub-text to that note that goes back to the songs I heard (and reviewed here) from the NPR-curated Top 100 songs I listened to last week (which was, in fact, a bootleg that included 91 “bonus” songs). First, and most of all, I pre-selected all the 700+ songs that I still have from the 2013 festival - and that means they’re going have whatever certain je ne sais quoi that I like in music. NPR, on the other hand, serves different, sleepier, masters. Still, in NPR’s defense, and against mine, I included three songs on the playlist (but not down below) that I survived my personal purge. That means I rated these songs “good enough” at a minimum and, now? I get the appeal, while also wondering how much had to do with a combination of fewer options than I now enjoy (thanks to improved streaming, subscription services), and me trying to catch up to what’s current. Anyway, those songs include, Air Dubai’s “All Day,” Cisco Adler’s “Classic,” and Ginny Blackmore’s “Bones.” I’ll post comments on these on twitter tomorrow - because my fondness for each crawled out of some weird recesses - but I’m left those in as a counter-point to the next paragraph.

I think I liked the broad trends in music better back in 2013. That’s a big statement, and one not much related to what things aging will work on my head, that takes in both new tangents from pop music, but also to the sounds the people who made music that year are throwing back to. To give a specific, personal example, I remember hearing a lot more lo-fi, garage throwbacks in the 2013 set than L’Edition 2018 - where I heard none. The same goes for hip hop and, again, cumbias, all of which showed up more five years ago than they did this year. The big caveat there remains: I got 1,300 songs from as many artists in 2013, where I got only 100 for 2018, all of them pre-screened by NPR’s thoroughly competent hosts, who, at the same time, have certain preferences that may or may not align with mine. Holy shit, that’s a lot of framing…sorry, moving on…

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Playlust, April 2018, Week 1: SXSW, Part 1, Reviewing Reviews

I don't not picture this. Still. I know.
First, my apologies to every band and artist named below, because I am giving each of you less attention than you deserve. Still, personal deadline, or this log-jam just keeps getting bigger, and I’m very sorry. Yes, very sorry.

To give a quick outline, I spent the past week mostly listening to NPR’s SXSW Top 100 Playlist - which, as it happens, actually included 191 songs, some of them pretty dubious (e.g., Fiona Apple’s “Shadowboxer,” Dead or Alive, “You Spin Me Round,” plus, like, three down below…and, whoops, just noticed I was listening to some rando’s bootleg; still, has all that right songs, and I digress). Won’t lie: I got lightly goddamn bored off and on going through this thing. More particularly, either NPR self-selected a bunch of low-tempo acoustic indie, or SXSW invited a relatively narrow band of musical acts. Whatever, I heard a lot of new stuff and I’m grateful…

…all the same, that got me thinking about that big stash of songs I downloaded from the 2013 SXSW - of which, I have about 700 songs left after the first purge (down from about 1,250). In my memory (and from a couple days’ worth of recent listening), those songs felt different - more upbeat, for starters, but that year featured a shit-stack of “cumbias,” for some (totally fine) reason. That loose impression reinvigorated my desire to plow through that pile, see whether the music sounded a little brighter back just five short years ago. ‘Twas a happier time…

I plan to get two things out of that: 1) the 2013 Top 100 playlist I mentioned a couple weeks back (on both Spotify and the home database), and 2) a short history of the South by Southwest music festival. Because I intend to get that posted with next week’s playlist (e.g., the March 2018, Week 2 Playlust Playlist), don’t expect a ton of depth; it’ll be more famous (or infamous) events from past festivals and answers to the piercing questions like, why does SXSW cost so damn much, and why does half of everyone seem to hate it now?

So, my preamble for this week is basically, there will be a preamble next week. I have 25 songs down below (just 25!), most of them(?) favorites from this year’s NPR/SXSW Top 100, but also several songs from…yeah, this would be last week’s Discover Weekly playlist (eh, I’ve had better, I’ve had worse). I’ll do my best to get a note or two on each artist down below, but, honestly, don’t expect more than a name, a song, and a glance. I’ll be a better boy next week. Or just wish that I was with another week’s regret piled on. This is how I roll…

Thanks for reading (it’ll be better next week?!), and happy listening!

Playlust: The 2018, 1st Quarter Top 50 Playlist: Songs for Speedwalking

Famed for its elegance...
[Ed. - Apart from the broad mid-tempo range, this playlist has nothing to do with speedwalking. I'm just buggered for a title.]

I’ll start with the good news: the slow evolution of this site/these posts (what’s it been, a year? year and a half?) might have landed on a sustainable formula (my people live on eternally unrealized plans). If so, I will have found my skeleton key, slain my own personal white whale, and the cure for my halitosis, quests that have plagued my life for years.

The bad news? I’ll have to kick it off next month - and that only takes care of the monthly playlist (coming up for April!), and not these quarterly posts. Hmm…

I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it (in May, apparently), but, that’s more than enough, welcome to the Top 50 playlist for the first quarter of 2018, a list of the songs I’ve…felt the most over the dark days of January, February and March (with links to them all). I kept my comments on each song brief, and not just because I’ve discovered that it’s thoroughly exhausting to say something novel 50 times, even when dealing with 50 fairly (reasonably) different songs. If nothing else, I get tired of typing the words, “song,” “music,” and “sound,” and I’ve got no fucking clue as to how I’ll replace any of them. Anyway, I might get it one day, or I might just stop doing them.

And, to tip the hand a little on the next generation, I won’t need to come up with 50 different things to say all at once, because I’ll already have included notes on all those songs in all those weekly posts that come before the final monthly posts. That way, I can just drop in links to those - and (YES!) I can then link to them again when I post the next quarterly playlist post. At the end of June...when I'll be...never mind.

Speaking of the weekly posts, I have one to get to/half-ass before the night’s out (and it’s looking a lot like quarter-assing at this point), so let me get this posted now. Enjoy!

A solid guitar-driven mantra. Feels very positive…

A tongue-in-cheek meditation on loneliness and desperation in the power-pop tradition.

Elliott SmithCoast to Coast
Indie rock with a good, dramatic vibe.; orchestral in its structure. Outro goes straight to the 90s.

Love the way everything about this song sort of staggers. The kids seem to dig the drowsy.