Just because it’s practically summer and the weather is beautiful doesn’t mean that we can’t still stay huddled in our little cranky corners, being cranky about the state of modern musical expression! It’s New Music Monday!
Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger
I like a lot of Paul Simon’s work, so I wanted to give this the benefit of the doubt. Guess what? I couldn’t! Ha! This is pretty embarrassing. It sounds kind of like a very confused Paul Simon trying to do a jazz-inflected old man hip hop song about … being a very confused Paul Simon that just wandered off at a show and then couldn’t get back into the show because he wasn’t wearing a wrist band? I don’t know, I guess we all write about what we know.
This isn’t as terrible as the new Eric Clapton, but I don’t think that Paul Simon is capable of making music as truly terrible as anything Clapton has done. It’s just kind of a strange look into the mind of a 70 or 80 year old man trying to sound vibrant and hip. I will give him this, though – his voice is holding up pretty well, and he still sounds quite Paul Simon-y. Still Paul Simon after all these years.
Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death
I know a number of people who are fans of Tegan and Sara, and while I’ve never been super interested in following what the pair are doing, I’ve never had a big problem with any of the music that I’ve heard from them. It’s fine. This is no exception. It’s got that seemingly very current big 80s-style pop song sound. Pretty catchy number with great production.
While searching for the single, though, I happened upon an article proclaiming “Tegan and Sara: Pop music for Grownups!”.
Hey. Let’s not go nuts.
An argument might be made that this track is “music for grownups” by virtue of the fact that the last time that music of this ilk was mega-popular, many of us who are now adults were actually children. But this song, and others like it, aren’t examples of anything particularly mature – either sonically or thematically. And neither does it have to be. Whether it be hooky pop music or a bunch of grown men screaming their faces off, it is okay for adults to create (and enjoy) unabashedly spirited and vigorous music without needing to attaching some sort of air of profundity to it in order to legitimize creating or enjoying it. Pop music isn’t mature music. Even the good pop music. It is good because it sounds young and fun.
So let’s call this Tegan and Sara track what it is: An extremely well-produced pop song that a lot of people are going to have a lot of fun listening to. Probably not me, though.
END NOTE: Yes, I’m aware that this might be considered mature work insofar that it avoids ridiculous sound effects and gimmicks that seem commonplace in modern pop music. I’m not of the opinion that this is an indication of maturity. I think it’s an indication of the difference between reasonable music and total garbage.
The Kills – Ash & Ice
I had never paid even a slight amount of attention to this group until some friends of mine shared some photos on social media from a recent Toronto show. Even then, the attention that I was paying them was of the “Oh, who is this band I’ve never heard of that my friends are seeing?” variety. This is the first song by The Kills I’ve heard. Some interesting sounds, particularly some of the atmospherics and synths. Also some pretty nifty guitar lines. It’s offset, though, by vocal delivery and production that I’m not at all a fan of. It’s actually a pretty good example of a type of “indie rock” that holds very little for me. But you might like it and I’m not going to make fun of you for it.
Maren Morris – Hero
When placed alongside most modern pop-country or bro-country, this comes off sounding refreshingly authentic, albeit with extremely slick production. Morris has a fairly powerful voice that sounds credibly country to me, and the song is a reasonably clever take on a hackneyed style of song. I’m not necessarily saying that this is country music that I love, but I’m at least comfortable considering it country music and would respect it if folks chose to throw this on in their pickup. S’fine.
William Bell – This Is Where I Live
This is pretty good! Bell has a wonderful voice, charismatic and endearing. The song is a pleasant piece of pop-soul, executed with a tight instrumental arrangement and featuring a decent hook. This music isn’t taking any chances, but it doesn’t really need to. Just a seasoned performer singing about what went into seasoning him – and singing well, to boot.
William Tyler – Modern Country
Every once in a while, it’s a swell change of pace to just listen to someone twang around on an acoustic guitar without anybody wailing overtop of it. I’m not sure that I’m interested in hearing an album’s worth of this material, but the guitar work is solid, well-recorded and unpretentious. Makes me want to hang out on a dock somewhere. This is pretty nice stuff.
Amber Arcades – Fading Lines
Middle-of-the-road indie rock that is nonetheless fairly decent and charming. There’s absolutely nothing going on here that I haven’t heard done before, but the guitars jangle along competently and there’s something rather endearing about the mumbly Danish-accented vocals. I can’t call this terrible, but it’s not terribly exciting.
Pale Dian – Narrow Birth
How many different ways can I say “This is nothing new” this week? This is some dreamy, semi-shoegaze-y post-rock-ish stuff. Again with the 80s vibe, down to the band’s appearance. This is annoying.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Monolith of Phobos
I didn’t know that Sean Lennon and Les Claypool had started collaborating. It sounds like a terrible idea, but anything that resulted in the creation of this fucking bonkers music video couldn’t be an altogether terrible idea. Just look at it. Man.
The music is basically just piles and piles of drugs on a coffee table in a room that smells like a hippie’s undershirt.
Train – Does Led Zeppelin II
Remember Train?! Remember when you said to yourself “I’ll bet these guys can play Led Zeppelin songs even better than Led Zeppelin did!”?
WHO IS THE TARGET MARKET FOR THIS RECORD?
I’m not a big Zeppelin fan, but I can appreciate the band’s significance. Train? I had forgotten that they even existed until just now. This album just screams that this band is simultaneously out of ideas for original material and out of ideas concerning how to cover another band’s material in such a manner that doesn’t amount to straight plagiarism.
Honestly, though, if you look at Led Zeppelin’s history of plagiarism, Zepp absolutely deserves this treatment. Absolute excrement.
Melvins – Basses Loaded
This is a new record by The Melvins. It sounds very, very much like a Melvins record. If this doesn’t mean something to you already, you are probably not going to get into this record. Everyone else: You will probably like this record if you like Melvins records. I think it’s pretty fun.
Big Knife Little Knife – Anchor Rights
This record actually came out in April, but I’ve only just heard it today – so give me a break. In the interest of full disclosure, I know one of the guys in this band (interweb frienz), so you might look at the inclusion of the record on this list as a favour. It’s not! This is barely even a blog! I just wanted to include it because I think it’s good!
Big Knife Little Knife seem to be trafficking in tunes that are heavily influenced by hardcore/post-hardcore circa the mid-90s. It’s a style that I love, and I’m hoping that we see a resurgence in this kind of rock music before we see the big emo-core revival that is doubtlessly right around the corner. I’ve heard a couple of the tracks off of Anchor Rights and they manage to sound a lot like some bands that I’ve loved without sounding like cribbed material. It is great.
Jay Hosking’s Bandcamp Corner
LORN — VESSEL
Here’s a thought: if you’re going to make really sonically interesting, moody, instrumental music, and give it an eerie black and white cover, consider whether your name jives with the whole aesthetic. The name Lorn sounds like it should be a burger-rock band, or maybe a solo artist that your stepdad puts on to seduce your mom. Instead it’s some really cool, dark, textured, otherworldly tracks. Good record for writing.
JANK — Awkward Pop Songs
Oh, Jank. All your slacker signifiers, your goofy name and hand-drawn cover and professed love of weed, can’t hide the fact that you’re a technical, extremely talented, and thus music-for-geeks band. Your chops sound way too good for you to be stoned. Some superb musicianship on this record, and I especially like the guitar work. The vocals are strong but, in conjunction with the songwriting, lean a little too heavily on the emo thing for me. I’m not ready for emo to come back. I may never be ready. This is a record I probably won’t listen to again, but I think the band has tonnes of potential.
Porches — Summer of Ten
This record is over five years old, but fuck it! I can do whatever I want. Also, I came to this record only recently, after working backwards from their two newest releases. I like to imagine an alternate reality where Porches followed this DIY warm-synths-and-tapes sound even further, instead of the shift they took toward cold, crystalline sounds and production values. Fantastic songwriting, great voice, and lots to love in the sound palette. Great little EP. You should listen to it.