Here’s your new music round-up for February, the month of lovers and arse-freezers. Perhaps something here will cause your booty to shake an appropriate amount to stave off the winter chill!
MGMT – Little Dark Age
Mark: This is a band that has always seemed more positioned to sell cars to hipsters in their 40s than to crank out actually interesting albums. That being said, I really enjoyed this video. I find it highly unlikely that I would have thought much of the song were it not paired with the irony-dripping 80s throwback visuals. The video pairs so well, though, with the incredibly reverent vintage synth-pop delivered in this track, I can’t help but admit that it creates an entertaining feeling as a whole.
The band’s sound is a little too comfortable wearing influences on its sleeve for my tastes, but it would appear that they have a good sense of humour about it. Also, this video seems to have an absolutely uncanny male version of Elizabeth Moss in it and I don’t know how to process it.
Jay: Hey, I don’t hate this! I’ve only really heard their stuff when subjected to the radio, and those tracks really haven’t done much for me, but I like the sound palette of this track, as well as a bunch of the musical ideas. I’ll agree with Mark that this tracks works better for having a video that’s willing to make fun of the band and their sound.
Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
Mark: I’ll never be able to think about this band again without thinking about this recent meme:
Anyway, this stinks.
Jay: Mark hasn’t included the song in the draft of this post, and I’m reticent to go searching for music that I know I’m going to dislike. My “smart” video search recommendations are already returning kids’ shows and brain parasites, thanks to the other things in my life, and I don’t need Franz Ferdinand music on top of that.
Mark: Oops, I just pasted the link back in.
Jay: OK, wow. Yeah. That’s terrible. I mean, it’s not worse than having a brain parasite, I guess?
Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus
Mark: I read the name Ezra Furman and thought “Haha, I’ll bet this will be pretentious!” and then I read the album title and was instantly gratified by how spot-on my knee jerk reaction was (as my knee jerk reactions tend to be). Pretentious though it may be, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Art rock is often at its best when its ambitions are lofty and its delivery is cocksure. While I don’t think that this Ezra Furman track is art rock at its best, it’s got a good combination of flamboyant glam-star swagger and noisy avant garde excess. It’s okay.
Jay: I really hope this isn’t what passes for “art rock” in 2018! Some neat guitar ideas, here, but this really isn’t my thing. It’s like somebody really liked Marilyn Manson and Tom Waits and thought it would be a good idea to mash them together with contemporary production sensibilities. Not the worst, but definitely not my thing.
Joan As Policewoman – Damned Devotion
Mark: This is the greatest artist name that I’ve seen in a long time. Terrific! The song is pleasant but unremarkable, sadly. Joan has a reasonably compelling voice, but there isn’t much that stands out from either a songwriting or a production standpoint. Another album track, “Tell Me”, manages to generate slightly more interest by being a tad more propulsive and filled-out, but is also ultimately too smoothly lifeless for my tastes.
Jay: Cool that Joan As Policewoman is still around and doing things; I leap-frogged to her music a bunch of years back (she was Jeff Buckley’s girlfriend when he died, which is what led me to her stuff) and I thought it was interesting music but not for me. This sort of falls in the same category, i.e. not for me, albeit with a different overall feel to it. If I had a friend who was really into this record and played it all the time, I wouldn’t be put out.
The Monochrome Set – The Maisieworld
Mark: I’ve never heard of this group, but they do not appear to be youngsters. Their sound reminds me for all the world of one of the less-popular indie brit-rock groups of the late-90s or the early 2000s, which is to say that it is very tuneful and clever while also being kind of smug and annoying. If you’re looking for a some thematic sting to your pop-rock music that otherwise carries roughly the heft of a pillow, this is for you.
Jay: I am having a difficult time identifying why I dislike this. I think it’s the lack of feeling to the song itself, like it’s music generated by a learning algorithm. Is this cynical music? Maybe. I’m really not into it.
Legend of the Seagullmen – Self-titled
Mark: Judging by the band name and by the fact that this group includes members of Tool, Mastodon, Dethklok (!) and a film director (?), I was expecting this to be pretty stupid. It did not disappoint in this regard. It definitely carries the air of a project wherein a bunch of talented people are just horsing around. It manages to have enough riffing and goofy charm that I had fun listening to it, but I don’t intend to listen to it again. Unless they release a series of claymation videos to accompany the tracks, which they definitely should.
Jay: This is really dumb, and Mark nailed it better than I could. Very well-polished nonsense. Something you show your friends once to say, “Can you believe they made this?” and then never listen to again. But I’d take it over the Monochrome Set!
Anna Burch – Quit the Curse
Jay: Mark seems to think I hate everything, nowadays. But it’s not true! Exhibit A: this is a good, new record by an artist I’d never heard of before. In fact, I like it so much that I couldn’t decide between which of the two singles to post here. Quit the Curse is a nice blend of shimmering and sweet music with adult concerns and existential crises. Thoughtful yet still exuberant. Plus she’s from Detroit, Mark’s spiritual hometown when it comes to music. I like this.
Mark: Yes, this has been on my radar as her singles have been showing up in my recommended videos queue on Youtube. Youtube’s algorithms nailed this one, as Burch’s music hits the sweet spot for me in terms of seemingly straightforward pop guitar tracks that have something a little special going on under the hood. The choruses in particular are smartly constructed and lay deep hooks. Great stuff!
Holy Motors – Slow Sundown
Mark: This sounds like the soundtrack to two people having a pistol duel over the affections of a very bored woman, and I kinda like it. The sound is expansive, favouring mood over melody. It nails the lonesome highway feel, but I drive on lonesome highways so infrequently, I’ll probably never get a reasonable chance to listen to this again. Oh well.
Jay: I don’t know. Am I crazy to think this sort of sounds phoney? Like Mazzy Star doing a tossed-off impression of lonesome highway music. It’s alright, I guess. The guitar part is pretty nice.
The Wombats – Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
Mark: I really appreciate the key lyrical turn in “Lemon to a Knife Fight”, in that the hook is actually “I brought a lemon to a knife fight!” Evocative! It’s too bad that the song is utterly uninspired dark pop-by-numbers, with the kind of four-on-the-floor beat that I’m sure was constructed in order to make this track as soundtrack & air freshener commercial friendly as possible. Competent but uninteresting.
Jay: I dig that acoustic guitar sound, but boy do I dislike everything else about this recording. But hey, if Gorillaz aren’t making these sorts of tracks anymore, I suppose someone has to fill that radio niche. Wait, are Gorillaz still around? Anyway, I don’t like this.
Hockey Dad – Blend Inn
Mark: This is what I imagine it would sound like if PUP hung up their punk-pop toolbelts and traded them in for straight-ahead garage rock… uh… bathrobes. This doesn’t sound terrible to me, as I am genetically predisposed to like music of this variety. This being the case, though, the fact that I think that it’s kinda bland and unremarkable must mean that it is actually kind of terrible to people who aren’t white men of my precise vintage and background. Yo, I don’t know. You tell me! I’m not the music pope!
Jay: Oh, I hear the PUP thing in the vocals. Fun music, great parts, but I feel like the singing undermines any sense of vitality that this track has. The whole track is just a little too tidy and contained to work for me, but there are some cool ideas here. I need more jangly guitar garage rock in my life, even if this isn’t the best example of it.
Palm – Rock Island
Mark: It’s like somebody built a robot out of piles of CD copies of Kid A and put the thing on a cruise to a sunny beach and told it to write a record while it was gone. I kind of like confusing and annoying music like this, but I couldn’t really tell you why. See also: Battles (the band) mixed with that weird combination of jazz and math rock that got really popular for about five minutes fifteen years ago. I’m morbidly curious about the rest of this record, but don’t take that as a recommendation.
Jay: Funny, the first thing I heard in it was Battles, too, and I hadn’t read your write-up yet. This is just a little too rhythmically off-kilter for me to enjoy, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fascinated to hear more. Amazing how something so disjointed can convey a feeling other than anxiety, but this music definitely has a warm mood to it. I’m not sure this is a band I could like, but I’m pretty certain this is a band I could respect and enjoy in small doses, at the very least.
Vessels – Bathed In Sun
Mark: Alright, you don’t need to listen to this really lazy and rote hardcore band’s music for very long, but watch this video until the live footage comes in and pretend for a minute that a young Eddie Vedder fronts this band. It’s a pretty funny trick of the eyes! Song is just terrible, though. Worst thing in this post by a country mile.
Jay: OK, yeah, at a distance I can see the Veddie thing. But no grunge mirage is worth listening to this dreck. Also, are 60-frame-per-second videos the future? If so, I hate the future.