Allow me to begin by telling you that I take no pleasure in doing this. This series is in response to my friend Mike making a wiseass comment about me doing a six-post series reviewing his 2020 Listens playlist after I said something nice when he shared it like “I will listen soon!” (A lie)
Now I am obligated to listen to and review the whole thing, because he thinks he’s so smart and funny and I’m just sitting over here with cartoon steam shooting out of my ears or something.
I have known Mike for a very long time. He cares deeply about music and has very good taste in music. He also writes about music the way that someone would write about music if they had good taste in it and cared about it, which is to say that he writes about it very well. I, on the other hand, have pretty terrible taste in music and write about music as if I’m bombing at an open mic night for the thirtieth time in a row.
Am I going to like any of this stuff? Who knows! I probably won’t be able to use the word “angular” to describe any of the guitar parts, if there even are any guitar parts. Some people think that music can exist without those, and I don’t really want to dignify the notion by spending any real time pretending it might be true.
Alright, let’s see what’s on this thing…
ALL THESE CHANGES – Nick Hakim
Oh, this is actually really interesting. Fuck you, Mike.
Hushed and tripped-out lo-fi soul music. Is this a bedroom record? I guess it doesn’t matter. The production is fascinating and the song has a great vibe. I like it!
Does it have guitars? Yes. There are some guitars to enjoy here.
Was Mike right? Yes. Mike was right. 😦
Tayla Parx – Sad
This song is a little bit more straightforward, but the production is still very fun. Honestly, the whole thing is a lot of fun. It made me laugh a couple of times and the performance is great. Definitely not in my wheelhouse in terms of style, but it’s got personality to spare and a great hook in the chorus.
I’m pretty annoyed to report that this is another good song.
Does it have guitars? I do not believe that this song has guitars. Typical Mike. Pshhhhh.
Was Mike right? Yes. I am afraid that Mike was right.
U.S. Girls – 4 American Dollars
Ah fuck, I already know this song and it’s great.
Does it have guitars? Yes, there are guitars in this.
Was Mike right? I don’t wanna talk about it.
SAULT – Fearless
I was ready to just talk about how the most interesting thing going here was the most insane reverb I’ve ever heard on a hand clap, but then at around a minute and a half in the whole thing kind of erupts and I am forced to admit that this track is really beautiful. It’s got a certain swirling uplift to it that feels pretty remarkable.
Back to that handclap, though. Wow! That’s some wild reverb!
Does it have guitars? Yes, it sounds like there’s a whole band on this one.
Was Mike right? Yes, Mike was right.
Ian Isiah – Can’t Call It
It brings me only a slight amount of satisfaction to declare that I find this track to be merely okay. The production is super tight and the songwriting is good. I guess the performance is pretty good too, actually. Alright, it’s a good song. Maybe it’s slightly better than fine.
Okay, I can’t call it a total miss. This is a good throwback funk-pop song, but it didn’t set me on fire or anything. It’s probably just not my thing, as I didn’t hear even one section that I could classify as “the blast-beat part”.
Does it have guitars? These might actually be sampled guitars. Not sure.
Was Mike right? I can’t call him wrong.
Huw Marc Bennet – Tresilian Bay
This would be fine to put on and listen to if you were doing other things, but I can’t imagine throwing this kind of thing on for a dedicated listen. Is this the first real misfire? It is very difficult to call this bad, though. Because it ain’t. It jams along with a good vibe and lots of interesting texture. I guess I’m docking it point for being instrumental?
Ah, I can’t do it. This is objectively well made music. I could do work to this.
Does it have guitars? I don’t think so? The bass instrument might be an upright bass, but it could also just be a synth pad. I dunno.
Was Mike right? Look, at this point it depends on what your definition of right is.
Scrimshire, Stac – Where Are We
This isn’t on YouTube, so forgive the Spotify embed.
This is also a very enjoyable and well produced song that sounds like it was made by cool people who like to dance and be cool and probably also read books. It’s all very infuriating at this point. A lot of this stuff is in a similar mode, but I’m kidding myself if it hasn’t been all pretty good songs so far.
Interesting thing about this one: the harmonies in the chorus here sound slightly off, but it works. I like it when that happens.
Does it have guitars? Yes, there are guitars here.
Was Mike right? Pope Catholic?
Brandy – No Tomorrow
I remember Brandy as a pop artist that I didn’t care for in high school. Not much has changed, because I don’t really care for this.
Probably more a matter of taste than quality, this just doesn’t have much going on in terms of instrumentation and the melodies don’t grab me. I would pass, but in the context of the 8th track on a 50-something song playlist, it may kind of work.
This is the first definitive thumbs down for me, though! Good times!
Does it have guitars? Not a single one.
Was Mike right? Haha! No!
Only 45 more songs to go, which I am 100% positive that I will get around to at some point. Today I have learned that I would probably enjoy broadening my horizons and allowing myself to heed the wisdom of my friends, who are all smart people who enjoy good things that I might not reflexively seek out. I have added several of these songs to my Spotify favourites, and that makes this exercise an overall win.
Thank you, Mike.
Thank you for your wiseass comment when I was just trying to say a nice thing.