Amanda Shires – “The Problem” (Feat. Jason Isbell)

Amanda Shires – “The Problem” (Feat. Jason Isbell)

| September 28, 2020 – 9:22 am

Amanda Shires has released a new song, “The Problem,” to coincide with International Safe Abortion Day, with proceeds going to the Yellowhammer Fund, an organization dedicated to reproductive justice in Alabama and the deep South. “The Problem” is a duet with Shires’ husband Jason Isbell and they trade lines back-and-forth before coming together in the chorus: “And all I could think to say was/ “Everything’s going to be okay/ It’s going to be alright I’m on your side.”

“This song is about making tough decisions and not having to go it alone,” Shires said in a press release. Isbell added: “To me, ‘The Problem’ is a song about supporting someone you love through a difficult time. It’s about helping without exerting your own will. I support a woman’s right to choose, and I know these choices are never easy.”

Listen below.

Laura Veirs – “Another Space and Time”

Laura Veirs – “Another Space and Time”

| September 28, 2020 – 9:23 am

The reliably great songwriter Laura Veirs is releasing a new album, My Echo, next month. She’s shared two songs from it so far, “Burn Too Bright” and “Turquoise Walls,” and today she’s sharing the apocalyptically-minded “Another Space And Time,” which is about finding solitude even when it feels like everything is collapsing down around you, which this year it certainly has been. “In another space and time/ When California’s not burning/ And the seas don’t rise/ I’ll meet you there,” she sings.

Veirs had this to say about the song and video:

This is the first time I’ve danced in a music video. I loved dancing in it! It was choreographed by a Portland-based Brazilian dancer named Nelson Euflauzino (who also appears in the video). It was shot by an 18-year old music video director named Twixx Williams. The dancers you see here are friends of mine (not professional dancers). We did all of the rehearsing and shooting socially-distanced and outside over the Covid summer of 2020. The outfits were made by a local stylist named Alethea Dalton (the dress I’m wearing is an old vintage dress owned by Alethea but she made the other dresses).

I love the surrealistic elements that come into play in this video. In these lyrics I desire an escape from the way things are right now. In this “other space and time” California’s NOT burning, people DO have peace of mind, the internet is DEAD (and people are present with each other in real life instead of living on screens). This song is a dream that we can and will live in a more peaceful, loving world – and a world with more personal freedoms, too. I love how these wishes are embodied in the movements of the dancers. We look free and happy because we were!

Watch and listen below.

My Echo is out 10/23 Veirs’ Raven Marching Band label.

Women – “Everyone Is So In Love With You”

Women – “Everyone Is So In Love With You”

| September 28, 2020 – 10:03 am

Ten years ago today, the Calgary post-punk band Women released their sophomore album, Public Strain. The band would break up soon after; their guitarist Chris Reimer passed away two years later. The other members of Women went on to keep making music — half of them formed the group Preoccupations; the other makes music as Cindy Lee — but the memory of Women looms large over those other projects.

Today, Jagjaguwar and Flemish Eye have announced a reissue of 2010’s Public Strain. The new edition of the album will come with a collection called Rarities 2007-2010, which features hard-to-find and unreleased material from the band. The whole five tracks will be available on streaming services at the end of the week, and right now we get to hear the previously unheard song “Everyone Is So In Love With You.”

Check it out below.

TRACKLIST:
01 “Everyone Is So In Love With You”
02 “Bullfight”
03 “Service Animal”
04 “Grey Skies”
05 “Group Transport Hall (Alternate Version)”

Rarities 2007-2010 will be out 10/2 via Jagjaguwar/Flemish Eye. Pre-order it here.

Watch The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle Play An 18-Second Song About His Teacup

Watch The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle Play An 18-Second Song About His Teacup

| September 28, 2020 – 10:47 am

Long before he became an acclaimed literary novelist and the famous-ish frontman of an indie rock institution, the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle was a cult-favorite songwriter. On hard-to-find releases spread across a vast spectrum of DIY labels, Darnielle would crank out vast numbers of fiery lo-fi acoustic songs. Many of those songs were both quite short and quite silly. Darnielle, I am delighted to reports, is still perfectly capable of flexing that muscle.

Right now, the Mountain Goats are getting ready to release the new full-band album Getting Into Knives, which they recorded just before quarantine. We’ve already posted the early singles “As Many Candles As Possible” and “Get Famous.” This will be the second album that the Mountain Goats have released during quarantine. Back in the early days of this whole episode, Darnielle went old-school, writing and recording Songs For Pierre Chuvin by singing straight into a boom box — the way he used to do. And today, Darnielle demonstrated for his Twitter followers just how easy this kind of thing is for him.

On Twitter this morning, Darnielle wrote, “early Mountain Goats days involved lots of songs that were essentially paeans to objects in my immediate environment that delighted me. if this were 1992 I’d have a song called ‘Bomb-Ass Teacup’ by noon.” The idea must’ve stuck in his head, since he had a song called “Bomb-Ass Teacup” by 10AM. It’s 18 seconds long, and it rules. Here it is:

update https://t.co/1shjciA9qh pic.twitter.com/aHOiNNi8rQ

— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) September 28, 2020

This song has already led to a factual answer to Darnielle’s rhetorical question.

people say the internet’s garbage, but twice now I’ve learned stuff I didn’t know about Japanese things just by expressing my pleasure with some stuff in my orbit https://t.co/QFggj5tlUG

— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) September 28, 2020

Getting Into Knives is out 10/23 on Merge. Songs For Pierre Chuvin is out now. “Bomb-Ass Teacup” will probably never get an official release, but I wouldn’t put money on that.

Magik Markers – “Born Dead”

Magik Markers – “Born Dead”

| September 28, 2020 – 10:57 am

Magik Markers are returning with their first new album in six years, 2020, next month, following the release of an EP during the summer. The New England crew have shared two tracks from it so far, “CDROM” and “That Dream (Shitty Beach),” and today they’re back with another one.

“Born Dead” is an affecting simmer that’s filled with subtle touches which push the track to transcendence, like when Elisa Ambrogio sings about ending up in heaven, “dancing to no music/ but some of the bells ring” and little blips echo those imaginary bells. It’s a bittersweet, inevitable love song that places that love on a grand scale: “I was born dead/ For 15 minutes I didn’t breathe,” she mewls in the opening lines. “I was born dead/ Til I met you.”

Listen below.

2020 is out 10/23 via Drag City. Pre-order it here.

Remember Witch House?

Remember Witch House?

| September 28, 2020 – 11:17 am

Witch house was a joke — literally. “2009 was the beginning of the ‘witch house’ style,” Travis Egedy — the Denver-based producer who makes distorted dance music as Pictureplane — told Pitchfork at the end of that year. “Mark our words, 2010 will be straight up witchy.” In the brief blurb, Egedy big-upped several artists in his creative circle as indicative of the witch house aesthetic, a sign at the time that this newly emerged subgenre of electronic music was actually a real thing; a year later, he was singing a different and decidedly un-occult tune. “It was never meant to be an actual genre,” he claimed to The A.V. Club at the close of 2010. “It was a half-assed conceptual joke that really turned into something real.”

Indeed, similar to chillwave — the sneakily influential subgenre of electronic pop that was coined by Carles of the defunct joking-not-joking Hipster Runoff blog and emerged concurrently to witch house’s brief run — witch house went from a goofy joke to a real-deal musical movement practically overnight. The existence of the subgenre was spectral in its brevity, lasting no more than 18 months before most of its practitioners disappeared off the map or moved onto different sounds and styles. The music itself was slight, with few actual lasting works of relevance beyond Midwestern trio Salem’s 2010 debut LP King Night — released 10 years ago today — and the creation of Tri Angle, Robin Carolan’s left-of-center electronic label that shuttered its doors earlier this year.

But beyond a few scattered points of legacy, the micro-phenomenon that was witch house is instructive in understanding how musical trends disseminated in the waning days of indie’s music blog era. Witch house’s aesthetic was established and strictly adhered to from its inception: slowed-down hip-hop rhythms that took direct inspiration from the syrupy sound of late Houston pioneer DJ Screw, glowy synths often ripped directly from trance music and rave culture, the occasional sound effect (i.e. the gunshots that punctuated NYC duo White Ring’s 2010 single “IxC999″), vocals rendered unintelligible either by way of delivery or aural obfuscation.

There were a few indirect precedents for witch house’s sound: the harshed-buzz gothic electro of Crystal Castles, the hauntological techno released by labels like Sandwell District and Modern Love (especially the latter imprint’s founding act Demdike Stare), and the ever-present influence of UK decayed-rave maestro Burial. But Salem’s influence loomed larger on witch house’s pale shadow than any other artist. Arguably, witch house itself wouldn’t have existed at all without them; despite Egedy’s initial coinage of the phrase, few (if any) acts that deigned to adopt the genre tag made records that reflected his punk-ish rave music, instead attempting their own alchemic concoction from Salem’s aural recipe.

Band members Jack Donoghue, Heather Marlatt, and John Holland began attracting underground attention through early EPs released on the typically indie-pop-focused Acéphale imprint, as 2008’s Yes I Smoke Crack and Water from the following year established the sound that the trio would crystallize on King Night. A fascinating and often beautiful amalgam of synth-pop, trance, and hip-hop motifs, the actual music on King Night was largely overshadowed by the controversy they often attracted. There were the terrible live performances, the botched New York Times interviews, and above all else the stench of cultural appropriation that arose from three white artists jacking the aural traditions of hip-hop and, at times, pitching their own voices to a low register.

To the last point, Salem may have been engaging in racial cosplay to a greater extent than was acknowledged at the time: Although it was overlooked in many reviews (including, regrettably, my own), King Night’s penultimate track “Tair” features a vocalist unspooling a druggy tale of criminal exploits that seemingly includes the following couplet: “These niggas calling me, it’d be rude if I don’t go.” The questionably reliable user-contributed lyrics site Genius appears to confirm Salem’s use of the word, but in a statement to Stereogum today, Salem refute that transcription; per the band, the actual lyric is “Think it’s calling me it’d be rude if I don’t go.”

A few factors (hip-hop and R&B becoming the dominant popular musical genres in the US, an increase in the diversity of music writers in the mid-2010s following decades of the form having been dominated by white men) contributed to the topic of cultural appropriation overshadowing the last decade of pop-cultural analysis. But Salem were arguably the first white act in the 2010s to kick off discussion of the ever-relevant issue, and that’s where the trio’s legacy begins and ends. “Never think of this band again,” Christopher Weingarten implored in a Village Voice blog post naming King Night’s “Trapdoor” one of the worst songs of 2010. “I assume [it] won’t be the hardest thing come 2011.” Indeed, after an EP the following year — I’m Still In The Night, which featured a straightforward (for them, anyway) cover of Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone” — Salem more or less disappeared for the rest of the decade.

There were a few scattered remixes for the Cult and German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, and Donoghue nabbed a production credit on “Black Skinhead,” a single from Kanye West’s abrasive 2013 LP Yeezus — but otherwise the band remained an inactive concern until re-emerging at the top of this May with a new mix, STAY DOWN, for internet radio station NTS Radio, and releasing a Drain Gang-esque new single “Starfall” complete with footage of the band’s members engaging in some Twister-style storm-chasing.

King Night also marked the end of witch house as an existent genre that artists contributed to. The album’s release had the inverse effect of the oft-cited legend surrounding the Velvet Underground’s first album, as the overall proliferation of off-brand attempts to bottle their magic flatlined almost immediately. The evidence for this is largely anecdotal: During the genre’s lifespan, I ran Pitchfork’s Tracks section, which in its earliest inception served to cherry-pick up-and-coming artists that were highlighted on other music blogs, along with the occasional user submission that passed muster. Pre-King Night, my inbox was flooded with upstart bedroom-production hopefuls barely masking their mimicry, with unpronounceable, Wingdings-esque band names or overly on-the-nose monikers like Mater Suspiria Vision.

But in the months that followed the album’s release, the frequency of similar-sounding submissions became slower than a witch house producer’s BPM of choice; by the middle of 2011, bedroom producers had moved on to attempting replications of James Blake’s dubstep-infused singer-songwriter pop, crystallized on his self-titled debut released at the top of that year. And even though some of witch house’s more notable practitioners kept at it regardless (White Ring remained an active concern with a few different lineups, and their founding vocalist Kendra Malia passed away last year), other entities involved in the genre’s sole wave moved on quickly — including Carolan’s Tri Angle imprint, which featured witch house practitioners like oOoOO (pronounced “oh”), Holy Other, and Balam Acab on some of its earliest releases.

Prior to Tri Angle’s inception, Carolan wrote for 20jazzfunkgreats, a music blog known for highlighting dark, challenging electronic music new and old. More so than their contemporaries, the site and its writers maintained a healthier curiosity beyond mere trend-chasing impulses. And that willingness to break beyond genre carried over to Tri Angle’s curatorial approach, setting it apart from witch house-adjacent imprints of the era like Disaro and Pendu Sound and carrying it to greater success than its peers.

Besides releasing seminal albums from left-of-center artists like How To Dress Well, the Haxan Cloak, and Forest Swords, Tri Angle often flirted with mainstream pop right as mainstream pop’s figureheads started looking towards indie culture. Artists on its roster collaborated with artists ranging from Kanye and A$AP Rocky to Björk and Khalid. At least one of their associated acts became out-and-out pop stars: UK pop duo AlunaGeorge, whose hit single “You Know You Like It” was the title track of their 2012 EP released by the label before moving onto major-label territory.

The fact that Tri Angle achieved a lasting longevity at all seems like a minor miracle when considering the ephemera of the internet culture in which it rose from, and its closing in April felt like the end of an era that had regardless long ceased to exist. Alongside chillwave, the micro-phenomenon of witch house as a logged-on DIY movement has since been unreplicated within indie culture, with much of the grassroots musical movements of the late 2010s taking place squarely in hip-hop’s SoundCloud-situated axis. (The chill-adjacent vaporwave culture comes close, but still hasn’t yet achieved the level of mass music press saturation that chillwave and witch house were awarded.)

That doesn’t necessarily mean the sensation is impossible to replicate, however — on the contrary, we’re more situated for something similar to emerge than ever before. As I theorized last year, both chillwave and witch house emerged from the wake of young people recovering from what was then the biggest economic collapse of their collective lifetime. Structural and direct violence were more visible and normalized through the digital age, jobs were nowhere to be found, and many just-out-of-college post-adolescents found themselves at home with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and sparse wealth beyond what their own imaginations might conjure. Sound familiar? It’s unlikely that whatever musical movement that emerges from the age of COVID-19 will even remotely resemble witch house’s confines — but the micro-movement’s spirit just may well come to haunt us again.

CREDIT: Vallery Jean/WireImage

Bat For Lashes – “We’ve Only Just Begun” (The Carpenters Cover)

Bat For Lashes – “We’ve Only Just Begun” (The Carpenters Cover)

| September 28, 2020 – 11:30 am

Just over a year ago, Bat For Lashes released the lovely and evocative album Lost Girls. Shortly afterward, Natasha Khan followed the album up with a live EP that featured her cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer.” Today, Khan releases another cover of another decades-old pop song. This time, she’s taken on the Carpenters.

The Carpenters released their single “We’ve Only Just Begun” in 1970, back in the smooth-pop duo’s early days. The Carpenters’ labelmate Paul Williams co-wrote “We’ve Only Just Begun” for a bank commercial. Richard Carpenter heard the song, recognized Williams’ voice, and asked if there was a full-length version of the song that the Carpenters could record. The Carpenters took “We’ve Only Just Begun” to #2, and their version remains a classic piece of turn-of-the-’70s kitsch.

But maybe that’s not how Natasha Khan hears it. Bat For Lashes covered “We’ve Only Just Begun” at a few live shows in 2016. Today, Khan has released the studio version of her cover. Khan recorded her version of the song with the London Contemporary Orchestra, but she’s put her voice and piano at the forefront, transforming the song into a sad and stark ballad. Check out Bat For Lashes’ cover and the Carpenters’ original below.




Halcyon Digest Turns 10

Halcyon Digest Turns 10

| September 28, 2020 – 12:01 pm

Do you remember what a thrill it was to immerse yourself in Halcyon Digest? I remember it well — or at least I think I do.

Deerhunter released the album 10 years ago today, and within a few weeks I was completely enthralled with it. Microcastle and Bradford Cox’s magnetic, confrontational stage presence had made me a fan, but Halcyon Digest is what cemented Deerhunter’s place within my personal pantheon of fiercely beloved artists. This was the most mesmerizing, invigorating indie record I’d heard in years — one that swirled together decades of rock history into something visceral and ephemeral all at once, dark and mysterious yet plainly accessible, structurally adventurous while maintaining an unmistakable stylistic imprint. It was the sound of a band ascending to the peak of its powers. It became my favorite album of 2010.

So yes, I remember falling under Halcyon Digest’s spell. I remember it fondly, and judging from the album’s place of prominence within Deerhunter’s discography, so do a lot of other people. But memories can be deceiving. As Cox explained upon Halcyon Digest’s release, its title “is a reference to a collection of fond memories and even invented ones, like my friendship with Ricky Wilson or the fact that I live in an abandoned victorian autoharp factory.” He continued: “The way that we write and rewrite and edit our memories to be a digest version of what we want to remember, and how that’s kind of sad.” Oof. Guilty. By the album’s own measure, then, the true test of Halcyon Digest’s worth is whether it can still evoke such a breathless response all these years later.

It would almost be too perfect if such a vivid, surreal collection of rock songs made a profound impression and then retreated to the edge of consciousness, forever flickering in the recesses of our minds, never to be experienced again. Such is the case with concerts like the Deerhunter show I saw in Cleveland a few weeks after Halcyon Digest dropped. The further I get from the experience, the more it becomes a legend within my own personal history, a transcendent performance that elevated my love of Halcyon Digest to new heights. Was it really so euphoric? It’s hard to say for sure. The album itself remains readily available, though, so I can confirm it still slaps.

Actually, at first, it cracks. Opening song “Earthquake” begins with an almost maddeningly slow electronic beat, a series of thudding depth charges and jarring digital snare hits with nothing but wide open silence in between. The vacuum soon fills with vaporous keyboards and a bleary Cox detailing a startled emergence from slumber: “Do you recall waking up/ On a dirty couch in the gray fog/ And the gray dog barking down the street?/ Columns shake your feet beneath your feet.” He sounds like he’s just waking up himself. But given the dreamy fog that hangs over most of the album, he could just as easily be heading the other direction, drifting off into the shadowy corners of his subconscious.

What follows is a mirage-like trip through Deerhunter’s record collection in which the primitive early rock ‘n’ roll of the ’50s and ’60s blurs together with ’80s and ’90s indie guitar jams and a galaxy of great records in between, all of it glazed over with an ambient glimmer prevalent in Cox’s solo work as Atlas Sound. Upon reviewing Halcyon Digest 10 years ago, my Stereogum predecessor Brandon Stosuy wisely observed that in contrast to Cox’s colorful, boundary-pushing public profile, Deerhunter’s music had always been more nostalgic than he lets on: “He does a great job reprocessing (and Digesting) the sounds of the past through his own collagist aesthetic.” This was the least abrasive, most welcoming version of that aesthetic. Working with Merriweather Post Pavilion producer Ben H. Allen for the first time, the band softened its rangy and sometimes aggressive sonic outbursts just enough that they came across as pop of a sort without sacrificing their mystique.

The resulting music was intoxicating, like tapping into someone else’s rose-colored recollection of the classics. Yet in keeping with his stated concept, Cox threaded these songs with depressing and sometimes disturbing imagery, be it a poor weeping child on the ragged and reverb-drenched “Don’t Cry” or a human trafficking victim on the lush and all-consuming digital power ballad “Helicopter.” Some of the brightest and catchiest moments are the most acerbic: Cox serving up sarcasm to an absentee parent on the woozy head rush “Memory Boy” and rolling his eyes at clueless industry people amidst the surprisingly Stonesy, sax-skronking “Coronado.” And on the floaty, kaleidoscopic finale “He Would Have Laughed,” Cox tenderly pays tribute to the late Jay Reatard: “In sweetness comes suffering,” he sings, before lamenting, “Where did my friends go?”

Again and again he and his characters find themselves abandoned, by choice or by fate; even the happier moments are bittersweet, snapshots of bliss and passion tainted by confusion, alienation, and death. The delicate doo-wop pastiche “Basement Scene” chronicles the thrill of immersion in a teenage music community — for realism’s sake, Cox insisted on recording it in an actual basement and having engineer David Barbe’s 14-year-old son Henry produce it — but its protagonist is haunted by the knowledge that “my friends will not remember me.” Gracefully gliding lead single “Revival,” ostensibly about an intense Pentecostal church service, could just as easily be about a queer sexual encounter that ends messily. The barebones lullaby “Sailing” walks a fine line between solitude and loneliness. Cox’s music had always documented the isolation that came with being gay and living with Marfan syndrome, but never had his turmoil been dressed up so prettily.

Considering how much pain and regret were brimming beneath the music’s placid glow, it’s fitting that the Halcyon Digest sessions were nearly derailed by head-butting between Cox and Allen, two men with strong and often contradictory perspectives. “We did not come to the project seeing eye to eye,” Cox told Noisey years later. “I was like, ‘I know what I’m doing,’ and he was coming off the success of a lot of things and he had his ideas. I thought that he was enormously competent, but I wasn’t looking for an artistic collaborator at that point, so we did not get along.”

Between Cox’s comments and the sun-dappled psychedelia typical of Allen’s discography, I get the sense that the producer was responsible for making this album so approachable while the band wanted to remain as weird and challenging as ever. That might be a misunderstanding, but it’s clear that Cox views Halcyon Digest as a concession of sorts. In the same interview, he ranked the album near the bottom of Deerhunter’s discography and griped about the cooler public response toward 2013’s raw freakout Monomania and 2015’s moody, idiosyncratic Fading Frontier (for which they again teamed with Allen, for what it’s worth). “It’s a perfect record,” he said of Fading Frontier, decrying listeners’ decreasing attention spans. “It should have been widely accepted. It should have won us new fans.” Furthermore, “Monomania is the greatest album I’ve ever made and anybody that doesn’t like it has no idea what I’m about or what I’m doing. They’re simply avid fans of what’s called indie rock and think we’re a notable indie rock band. I hate indie rock and never liked the term. I don’t consider myself a participant in indie rock. I think it’s a ghetto.”

That said, Cox also revealed that Halcyon Digest contains his favorite Deerhunter track ever, and it’s among the most classically “indie rock” songs in their catalog. It’s also one Cox admittedly had nothing to do with. Deerhunter fans can always count on guitarist Lockett Pundt for one or two absolute bangers per album, be it Microcastle’s graceful, hypnotic “Agoraphobia” or Fading Frontier’s spaced-out epic “Ad Astra.” On Halcyon Digest he served up a pair of anthems that have a lot to do with the album’s vaunted standing in Deerhunter’s catalog. My personal favorite is “Fountain Stairs,” a tight little pop song that builds to a gorgeous bombardment in under three minutes, wielding its central lacerating guitar melody with a violent beauty. But the Pundt song that has become the people’s choice is “Desire Lines,” a spidery six-string epic that plays like Pixies writing a Sonic Youth song or vice versa.

Like the Microcastle classic “Nothing Ever Happens” before it, “Desire Lines” is one of those Deerhunter songs that works as a rejoinder to the notion that Deerhunter is just the Bradford Cox show. Over the course of six minutes, the whole band gets to show off — Pundt, yes, with his array of riffs and soothing, understated vocals, but also drummer Moses Archuleta and the late bass maestro Josh Fauver, whose gradually intensifying lockstep groove elevates Pundt’s beautiful tangle of guitars beyond the horizon and into the stratosphere. Halcyon Digest was the final album this lineup released together, and “Desire Lines” stands as a monument to their collective abilities.

Pundt’s lyrics are about breaking free from the well-worn paths we sometimes end up on by default and charting your own course instead, a philosophy Deerhunter would adhere to in the ensuing decade. It’s remarkable and respectable that they didn’t just continue making albums like Halcyon Digest indefinitely, that they kept people guessing rather than settle into a crowd-pleasing rhythm at odds with the perverse, provocative impulse that animates so much of their finest work. Can you even imagine a version of Deerhunter that comfortably assimilated into the indie industrial complex? Still, every time one of Halcyon Digest’s more straightforward climaxes bowls me over, I’m grateful that this band bothered to construct their own idealized composite of the past, even if only to call bullshit on it.

beabadoobee – “How Was Your Day?”

beabadoobee – “How Was Your Day?”

| September 28, 2020 – 1:10 pm

Bea Kristi, the London bedroom-pop phenom who records as beabadoobee, is a few weeks away from releasing Fake It Flowers, her full-length debut. beabadoobee is a viral star whose sound is explicitly influenced by lo-fi ’90s indie-pop and who has serious industry muscle behind her, so it’ll be fascinating to hear what happens when that LP is out in the world. We’ve already posted the early singles “Care,” “Sorry,” and “Worth It.” Today, she’s shared a video for another one called “How Was Your Day?”

“How Was Your Day?” is probably the most spectral of the songs we’ve yet heard from the album. It’s a shy, muttery, lo-fi track, and it’s mostly acoustic. On the song, beabadoobee sings about missing an ex and wanting them back again. It’s got a bit of a Mary Lou Lord quality to it, but it seems even more powerfully introverted than anything she might’ve sung.

In the “How Was Your Day?” video, we see beabadoobee in lo-res Super 8-style footage, hitting the recording studio and going about her day. We also see her sitting on a swing and staring off into nothingness. Check it out below.

Fake It Flowers is out 10/16 on Dirty Hit.

Broadcast Share Unreleased Demo “Where Are You?” On Trish Keenan’s Birthday

Broadcast Share Unreleased Demo “Where Are You?” On Trish Keenan’s Birthday

| September 28, 2020 – 1:22 pm

CREDIT: Wendy Redfern/Redferns

A few years ago, Broadcast’s James Cargill shared a new demo on what would have been Trish Keenan’s birthday. Today, he’s done it again. Keenan would have been 52 today — she passed away in 2011 — and Cargill has uploaded a 4-track demo from 2002 called “Where Are You?” to his SoundCloud page. That places its creation sometime between their 2000 debut The Noise Made By The People (which we wrote about earlier this year for its 20th anniversary) and their 2003 follow-up Haha Sound. Check it out below.

16 Artists Who Should Make Their SNL Debut This Year

16 Artists Who Should Make Their SNL Debut This Year

| September 28, 2020 – 3:32 pm

CREDIT: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Visible

After having its 45th season derailed by the pandemic, Saturday Night Live returns to Studio 8H this weekend for its first in-person broadcast since March. The host will be SNL alum Chris Rock, there to promote his starring role in the new season of Fargo, which I am anticipating far more feverishly than the new SNL season to be frank. Rock will have the honor of introducing musical guest Megan Thee Stallion, arguably the hottest rapper in America right now. Megan is coming off a summer in which she scored her first two #1 hits by teaming with Beyoncé and Cardi B (as a fan of grand spectacle, I’m crossing my fingers for guest appearances from both) and survived multiple gunshot wounds in a high-profile altercation. She has become a huge deal, and deservedly so — exactly the kind of newly minted superstar who SNL, a cultural yearbook of sorts whether you like it or not, should be anointing with an invite to their stage.

So, who else should be in line for their debut appearance on the show this season? Here are 16 suggestions.

Lil Baby

His momentum has been building for several years now, but with My Turn (a mainstay of the Billboard 200 album chart’s top 10 since February) and the Black Lives Matter-inspired standalone single “The Bigger Picture,” sing-songy Atlanta rapper Lil Baby ascended to folk hero status in 2020. One look at his streaming numbers should be enough to convince Lorne Michaels this guy is an SNL-grade superstar, even without witnessing the personal gravity Baby now exudes.

Roddy Ricch

The only rapper with a legitimate claim to a more successful 2020 than Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Baby is Roddy Ricch, who — between his own “The Box” and DaBaby’s “Rockstar” — has spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this year. His Mustard collaboration “Ballin’” has also been a rap radio staple, and his December 2019 debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial was the biggest smash of the pre-COVID era, returning to the top of the Billboard 200 in January around the time “The Box” was popping off.

Blackpink

BTS tend to be the first K-pop group to accomplish various feats of Western cultural saturation, and indeed, they became the scene’s first exports to perform on SNL last year. But with Blackpink mounting an intense promo campaign around this Friday’s The Album, including their own Netflix documentary, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the show book the galactically catchy girl group this fall — especially given the high likelihood that Selena Gomez would show up to perform their new collaborative single “Ice Cream.”

Doja Cat

It’s easy to imagine this colorful, controversial rapper-singer being someone at SNL’s problematic fave, and I have to believe she’d pull some kind of stunt to ensure her performance was memorable. Since “Say So” was one of the biggest TikTok-boosted hits of the year, Doja may be ready to show feet at 30 Rock, but now that we’re well beyond that song’s moment, I could see her launching her next album cycle there.

Phoebe Bridgers

SNL’s booking has skewed extremely mainstream in recent years, but historically the show has worked a few rising indie stars into its schedule. Bridgers is already beloved within the showbiz ranks, has forged connections with the comedy world via endeavors like her Matt Berninger duet from Between Two Ferns: The Movie, and seems organically popular in a way few of her peers can boast. She’d be a slam dunk.

Bad Bunny

Few urbano stars are as fun or as famous as our man Benito, who just last week took New York by storm with a virtual concert performed atop a bus driving through the city. He technically already appeared on SNL, acting opposite Kenan Thompson in a remote comedy sketch this past spring, but he deserves to be officially inaugurated into the lineage of musical guests.

Rina Sawayama

Saturday Night Live has sometimes been a venue for performers with a lot of online buzz to break through to a mainstream audience. Both Lana Del Rey and Sam Smith played the show well before they became household names. I could see the nu-metal-loving pop star Rina Sawayama — who is more of a known quantity in her native Britain than here in the States — charting a similar trajectory.

Sam Hunt

My love for this college football quarterback turned rap-indebted country singer is well established. So are his bona fides as a consistent hit-maker and a deeply influential pioneer within his field. The endlessly clever “Hard To Forget” chased with the heartrending “2016” would be live television gold.

Burna Boy

With the Diddy-assisted Twice As Tall, Nigerian star Burna Boy made a convincing foray into US mainstream stardom this summer. Still, despite percolating for a good solid decade now, the globally beloved Afrobeats community hasn’t been blessed with a platform like SNL yet.

Run The Jewels

It’s time. They may not be in heavy rotation or racking up insane streaming figures, but buddy-comedy progressive revolutionaries Killer Mike and El-P have long since ascended to that plane wherein everyone who’s familiar with them recognizes them as conquering heroes. They cut down on the dick jokes for RTJ4 too, so, yeah, the time is right. And if Lorne really needs convincing, Run The Jewels can roll deep with Pharrell and Zack De La Rocha in tow.

Brandi Carlile

After all those Grammy wins and all that Obama love, it goes without saying that Brandi Carlile is an SNL-grade star. Fame aside, it also helps Carlile’s case that she’s among her generation’s most gifted singer-songwriters, capable of turning raw personal disclosures into profound generational statements.

Kehlani

Few artists can claim the combination of industry backing and grassroots fan support that Kehlani brings to the table. Not many of them have her voice, songwriting chops, or charisma either.

Lil Uzi Vert

You could have made a similar case circa “Bad And Boujee” or “XO TOUR Llif3,” but the feverish response to Uzi’s long-awaited Eternal Atake early this year is proof enough that rap’s weirdest rock star is overdue for his SNL moment.

Rosalía

Rosalía’s brilliant flamenco-infused future-pop dispatch El Mal Querer feels so long ago, and she’s become so much more famous since then — like, billions of YouTube views famous. Like, hanging out with Kylie Jenner famous. That last part makes me nervous, but it also suggests that Lorne can’t miss by booking Rosalía whenever her anticipated LP3 is ready to drop.

Orville Peck

This masked queer outlaw country singer has already made the leap from Sub Pop to Columbia, duetted with Shania Twain, and been booked to open for Harry Styles at Madison Square Garden. An SNL appearance is only a matter of time.

Post Malone

I know, crazy right? Some way, somehow, Post Malone — easily one of the five biggest stars in music today, with an insane reach across cultures — hasn’t played SNL yet. Lorne needs this guy pulling double duty as host and musical guest like yesterday.

CHART WATCH

With 87,000 equivalent album units and 56,000 in sales, Taylor Swift’s Folklore has returned to #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for a seventh nonconsecutive week. Per Billboard, Swift has now spent 47 weeks overall at #1, surpassing Whitney Houston’s previous record of 46. The last album to spend more weeks at #1 was Drake’s Views, which posted 13 nonconsecutive weeks atop the chart back in 2016.

After Pop Smoke and YoungBoy Never Broke Again comes a #4 debut for Alicia Keys’ Alicia, with 62,000 units and 51,000 in sales. It’s her eighth top-10 album. Juice WRLD is at #5, followed by a #6 debut for Moneybagg Yo and Blac Youngsta’s Code Red. The collaborative LP posted just over 40,000 units, mostly via streaming. Keith Urban’s The Speed Of Now, Part 1 enters at #7 with 40,000 units and 27,000 in sales, becoming his eighth top-10 release. Hamilton is at #8, Lil Baby is at #9, and Lil Tecca’s Virgo World posts a #10 debut with 34,000 units — again, mostly due to streaming.

After being bumped to #2 for a couple weeks, BTS have reclaimed the #1 spot on the Hot 100 with “Dynamite” for a third nonconsecutive frame. This again knocks Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” down to #2. Justin Bieber and Chance The Rapper’s “Holy” makes a #3 debut, becoming Bieber’s 20th top-10 hit and Chance’s third (his other two were also Bieber collabs). Drake and Lil Durk’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later” is in at #4, followed by 24kGoldn and Iann Dior’s “Mood” at a new #5 peak. The rest of the top 10: DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s “Rockstar,” the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” (ending its record-setting run of 28 weeks in the top 5), Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar,” Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo’s “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)” (which should be trending up thanks to a new BTS remix), and Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope.”

POP FIVE

Zayn – “Better”
Now that he’s a dad, it sounds like Zayn has figured out how to make his favored adult contemporary R&B really sizzle.

Jennifer Lopez & Maluma – “Pa Ti + Lonely”
Also smooth as hell: This.

Bastille – “Survivin’”
“What can I say? I’m survivin’” is an extremely savvy hook for a late 2020 pop song, especially when matched with moody chords and an easygoing boom-bap beat. Normally Bastille do not interest me, but anyone doing this good of a 1975 impression have my attention.

Ashton Irwin – “Skinny Skinny”
It ain’t no “Skinny Love,” that’s for damn sure.

Vin Diesel – “Feel Like I Do”
What’s more surprising: Vin Diesel releasing a generic tropical house single, or that single being listenable?


NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Demi Lovato is no longer engaged, which her fiancé learned from the tabloids. [TMZ]
  • Strengthening my belief that “WAP” will be performed at full strength this weekend: Chris Rock once tried to get a Cardi B her own Comedy Central series. [Vulture]
  • Billie Eilish announced a documentary, The World’s A Little Blurry, out in February. [Instagram]
  • Doja Cat revealed the existence of an Ariana Grande collab. [Twitter]
  • DaBaby is being sued by a California man who says the rapper beat him up on camera last year because he took a photo of him. [TMZ]
  • Avril Lavigne is playing a livestream benefit for Global Lyme Alliance on 10/24. [Rolling Stone]
  • Post Malone leads the 2020 Billboard Music Awards nominations with 16. [BBMAs]
  • It’s BTS Week on Fallon. [EW]
  • In related news, BTS’ new album BE (Deluxe Edition) is out 11/20. [EW]
  • For this year’s Time 100 “most influential people” series, Taylor Swift wrote about Phoebe Waller Bridge, Elton John wrote about the Weekend, BTS wrote about Halsey, Taraji P. Henson wrote about Megan Thee Stallion, and Camila Cabello wrote about J Balvin. [Time]
  • Dan + Shay, Ashley McBryde, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs, Sam Hunt, and Thomas Rhett lead this year’s CMT Music Awards nominations with three each. [CMT]
  • Selena Gomez broke down “Lose You To Love Me” on Song Exploder. [Song Exploder]
  • Lizzo did a 73 Questions video with Vogue. [YouTube]
  • Mandy Moore is pregnant with her first child. [Instagram]
  • Justin Bieber and Chance The Rapper gave away $250k to people in need via Cash app on Thursday. [TMZ]
  • Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty now makes underwear for men too. [GQ]

HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME

Taylor Swift Breaks Whitney Houston’s Record For Most Cumulative Weeks At #1 Among Women

Taylor Swift Breaks Whitney Houston’s Record For Most Cumulative Weeks At #1 Among Women

| September 27, 2020 – 7:35 pm

CREDIT: Beth Garrabant / Suzie Gibbons/Redferns

Taylor Swift’s Folklore is back at the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 this week, which means she has now spent the most cumulative weeks at #1 in the chart’s history among women. Swift broke a record previously set by Whitney Houston in 1987. She now trails the Beatles (132 weeks), Elvis Presley (67), Garth Brooks (52), and Michael Jackson (51) for the most nonconsecutive chart-topping weeks.

As Billboard reports, Folklore earned 87,000 equivalent album units this week, which was boosted by selling additional signed CD copies online and in stores. Last week, she also performed “Betty” on the Academy Of Country Music Awards and released the live version of streaming services shortly after.

Following Swift at #2 is Pop Smoke’s Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon. YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s Top fell from the top spot last week to #3 this one. Alicia Keys’ Alicia debuted at #4, making it her eighth Top 10 album. Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die is at #5, Moneybagg Yo and Blac Youngsta debuted at #6, Keith Urban debuted at #7, Hamilton is at #8, Lil Baby is at #9, and Lil Tecca’s Virgo World rounds out the Top 10 with his debut.

Watch Angel Olsen Cover “I’ll Be Seeing You,” Perform Take Away Show

Watch Angel Olsen Cover “I’ll Be Seeing You,” Perform Take Away Show

| September 27, 2020 – 2:32 pm

Last month, Angel Olsen released Whole New Mess, her companion album to last year’s All Mirrors, and she’s been keeping busy during lockdown. Over on Instagram, she’s gotten in the habit of performing some stripped-down covers of songs by artists like George Harrison, Roxy Music, and Tori Amos.

Today, she posted a quick snippet of her singing “I’ll Be Seeing You,” the 1938 track that’s been covered by Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Mildred Bailey, and many more over the years. “Working on some covers, some expected, some not,” Olsen captioned the post. “This one’s been close to the heart lately.” Could we be so lucky as to get a whole album of Olsen covers at some point? Seems like maybe!

Here’s her doing “I’ll Be Seeing You”:

View this post on Instagram

Working on some covers, some expected, some not. This one’s been close to the heart lately. “I’ll be seeing you” Original music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Irving Kahal. Published in 1938, it was inserted into the Broadway musical Right This Way, which closed after fifteen performances. Later made famous by Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and my favorite jazz/ swing/ blues singer Mildred Bailey. – -Speaking of which, if you’re unfamiliar check out some of Mildred Bailey’s work. From Wikipedia: “Mildred Bailey (born Mildred Rinker; February 27, 1907 – December 12, 1951) was a Native American jazz singer[2] during the 1930s, known as "The Queen of Swing", "The Rockin' Chair Lady" and "Mrs. Swing". Some of her best-known hits are "For Sentimental Reasons", "It's So Peaceful in the Country", "Doin' The Uptown Lowdown", "Trust in Me", "Where Are You?", "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart", "Small Fry", "Please Be Kind", "Darn That Dream", "Rockin' Chair", "Blame It on My Last Affair", and "Says My Heart". She had three singles that made number one on the popular charts.[3]”

A post shared by Angel Olsen (@angelolsenmusic) on Sep 27, 2020 at 9:21am PDT

In other recent Angel Olsen content, La Blogotheque recently shared one of their Take Away performances featuring Olsen, which was recorded in February before a show in Paris. She did “Waving, Smiling” from Whole New Mess. Watch that below.

Whole New Mess is out now via Jagjaguwar. Read our recent Cover Story on Olsen here.

Mariah Carey Reveals Involvement In ’90s Alternative Rock Band Chick

Mariah Carey Reveals Involvement In ’90s Alternative Rock Band Chick

| September 27, 2020 – 3:54 pm

CREDIT: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Mariah Carey is releasing her memoir, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey, this coming week. Today, she posted a new excerpt from it on Twitter in which she reveals that she made an alternative rock album at the same time she was recording her 1995 album Daydream. “Just for laughs, but it got me through some dark days,” she wrote in the tweet.

“I’d bring my little alt-rock song to the band and hum a silly guitar riff. They would pick it up and we would record it immediately. It was irreverent, raw, and urgent, and the band got into it,” she wrote in the excerpt. “I actually started to love some of the songs. I would fully commit to my character.” She continued:

I was playing with the style of the breezy-grunge, punk-light white female singers who were popular at the time. You know the ones who seemed to be so carefree with their feelings and their image. They could be angry, angsty, and messy, with old shoes, wrinkled slips, and unruly eyebrows, while every movie I made was so calculated and manicured. I wanted to break free, let loose, and express my misery — but I also wanted to laugh. totally looked forward to doing my alter-ego band sessions after Daydream each night.

Along with the book excerpt, she posted a snippet of one of the songs that she made for the album and she shouts out her friend Clarissa who performed lead vocals with “me as a hidden layer.” A graphic on the clip points to some artwork for a band called Chick and an album called Someone’s Ugly Daughter.

Some digging reveals that Chick did indeed release an album back in 1995 — the same year that Daydream came out — though it’s not available on streaming services. A couple of songs have been uploaded to YouTube, though, and are copyrighted to Sony/BMG Music Entertainment, part of the same umbrella company that Carey was on at the time.

One of those songs is “Demented,” and the other one is called “Malibu.” They’ve both been on YouTube since 2009 and 2012, respectively, though no one knew of the Carey connection. It’s unclear how involved Carey was in all of these songs — no liner notes are online — but presumably she’d have writing credits and potentially sing backup vocals on some of them.

You can hear what’s currently available from Chick’s sole album below.

Fun fact: I did an alternative album while I was making Daydream 👀 Just for laughs, but it got me through some dark days. Here's a little of what I wrote about it in #TheMeaningOfMariahCarey 🤟 S/O to my friend Clarissa who performs the lead w/ me as a hidden layer #Chick #TMOMC pic.twitter.com/Re23t5whcd

— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) September 27, 2020


Someone has already sussed out 30-second snippets of each track on the album, which includes a cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” which is also available elsewhere on the web.

Mariah Carey's secret album "Someones Ugly Daughter" under the alias "Chick" has been REVEALED! pic.twitter.com/yPxZ3i9BQE

— Mariah Carey Charts (@chartmariah) September 27, 2020

Carey’s memoir comes out on 9/29.

Watch Beastie Boys’ Last Concert Ever From Bonnaroo 2009

Watch Beastie Boys’ Last Concert Ever From Bonnaroo 2009

| September 26, 2020 – 11:19 am

CREDIT: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Bonnaroo is supposed to be happening right now. Obviously, we still live in a COVID hellscape right now and it isn’t. But like many other music festivals, Bonnaroo is moving online with a Virtual Roo-Ality stream featuring new and archival performances. And one of those archival performances is the Beastie Boys’ last concert ever.

The Beastie Boys headlined Bonnaroo in 2009. Shortly after the show, Adam “MCA” Yauch was diagnosed with cancer; he died in 2012. On Thursay, Bonnaroo shared footage of the set as part of their Virtual Roo-ality webcast, and by popular demand, they’ve decided to keep it up for the rest of the weekend. Take advantage and watch below while you can.

The last gig..
We've heard from so many fans around the world that were unable to tune in last night, so our friends at @Bonnaroo are letting the set live online through the weekend.
Check it out here: https://t.co/IEXboJhtAl pic.twitter.com/OgedhHkloH

— Beastie Boys (@beastieboys) September 25, 2020

Preview Kanye West’s New Song Sampling Lauryn Hill

Preview Kanye West’s New Song Sampling Lauryn Hill

| September 26, 2020 – 11:39 am

CREDIT: Marc Piasecki/GC Images

Back in June, Kanye West shared a new song called “Wash Us In The Blood” featuring Travis Scott and mixed by Dr. Dre, and around that time, he started using Twitter again. Things escalated quickly, as they do for Kanye West on Twitter, and now we’ve all seen him pissing on a Grammy. This morning, though, he used his Twitter to post a snippet of a new song called “Believe What I Say,” which features a sample of Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing).” Preview it below.

BELIEVE WHAT I SAY (snippet) pic.twitter.com/U7Y2KQJ5UC

— ye (@kanyewest) September 26, 2020

Oh, also? Kanye West flew to Haiti to meet with president Jovenel Moise yesterday. He’s apparently planning to build a city in Haiti. Sure.

Rapper Kanye West who arrived in Haiti earlier was greeted at the Cap-Haitien airport by Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who traveled to Haiti after her U.S. Open win was also spotted in this video with her family greeting West at the airport. pic.twitter.com/QEYmI8XxSh

— Lunionsuite 🇭🇹 (@LunionSuite) September 25, 2020

News *

Kanye apparently wants to build a city in Haiti 🇭🇹, which is why he is meeting with the President of Haiti.

Would you guys wanna move to a YZY city 🔥 🔥 ❓ pic.twitter.com/xPEU1j23zx

— West Sub Ever (@WestSubEver) September 25, 2020

Rapper Kanye West In Haiti on a boat ride with president Jovenel Moise.
[Source: @Jhanedouze] pic.twitter.com/Tln0PQsRNg

— Lunionsuite 🇭🇹 (@LunionSuite) September 25, 2020

Bill Murray’s Lawyer Responds To Doobie Brothers’ Legal Notice, Offers Golf Shirts

Bill Murray’s Lawyer Responds To Doobie Brothers’ Legal Notice, Offers Golf Shirts

| September 26, 2020 – 1:38 pm

CREDIT: Harry How/Getty Images

The other day, we learned that Bill Murray’s golf apparel brand, William Murray Golf, was using the Doobie Brothers’ “Listen To The Music” without permission to advertise its new Zero Hucks Given golf shirt. The Doobies’ lawyer, Peter T. Paterno of King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano LLP, sent a humorous legal threat to Murray to get him to pay up. suggesting that he change the name of the shirt to Zero Bucks Given. “We’d almost be OK with it if the shirts weren’t so damn ugly,” the letter concluded. “But it is what it is. So in the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, ‘Au revoir Golfer. Et payez!’”

Now, The Wrap reports, Bill Murray’s lawyer has responded with a goofy letter of his own. “Your negative comments about their fashionableness are especially disconcerting to all of us — especially considering 75% of my wardrobe consists of William Murray polos, shorts and pants,” the letter from attorney Alexander Yoffe reads. “Color me biased, but the consensus on this side of the table is that Bill and the brothers have some of the most clever and creative lifestyle wear available.”

To settle the dispute, Murray is offering … golf shirts. “Please provide us with the shirt size for yourself, Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald, and John McFee, along with which of our client’s shirts you find the least offensive, and we will happily upgrade your wardrobes and hopefully win each of you over as new fans of the brand,” Yoffee continues. “At least that’s ‘what this fool believes.’” Read the full response below.

Dear Mr. Paterno,

Our firm represents W.M. Golf, Inc., d/b/a “William Murray Golf”. First, I would like to compliment you on finding levity in the law at a time when the world and this country certainly could use a laugh. Your client’s demand was able to cut through the noise of the news cycle and remind us how much we all miss live music these days.

We would also like to confirm that both our firm, and the good folks at William Murray Golf, are indeed fans of the Doobie Brothers’ music, which is why we appreciate your firm’s choice of “Takin’ It To The Streets”, rather than to the courts, which are already overburdened “Minute By Minute” with real problems.

I am sure that Howard King of your firm, who argued that the song “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I.) did not infringe on Marvin Gaye’s composition “Got To Give It Up”, would agree that your client was not harmed under these circumstances.

All that to say, your negative comments about their fashionableness are especially disconcerting to all of us — especially considering 75% of my wardrobe consists of William Murray polos, shorts and pants. Color me biased, but the consensus on this side of the table is that Bill and the brothers have some of the most clever and creative lifestyle wear available.

In the immortal words of Mr. Murray — the more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything… so let’s pour one up and unwind with a listen of the recently-released “Quadio” box set and plan to cross paths at a Doobie Brothers’ 50th anniversary show in 2021 when some level of normalcy resumes.

As your client so aptly stated in this classic song in question, “What the people need is a way to make them smile” — which both Bill and the Doobies have been doing for decades, as world-class entertainers.

Please provide us with the shirt size for yourself, Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald, and John McFee, along with which of our client’s shirts you find the least offensive, and we will happily upgrade your wardrobes and hopefully win each of you over as new fans of the brand.

At least that’s “what this fool believes”.

The Smashing Pumpkins – “Confessions Of A Dopamine Addict” & “Wrath”

The Smashing Pumpkins – “Confessions Of A Dopamine Addict” & “Wrath”

| September 25, 2020 – 12:02 am

Last week, the Smashing Pumpkins officially announced their new double album, CYR, after sharing two songs from it, the title track and “The Colour Of Love,” last month. Today, they’re back with another pair of songs from CYR: “Confessions Of A Dopamine Addict” and “Wrath.”

In conjunction with the new album, Billy Corgan has created a five-part animated series called In Ashes that will debut alongside the rollout for the album. The first two episodes of that series — “As The Crow Flies” (set to “The Colour Of Love”) and “Inspirations, Aspirations” (set to “Confessions”) — will premiere at noon ET tomorrow.

Listen to the new tracks below.


And here are the In Ashes episodes:


CYR is out 11/27 via Sumerian Records. Pre-order it here.

The Number Ones: Phil Collins’ “One More Night”

The Number Ones: Phil Collins’ “One More Night”

| September 25, 2020 – 8:49 am

In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.

***

Phil Collins – “One More Night”

HIT #1: March 30, 1985

STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks

You don’t release a ballad as the first single. That’s been general-consensus pop-music wisdom for a long, long time. The first single from a new album has to grab people’s attention. It has to be bright and loud and uptempo. That song has to force the world to notice you. Once you’ve got the people’s attention, that’s when you hit them with the ballad and show that you’ve got range. But when you’re dealing with Phil Collins, you’ve got to flip that whole strategy around.

When Phil Collins, the genial Genesis drummer, released his third solo LP No Jacket Required early in 1985, he was mostly known for singing about his own romantic devastation. Collins had recorded his 1981 solo debut Face Value while recovering from the shock of divorce, crafting heart-wrenched depressive ballads while playing around with a drum machine in his suddenly-empty house. Collins’ primal-moan electro-blues had made him enormously successful, and his first two albums had both sold millions. In 1984, Collins had scored his first #1 hit in America with “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now),” a sad-bastard movie theme that he’d originally written for Face Value. Collins had become a brand-name pop superstar by sounding like he was mired in permanent existential despair.

When you’ve got a brand, you’ve got to protect it. So: Ballad. When Collins got started on making No Jacket Required, he wanted to prove that he wasn’t just a ballad guy and that he could make fun, uptempo dance-pop. For the most part, that’s what No Jacket Required is. But “One More Night,” the album’s first single, comes straight from the endless hurt-well that inspired Face Value. The first No Jacket Required song that the world got to hear was also the saddest song on the album. You’ve got to give the people what they want, even when they want to hear your voice emanating from a black hole of grief.

At least on paper, Phil Collins seemed like he was doing pretty fucking well in 1985. “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” had once just been a leftover track on Collins’ cutting-room floor, but Collins flipped it and made it into a hugely successful soundtrack song. That song got Collins nominated for an Oscar. That same year, Collins also co-produced his friend Eric Clapton’s album Behind The Sun, and he sang and played drums on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” the all-star charity single that almost immediately became the biggest-selling single in UK history, a distinction that it held for more than a decade.

Around the same time, Collins produced and played on Chinese Wall, the 1985 solo album from the Earth, Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey. “Easy Lover,” the first single from that album, was a duet from the two Phils. It became a yuppie-soul smash, topping the UK charts and getting as high as #2 in America. (It’s a 7.)

Also: Phil Collins wasn’t heartbroken anymore! In fact, by the time he made No Jacket Required, Collins had already married Jill Tavelman, his second wife. Presumably, this meant that Collins was no longer wading through the psychic muck of his 1980 divorce. But you definitely can’t tell from listening to “One More Night,” one of the most unapologetically self-pitying songs ever to top the Hot 100.

The narrator of “One More Night” is not a guy who’s gotten over a breakup. It’s the sound of someone pining for something that he knows is over: “I know there’ll never be a time you’ll ever feel the same/ And I know it’s only words/ But if you change your mind, you know that I’ll be here/ And maybe we both can learn.” He tells his ex that he can’t wait forever, but he also makes it plain that he can and will wait forever. That narrator doesn’t even know if his ex is still single: “I was wondering: Should I call you?/ Then I thought maybe you’re not alone.” But he keeps pleading anyway, asking again and again for one more night.

Collins wrote “One More Night” the way he wrote many of his songs: While playing around with his drum machine and thinking about American soul music. (In a Playboy interview around that time, he said that he was thinking about a Jacksons song, though he didn’t specify which one.) Once Collins figured out the chorus, which is mostly just the title repeated a bunch of times, the rest of the song came quickly.

Collins co-produced “One More Night” with his regular collaborator Hugh Padham, who’d also done “Every Breath You Take” with the Police. (Speaking of the Police: Collins met Sting while they were making “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” together, and Sting sang backup on a couple of No Jacket Required tracks.) Together, Collins and Padham came up with a soft-glow synth-soul backing track for the song.

“One More Night” sounds rich and expensive and maybe even futuristic, but not in ways that overwhelm its own bummed-out nature. In the song’s video, we see Collins alone, playing piano in a London pub owned by Virgin Records honcho Richard Branson. Director James Yukich, who later made the 1994 Double Dragon movie, films Collins in soft sepia. The place is closed, and Collins’ only audience is the bartender who looks on balefully while wiping down glasses.

Toward the end of the song, saxophonist Don Myrick, who I guess had been sitting in the dark that whole time, tootles out a sympathetic solo. (Myrick was a key member of Earth, Wind & Fire’s great Phenix Horns. In 1993, at the age of 53, Myrick was shot dead by an LA cop who said that he thought Myrick’s lighter was a weapon.)

The strength of “One More Night” is that it sounds like the kind of song that a sad, heartbroken schlub could sing alone at a piano in an empty pub. It’s not, of course. The production is rich and expansive, full of sharp little details. It’s not a cluttered song, but all the subtle elements — the soft thud of the drum machine, the glimmering sustain of the keyboards, the easy burble of the bass — fill it out. I like the tiny little 808 sycopations and the echoing beeps that come in as the song progresses. Collins didn’t do anything halfassed, and “One More Night” doesn’t have the cheap thinness of so many synthy ’80s songs. Instead, it’s warm and buttery, and it reaches a small and unforced climax when Myrick shows up for that thoughtful, restrained solo.

Collins really sings, too. It almost seems unfair that a drummer could have a voice that smooth and expressive. Collins’ voice really glides on that hook — “one more night” — and he nicely underplays the emotive theatrics of his own verses. Collins wants to let you know that he’s being ripped apart, but he also doesn’t want to make a big show of it. I appreciate that.

“One More Night” isn’t one of Collins’ best songs. It’s not quite brash enough for that. Collins was always capable of sustaining a mood and then jolting you out of it, often via crashing drum fill. On “One More Night,” that jolt never arrives. Instead, Collins just evokes a feeling and then languishes in it, slowly layering on new sounds in ways that you might only notice on the tenth listen. His touch is deft, and the song works, but it also has a way of fading into the background.

In any case, “One More Night” was only the beginning. Apparently, it was smart move, at least in this case, to release the ballad as the first single. Collins was already a star before 1985, but No Jacket Required blew his previous two albums out of the water. No Jacket Required topped the album charts for seven weeks and eventually sold 12 million copies in the US alone. The same week that Phil Collins squirmed through the Oscars, watching Ann Reinking’s deeply strange lip-synced performance of his song, Collins had the #1 album and single in the US. Collins will appear in this column again soon.

GRADE: 7/10

BONUS BEATS: In his 1986 movie The Color Of Money, Martin Scorsese used “One More Night” to soundtrack a scene of Tom Cruise trying to hustle people at pool and impressing Paul Newman. Here’s that scene:

BONUS BONUS BEATS: The recovering teen idol Jordan Knight released a cover of “One More Night” on his album Love Songs in 2006. Sadly, he did not retitle it “One More Knight.” Here’s that cover:

(As a solo artist, Jordan Knight’s highest-charting single is 1999’s “Give It To You,” which peaked at #10. It’s an 8. As a member of New Kids On The Block, Knight will eventually appear in this column.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s the solo “One More Night” cover that Veruca Salt’s Nina Gordon posted on her website in 2009:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: The dancehall star Busy Signal also released a “One More Night” cover in 2009; this might be the only thing that Nina Gordon and Busy Signal have in common. Here’s the Busy Signal version:

Tory Lanez Released A Whole Album About The Megan Thee Stallion Shooting Story

Tory Lanez Released A Whole Album About The Megan Thee Stallion Shooting Story

| September 25, 2020 – 9:35 am

CREDIT: Tory Lanez

The entire saga of Tory Lanez and Megan Thee Stallion continues to get sadder and weirder. In July, Megan Thee Stallion was shot multiple times outside a party at Kylie Jenner’s house. The same night, LA police arrested Tory Lanez on a concealed weapons charge. Witness reports claimed that Tory had shot Megan in the foot after an argument in a car, and Megan eventually confirmed those reports on Instagram Live, directly claiming that Tory had shot her. Earlier this month, TMZ reported that Tory had texted Megan hours afterward, apologizing and claiming that he’d been drunk. And now, in the latest development, Tory has released an entire album about the story.

Last night, Tory released a 17-song SoundCloud album called DAYSTAR. The whole thing seems to be a concept LP about the story, and about Tory’s feeling that the music industry has intentionally abandoned him after the shooting. On the album, Tory addresses Megan again and again, sometimes by name. Sometimes, he seems to be begging for her to take him back and professing his love to her: “You can always come back, come home to me.” And sometimes, he’s angrily going after her for accusing him of the shooting.

On opening track “Money Over Fallouts,” for instance, Tory fumes about the whole story: “Gotta see a couple questions: How the fuck you get shot in your foot, don’t hit no bones or tendons?” He essentially accuses Megan of snitching: “Girl, you had the nerve to write that statement on that affidavit.” He says that her camp is trying to set him up: “Megan people tryna frame me for a shooting/ But them boys ain’t clean enough/ I see how they teaming up, watching and I’m calculating.” And he asks, again and again, why she’d do this to him: “I thought that you was solid, too, but look at how you doing me/ Look at how you doing me, people tryna ruin me/ And what’s even worse is I’m still thinking about you and me/ How you going live my birthday with all your jewelry to try to make some fool of me?”

Elsewhere, Tory repeatedly denies the story of the shooting: “I would never put my hands on a woman, dog/ I would never let it blam on a woman, dog,” “Since the event, you never called me but you can’t deny me/ If you got shot from behind, how can you identify me?” He sings about how Megan is doing him wrong: “We both know what happened/ What happened to passion?”

Tory also complains about “cancel culture” and says that “The Illuminati tryna get me.” He calls out various celebrities who have taken Megan’s side: Kehlani, Chance The Rapper, Bun B, JoJo, JR Smith Asian Da Brat. And he says that he and Megan had been fighting that night because he’d flirted with Kylie Jenner at her party. DAYSTAR is a wild and disturbing work of self-pity and self-destruction. If you would like to investigate for yourself, it’s below.

Tory Lanez · DAYSTAR

Van Morrison’s First Anti-Lockdown Anthem Is Here

Van Morrison’s First Anti-Lockdown Anthem Is Here

| September 25, 2020 – 9:35 am

After issuing a garbled and confusing statement last month about the “pseudo-science” surrounding COVID-19, in recent days Van Morrison has made it abundantly clear what he meant. The music legend announced last week that he was planning to release a series of singles condemning the “fascist” lockdown policies designed to combat the spread of coronavirus, beginning today with a track called “Born To Be Free,” which is out now as promised.

Morrison’s anti-lockdown crusade drew wisecracks from Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires and condemnation from Robin Swann, the health minister in Morrison’s native Northern Ireland, who wrote in a Rolling Stone op-ed, “We expected better from [Morrison].” Swann continued, “Some of what is he saying is actually dangerous. It could encourage people not to take coronavirus seriously. If you see it all as a big conspiracy, then you are less likely to follow the vital public health advice that keeps you and others safe.”

This has, of course, not stopped Morrison from releasing “Born To Be Free.” It is very much a Van Morrison song, a loose uptempo acoustic groove marked by playful organ work. But instead of singing about crazy love and brown-eyed girls and whatnot, he’s singing stuff like, “Don’t need the government cramping my style” and “The new normal is not normal/ It’s no kind of normal at all/ Everyone seemed to have amnesia just trying to remember the Berlin Wall.” Hear it for yourself below.

The Story Behind Every Song On Lydia Loveless’ New Album Daughter

The Story Behind Every Song On Lydia Loveless’ New Album Daughter

| September 25, 2020 – 9:46 am

“Welcome to my bachelor pad,” Lydia Loveless sings at the outset of her new LP. “I stay here when things get bad.” Titled “Dead Writer,” the song was the first in a collection that would chronicle a major turning point in the roots-rocker’s life. Daughter, out today, is the first Loveless album since her divorce from her longtime bassist Ben Lamb, the first since her departure from her longtime home base of Columbus, the first since her messy falling out with longtime label Bloodshot Records. If these past four years have been a time of global upheaval, her personal and professional life has mirrored that tumult.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Daughter is a Lydia Loveless album unlike any other. Her sardonic wit and powerfully twangy croon are instantly recognizable, and her songs remain as purposeful and direct as ever. But these 10 tracks find her expanding on the sonic exploration of 2016’s tremendous Real, shading new styles and nuances into a straightforward template. Recording at the Loft in Chicago with Wilco accomplice Tom Schick, Loveless and her band teased their sound out in various directions, often morphing the songs beyond their barebones barroom rock origins in ways that recall everyone from the Replacements to Kate Bush. It’s almost like if Waxahatchee made an album in the mold of Wilco’s deeply moody and subtly adventurous Ode To Joy; you can hear the fog Loveless was under when she wrote these songs, as well as the inspiration that seemed to strike again and again.

To commemorate Daughter’s release today, Loveless shared the story behind every track on the album. Press play and read on.

1. “Dead Writer”

I was really unhappy for the last couple years of my marriage, which makes me sound like a huge jerk, but I just wasn’t capable of being a good spouse at that age. I was participating in horribly self-destructive behavior, nothing exciting, but I certainly got into situations where I could have been horribly injured or killed. I was living out some stupid caricature of ’60s literature, drinking too much and thinking it was a creative motivator to be in an utterly dismal, bleak mood all the time and treat other people like garbage. Turns out it wasn’t — but this was the first song I wrote for the record, so maybe in some ways it was just the inspiration I needed!

2. “Love Is Not Enough”

There were people saying, when Trump got elected, how great it was going to be for music. I can’t even express how much that irks me. I think right now we’re all swimming in sadness and confusion and trying to figure out how to contribute in the right way, but sometimes you have to cut the platitudes out and take action. I guess that was the thought process that made this song. I wrote it in my head for a long, long time, not knowing if I really wanted to do anything with it until I was at The Loft recording some demos and decided it was then or never. I recorded it on the piano and there it was. I love the jangly guitars Todd [May] and Jay [Gasper] added, making it more musical against the very low register (for me anyway) I sang it in.

3. “Wringer”

I think this song has evolved for me over time to mean a lot more things than just a romance ending. Every verse deals with a different person or situation, the last verse being about a business relationship I had for many years that sucked me dry and left me feeling really burnt out. I started working on it as a guitar loop, and I sat down and had it all planned out but somehow ended up recording the loop backwards and just wrong enough that I could never recreate it. So I carried around a Ditto looper forever with this messed up loop on it until I could play it for the guys. I love that it has a moody Kate Bush vibe.

4. “Can’t Think”

I’m always struggling with the battle between being responsible and diligent and going off the rails, especially when I’m in love with someone. I think it’s my Virgo sun/Pisces moon thing. I kept hearing the chorus as a round — which is annoying to construct, but it paid off so well in the end. I wrote it in my closet with a crappy loop and an even worse drum beat I had made. George [Hondroulis] kept the drums so tight and drum-machine like on the final recording that it made it easy to lock into the vocals. I love the way this one came out.

5. “Say My Name”

I have no idea why, but this song always makes me think of this bar in Columbus called O’Reilly’s. It’s super dark and old-manish, and it feels like you’re waiting for something or someone. I think I was going there a lot when I wrote this, and generally moping around and wasting time, trying not to go home. This song is about being so into someone that you lose your sense of self and generally act like a fool, which is my M.O.

6. “Never”

I kept hearing the chorus in my head in George Michael’s voice. I usually know I’m going to take something somewhere when that happens, when I can hear it in someone’s style, because it amps me up. I write a surprising number of songs “in” other people’s voices. It just sort of fell out at the piano, which I was not expecting. It’s my favorite on the album, I think. Again with the round style vocals at the end, which I just love.

7. “Daughter”

I went to lunch with my friend Amy who is a poet and a super inspirational human, and we drank wine and cried and talked about everything under the sun. I was complaining about this idea for a song that I had but was too scared it would come off preachy or cornball. I was about to leave for the second to last band practice before we went into the studio and she basically said, “You’re going to write this song today.” And I was like, “Sure.” And I started playing the keyboard at practice, and it all came out so much better than I had ever imagined. It sounds sexy and sad on the recording, which is my aesthetic for sure.

8. “When You’re Gone”

I wrote this after a very important person to me had attempted suicide. I felt incredibly shattered and scared of the finality of it all staring me in the face. It’s about death and finality and anger and sadness when someone doesn’t want to be here anymore. Short and sweet.

9. “September” (Feat. Laura Jane Grace)

When I was 14 my family lost our home I had grown up in. We moved into this house that was very small and everyone was struggling with years of trauma and unchecked depression and we were all just encased in our sadness. The house was next to a golf course, and several times men exposed themselves to me when I would walk by there. It was hellish, especially as a teen.

My brother and I were very close, and he was obsessed with studying birds at that age — that’s where the line “I can see that you’re a bird….” comes from. A lot of it is a fantastical viewpoint in which I get to be a hero and rescue my kid brother. The rest is bits and pieces of things that happened in the short time we lived in that house, but it’s a song about escape and starting over, and probably hoping to be rescued by a hot dude. It allowed me to let go of a lot of pain, finally recording it, as it is a fairly old song I’ve never felt comfortable releasing.

10. “Don’t Bother Mountain”

This is definitely one of those making-the-sausage songs to talk about. I had finally watched Cold Mountain after like 30 years of it being out, and at the end I shouted, “More like DON’T BOTHER mountain!” at my boyfriend cuz….I’m so funny. I don’t know why I was going through this Civil War phase and also had severe creative block. So when I got the idea for the music I had no idea what I wanted to say or who I was feeling like. It was in the early stages of plotting the record which is always very bleak to me, and that’s essentially what the song is about, the sadness and reluctance of starting over.

Daughter is out now on Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late Records. Buy it here.

CREDIT: Megan Toenyes

Vin Diesel Is Out Here Making Tropical House Music On Kygo’s Label

Vin Diesel Is Out Here Making Tropical House Music On Kygo’s Label

| September 25, 2020 – 10:07 am

Vin Diesel’s past musical exploits are the stuff of internet legend. There’s the time he celebrated Valentine’s Day by singing Rihanna. There’s the time he danced to “Drunk In Love” on Facebook. There’s the time he sang Sam Smith for a British radio station. There’s the time Steve Aoki promised his Vin Diesel collab would “blow people’s minds.” There’s even the old resurfaced recording of a pre-fame Vin Diesel rapping on a beat from leftfield-disco great Arthur Russell. We’ve already known that Diesel, one of the premiere actors of his generation, also had music flowing through his veins. Today, Vin Diesel makes it official. The man is now a recording artist.

Diesel has joined Palm Tree Records, the label founded by Kygo, the Norwegian-born star producer who helped establish tropical house as pop music. Today, he’s released his debut single. It’s called “Feel Like I Do,” and it’s a love song of sorts: “I don’t know you, but it feel like I do.” Funny: I feel the same way about Vin Diesel!

“Feel Like I Do” was sadly not produced by Kygo. Instead, Kygo’s collaborator Peter Martin handled the beat. (Don’t worry. It still sounds like Kygo.) It’s a fairly generic laid-back pop-house song, but it’s rendered surreal by the knowledge that motherfucking Groot is singing this thing, that Dominic Toretto is letting us hear his softer side. Here’s the song:

Yesterday, before he dropped the track, Vin Diesel teased it by sending a video to The Kelly Clarkson Show. Speaking from a recording studio and attempting to turn his gravelly mutter into a sort of starry-eyed Barry White thing, Diesel told Clarkson this: “I am blessed that, in a year that I would normally be on a movie set — and, as we know, that’s not possible — I’ve had another creative outlet, another way to show you, or share with you, my heart.” God bless him. Here’s that video:

The virtual Kelly Clarkson Show audience members awkwardly dancing to Vin Diesel's new song is the funniest thing I've seen in weeks. pic.twitter.com/eI0BEuNSPN

— Josh Kurp (@JoshKurp) September 25, 2020

“Feel Like I Do” is out now on Palm Tree Records.

Stream Mil-Spec’s Incredible Debut LP World House

Stream Mil-Spec’s Incredible Debut LP World House

| September 25, 2020 – 10:17 am

There’s a certain kind of hardcore that just punches you right in the soul. That’s the kind that Mil-Spec make. Mil-Spec, a Toronto band that’s been putting out music since 2018, have a raw and emotive style. They can be melodic and even pretty, but they can also riff like monsters. Frontman Andre Peden has a huge, choked scream-sob of a voice, and he delivers every line with ferocious urgency. The band’s sound is rooted in hardcore history, especially in stuff from the late ’80s and early ’90s. But they way they play it, it’s fresh and ferocious and vital.

Up until now, Mil-Spec have released demos and compilation tracks and a couple of EPs: 2017’s When The Fever Broke… and 2018’s Changes. Today, the band comes out with World House, their first full-length LP. It’s a monster. I’m just utterly bowled over by this thing. It’s exactly what I needed this morning.

World House isn’t a long record — eight songs, 22 minutes — but it gives Mil-Spec room to branch out, to expand their sound and get into dreamy little interludes in between the scream-along moments. It’s the sound of a band fully understanding and embracing its own power. Mil-Spec are releasing the album along with Millenarian Spectacle an 88-page magazine with photos and annotated lyrics and manifestos and (I swear to god) movie reviews, which rules. But the thing you really need in your life is the music itself, and you can stream that below.

World House is out now on Lockin’ Out Records.

Joji – “Reanimator” (Feat. Yves Tumor)

Joji – “Reanimator” (Feat. Yves Tumor)

| September 25, 2020 – 10:30 am

Joji, the Japanese internet personality and musician who makes fluid, depressive R&B as part of the Asian rap collective 88Rising, just dropped his second album Nectar today. There are a bunch of high profile guests and producers on it, including Diplo, Lil Yachty, Kenny Beats, and Clams Casino. But perhaps the most exciting feature for people who read this website is Yves Tumor, the arty, genre-fluid experimentalist who released the great album Heaven To A Tortured Mind earlier this year. Their song together, “Reanimator,” is a good one, slowly building up from layers of James Blakeian synths to a subterranean groove before slinking back to the shadows. Listen below.

Nectar is out now via 88Rising.

It Was Hot, We Stayed In The Water Turns 20

It Was Hot, We Stayed In The Water Turns 20

| September 25, 2020 – 10:30 am

“It starts with a beautifully recorded chord on acoustic guitar for a while before the singing starts. And I really liked how it goes on for long enough that it ushers you into a new place. You forget the world you were in before you started listening to the album.”

That’s Phil Elverum in a recent NPR interview, describing the opening moments of a song from Red House Painters’ 1996 album Songs For A Blue Guitar by way of also describing the opening moments of two of his own albums. The first, It Was Hot, We Stayed In The Water, was released 20 years ago today. The second, Microphones In 2020, arrived last month. All three begin with rhythmic, overlapping guitar tracks but otherwise diverge from each other in execution. On the Red House Painters song in question (Elverum doesn’t mention it by name, but based on its multi-tracking and intro length I’m guessing it’s “Revelation Big Sur“), the “while before the singing starts” is 32 seconds. On “the Pull,” the older of the two Elverum entries, it’s a minute and 14 seconds. On Microphones In 2020, it’s seven minutes and 40 seconds, a time-warping eternity of continuous, unchanged strumming.

The simple act of elongating a repetitive instrumental intro may seem too basic to illustrate where Elverum’s taken his music over the course of his career, but it’s just the sort of humbly bold move that’s made him a two-decade fixture in experimental indie music. He began the Microphones in 1996 as a sound experiment, dinking around with outdated recording equipment until he stumbled into transcendence. The exact moment that happened is up for debate — 1999’s Don’t Wake Me Up has some truly breathtaking moments — but for my money, it’s the aforementioned “the Pull,” an earth-shattering song that announces the arrival of a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

The lengthening of that Red House Painters intro is an integral part of “the Pull”‘s alchemy, but it’s not even the most arresting thing about the song’s opening seconds. The “Revelation Big Sur” guitar tracks may playfully overlap, but Elverum goes a step further and hard-pans them left and right so that they dance between the ears if heard on headphones. This feels like a direct result of the late nights he spent fiddling with beat-up recording equipment as a teenager, and the first moment in his discography where that formerly directionless experimentation yields something beyond “kid with a chemistry set” charm. It’s still a trick, but it’s one that inhabits its surroundings and blooms into a capital-S Song, rather than distracting from Elverum’s rapid improvement as a writer.

As Elverum sings very on-brand lyrics that wrap earnest, youthful horniness in layers of poetry about being outside in the Pacific Northwest, the guitars sporadically slow and drop out of the mix, leaving space for the delicate vocal harmonies that persist throughout the record. The song could easily end along with the lyrics — letting “When you breathed in I felt the pull” hang in the air as an unresolved come-on — but one lonely guitar note persists, and then something completely unexpected happens: A booming drum fill gives way to an unmistakably black-metal-influenced coda. If you’re familiar with Elverum’s discography, what with its in-the-red noise assaults and Xasthur namedrops, you know this flirtation with metal’s most evil-sounding subgenre isn’t out of character, but “the Pull” is the very first instance of it. A soft-spoken apostle of K Records, The House That Twee Built, is just about the last person you’d associate with black metal’s grisly stereotypes, but for the second time in one song, here’s Elverum taking still-recognizable influences and developing a unique palette of sounds.

Elverum was brought into the K Records fold via Beat Happening guitarist and fellow Anacortes, Washington native Bret Lunsford. According to 2012 label retrospective Love Rock Revolution, Lunsford urged label founder and bandmate Calvin Johnson to turn a teenaged Elverum loose in K’s Olympia studio, Dub Narcotic: “You should open your doors to this guy. He’ll be runnin’ the place in no time.” Johnson had a tough time convincing many artists on his roster to record at the unprofessional, makeshift space, but said of Elverum, “He didn’t have the attitude that this wasn’t a real studio. He was more like, ‘Hey, this is fun.’” What followed, as described by the book’s author, Mark Baumgarten, “set a new precedent for the label.”

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, K was a crucial purveyor of fresh sounds and DIY politics with dozens of eclectic classics to its name. It would be unfair to say that the label stagnated in the late ‘90s — acts as diverse and/or high profile as Modest Mouse, post-hardcore bands Lync and Karp, Corin Tucker side project Cadallaca, and Ian Svevnonius’ Make-Up all released projects on K from ‘97 to ‘99 — but many of its flagship acts had either broken up or departed, and longtime co-owner Candice Pederson sold her shares to Johnson in 1999. Of the bands still on the roster that didn’t opt for more professional recording locales, those that did log time at Dub Narcotic did little to reinvent the label’s lo-fi recording aesthetic. Enter Elverum.

“The equipment Phil was working with was not much better than it had been for the records that Calvin recorded,” wrote Baumgarten. “But the young musician had managed to master those supposed limitations, creating an album [Don’t Wake Me Up] that was praised for its production rather than accepted despite it.”

The Microphones’ full-length debut is clearly a product of Elverum treating the studio, to borrow a Brian Wilson-ism (whose “Good Vibrations” the album briefly covers), as an instrument of its own. Outdated organs, dubiously functioning tape machines, blown-out amps, and beat-up drum kits aren’t the standard arsenal of a canonical “studio wizard,” but Elverum corralled the equipment by meeting it on its own terms and not treating the whole experience like a practice run preceding a jump to shinier surroundings. Fittingly, Don’t Wake Me Up sounds like a wide-eyed kid given free reign in a room full of audio toys. A more brittle, charcoal-etched version of the paisley playfulness that the Elephant 6 collective was laying down concurrently, the album jumps around between songs and sketches, frequently interrupting its clear melodicism with cacophony, and vice-versa. It’s a fascinating, groundbreaking K release, but it doesn’t quite hang together.

One year later, It Was Hot further solidified Elverum’s sound, sacrificing none of its predecessor’s roughshod charm while corralling its wilder impulses into more purposeful statements. As is abundantly clear on “the Pull,” there are still neck-snapping transitions between light and dark, soft and heavy, but each part’s more well-defined in relation to the other. Its centerpiece, the 11-minute epic “the Glow,” effortlessly flows from acoustic singer-songwriter territory to a cappella Pet Sounds vocal harmonies and back in its first two minutes before Elverum lets his production chops take the reins. Don’t Wake Me Up’s noisy, atonal passages are still all over this album, but they seem less random because Elverum unleashes them like forces of nature, whether they’re composed of instruments, effects, or field recordings (see: interludes titled “Drums,” “Breeze,” “Organs”). On “the Glow,” a foggy beach breeze of a sound collage — organ drones, feedback, woody creaks — blows us into the next movement.

The next voice we hear belongs to Mirah, the K-signed singer-songwriter whose Elverum-produced debut album was released just three months prior. The Blow’s Khaela Maricich also pops up throughout the album, lending credence to Elverum’s liner notes assertion that, “Of the Microphones albums, this is the one that comes closest to resembling ‘collaboration.’” Maricich and Karl Blau, another Anacortes-based K affiliate, have co-writing credits on a few songs, and Blau and Jason Wall are even credited with some instrumentation, a rarity among otherwise Elverum-dominated Microphones albums. So despite It Was Hot’s more methodical sound, it’s also got a shaggy co-op vibe that borders on twee, making it the most quintessentially (or even stereotypically) “K Records” album Elverum’s ever made.

But this is still very much The Phil Show, and as “the Glow” moves into its second half, he lets loose, showing off his skill as a freewheeling, fill-happy drummer in front of a roiling backdrop of studio textures that make for another hypnotically engaging ride. Don’t Wake Me Up-era Elverum might’ve abruptly cut things off just as they were getting into full swing, but instead we get (surprise!) some continuity, returning to the foggy breeze of effects that initially preceded Mirah’s vocals. The song’s narrative loosely tracks Elverum as he’s lured from snowy hills by a glow that leads him into the ocean and drags him under, and he plumbs his finest lyrics from the depths of the song’s conclusion: “On the cold dark ocean floor/ I felt warmth from behind a door/ I asked to come inside/ And the glow replied.” Again, it’s not hard to decode the lusty messages inside of those earthen metaphors, but the imagery is sharp, mystical, and charming. As in the aforementioned interludes, we see natural phenomena represented both as characters and as sound — the glow’s “reply” comes immediately in the form of a clarion organ chord that juts out from the noise to conclude the song.

On It Was Hot, Elverum puts elements of his music in conversation with each other — lyrics, instrumentation, production, worlds both lived and imagined — in a mesmerizing way that would become a hallmark of his work over the next 20 years. Placing himself among the forces of nature (“my misty escape,” “we rose as smoke and then as a puff of ash,” etc.) as well as mimicking those forces with studio trickery (like a lyric about a growing fire leading into the crackling noise of a vinyl record’s runout groove), he fully inhabits the album, likely a consequence of his intense inhabitation of his two primary nonhuman muses: the studio and the Pacific Northwest. Throughout his career, those meta-conversations have only grown, linking albums, re-recorded songs, and self-referential lyrics into what feels like a living, breathing discography.

After the release of It Was Hot, Elverum picked up the thread that began on the album’s longest song and, just 364 days later, wove it into the towering Glow Pt. 2, still the most beloved release of his career. Together, these albums would form the bedrock of a career into which Elverum would continue to burrow deeper, culminating (in terms of recency and career-spanning subject matter, not finality) in Microphones In 2020, the first album released under the “Microphones” banner in 17 years. Along the way, he reignited K Records and influenced many an emo indie kid. “As the new millenium wore on,” wrote Baumgarten in Love Rock Revolution, “Phil and his fellow producer-musician hybrids would make up a considerable portion of the label’s output,” citing Maricich’s the Blow among others. Outside of the Pacific Northwest bubble, lo-fi producers everywhere, as well artists as far-flung as Lil Peep and Sylvan Esso, have taken cues from Elverum. (Notably, longstanding emo fixture Tigers Jaw took their name from a Microphones lyric and bastardized It Was Hot’s “Between Your Ear And The Other Ear” for a song title of their own.)

It Was Hot lacks the vast scope and deep emotional core of its follow-up, but it’s a stunning, complex gem of an album that’s unfairly lived in the shadow of the generational masterwork that followed it, a fate similar to that of My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything, Nirvana’s Bleach, or Neutral Milk Hotel’s On Avery Island. It’s an absolute joy to don headphones and lose yourself in just about any Microphones/Mount Eerie album, but It Was Hot, We Stayed In The Water is such an immersive experience that upon first listen, you forget the world you were in before you started listening to Phil Elverum.

Public Enemy – “Public Enemy Number Won” (Feat. Mike-D, Ad-Rock, & Run-DMC)

Public Enemy – “Public Enemy Number Won” (Feat. Mike-D, Ad-Rock, & Run-DMC)

| September 25, 2020 – 10:48 am

CREDIT: Eitan Miskevich

We may have reached the point where we can forget all about Public Enemy staging a breakup hoax earlier this year. Earlier this month, the legendary Long Island rap group announced that they had re-signed to Def Jam Records, the label that released all of their classic records. Today, they’ve released their new album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?, and it features contributions from a whole number of fellow legends. On one song in particular, Public Enemy link up with two of the only groups that could reasonably call themselves Public Enemy’s peers.

What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? features collaborations with legends like George Clinton, Ice-T, Cypress Hill, and Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O. We’ve already posted the DJ Premier-produced “State Of The Union (STFU)” and the new version of “Fight The Power” with Nas, Black Thought, YG, Rapsondi, and Jahi. And then there’s “Public Enemy Number Won,” a summit-meeting song that features Run-DMC and both surviving Beastie Boys alongside PE.

As the title implies, “Public Enemy Number Won” is a new version of PE’s impossibly hard 1987 debut single “Public Enemy No. 1.” The new track opens with Mike D and Ad-Rock doing their own version of Flavor Flav’s intro from the original track, remembering hearing Public Enemy’s original demo tape in 1985. I was worried that meant they wouldn’t actually rap on the thing, but they do — giving a new version of their Licensed To Ill classic “Paul Revere” near the end of the track. Run and DMC both sound tough and refreshed in their verses. Flavor Flav gets a verse, too, which didn’t happen on the original track. And Chuck D still sounds huge and imposing. LL Cool J, the other flagship artist of Def Jam’s early days, gets multiple shoutouts, but he sadly never appears. Listen below.

While you’re at it, you can stream Public Enemy’s entire album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? here:

What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? is out now on Def Jam.

Joensuu 1685 – “All Around You”

Joensuu 1685 – “All Around You”

| September 25, 2020 – 10:56 am

Finnish trio Joensuu 1685, made up of Artist To Watch Mikko Joensuu, his brother Markus, and Risto Joensuu (no relation), are reuniting this year for ÖB, their long-awaited second album and their first release in a decade. It’ll finally be out next month, and we’ve already heard a few tracks: “Hey My Friend (We’re Here Again),” “Light In The Heart Of Our Town,” and “The Most Luckiest Man.” Today, we’re hearing one more, “All Around You,” an exultant space-rock swirl with an earworm of a keyboard melody winding its way through it. Listen below.

ÖB is out 10/9 on Gems Records.

Stream Svalbard’s Phenomenal New Album When I Die, Will I Get Better?

Stream Svalbard’s Phenomenal New Album When I Die, Will I Get Better?

| September 25, 2020 – 10:57 am

In a way, it’s remarkable that we’re getting to hear the UK band Svalbard’s new album When I Die, Will I Get Better? at all. A few weeks ago, two different women came forward to accuse Alex Fitzpatrick, founder of the UK label Holy Roar Records, of things like rape, sexual harassment, and emotional abuse. (Fitzpatrick denies the allegations.) Holy Roar was scheduled to release Svalbard’s new album today, but Svalbard joined the exodus of bands leaving Holy Roar in the wake of those allegations. Amazingly, the Svalbard album has now come out on three different labels, and they’ve dropped it on its previously announced release date.

It would be truly fucked up if the whole Holy Roar saga overshadowed the release of When I Die, Will I Get Better? The new album is just monumental. Svalbard have followed up their great 2018 LP It’s Hard To Have Hope with something even grander and more powerful.

Svalbard’s sound combines hardcore fury, black metal bleakness, shoegaze sweep, and glacial post-rock beauty into one vast and soaring whole. These days, a whole lot of bands are making great music at the intersection of all those different genres, but Svalbard might be the best of them. Svalbard’s songs get deep into feelings like depression and anxiety, and they build towering emotional vistas out of them. We’ve already posted the early songs “Open Wound” and “Listen To Someone,” and now you can stream the whole album below.

When I Die, Will I Get Better? is out now on Translation Loss Records/Church Road Records/Tokyo Jupiter Records.