May 28, 2013
Despite being one of the most commonly recognized forms of catharsis, there are still subjects in songwriting that are treated as non-issues or considered seemingly too taboo to talk about. Heartbreak? Tunes about that are a dime a dozen. Drug use? It’s a common topic. Once a fellow music writer told me all songs are about relationships or substance abuse. Aside from the odd politically charged track, he was pretty spot on. And if you discount songs by Demi Lovato and that one Ted Leo jam, a topic that is almost constantly shied away from is body image issues.
Girls and women in almost all aspects of life are discouraged from expressing their feelings about their own physicality if they suffer shame or disordered thinking. Despite the overwhelming pressure to be perfect, talking about the weight of this pressure is often treated as vanity and shallowness. This is why it was so chilling and refreshing to hear Mary Lambert.
A haunting confession spoken in a shaking voice over stark piano, “I Know Girls” talks of the pressure nearly every girl feels to fit in and the tolls that pressure takes on a woman’s mind and body. In five minutes, Lambert manages to be more honest and compelling than most artists are in entire records. And for the first time in more than a year, a song moved me to the point of breathlessness and teary eyes.
May 23, 2013
Last month, New Orleans-based indie rock duo Generationals released their third full-length album, Heza. This week, they debuted a video for “Spinoza,” featuring vocalist Ted Joyner dashing through the streets of NOLA while Grant Widmer rides around in a truckbed struggling to play his guitar as he slides all over. If there’s a point to it all, I’ve missed it, but it’s certainly a delight to bask in the sights of one of my favorite cities — vendor booths in Jackson Square, iron-fenced balconies throughout the French Quarter, horse-drawn tour carriages. For more views of The Big Easy, check out the band’s video for Heza‘s lead single, “Put a Light On.”
May 21, 2013
Pop-punk’s pulse beat strong in the mid- to late ’90s, but somewhere around the turn of the century, it seemed to trickle out. That’s not to say it disappeared, but the sound in general grew stale, as new styles of rock (often borrowing from old styles) emerged in the forefront. With Allison Weiss‘ new album, Say What You Mean, that brand sounds fresh again. Weiss doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table, but something about her interpretation of the genre brought it back to life in my ears. Her solid power chords, classic yet stimulating, and vocals that convey emotion as much as the lyrics themselves probably have a lot to do with it.
Music can be so powerful when its effect on you is not only visceral, but emotional. I think that’s where Weiss won me over with this release, because her heartbreak is so relatable — as heartbreak is wont to be, I suppose. She covers a decent range of scenarios that can come from a rough break-up, using varied levels of sass to drive her point throughout the album.
Say What You Mean opens with “Making It Up,” a relatively light, poppy tune, implementing a bit of synth atop the basic guitar/bass/drums set-up. The song pleads to an ex-lover who’s acting like whatever they had together never happened: “Am I making it up? Was it not what you said? Was I never the one? Was it all in my head?” This juxtaposition of cheerful melody to despondent lyrics is always a satisfying angle, because instead of burying the listener in sad feelings, it uplifts them.
May 16, 2013
Break out your dancin’ shoes, because !!! is gonna make you wanna move with their new album, Thr!!!er. Nic Offer blends pop music styles like a boss, and it’s all founded on sumptuous bass rhythms that make it tough to sit still. It’s all so obvious in the new music video for “One Girl / One Boy.” Offer dances around in his super-sweet short-shorts while singing about how a song keeps him connected to a former love.
No amount of heartbreak can really separate us from our musical memories of dancing with someone we once loved, and Offer’s plea is that it may not matter anymore, but when that song plays, he can’t help but feel like he’s in that place again, when things were good. Because let’s face it, nothing is bad when you’re dancing. All your troubles dissipate on the dance floor like droplets of water burning off a hot skillet (that’s how I learned to know my pan was ready for pancake batter, anyone else?). The awesome Sonia Moore provides guest vocals on this tune, and I can’t help but be a little jealous that she gets to groove with this fresh gent, because that guy looks like a choice dance partner. And seriously, more dudes need to wear short-shorts. Ain’t nothing wrong with showing a little leg, fellas!
May 10, 2013
Let’s talk for a second about Fleet Foxes. You know the band. We all do. They’re a mild mannered group of folk superheroes who wear beanies and have beards. A fair few years back, I got the chance to see the Seattle-ites at Lollapalooza and while I was impressed, I never would have expected that the man stowed behind their drum kit had moves like this…
After years of doing double duty as both a Fleet Fox and the super serious mountain man J. Tillman, one can only assume that Tillman finally reached a sense of nirvana or ego death, fueled by massive drug use, and emerged from the desert in a Peyote-drenched glow, flanked by shirtless witch women, shaking a tambourine, and possibly riding a winged cougar. Thus, Father John Misty was born.
Sure, the music is pretty fantastic…
…but let’s face it. This man has the most gif-able dance moves of all time.
May 9, 2013
Pop culture aficionado and singer-songwriter Allie Goertz released her debut full-length album this week. Cossbysweater is a fan-funded collection of send-ups to “Freaks and Geeks,” “The Simpsons,” “Arrested Development,” Dungeons & Dragons and other geek faves. Goertz’s new music video for “Stagnant’s Fine” seems to stand apart from the rest, seemingly without any blatant pop culture references. Just a nonchalant song about being stuck in place and apathetic. Most of Goertz’s songs are presented beneath a sheer shroud of melancholy, with “Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse” serving as a candid look at the blue-haired character’s pathos, or “Tonight” emphasizing a D&D campaign as an escape from the drudgery of real life. And I’m okay with that, because it’s a strangely beautiful and unexpected perspective.