Here is a list of my current music jams. I call this playlist- MUSIC FOR COOL BITCHES ONLY. Your only instructions are: Step 1. Listen. Step 2. Enjoy…Or don’t, if you want to prove you’re uncool. (Joking.)
- St. Vincent- Down
I was hooked the minute I heard the 70s funk ooze out of my earbuds. That organ/keyboard sound and the funky beat. Then, the way the song builds…with all those layers of vocals coming from all directions. (Like seriously, listen to this with headphones & appreciate the fucking production of all the vocals.) Then the angry lyrics telling someone to get off her tit and get into treatment. Yes. Yes to all of it. And….was that…sitar I heard in there?! YES. I have never been a huge St. Vincent fan. I have always hated her for being part of that fucking godawful band Polyphonic Spree…No true musician would ever be affiliated with that gimmicky dreck. And even though she later backed Sufjan Stevens in his band, she has never put out anything that would reverse my negative opinion …but if there is more like this to come, I might have to change my mind.
- Bleachers- Stop Making this Hurt
I loved the Bleachers’ other song I Wanna Get Better with an uncomfortably fiery passion…but the rest of their catalogue did little to compete with that banger…..(Some of it might have been me knowing that the brain child of this band dated Lena Dunham…Might have held that against him as I think she’s a royal fucking boob.) Well, this song showed up on the scene and gave I Wanna Get Better a run for its pop magic money.
I love that unrelenting dirty sax sound. Usually, I am not a fan of sax, it takes me straight to Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band or Dave Matthews Band territory—neither of which I like. However, I feel it is well used here in this song—fun and boppy. I also like that the vocals could easily have been ripped from some other 80s song and then glued into this one….I could easily see this song being used in some coming-of-age movie in the scene where the young man who has spent his life dancing to the expectations of his overcontrolling parents finally learns how to live on his own terms.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Also—extra points to Jack Antonoff for his attempt at making a goofy dance craze. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good one. Yeah, yeah—I know that’s all that’s on fucking Tik Tok. The operative word in that statement was good.
- Trixie Mattel- Video Games
Trixie Mattel is my favorite of the Drag Queens churned out of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Before the world shut down, I saw her in concert &, as a music major, I was actually pretty impressed with her singing/songwriting. With her foray into fashion/stand up comedy, it’s easy to forget that Trixie was actually a music theater major in college–back when she was just Brian.
I am usually of a mixed opinion on cover songs. If they are done too far astray from the original, that can seem disrespectful to the material…but if they sound identical to the original, what’s the point? There’s no artistry there. I think Trixie straddled that line with this cover of Lana Del Rey’s haunting song Video Games. Gone is the languid, plodding delivery with the torchy vocals…Instead, there is whistling & a Spaghetti Western sound being sung by a dude in a dress…and somehow it all works. Obsessed.
- Aldous Harding-Old Peel
Aldous Harding is a…unique force in the music world. Her videos are usually eye-grabbing in a peculiar way that make the viewer uncomfortable. (Don’t believe me, watch the video for The Barrel and tell me you don’t feel a bit…odd. Double Dawg dare ya.) This video, with the Iggy Pop looking dancer, and colorful cast of characters in the band is no exception.
This song with its intrusive beat & oddly foreboding left hand line in the piano occasionally does a pivot into sunnier fare at about 1 minute 10 in—only to almost immediately return to the ominous and more ethnic sound…While it is musically not complex otherwise, this song is an immediately recognizable sound on a musical plane otherwise filled with mumbling, autotune and unoriginality…which is an awesome thing in and of itself.
- Lana Del Rey- For Free
This has always been my favorite Joni Mitchell song…I was all aflutter to hear Lana was covering it with Weyes Blood lending vocals. While I’m not a fan of covers usually (as mentioned elsewhere on this list)—this, THIS, I can do. Lana’s vocals are more fragile than Joni’s, but I actually like them on this song, as the other 2 singers lend harmony that supports her frail voice carrying the melody. Oddly enough, though, it’s Weyes Blood’s contribution that on one of the verses that is my favorite part of the song. Her voice is warm & she sings with a well-rounded Karen Carpenter-like tone that makes me weep.
- Tom Odell- Money
It used to be Tom was a foppish little British lad, writing power ballads with his steadfast piano. (I mean Another Love? Gah. Perfection.) I don’t know who hurt him—but cute, fey Tom is gone. Left in his place, is this cynical beast who has been experimenting with a more updated genre of pop…complete with hand claps and social commentary on our love of money & loss of humanity. While it’s not the most clever thing I’ve ever heard, I give him credit for the amount of sarcasm in the line, “I gotta buy my house a family.” I also appreciate the catchiness & the attempt at something different from what he’s been doing—while still bringing in the occasional sounds reminiscent of what I loved about him. (The Greek chorus of Toms singing in a whole spectrum of vocal range &, of course, his beloved piano.)
- Lord Huron- Love Me Like You Used To
I have posted other Lord Huron videos here before. Their retro sound gives my ears a serious boner. Sorry, but it’s true. There’s something about the sound of their guitars & distance in their vocals that reminds me of a bar playing in an old bar out west…but not a real old bar out west, more like what Hollywood thinks a band playing in a saloon out west should sound like. If you can follow that train of thought, you’re my people. And this is your song. (Those faint, tremulous female backing vocals….Sigh & splooge.)
- Still Woozy- That’s Life
Sven, the man behind Still Woozy, is a man who understands melody and harmony. While not blessed with the most Chris Cornell level strength of voice, Still Woozy knows his sound. His works sound effortless and breezy, often hitting the listener as both humorous and melancholy all at once. In this song, he laments wanting to go back, longing for a re-do with a past lover—knowing ultimately, he can’t and accepting “that’s life.” It’ll be interesting to hear how Sven develops as an artist as he achieves more inevitable popularity…(I mean, pot is getting more widely legalized…as we’re all high, I’m sure we’ll all be listening to Still Woozy at some point…) But as of now, we know the formula of sweet, thin vocals & their many-layered delivery along with some beachy sounding guitars and synths in the background.
- Wolf Alice- Lipstick on the Glass
I can almost feel my ear drum expanding when I listen to this song-just to take it all in. Her silvery upper range, powerful middle range—it’s all good. I like that she’s not eating the mic or mumbling like so many females today—Billie Eilish, I’m looking at you. The vocals & the talk-singing near the end reminds me of some of the alt-rock female artists from the 90s—like Shirley Manson or PJ Harvey or Poe…. Man, those were good times in K-Rock history…and Wolf Alice is bringing them back. Please tell me I can get my Doc Martens and my flannels out of the closet.
- Joy Crookes- Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
If you could record sunshine onto a track, I’m pretty sure it would sound like Joy Crookes’ voice. I love that old Motown sound—with the smooth string track & the reverb on the drums, as though it was recorded in one of those old ballrooms they turned into recording studios. The market used to be flooded with these retro sounding tracks (i.e. Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash, Adele, etc)—and the market got a bit saturated with it…but it has since moved on & this sound feels like a long lost friend returning home all over again.
HONORABLE MENTION PICKS
11. Lana Del Rey- Thunder
12. Kings of Convenience-Catholic Country
13. The Mountain Goats- Younger (Jordan Lake Sessions)
14. Arcade Fire- Sprawl I (Flatlands)
15. Keaton Henson- Before Growing Old