If you’ve been hunting for something enjoyably downbeat and relaxingly depressing, something that’s just really really good to mope to, may I recommend The National. Singer Matt Berninger just has a sad voice, the way some people have sad eyes. Not all of their songs are trying to be sad, but there’s definitely a lot of them that are about love (the sad kind) and crying and at least one song appears to be about suicide (it isn’t this one.) This song is actually one of their less gloomy offerings, having a little bit of a faster tempo, though, of course, the lyrics are still mopey. It’s perfect music for crying in the bathtub, and don’t you even try to tell me you don’t have a ‘crying in the bathtub’ playlist. Let this be a valuable new addition to that playlist.
There’s something to be said for making masks or heavy makeup part of your performing persona, especially if you aren’t blessed with an outstanding physiognomy. Paul Hammer of Savoir Adore is not as strikingly handsome as his dreamy vocals lead me to visualize, though he ain’t bad and the dissonance is not as strong as with, just for example, Future Islands. What I’m saying is, this kind of strongly atmospheric, evocative music deserves equally compelling visuals, and no, I don’t mean a Tide Pod commercial. I would love to see Savoir Adore’s songs incorporated into a vividly drawn Studio Ghibli-style animated film, or at the very least, some visually creative music videos, because it’s honestly very transporting music. I understand, of course, that not everybody can be as physically exceptional as they are talented, but come on, kids, put a little effort into your presentation. Give me something to look at.
Portugal. The Man has quickly become one of my favorite currently active pop groups. Because they play with pop templates in a cheeky way, while still producing ridiculously catchy music. It’s all about euphoric hooks with a lyrical dark side and a little humor. Then, cheekiness and hooks aside, there are some straight-up earnest songs that, unbelievably in this age of irony, are kind of really uplifting. You could never accuse these guys of being schmaltzy, but I can see an army of overly-sincere open-mic troubadours tuning up for their weepy acoustic interpretation of this song. It’s not quite a power ballad, but it builds up for that emotional climax. And I’ll admit that maybe it makes me feel a little twinge of the positive feels, which honestly is nice and kind of hard to come by.
I rarely look at other people’s blogs. I had to confess that but I think that most people don’t look anybody’s blog except their own. Anyway, I rarely read others’ blogs and I rarely take others’ recommendations. But sometimes I do and I discover weird and awesome things. Such as this. I discovered Kirin J Callinan browsing a music blog out of Australia, which is very worth looking at because a lot of Australian artists never make the leap over to this side of the equator. Callinan has been famous/notorious ( he’s famous enough to have his own meme, and is frequently photographed in his underwear) in his homeland since 2005 or so, with not so much a squeak in American markets. His style is vaguely reminiscent of Nick Cave; moody, dark and theatrical, because apparently there’s something about all that sun-parched outback that turns people morbid. This song isn’t overly dramatic, but it’s deeply atmospheric and sounds like a cut from a very gloomy and depressing Off-Broadway musical. Imagine the hero contemplating some wicked crime to salve his broken heart. That kind of a mood, which I find compelling. Enough to make me want to go check out the scene in New South Wales.
First of all, Courtney Barnett is seriously very cute. She may be like one of the foremost songwriters of her generation and whatnot, but she’s also like your super chill best friend who’s always down to hang out and gives really good advice. She looks like somebody you would totally want to have in your life. Well, thanks to the magic of technology, you can always have Courtney in your life, or at least her wise and clever songs. The poetry of mundane thoughts is Courtney Barnett’s talent, and wow, that’s a major gift, because most people’s mundane thoughts are, pretty much by definition, stupid and boring. A clever and cool person, though, would have clever and cool thoughts, ones that we find entertaining and enjoy being privy to. And relate to, of course. When you listen to Courtney Barnett you recognize some of your own everyday musings, but funnier and more interesting and clever.
Is Foxygen satirizing sixties’ psychedelic rock extravagance or earnestly making an homage? Either way, they’ve recaptured it with uncanny precision. I suspect sincerity. There’s no need for satire when your subject is a genre that faded decades before your birth. Not to mention that a lot of the best psychedelia was pretty dang close to self-parody anyway. Foxygen manages to sound exactly like the work of some long-forgotten band whose performance at Monterrey Pop ended up getting cut from the documentary. Yes, it’s silly – a lot of sixties music was silly and self-indulgent – and that’s intensely endearing.
I like my pop songs like I like my snack foods… or vice versa? There’s a joke in here somewhere. Anyhow. Congratulations if you remember this from 2013. That was the year I was listening to indie radio every day, and Ms Mr were all over it. Exciting times. I don’t know if maybe that was actually the peak for this particular brand of college-radio pop, but it does seem like a lot of the promising stars of 2013 are spinning their wheels now. Or it could be that everything just feels like it’s dragging because we live in a time of implied instant gratification that never comes. We want the next thing to happen right now because we’ve become used to the lightning speeds of the internet, but people aren’t actually moving any faster. We’re still getting more or less the same amount of sleep and it still takes the same twenty-four hours to get through a day. We’re not even that much more entertained.