I haven’t seen St. Vincent play yet, and I would happily spend a lot of money to do so. That’s something that should happen soon enough, although not soon enough. St. Vincent’s current US tour has a pretty limited run, mostly focused on major east coast stops. It’s kind of a burn that instead of skipping Texas altogether, she’s playing a three day festival in Houston. However, I’m not worried about it; barring unforeseen circumstances, Annie Clark has decades of touring ahead of her. She’s going to be a major player for a while, I think. In the meantime, you can set the countdown for the new album, coming Oct 13th.
I’ve been thinking that I need to put together a compilation of the best electropop songs. As a basic introduction to the genre, you see. It’s a bit of a vaguely defined genre, but if it has synths that go bloop like it’s 1983 and a ridiculously cute female singer with a high voice, it’s probably electropop. Exhibit A out of many, Electric Youth. “The thought of recreating the past with music is not interesting to us, it’s probably been the biggest misconception of our music and what we’re about thus far. The reality is, we’re much more interested in creating things for the future than things from the past. We are nostalgic people, not in the sense that we long for a different time, because we love the present, but how could we not be reminded of the past when every day, we see the person we had a crush on since 7th grade?” says Electric Youth’s Austin Garrick. If you say so. Please note that electropop groups are nearly always a duo, and they’re either siblings or a couple. Electric Youth are a couple who have been together since the 8th grade, which is nauseating cute. They want you to know that they didn’t name themselves after a Debbie Gibson album; their name is meant to reflect their feelings of optimism in their generation, or something. If you say so.
If you’re looking for some really good Fake Velvet Underground, look no further. Parquet Courts are the very best Fake Velvet Underground. Is this one of those underhanded compliments that’s actually an insult? No, it’s actually a real compliment, but I understand why you would ask that. Bands that try to emulate the Velvet Underground -just like would-be emulators of Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and other iconic musicians – are for the most part terrible, derivative, generic, cliche-ridden toothless imitators with no concept of what made the originals great in the first place. But I genuinely like Parquet Courts. They do remind me of the Velvet Underground, but they don’t sound like that’s the only reason they exist. I like the droning quality they’ve got going on; it’s sexy and seems like it would be great for doing some heroin. The whole atonal thing is so hard to pull off properly! Obviously, these guys are way dumber than the Velvets; their best known song is about shopping for snacks. Still, give them credit; there’s almost nothing trickier to pull off than evoking an iconic predecessor and yet still sounding like something original. Plus, they remind me of old flames who know way more about this punk rock thing than I do. Hallo, fuckboy.
If you’ve worn out the metaphorical grooves on St. Vincent’s last album, help is on the way. There’s a mystery-shrouded new album coming in the fall sometime. It’s getting a little bit of speculative attention of the gossipy kind; there’s a collaboration with – and presumably a lot of songs about – an old girlfriend, the multihyphenated fashion being Cara Delevingne. As far as collaborators go, David Byrne’s shoes aren’t about to get filled, but old flame drama is always exciting. Maybe the new album will be all about how it feels when your personal life drama has suddenly become more interesting than your actual work. I suspect that St. Vincent is too smart an artist to give us the usual confessional big breakup album. Whatever she does, she’s sure to keep it interesting and unexpected.
You probably know Karen O for putting the ‘new’ back into the New York City punk scene with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. That was some of the brashest party music in recent history. So it may be surprising that O’s solo work has been in a notably different vein. O’s solo album Crush Songs is bona fide crying-alone-in-your-bedroom music, which she may or may not have actually wrote and recorded alone in her bedroom while crying. I mean, she probably didn’t literally do that, but it sounds like she did. I’m not sure that anyone was itching to hear the preeminent punk rock goddess of the aughts get that vulnerable and raw with us. Personally, I’ll take her in boot-stomping mode any day; the music scene is filled to overflowing with girls crying over their keyboards and acoustic guitars. But if you feel the need to get emo with it, you could do a lot worse. It’s a pretty lovely record.
The golden god takes no rest in his sunset years. Well, maybe some, but not as much as he could be. Robert Plant could be content to just reel in money from the hits, but he isn’t. He’s still a formidable force, as you can see. This song sounds quite timeless; it’s not an old folk song, but it could well be. It’s clearly derived from folk music, so you can’t really say that it’s not. How derived depends, I suppose, on how much credit you want to give Plant for his lifelong habit of ‘deriving’ things from other people. Not that it matters – tradition is meant to be bent and mutated by the individual, that’s what allows it to survive.
Not moving all that far on the spectrum of tetchy and smart, St. Vincent. She also likes to explore psychopathic territories, sonically and intellectually. She may not be entirely a household name, but for an indie artist who mostly maps the eccentric inside of her own head, she’s as big as they get now. She’s technically savvy and her music ranges in style; she’s definitely not the kind of artist who gets pinned down by what their chosen instrument is. Her music is sometimes emotionally affecting, sometimes disaffected. Mostly her vibe is ‘that girl at the party who is obviously way smarter than you but still wants to talk about guacamole.’ You know, smart but accessible and fun, which is exactly the combination that pop music needs so much more of.