Sharon Jones has the answer to the age old soul singer’s question of what to do with a no-good man. Obliterate him. Make him quiver before your fabulosity. Send him packing with his bag of tricks. Jones learned the hard way how no-good live could be, but her message was never that life sucks. Because Jones also learned that music and creativity are the path to empowerment. She earned her creative and economic independence after many years of struggling, which makes her just about the most inspiring role model anyone could hope for. She wasn’t a 17-year-old sensation whose career was a reward for being pretty. She was a tough woman with something to say, who honed her talent in obscurity and earned the respect of her peers. The unfortunate downside to late-life success is that the good years may not last very long, and Sharon Jones was one of the casualties of 2016 (she dealt with the election of Donald Trump by dropping dead, which is something a lot of us wish we could have done.) She deserved many more years of building her legacy.
On the other hand though, what if you could be the rescuer? Through the power of love, and whatnot? Shut up, Kimbra. The only thing stupider than believing that a lover will come along who can rescue you and mend you, is thinking that you can do the same for them. SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t work like that. Fucked-up people may eventually get better, if they’re truly motivated to change, but a lot of times they just don’t ever change, and you can’t luv luv luv them all better. If you think your problems will go away if someone just loves you hard enough, you are a lazy, selfish narcissist. If you think that the other person’s problems will go away if you just love them hard enough, you’re a masochist. Either way, you have an antediluvian view of romance and no conception of how relationship dynamics actually work. That, my friends, is how abusive relationships grow and proliferate. The road to the battered women’s shelter is paved with your own good intentions. Of course, not everyone who trods that path ends up needing to go to the women’s shelter; most people wake up and pull their heads out of their beloved’s ass before they get that far. Still, this is a relationship dynamic that nearly everyone to some extent has experienced, and it’s so toxic because it involves a degree of ego on both sides. In a sick way, it takes its own special kind of narcissistic delusion to think that you and your bright shining love are so powerful and special and pure that it grants you the power to cure an asshole of being an asshole. Or that you are saintly enough to tirelessly forgive and keep giving of yourself. I’m not shaming you; you’re not immune to it, I’m not immune to it, nobody is ever fully immune to it. Because there’s always That One Guy™ who fucking makes you want to do dumb shit that you otherwise never would do, just so you can go on looking at his stupid face.
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.