With songs like this one, Regina Spektor sometimes seems like an artist who belongs to a different time. I imagine she would have been quite at home generations ago, the singing sweetheart of 1924, say, and your great-grandmother would have been happy to tune in to her weekly radio show. Think back to a time before popular music became the domain of the young, before it became the popular musician’s job to appeal to the desires of teenagers. When music was performed by dignified, nicely dressed people for audiences that sat before them in reverence. A quieter time with more string arrangements. Of course things were worse then, but maybe people valued things of beauty a little bit more because of it. Poor Regina may just be too refined and full of poetry about roses for this world of gleaming bodies and thousand dollar logos.
Do you find noise and feedback relaxing? I guess that a lot of people find that it soothes their soul. I can’t say that I do, unless it’s tempered with a lot of melodicism. The Joy Formidable is a great noise band that tempers their guitar grit with lyricism and beauty. Obviously, I’m a big fan of indie pop groups that focus on pretty melodies and pretty vocals and have pretty faces, which may feel a little white-bread to rock purists raised on power chords. The Joy Formidable is all of those things and the power chords, so, basically, most of my favorite things all in one place, and an honorable addition to the Girls Who Rock pantheon.
Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are 63 and 58 years old, respectively, which… well, Christ, I thought they were like in their forties. They’re hardly boys and more like elders, but that they’re still making synthpop like they invented it, which, of course, they did. In their heyday, their synthpop was about being young, smart and alienated (and gay) which gave it a level of emotional depth not usually associated with synth-anything. All along it’s been about lovelorn and alienated, and now it’s about being over-the-hill but somehow still lovelorn and alienated. At their age, of course, they can only get so much sympathy for still being lovelorn, because at their age they’re old enough to know better. And so, it seems like their music is actually less mournful than it was 30 years ago. Now they’re looking back at themselves and their youthful angst with something like a fond eye. But, apparently, even people hovering near 60 sometimes find themselves paralyzed by silence and insecurity, and songs about those feelings never get old or irrelevant.
I’ve been told that Saturday nights are like the highlight of some people’s week. It’s a thing they sit and count down to, apparently. That kind of life is a closed door to me. But if I was psyching up for the doing the Saturday night thing, I don’t think this is the mood I’d be aiming for. A sort of semi-mournful fugue. It’s more of a song for a long, bleak Thursday when all of the days stretch into infinity in both directions and you’re just gliding through with no concept of ‘week-ends’. It’s not depressing or sad, it’s soothing and keeps you in a gentle lull without too many ups or downs. Or maybe that’s just my headspace talking.
In the narrative of Beyonce’s Lemonade – and unlike most concept albums, it actually has a strong narrative – at this point the plot turns to redemption. It’s the chapter titled forgiveness. The heroine’s rage turns to pining for her cheatin’ man and we know she’s ready to heal her broken family. It’s also the record’s most deceptively sentimental moment. It comes oh so close to being a generic maudlin piano ballad, except for the way Beyonce’s voice cracks. She’ll probably never reveal just how much fiction she whisked into her lemonade to make the story more universal, but there’s a real story inside the universal story. We’ll probably never know that either. It’s enough that the superstar let her guard down enough to let us know that it’s there. And although up to that point we may have been rooting for the fictionalized Beyonce to keep on defiantly flipping her middle finger to that philandering Jay-Z, we know that in real life, families that stay together work very hard to do so, and that requires forgiving insurmountable things and sacrificing some amount of personal dignity and swallowing down a lot of pride, and we know that love doesn’t just magically win the day, not without one hell of a fight.
The Pet Shop Boys are asking some of our favorite existential questions. Have we become a society of sad robots yet? Are we just drones or digital sheep now? And where are the literal robot workers we’ve been promised to ease our labors? Pop culture has been asking those question for, oh, since the Industrial Revolution, at least. And although we ask these questions anew with each new wave of technology, we’ve somehow still remained our same bloodthirsty, irrational animal selves. Robots are no cure for human nature. The fact that we get all existential about the technologies that make our lives easier is proof that we’re helplessly bound to our emotions. We project them compulsively onto everything around us. We’re no more isolated or desensitized than any other generation in any other eon.
Kelela or Kehlani? Tinashe! Tinashe is the alt-R&B diva of my heart. Too bad she’s still not getting the widespread love and acclaim she deserves. I hear she’s playing another South by Southwest showcase this year, which may or may not give her profile a boost. That’s how I discovered her in 2014 and I’ve been a fan ever since. She sings and dances like a big-league pro. She has the looks. She seems like a nice and smart person. She really just needs that one big hit.