Simple Pleasures

As far as simple pleasures go, good music will always top the list. There’s nothing like the manufactured angst of another person to soothe our own worries. Like anyone, I love a good emotional ballad. I think this one is well on its way to becoming a classic – at least in my canon! Jake Bugg, of course, has established himself as an artist who’s here to stay. As I was saying last week, the boy wonder had to deal with the growing pains of growing out of his ‘boy wonder’ hype. A challenge for any artist who burst out very young. Bugg has the advantage that he’s always sounded wiser than his years, which makes it easier to become an actual mature adult. (As opposed to someone trying to outgrow an adolescent persona.) Hype itself can do as much harm to a young career as it does good, and it must be a relief to be able to operate and make creative choices without having all that pressure. So here is a young man who got clobbered with a lot of hype right out of the gate, and he’s been growing up ever since, with increasingly less hype but more creative freedom. Some people thought Jake Bugg’s second album was a let-down, after all that hype. Too well-produced! Too similar to the first one! I did think that the Rick Rubin treatment was uncalled for; not every promising young talent needs to be bundled off to Rick Rubin. But in the context of the artist’s progression, it’s a very natural second step, and as you can hear, there’s some great songwriting going on.

Pine Trees

There’s something a little uncanny about Jake Bugg. He’s a button-faced millennial boy who somehow carries the vibe of an old folksinger who peaked in 1962. He has a voice that belongs on a warped old record you found in your uncle’s basement. How much of that is self-conscious, I’m not sure. He knows his music history, that’s for sure, and he didn’t choose that bowl cut by coincidence, either. But lots of people try to look and sound vintage only to succeed in looking like poseurs. So there’s more to it than just liking the aesthetic very, very much. I honestly didn’t love Bugg’s third album (he experimented with some new directions that didn’t suit him) but I have complete faith in a long solid career about to unfold. Let’s see this kid go from a prodigy to a fully baked artist.

Paradise Engineering

“If you want me to be your god, I will be your god.”

This digital-age mysticism is why I love Yacht. And because their songs are catchy as fuck, obviously. And Claire L. Evans might actually be some sort of small-time deity. Evans and her partner Jona Bechtolt recently blew all their indie cred and cosmic goodwill with a shockingly insensitive and poorly timed publicity hoax involving a ‘sex tape’. It was meant to be some kind of a performance art commentary about the nature of celebrity culture; they thought they could pull it off because they’re not actually all that famous. Well, it’s a fine fine line between stupid and clever, and pretending to be the victim of a sex crime is squarely on the wrong side of it. Bad call, guys, you’re really catching some flak for this one. But, being not actually very famous, I’m sure they’ll quickly move on from this dumb scandal chastened and possibly inspired to make a better commentary next time. Which I’m honestly looking forward to. Evans is too smart and creative not to find a way to translate her brush with notoriety into the thing she does best. Which is putting out electropop music filled with batty spirituality, utopian ideas about space travel, tech jokes, and exhortations to be a better human.

One Step

You may have heard that Yacht made a new album last year, and that I, for one, thought it was really great (one of the year’s best, in fact.) But other than that you probably haven’t thought or heard too much about them lately. Why would you; they’re an electro-indie-pop group out of Portland with not much profile outside the indie circuit. So you probably haven’t heard of the minor shitstorm they’ve gotten themselves into this year via social media. You can find the full details on Jezebel, but long story short, they (Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt, who are a couple, in case you didn’t know) claimed to have been the victims of a sex tape theft, then offered to sell the sex tape themselves on their website, then revealed that there was no sex tape and it had all been a publicity stunt. Only, instead of saying ‘publicity stunt’ they said it was a performance art commentary on the nature of celebrity, or something insufferable like that. Now, obviously, that was a deeply stupid thing to do, not least because theft and dissemination of intimate materials (aka revenge porn) is, in fact, a sex crime and a wildly prevalent one that law enforcement has barely begun to get a bead on how to handle; and, as with any other sex crime, making an elaborate publicity-seeking hoax out of it only goes to make things more difficult for actual victims of those crimes. How anybody could think this was be a good idea boggles the mind. Especially people I’ve always thought were pretty awesome. Definitely makes me lose a little respect.