[You can hear Chad’s music here.]
Like a crazy person, I took a small stack of records and laid them out on the lawn in front of my studio. Here they are, strewn among the autumn leaves. I did this for musician/poet/photographer Zach Barocas’s Days Plays series.
I’m going to give you a little guide. I’m going to try to be brief. I don’t want to talk too much and try your patience. However, I am not famed for brevity. Here we go.
TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain (Spotify): An album with a blithe, absurd title with pretty dark content. I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but I feel like this album captures the madness of the post-9/11 Bush era. Favorite song is the opener “I Was A Lover,” which has conspicuously hallucinogenic, druggy lyrics, but it’s druggy in a vivid, authentic way and I like it.
I respect this band and think they’re one of the finest things that’s happened to music in the last 20 years. Consistently substantive and interesting.
In my opinion, TVOTR topped this album with the two subsequent albums, Dear Science and Nine Types Of Light, but Cookie Mountain is still a very strong work and worth revisiting.
Spoon, Transference (Spotify): Man, this record is SO GREAT. I’m told that many devoted Spoon fans find this album weird and irritating. Me, I think it’s BADASS. It has a lot of “imperfect,” grainy, and deliberately scuffed-sounding textures… It sounds alive and physical to me. It is a self-produced album, following two hit albums produced by an outside producer. A bold move to seize the reins at this moment. I like Spoon’s experimental attitude and minimalism. For most Spoon fans, Transference is regarded as a detour. But for me, this is their zenith.
PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love (Spotify): PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love was where she became very interesting to me. I had heard the first two albums and I thought they were cool. But I didn’t become a serious fan until To Bring You My Love. The lore around the first two albums was that PJ Harvey was the name of a trio and Polly Jean Harvey was merely the singer of that trio. But with this album, she dropped that conceit and this is a solo record. My favorite song is the spooky and suggestive “Working For The Man,” which has the best most subsonic bass track. What is being said in that song? It’s not entirely clear, but it has power.
Full disclosure: I bought this vinyl reissue and the accompanying Demos album, but I have not actually opened either or listened yet. Everything I wrote above is based on loving the CD.
Björk, Debut (Spotify): This is a little-known Icelandic singer named Björk. She’s pretty zany, but I think she’s going to make some waves someday. Keep your eye on her.
Blossom Dearie, Blossom Dearie (Spotify): Blossom Dearie was a great American jazz singer and pianist. She had a very clear, airy, flute-like vocal tone… It was clear and resplendent throughout her life. I was introduced to her music when she was an old woman, so I tend to think of her as an old woman. But she was once very young. You can hear that on this fresh-sounding reissue of her 1957 debut. It’s a much younger version of her… and it’s fun to hear her sound so… new. I don’t know how to explain it. Recommend getting this fantastic-sounding piece on vinyl. The medium just suits the vibe and “analog truth” of the recording.
The Sea and Cake, The Sea And Cake (Bandcamp): The Sea and Cake is a consortium of clever, stylish, white Chicago musicians who unabashedly and lovingly traffic in African sonorities. But it never feels like some cheap pastiche. This is organic, pleasant, sweet, breezy, supple music. This was their debut. It is very different from the very sophisticated, streamlined terrain they later mastered, which involved lots of esoteric analog synthesizers and drum machines. This is a great day-time record. That is something to appreciate. You could play it on a Sunday morning while you make pancakes. Pancake-making music is rare and precious, I say.
“Creating art is about growing the world and increasing its reach, and it has more to do with the act of creation itself than what is actually made.” — Nick Cave, The Red Hand Files
Justice Sotomayor swears in Vice President Harris, The New York Times
“Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around, and the era of Trump — like the era of Vladimir Putin in Russia — is one of the decline of local news. Social media is no substitute: It supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true.”
Timothy Snyder for The New York Times Magazine
[You can hear Krista’s music here.]
Khalid, Free Spirit (2019): I love every song on this record. I can sing along, dance to it, exercise to it, clean my apt to it, work to it. I would describe this album as indie R&B pop. It has this strand of positivity throughout it that just makes me feel good about life. I didn’t think I could get behind an artist that all the millennials are into…. but I can’t deny how good this album is.
Fontaines DC, A Hero’s Death (2020): Their first album I wore out and this one is growing on me. Although I definitely had a “not as good as the first” moment. Its songs have a very simple repetitive recipe which somehow makes it catchy and not predictable. It’s punk spoken word. It also angers me because their first album was such a success! Their FIRST ALBUM! So annoying when youngsters get acclaim from their first attempt. I am just jaded and jealous (I guess?).
The National, High Violet (2010): Oh man, I remember the day I bought this record. I listened to it every day for months! It reminds me of being depressed in a beautiful setting. Which is what this record is to me… depressing and beautiful. Perfect for COVID times. The velvet deep vocals with almost danceable beats; but maybe you’re just too tired to dance. Lots of hooky choruses… so you can sing along even if you don’t know the words.
Cate LeBon, Reward (2019): Every song has a surprise! interesting instrumentation, a little experimental with hooks! Her voice is feminine but not too girlie. I really like to clap along or shake a shaker to this album. It inspires me to be braver with my writing.
FACS, Void Moments (2020): Massive crush on the female bass player of this band (she also plays drums in other bands). I am quoting someone else here but FACS is like “gothic Fugazi!” Dark, loud and hypnotic. Playing this album in the car is the best, you get to hear all of the intricacies from behind, in front and from both sides.
The Shins, Oh, Inverted World (2001): I haven’t listened to this album in
years and pulled it out for nostalgia. Oh goodness, James Mercer’s voice is like a cologne from your past. You can’t remember who wore it… all you know is that is gives you “feels.” I don’t have an accurate review of this album… I just love the whole thing, for what it reminds me of: my first attempt at my own music and first experiences of city life in Seattle on my own.