Pugilism, hello

Beat Down is an advertisement of emotional numbness. It says, “Life has disappointed me and smashed my dreams. My insides have been depleted by the punishing world. Someone please come along and pummel me.” Not a topic often addressed in songform. This is the world of Mister Heavenly, a weird world, full of weird and incredible pop songs. Like just about everything that involves Nick Thorburn or Honus Honus (of Man Man), the songs have great melodies, and it’s a good time from beginning to end. I think that as I get older, I have a greater appreciation for the utilitarian value of music (in addition to the aesthetic aspects, of course), and something that Honus Honus recently said on Twitter aligns nicely with that: “Maybe these tunes will (if only for a little bit) help you forget the world is a total shit-show. We love you.” Boxing the Moonlight is a good album and it will totally help soften the unrelenting grim terror of the world while it’s playing.

[BUY Boxing the Moonlight]

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Slow pan

This is all dynamics: delicate and small, then big and audacious; slow, contemplative and calm, until it turns capriciously from one thing to the next. Rootedness is high drama and a beautiful piece of music. It is piano and strings sliding into each other. An overcast day interrupted by shafts of light that break through the low skull-gray sky. Comprehension of Light, by Dmitry Evgrafov, is full of beautiful pieces of music. The album starts off with menace and static and hush, and opens up slowly over the first four tracks. Wandering starts with a friendlier tone, freer and more hospitable (though still down, still grim). From that point Comprehension of Light builds (through digressions, volatility) up to Rootedness, which feels like a kind of climax, and the album dissipates in the vaporous Sattva at the end. This is a great album and such a rich listen.

[BUY Comprehension of Light]

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Into the TV static tesseract

I removed the review of the Ducktails album. You can read the news about Matt Mondanile's horrifying treatment of women.

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Lift yourself up again and again

The Blow coming at you with exhortation in synth form. Khaela sings and speaks, restless. Talking, chatting, arguing with herself, asking questions. Near the end of her monologue, she sings:

"We're all standing on a planet that's spinning around a giant ball of fire/inside the planet there is also fire/and nobody can own it 'cause it's way too hot/and we're gonna get up get up get up get up get up get up/I think about the fire a lot/we're gonna get up get up get up get up get up get up/the heat comes up through my feet/I'm gonna get up get up get up get up get up."

The song is a blast, the album is an exploration. A thesis of voice and synth. Try it out, see what you think.

[BUY Brand New Abyss]

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A tidy piece of art. Neat business. Shannon Lay's Living Water is a great album of voice, guitar (in manifold forms), and strings. With these few simple components, Shannon Lay builds a tiny, quiet world. Living Water is also a supremely autumnal album--I would put it with Archer Prewitt's White Sky or something like Gravenhurst's Flashlight Seasons--it has that feel of early sunsets, chilly air, transition. So many of the songs on the album contain surprises: a cache of violin notes here, a burst of electric guitar there, a sudden change in direction. What a sweet voice and what a pleasant diversion. It's nice to get lost in someone else's world for a while.

[BUY Living Water]

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"Straight as an arrow," an idiom that had its heyday in the 1860s through the early 1900s, possibly due to people's general nostalgia for the everyday use of arrows, the days when an arrow could serve as many things: weapon, of course, but also a tool for scratching; pointer and demonstrater; baton substitute; and treasured friend. The 1860s and the following decades must have been a time of frightening technological development that included increased interaction with 1) guns and 2) curves, a time when people felt the loss of the arrow's presence in their everyday lives very dearly and sought to express that loss via an idiom that enshrined the arrow as a paragon of directional and moral exactitude.

Beaches have chosen to pay tribute to this idiom in the form of song--a catchy song called Arrow, which is from their double LP Second of Spring, an album of catchy songs buried in hard, fuzzy guitars and weighty bass. These are songs with musical heft that are lightened by the voices of the band, songs that swirl and shift.

[BUY Second of Spring]

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Hoh Rainforest (Desert)

Here is what I wrote about Alvvays's debut album a couple years ago: Alvvays's songs grab your interest immediately. And it's good and fitting to be grateful for that, particularly when there is so much music (now, always) that does little more than float by in the background. Molly Rankin has one of those voices that's so bright and clear that you can't ignore it, the kind of voice that you realize in retrospect you've been longing to hear.

All of the foregoing continues to be true, and even more true on Antisocialites, the band's new album. The whole thing is eminently listenable and engrossing. Rankin's voice seems more present on these songs, whereas on the self-titled there seemed to be at least some layer of separation between her and the listener (compare Plimsoll Punks with Archie, Marry Me and you can hear it: a wall of cushioning haze). This record is filled with magic moments, like this, from Forget About Life: "Did you wanna forget about life/with me tonight/under condominium signs?" a line that, for me, evokes a scene of strong and romantic yearning for elsewhere/otherwise while trapped in hard and pure mundanity and disappointment; Dreams Tonite, a sweet soft juggernaut of awesome beauty; Plimsoll Punks, which feels like it could be an Orange Juice non-album single; the creeping gull-ish squawk of the guitars in Already Gone when Rankin's singing about the ocean. One of the best albums I've heard this year.

[BUY Antisocialites]

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RIP Walter Becker

RIP Walter Becker, one of the two founding members of Steely Dan. I love Steely Dan and have written about or referenced the band many, many times throughout the long and weird existence of this blog. Probably one of the first bands I loved in my life. More on Steely Dan at some point, but for now: Black Friday, one of their best & with one of Becker's best solos.

[BUY Katy Lied]

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o sole mio

Songs of devotion. A pink neon sign blaring hot light above the bed of your lover, installed as a surprise gift, which spells out a five-line love poem about the softness of your lover's lips. My Only is you, breaking into your lover's workplace with a box of donuts, and hiding those donuts in your lover's desk for discreet consumption in moments of sorrow or professional disappointment. My Only, like the other songs on Echo of Pleasure, is sweet and pretty and catchy. Something about the shape of the melody reminds me of the Replacements, a kind of small-scale scuzzy heroic element in it.

[BUY The Echo of Pleasure]

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PNW Gabe

I've written about Gabe Hascall quite a few times before (here and here on the new blog, plus a couple other times back when this was a sub-domain of another blog). The dude is a consummate songwriter and he's been releasing great music for a long time now, though it's been a few years since his last solo album, Love It All. Earlier this year, Hascall put out a sort of odds-and-ends collections called @@@@@, which was filled with fascinating sketches and catchy experiments, much of it along the same lines as what he did on Love It All and some of it recalling Slowreader (his band with Rory Phillips, also his bandmate in The Impossibles). @@@@@ is 35 songs long, so it's pretty packed and maybe best to digest over several sittings, but it was a good sign--after a couple years of silence, it was clear that Hascall had been busy.

At the beginning of August, he released Trying To Find Out If I'm Lost, which is a polished and tight collection of 13 songs. It's similar in many ways to Love It All, though it also feels like it's a refinement of that album's aesthetic. These are like get-in-and-get-out songs, with most of them coming in at two or two-and-a-half minutes long, all super-catchy. I don't know if Hascall can write a melody that isn't memorable or engaging in some way. Synths, a little guitar here and there, simulated drums, and that great voice. It reminds me, in a weird way, of some of Stephen Merritt's late-90s stuff, like the first 6ths album specifically. Trying to Find Out If I'm Lost is a great album, start to finish. It has a kind of low-key brilliance--all these songs keep getting stuck in my head.

[BUY Trying To Find Out If I'm Lost]

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