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.
I like a song as offering, which feels like the case with Hand Habits’ “yr heart.” Song as an extension, an evolution, of something that maybe started as a private message, a poem left on the kitchen table, a little note in the bathroom. This is one of those songs; your understanding of it unfolds as you spend more and more time with it. Gentle and understated at the beginning, the music gradually expands and deepens as the song progresses. Staggeringly beautiful. Just like with Hand Habits’ excellent LP (Wildly Humble (Before the Void)), the songs on the single sneak up on you–all of a sudden, you realize you’ve had these melodies stuck in your head for days.
Tobacco’s music feels like music from another world, a simulated and dangerous world. Like it’s from a game that recreated moments from your life in perfect fidelity. Less virtual reality than, like, a reality-adjacent reality. In the game, you could go in and re-experience your first-ever date, or the best high-school game you ever played, or a transcendent day at the office, or, on the other hand, you could explore your most embarrassing moments, your times of desperation, the purest nadirs of your life. The thing was, with the game, that you could, in any of those scenarios taken from your life, imbue yourself with one extraordinary power, so, for example, you were invisible during that high-school game and therefore you could score 1,000 points, or instead of shitting your pants at summer camp, it turned out that you had the ability to fly, so you could just take right off out of the woods and hit up your own sweet bathroom at home. There was also the possibility of inserting yourself into moments from history, though the fidelity of those was a lot lower: they lagged, the details weren’t quite fine-grained, the play was all pretty buggy. People almost never opted for the historical moments, though, they mostly chose the incidents from their personal histories instead. And the problem was that they never stopped playing, once they got in. It was so absorbing that they would never voluntarily choose to exit.
This is all to say that Ripe & Majestic is hard to stop listening to. It’s pleasurable grooves and attention-grabbing rhythms. High-quality diversion.
Beautiful song, slow and graceful. Driven by a striking voice. Old-fashioned tunecraft, in some ways. This song is a vehicle for melody-delivery. The lyrics are present, but mostly just kind of hang in the air of the song, buoyed up by that voice. This song could have lived in another age. In the depths of the folk-fest. At the sock-hop. In the big band. In an aria. In the open square of the village, somewhere.
I heard: Rainer Maria. Blue and pink hydrangeas, those umbels. They sing, “You stay sweet for me.” Like long ago, those new poems, here come: new songs. What was good about them then is still good, still enjoyable. They try to hold themselves back and swallow their dark sobbing, but they cannot. They’re expressive. Guitar hoods itself in static and then emerges, briefly, in full clarity. “Let me call you mine/all the time.” Let us reconvene in tiny venues, arms together, to sing along.
This album feels like a short story collection. There are shifts in style, but that allows for the flexibility of approaching a handful of themes in very different ways. It also has a super intimate and personal feel, like the songs are letters, not mailed but hand-delivered because they’re that important. Filled with little sketches like this: “That one night we fought/About the little stuff/We went to Dunkin’ Donuts/And you got the blueberry glazed one/And I laughed ‘cause you knew it was the worst one of the dozen.” Ellen Kempner’s voice has a kind of breathy urgency—like these songs are whispered only to you, she’s addressing you with all her attention. Feels like the kind of album you can live off of for months at a time.
A small wish. Time to make some changes. Let us ship those people, the hateful, the terrible, the fucked-up who would advance fascism (and the attendant disgusting racist bullshit) or abet it or tolerate it, away, far away, to an uninhabitable island in the sea, let them roast in the sun, let them devour each other, let their remains desiccate in the sun and their bones bleach and be eroded by the salt in the water and the salt-spray on the wind. Let them be effaced from the earth, forever gone.
This song and this EP from Holy Fuck are excellent and well worth your time.
Frankie Rose’s album Cage Tropical is very good. It has the feel of late-summer afternoon light through thick windowpanes. It feels like it lives in the world of a lost Felt album. It is hazy, gentle, sweet, and surprising. A meandering road trip from one coast to another, comforting for the incessant movement and newness it presents. Terminating in an unheralded Western town. Sacramento. Elko. Concord. Flagstaff. Rancho Cucamonga. Temecula. Settle in for a sabbatical. Land a job that lets you stay for a few months. New: place, lifestyle, sunsets, people, heat. The album opens up new vistas with every song. Brief and supremely listenable, one of the more enjoyable releases this year.
Is it only because our brains cannot perceive the actual motion of the universe? Is it because we’re actually embedded in a hologram, flashing, massive, momentary? Are there membranes slowly folding together in a seamless embrace? Were it revealed that you were truly simulated, what would you still consider important? What would you be thankful for? Would it even matter, really, where it all came from, as long as you could still see them and still hold their hands and still sleep next to them at night?
The solar eclipse is coming. The summer of totality, they say. If you stand in the middle of the path of totality, you yourself will be fulfilled, totaled. Through your welder’s-grade viewer, you’ll be able to look at the fucking sun: blocked hard as hell by the interloping moon. Celestial bodies, taunting each other. It will be photographed, brutally and infinitely. This is your chance to mock the sun, for the minute-plus that it’s thwarted in its mission. Gawk. Gather with others to watch the occurrence at eclipse parties, then plunge into an intense melancholy. Relive the moment, over and over again, for the next decade by watching, in isolation, amateur video and photographic documentation of the eclipse. Produce, for friends and family, a brief memoir about your experience called “Ekleipein: A disappearing act.”