"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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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