"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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Cardioid views

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.


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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.

[BUY Ripe & Majestic]

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dying deadly forever

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.

[Malena Zavala]

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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.


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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.

[BUY A Place I'll Always Go]

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