Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:
The Last Shadow Puppets’ Everything You’ve Come To Expect.
I’m a pretty big Arctic Monkeys fan, so I will basically listen to anything that concerns Alex Turner. I loved this side project’s earlier album, and was so into the first single that I planned to buy tickets before I even heard the rest of the record in early April. That didn’t work out, and I’m still sad about it. Anyway, this album is good and feels like it came out of a 1970s time capsule. Alex Turner and Miles Kane have this lounge lizard thing down pat.
At one of its most basic levels, music is supposed to make you think and feel. The album is built on this “rockstars have Feelings” idea that’s borderlines on being a joke. But it’s so sonically beautiful, thanks to the layers of string arrangements, that it’s more about the aesthetic of Everything You’ve Come To Expect that makes it a good record. You want to feel the emotions of being loved by someone who would do the moon and back twice easy just to kiss half of your mouth (what a lyric, am I right), and a soundtrack to go along with it. I don’t think I would count it as one of my favorite albums, but there are some moments that make me want to return to it and feel wistful.
I always find it fascinating that people associate times in their lives with particular albums or songs, even if that time is long gone. I listened to this album the entire second week of driving to and from my new job, so every time I listen to it I can feel the warmth of driving home in the early evening. My favorite tracks are “Aviation,” “Bad Habits,” “Sweet Dreams, TN” and “The Element Of Surprise.”
The Arcs’ Yours, Dreamily,.
I love Brothers and think Turn Blue is great, but I have never been a huge Black Keys fan. However, when I caught wind of Dan Auerbach’s side project, the Arcs, the first single intrigued me enough that I bought the digital album on Amazon. This album came out awhile ago, but I went to one of their concerts last week and I’m currently in obsessed fan mode. It’s so fervent that I ordered vinyl copy that showed up at my house Monday. My favorite songs from Yours, Dreamily, are “Cold Companion,” “Pistol Made of Bones” and “Stay In My Corner.” If you have a chance to see the band live, take it — it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
The Arcs’ sound is like garage rock mixed with some mariachi (check out the band that does the backing vocals) and Faulknerian Southern Gothic vibes, which I immediately signed up for. The narrative that flows through the album is about a musician with a flair for the dramatic. He also sounds like a dude who watches old Western movies on loop and picks out blues songs on the jukebox. I don’t say any of that to discount the music or criticize it, but to paint the picture of where the sound is steeped — and maybe it’s all just a dream that we’re hearing recounted. It’s a lyrically powerful record that circles around themes of alienation, nostalgia and the price of fame. “Outta My Mind” is the cornerstone track for those ideas. But my favorite lyric is from “Cold Companion”: “She’s a cold companion, like a desert rose / the worse it is, the more she glows / Woman, are you undone?” You get the feeling that this woman, who is for the narrator a perpetual flame, is a woman that doesn’t ascribe to the damsel archetype. I love that.
If you like The Arcs, the Spotify radio station is exceptional. You will also probably like listening to Father John Misty, Timber Timbre and Dead Man’s Bones. You’ll also really enjoy this Song Exploder episode about “Put A Flower in Your Pocket.”
Parquet Courts’ Human Performance.
I have yet to find a Parquet Courts record I didn’t like, and Human Performance is no exception. The band released the record a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve kept it on heavy rotation. Parquet Courts’ sound is both heavy garage rock and experimental, which I really like. It’s perfect driving music — there are some real bangers mixed in with instrumental interludes. My favorite tracks are “Human Performance,” “Paraphrased,” “Captive of the Sun” and “One Man No City.”
I also have yet to find another band that so masterfully handles the ~~millennial condition~~ in earnest and emotional ways. As a culture, we’re working slowly towards shifting the conversation around mental health, but it’s still extremely stigmatized. Using music, the band approaches that conversation. The sound is loud and messy and haphazardly layered, which mirrors what’s going on in our heads. Human Performance in particular deals with alienation, depression and anxiety, and how those concepts affect one’s sense of identity and feelings about one’s place in the world. The band’s narrator is trying to work through the idea that meaning is constructed by the language that we use and that this concept is related to identity. But he also asks how we can give words any power when life seems meaningless in light of what’s going on in our heads. A lyric like “Sometimes I drop definitions from my words / Sometimes my speech recalls moments of violence / Sometimes I can’t be repeated, I can’t be paraphrased” speaks to that.
If you like this Parquet Courts album, you’ll love Sunbathing Animal and Content Nausea. Then try listening to Mac DeMarco, who interprets the same themes in his own music.
De Lux’s “Better at Making Time.”
I find that I work best when I’m listening to a really awesome soundtrack, and I put on a playlist I titled “drop the beat” when I need some real pump-up music. De Lux’s “Better at Making Time” is the first track on that playlist. I discovered this song by listening to the Spotify station that someone at my old job played often, and even though I hated that there was communal office music — it was a real vibe killer most days — I didn’t mind when this song came on. I’m mostly interested in the instrumental aspect of “Better at Making Time,” but the narrative centers on a realization that a relationship that’s not fulfilling won’t work out. The song is very disco-y and kaleidoscopic, and it makes you want to get up and dance out your feelings. Sometimes you need that.
What have you been listening to lately? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
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