Saturday, April 20, 2024

Two Weeks In Another Country

It's been a whole month since the last What I've Been Listening To Lately. That's why I have nearly a hundred tracks bookmarked. I really need to make this a weekly feature. Or once a fortnight.

Oh, hey! Now there's a honking great 1970s-style AM pop radio DJ link if ever there was one. All I need to do is talk over the intro and we're set!

Fortnight - Taylor Swift

I guess there's no escaping it. As Stereogum put it, this is the track from the new album that she's personally selected to debut at #1 next week and who are we to argue with Taylor Swift? Luckily, I like it and I have plenty to say about it. 

First up, Post Malone. I don't get Post Malone, do you? For a long while I though it was the name of a band and I had that band pegged as some kind of variant on House of Pain or one of those New York/Boston "Irish" rock crews, none of which I can bring to mind right now 'cos I can't generally stand any of them. Then I noticed that in things I read it seemed sometimes like Post Malone was just one guy, not a band at all, and from context I thought maybe he could be some kind of rapper. 

Now I've seen him a few times, featured with other artists I like and I have even less of an idea what his deal is than I did before. Even watching this video now, I can't figure out exactly what he's doing.

Then there's the title. I wrote about this before, somewhere. I used to feel pretty safe assuming most Americans wouldn't use the word "fortnight" or likely even know what it meant. Now it seems to turn up in an American-language context all the time. I want to put that down to the success of Fortnite the video game but maybe that's post hoc. Fortnite fans, of course, want to get in on the act now Taylor's offered them a surely-unintentional (Or is it?) hook.

And finally, there's a very interesting, readable and thoughtful review by Tom Breihan, again at Stereogum, of the album this song comes from, which, in case you've been hiding under that lazy metaphor-rock everyone calls on to indicate a lack of cultural awareness, is called The Tortured Poets Department. Tom's thesis, if I may sloppily summarize it after one casual reading, is that Taylor Swift has stopped writing bangers in favor of wispy neo-folk confessionals, whose primary interest is their roman a clef puzzling, not their tunes. Also that she's fed up of being Taylor Swift for a living and would like everyone to get the hell out of her fucking business, especially where it concerns who she wants to see, date, go out with, or whatever euphemism you think appropriate for a single woman in her mid-thirties.

He states with some confidence that "Increasingly, Taylor Swift does not have casual fans", who he characterizes as people who just like the songs and don't even think about the identity of their subjects. I would like to out myself as a casual Taylor Swift fan. 

I have at least six of her albums on CD and I have literally no clue who any of the songs on any of them might be about. I do listen to the lyrics. Taylor's lyrics are one of the reasons I like her work in the first place. What I don't do is sit up half the night talking to people on the internet, trying to figure out who they might be about. 

I don't read most of the story-songs as autobiographical so much as meta-fictional and universal. I'm sure they are based in part on actual events in her life - most songwriters work primarily from personal experience. I just don't think it matters much who those specific experiences were with. 

It's like crime novels. I read quite a lot of those but I don't much care about the plots. I know a lot of people think that's the point but not for me, or not the main one, anyway. That would be the use of language first, followed by the characters and it's the same for song lyrics, particularly when the songs are also stories, which most of Taylor Swift's seem to be.

Anyway, that's probably enough about Taylor Swift, especially in a post where I didn't originally plan to mention her at all. We really aren't going to make much of an impact on those hundred or so tunes if we carry on like this, are we. (Don't bring "us" into it. Ed.)

Body Double - American Culture

It's like that, is it? We're doing it, are we? Big, honking, car-crash thematic segues? Okay then. Bring it on!

So. American Culture. Or American Culture if I may italicize the band name rather than the abstract concept. We had them last time. I must like them or something.

The weird thing about them is how they don't actually sound American at all. Last time I compared them to the Blue Aeroplanes, who come from just down the road from me. This one sounds like nothing so much as the Psychedelic Furs and it sounds like them a lot

Of course, the Psychedelic Furs were from the UK but once they stopped trying to sound like the Sex Pistols, they tried to sound as transantlantic as they possibly could, which ended up working very well for them, both artistically and commercially.

There seem to be an awful lot of bands called American Something. American Culture,  American Football, American Baseball... Okay, not that many, then. Still. 

Oh, wait! I have one more! American Cowboy. Oh, no... that's just the title of the song. It's actually by Guppy. The American Guppy, that is, not the Australian Guppy. They're a lot more New York No Wave, ironically.

American Guppy are good though. If that one had had a video we'd be watching it now. Or I would.

Fame Won't Love You - Sia (feat. Paris Hilton)

Okay, this is starting to spiral. Is it obvious yet I'm just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice I've afforded myself this time? It's not like I'm trying to be awkward, I promise.

It's just that I have this unfortunate thing where I still find Paris Hilton funny. Anyone else have that? Anyone? Bueller? Also, I find her weirdly endearing. Anyone ever have that? [Tumbleweed rolls by.].

Sia, I can take or leave. This track wouldn't be on here if it didn't have Paris Hilton in the credits. I'm not comfortable with that but I'm owning it for personal growth. 

Plus there's the irony. If you're missing that, here's the lyric video.

Something Blue - Bnny 
Where to begin? Bnny is my Big Discovery of the week. This is her (Their? Not sure if it's one person or a band. It's the Post Malone dilemma all over again. Or more like Blondie...) new single and the first thing I'd heard of hers. (Sticking with the singular for now.) Since then, I've listened to a lot more, going back a few years. Everything I heard was great. She's going on the Christmas list.

This particuler track has multiple resonances for me. The title is the same as one of my favorite novels, Something Blue by Ann Hood, which I like a lot more than Good Reads does. Ann Hood is hugely underrated. Go check her out. 
Then there's what it sounds like, which is Blondshell with the Nirvana influence turned up to 11.  

Which reminds me... 
Docket - Blondshell (feat. Bully)
It's no Veronica Mars but it's pretty good anyway. Hmm. We seem to have gone from A (American X) to B (Bnny, Blondshell, Bully.) I wonder if there's anything in this great stack o' tunes that begins with C...

Cigarette - Church Moms

There ya go! The title and the band. Double header. I hope no-one born after 2009 is listening to this or we're all going to be in trouble.

We're also going to be in trouble if I carry on with this alphabetic nonsense so let's put a stop to it right now.

Baby Bangs - Frances Forever (feat. dacelynn)

You wait the whole of recorded history for a song called Baby Bangs to come along and then two turn up on the same day. And they're both good, too!

This one had a visualiser and the other one didn't. Sorry, Snarls.

Superstar Shit - Dominic Fike

It might not be just Taylor who's missing some bangers. This post is feeling distinctly laid back, I can't help feeling. Also thematically all over the place. Not that a post where I share some songs I've been listening to lately has to have a theme other than that but I came in with several and haven't settled on any of them. Dominic Fike is the guy who covered Clairo's Bags for TripleJ, about which I said "I wouldn't call it a good cover but at least it's not boring." Apparently he has another voice he wasn't using at the time, which makes you wonder why he went with the one he did.

While we all think about that, here's one of those segments you get in annoying radio shows, where the DJ segues several songs together on the faulty logic of some perceived similarity that only exists in his mind or or her producer's, mostly so they can go off somewhere and have a smoke or a drink or one of those things they'll later hope never gets out because the culture is always in motion and what passed then may not pass later.

Starburster - Fontaines DC

I did my best to resist them for quite a while but Fontaines DC are just too good to ignore. And getting better all the time. I wonder whether they might be moving faster than their fans can follow but I guess that's their call. It's working for me, anyway.

Pop Star - Lime Garden

I suppose everything is just going to keep on sounding like something else until the end of time, now. I'm not convinced there are any new ways to combine the sounds we already have so unless someone finds some different ones...

There are 29 comments on YouTube as I write and between them they reference C86, the Strokes, Stereolab and the Hearthrobs. One commenter even quotes the band's Wikipedia entry, for which, a) props to Lime Garden for having one and b) really? 

My favorite comment calls them "the sound of the je nais se quois of the zeitgeist". And people have the nerve to say they don't read the comments on YouTube like that makes them better than the rest of us.

One of the themes I was toying with for this post was Songs I've Only Just Discovered That Turn Out To Have Tens Of Millions Of Views On YouTube. It's been happening a lot lately. I might still stack a whole bunch but for now let's just have a couple as we wind up for the close. It might be nice to go out with something someone could have heard - or at least heard of. (Although to be fair we did start with Taylor Swift...)

Mover Awayer - Hobo Johnson

5.6m views. He was quite the thing for a while, apparently. I never heard of him until a couple of weeks ago. He's like someone crossed Buck 65 with Jonathan Richman. I watched a few of his videos and they were all pretty good. In fact, I think we ought to have another because the lyrics on this next one are something else. Especially from someone who looks like he's still in high school.

I Want A Dog - Hobo Johnson

"I want my dog to fucking talk
And not only just to me

You and me both, Hobo. You don't mind if I call you Hobo, do you? I feel like we have a connection.

Lovers Who Uncover - Crystal Castles 

The video has 340k views but the song on its own has 4.5m. It's a cover. The original by the Little Ones is better in my opinion but it "only" has 427k views. Either way, it's plenty.

Plenty more where those came from but for now I think I'm going to call it with something brand new by someone who isn't. I have a whole slew of those, too. I was going to do a special and name it something like Old Duffers Who Think They're Still All That (And Maybe They're Right). Might be a little too close to home though.

Space Oddyssey 2001 - Kate Nash

Not that I'm calling Kate Nash old. Or a duffer. I wouldn't dare. She can wrestle.

I was going to stop there but it would have made an even number that doesn't end in zero. I don't like those. Well, twelve is acceptable, being a dozen, but the rest? I don't think so. One more for a comfortable fifteen (Ends in five, so the best.)

New Order - Mass Of Fermenting Dregs

That's New Order by Mass Of Fermenting Dregs, not Mass Of Fermenting Dregs by New Order, just to make it clear. You know those competitions they have at village fetes for Dog That Looks Most Like Its Owner? I'm thinking of doing a post along the lines of Bands That Sound Least Like Their Name. This lot are off to a flyer!

Well, that was all over the place. And it barely made a dent in the pile. I'm going to have to sort myself out for next time, which is going to have to be pretty damn soon. You can take that as a promise or a threat.

I know which I'd go for.


  1. Curse you! I haven't had a chance to listen to all of these yet, and I have to be about the rest of my day!

    Still, I discovered that new music drops on Fridays now --my wife informed me as such since she works for Target and holy crap was there the business on Friday for Taylor's new album-- and that I ought to pay attention to at least some of this music.


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