For years, when I was younger, I supplemented a lack of cultural plurality by trawling music blogs online. Being from a homogenous place in rural Texas, it seemed that the only place to turn to for new sounds was online. These days under quarantine feel a lot like those: stuck inside, nowhere to go but into the depths of the internet record.
This is a list of songs that pull me out of the void while we wait for whatever new “normal” comes to be.
For Part One, please go here.
“All boy band / All-boy attitude / Break your bass / will get them in the mood.” This song, from a group featuring Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame and Neely Jenkins from twee-folk staple Tilly and the Wall, speaks of gender expectations in rock performance, especially in American bands. The message is meta-critical in that it comes from the musicians onstage and goes directly to the audience. Though the subtext covers artistic angst, the tone is joyful — from a particular time in American music, straight out of Omaha.
Within seconds, this indie rock single will take millennial and Gen-X cusps back to the early years of the century. It delivers the signature teenage sound of the 2000s — the real 2000s, not the lackluster ‘10s or the apocalyptic ’20s. If you didn’t sport a set of side-swept bangs during the Bush years, don’t worry; this track holds up far better than the glut of teeny-bopper alt-rock radio hits that we’re too embarrassed (or exhausted) to recall from younger days.
Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol formed this ‘supergroup’ almost 20 years ago, and like many supergroups, they gigged for a couple of album cycles and then dissolved. Their short output doesn’t register a lot of excitement; it’s mostly soft cocooning over girls lost and things that could have been. The chorus is something that should have made it onto the soundtrack of a major motion picture, and I’m so glad that it didn’t. For me, finding it organically makes this song all the more sweet.
The beat on this song by Swedish sadboy rapper Bladee hits all the right spots for me. It’s like a stock video loop of glitter; it repeats endlessly but never loses its charm. Trap doesn’t entice me often, especially when it comes out of Europe; Bladee’s one of those artists who is only one small spoke in a greater genre that doesn’t vary often, as the rappers are so entangled with each other that they might as well unionize. This song, however, is a precious gem in a mine of what I feel is musical banality.
Artists working with vocal modulation to create music — or some kind of composition that functions outside of conversation — is something I am always looking for. WWWINGS is reportedly a trio of faceless producers hailing from the former Soviet Republic. This kind of downplayed, nihlistic industrial music by way of grime has been coming out of Russia and the surrounding countries for the better part of a decade. I usually listen to it in the colder months, but it works well any time you’re looking for a dark interlude during your listening time.
“I don’t need model/I don’t need a debutante” is something that a cocky young person would say to qualify that they’re not that picky. You know, just a normal guy looking for a normal woman. In song, however, it plays like a film reel. Music for walking slowly to or from a destination; it revels in the journey.
Full disclosure: Mr.Kitty (Forrest Avery Carney) and I go way back. During college, in Arlington, we made music videos together, and I designed the logo he uses on all his merch. Forrest has always been a tenacious, ambitious, and unstoppable pop talent in every respect. If you like heavily affected vocals, melodic bangers and flashing lights, he never disappoints.
“Never wore a white dress / Never felt like baby blue / But if purity’s a place / Then that’s where I wanna take you,” sings Denton-based Lorelei K. This is the closing track to Lightbender (2019), and the interplay between singer Dahlia Knowles and Pinson is the perfect mix of platonic care. The song reminds me of the vocal twilight of Angel Olsen on All Mirrors with some of the deliberate sad sweetness of Zac Pennington’s work with Parenthetical Girls. Denton producer Michael Briggs has worked with Lorelei K before, among many other musicians from the region and abroad. If my suspicions are correct, he might be the next John Congleton.
“What is it you think I need / Maybe it’s too hard to see?” This passage from Angel Olsen’s 2018 album All Mirrors did a number on me, hot on the heels of a breakup that felt finalized and unresolved. For a week, I listened to it every day and practiced crying at the crescendo. Her enunciation is blurry at various points on the record, but the feeling is overwhelming.
Alice Gas (scheduled to DJ at a Denton event which was cancelled because of the pandemic) spun this song at the recent Coronachella online party. I’ve been to Happy Hardcore parties at Dallas’ Green Elephant, which play jams like this one, and I’m missing those lineups more than ever. This style of euphoric trance relies on a vaguely anglo-centric vocal style, but the lyrics themselves take a lazy approach. But don’t be a cynic! Ecstasy is a valuable distraction from the prison of an over-regulated logic. Take any excuse to party when times are tough.