This isn’t a music criticism blog, it’s a music celebration blog. And while I have enough ego to hope it’s interesting or amusing to some people, it’s as much for me as it is for you: it’s here to satisfy my weird obsession with knowing what I liked best, or at least played most, in any given year, and to help me find the song I loved last week that the song I’ll hear three years from now reminds me of so much.
But lately a bit of criticism has been creeping into it, because I can’t always turn off the critical part of my brain and just love the music. I’ve been thinking a lot about problematic art, and voting with dollars, and the horrible Kesha ruling, and how last week I decided not to buy an album because a song title suggested the band might not be not sexist.
This week an algorithm recommended Camera Shy to me. Good job, algorithm, because they sound almost exactly like wistful indie poppers B’ehl, a band I really liked, but bad job, algorithm, because it’s a side project of Whirl/Whirr dude Nick Bassett. Bassett, you may recall, lost a speed-of-Twitter trial last year on charges of transphobia after a public dustup with the band G.L.O.S.S.. I had at that point purchased most of Whirl’s catalogue – second string stuff, worshipping at the altar of MBV/JAMC, but pretty good within its niche — and I felt stung, because it was really clear which side of this dispute I didn’t want to be on. (Bassett’s half-assed apology and attempted blame-shedding was almost worse than the original remarks, if you ask me.)
Somebody recently shared a little graph on Twitter, and one one side it said good people, mediocre people. bad people. and on the other side it said good art, mediocre art, bad art, and lines connected every possible combination. OK. But I believe in supporting artists financially, and I don’t want to support bad people financially. And there’s more good art by good people than I have time to absorb and appreciate anyway. Which isn’t to say I’m not going to listen to anything by anyone problematic ever (not ditching Miles Davis CDs) but I’m going to try to be judicious about it.
(Perversely, this is a kind of a useful thing about streaming revenue structures. Enjoy that thousandth of a penny from me, Nick. It probably won’t happen again.)
on to last week’s most-played artists:
- Worthwhile Way are from Tokyo, and have forged ties with the Gainesville Florida punk scene (I stumbled on them through a split with the sometimes Sugar-ish Madison Bloodbath), but they remind me very much of the side of Sarah Records/C86 that was too energetic to be tagged “twee,” and they sound more than a bit like current practitioners of the form Allo Darlin’ and Standard Fare. “After the Rain Comes Sunshine” is totally wedged in my head.
- Red Dons – on bandcamp you can recommend artists you like on the checkout screen for your albums, and Daylight Robbery did that, and that’s how I found Red Dons and The Stops. All 3 bands have some stylistic overlap – midrange-y, choppy, guitars and snakey basslines that recall the early 80s before punk and post-punk became really discrete. (My friend Greg helped me figure out that Daylight Robbery, in particular, reminds of early Mission of Burma and Wire; the Exene/John-ish tradeoffs are a red herring.) For what it’s worth, Red Dons probably fit least comfortably in this box, especially on last year’s (really good) “The Dead Hand of Tradition,” which feels like they’re trying some new things.
- Daylight Robbery – new Daylight Robbery! I was just thinking, it’s been awhile since they put anything out, I really hope they haven’t broken up. Huzzah.
- Discharge – shameful confession: I don’t think I ever really listened to Discharge before. Like, I didn’t know that’s where the term “d-beat” came from. Turns out I probably like Discharge-influenced bands better than the original, but this was some revelatory listening in the “Oh, that’s where that came from,” way. Kinda like when I finally watched “The French Connection.” (In my defense: I followed the US path into hxc, via “Damaged.”)
- The Stops (see above)
- Hard Girls – Not easy to categorize, which I think is almost always a plus. Reminds me a bit of The Beatings, partly because of a slight similarity of vocal timbre, but mostly because the balance between pop-leaning catchy tunes and more aggressive indie-rock-trending-toward-punk seems similar.
- Hussalonia – Listening to Hussalonia raises serious existential questions for me. How can The Founder do so MANY different things, and yet I love almost all of them, from the ramshackle pop rock to the one where angry animals diatribe in synthesized computer voices? I admit I don’t listen to the musical fridge poetry release as much, but I’m really glad it exists. This one, “Beware Young Lovers” consists of short, acoustic tunes with walking bass lines and subtle percussion, typically barbed, sardonic lyrics, and huge, pillowy masses of harmonies adorning melodies that often sound old-timey (Carmichael-ly?) in a way I’m not quite musically literate enough to explain.
- Trust Punks – Super excited by this Aussie crew’s single from late last year, “Mother’s Veil.” It goes through several textural shifts a minute, but it doesn’t sound forced to me, it sounds like a band whose command of the potential of the studio far outstrips their relative youth. (And maybe outstrips their songcraft, in the sense of a thing you can play straight through with just chords and melody. But, this time, at least, I’m OK with that.)
- Vaaska – See, now I’m qualified to say whether this Austin hxc outfit qualifies as d-beat or not. (Yes.) New single “Futuro Primitivo” slays; older stuff didn’t quite push me over the edge. In family tree with Criaturas, who I like a lot.
- Adventures – One of the most drastic main gig/side project schisms I know of, Adventures are emo indie in the vein of Rainer Maria, or Rilo Kiley at their most rocking and least electronica-influenced. Some tunes have a dash of scream-y seasoning, but it still doesn’t sound much like the math-metal sludgecore of alter ego Code Orange (Kids). Adventures got to me early with “Feel So Sure,” with a keening vocal performance that knocks me out because of, not despite, its lack of pitch precision. I don’t think anything else has quite equaled that, but I’m definitely paying attention to the progress of both bands.