Suspicious minds

Perfect is the enemy of fun

Suspicious minds
“Postcard greetings,” Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden [Bandcamp]

I wouldn’t call it jaded, but let’s just say I hate everything I hear. More generously, I’ll call it healthy skepticism. I’m usually listening for what’s wrong—the cliché, the overdone chord progression, the too-easy ambient soundscape. At best, it’s overly safe and unimaginative. At worst, it’s designed to manipulate, a thinly veiled ploy for popularity.

Anyway, this is all my way of saying there’s a glam song in here that I really like and I have no good excuse as to why.

Here’s this week’s new music. (Spotify / Apple Music)

“Chemical Animal,” the Jesus and Mary Chain

This is a brooder for sure, and it really works. You know when you hear a song and think it sounds overwhelmingly like the Jesus and Mary Chain—noisy shoegaze rock ’n’ roll?—and sometimes it is, in fact, the Jesus and Mary Chain? This is not that song.

“Echoes,” the Umbrellas

I have been resistant to the recent C86 revival. What does any of this do that the Wedding Present didn’t do (and do wonderfully) in the jangle-pop territory some 40 years ago? Well right here it’s those magnificent drum rolls, and that they’ve managed to pack three-plus songs into one.

“Alone Under the Water,” Church Chords

I’ve been trying hard all week to find something wrong with this song—so much that I kept deleting and re-adding it to my playlist—and just when I think I know where it goes wrong (maybe it’s the click track at the start, but it all works out), my suspicion slips away among all those layers, and I’m thoroughly sucked in every time. Absolutely love this.

“Shugarboy,” Nat Harvie

Anchored by some lovingly textured arrangements, Brent Penny’s approachable, plaintive vocal line travels a long way in just over two minutes. And that call-and-response between the vocals and guitar really is subtly fascinating.

“Dreamfear,” Burial

Why do we keep listening to this shit? I mean, we all love it, but every time there is a new Burial EP (never an album, which is almost the joke of it), I enter the five stages of listening to the new Burial; without fail I end up accepting that it’s brilliant. This time around, we seem to stumble from a rainy—it’s always rainy—night into a drum and bass club in, I don’t know, 2049 Los Angeles. How there’s still so much rich ground to explore in this highly specific vibe is a wonder, really.

“Burn Out!,” Billy Tibbals

There is no way around what this is: early ’70s glam rock in the apparition of Bowie/Bolan but a bit more New York Dolls/Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the most pitch-perfect facsimile I’ve heard of that era since the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack. So intentionally derivative but so fun, so why not.

“Sinuous Ways,” Elea Calvet

A cabaret-tinged tracks that turns haunted quickly, then takes so many delightful, eerie departures from the form. This is very special.

“I See a Darkness,” Merce Lemon

In a long-needed case of fixed-that-for-you, this cover of Johnny Cash’s cover of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s song outshines (wrong word?) its predecessors by way of Nick Cave’s “Higgs Boson Blues” and that’s more references than I needed to make in here.

“Names Make the Name,” Jim White

Speaking of Nick Cave, I enjoyed this new track from the Dirty Three’s Jim White. A mellow yet unhinged percussive experiment, with enough details to make me listen and again and again.

“2023:01.1 Hand-Cranked Cylinder,” kmodp

Kind of a Burial-adjacent track—though more ambient—this is music that feels somehow out of time, like what future listeners might feel if they found a hard drive of music in a time capsule from 2024.

“Postcard greetings,” Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden

I especially love the drifting, meandering quality of Ellen Arkbro’s vocal tracks—in particular on I get along without you very well, the 2022 album that produced this bonus track, released just this week.

“A different view (Live),” Bill Orcutt

One of the most inventive guitarists alive, Bill Orcutt does things with his instrument that I’m not sure anyone’s ever done before. However, as someone who’s fucked around a lot on a guitar, I’m never certain just how much he’s fucking around. Which is why hearing this track from 2022’s Music for Four Guitars reproduced so perfectly live is so astounding.