I once was in a relationship with an otherwise unsentimental woman who would become saddened to the point of tears by the thought of a Roomba robot. I understood where she was coming from, or at least thought I did: There's something faintly heartbreaking about a cute little machine brainlessly noodling around in vacant subservience, dutifully fulfilling its domestic tasks until the day it's thrown into the trash or tossed in a storage closet for all eternity. Maybe it's a sort of emotional echo of the uncanny valley, or maybe it's just from watching the Brave Little Toaster too many times as a child. Either way, in a world swollen with real human and animal misery, empathy for an appliance is obviously empathy misplaced — although doesn't that also somehow make it all the sadder?
Anyway, the song I've listened to the most over the past three months is "Suffering Jukebox," from the Silver Jews' final album, "Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea." Like other Drag City releases, it's not available on Spotify — for entirely justified reasons — but you can find it on YouTube. "Suffering jukebox / In a happy town / You’re over in the corner breaking down," sings Cassie Berman. "They always seem to keep you way down low / The people in this town don’t want to know."
My new favorite tender-and-lovely, vulnerable/uncool/unpolished band is Naked Days. They released an album this year that's mellow magic, but this song was my gateway.
BUT the heat (ahem, humidity) has gotten so sinister these last few days that I'm dragging out the entire Timber Timbre catalog; the track "Lay Down in the Tall Grass" feels most appropriate. It is a sonic heat stroke.
And my all-time favorite summertime swagger song is "Uptown Top Ranking" by Althea and Donna, which I first heard as a cover by Scout Niblett.
As of today, Starflyer 59's new album Slow is available. They're back on Tooth & Nail Records, so, I'm basically going to be 18 years old again for the next week or two. Try it out.
I have been listening over and over to Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s “Little Birdie,” a song about the plaintive danger of leaving the nest too soon set to two banjos. Washburn’s got a beautiful warble herself, and the one of the many charms about this song, besides the interplay of the banjos — she plays clawhammer style, he picks his way into sublimity — is that you cannot predict what the next note will be. I can’t get enough of it. “Little birdie why you fly so soon? Has your mama been gone too long?” The album, the first for the husband and wife, is simply called Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn.
-Leslie Newell Peacock
Swagger is an attitude that tends to elude me, but I do have it on rare occasions. When I hit more than two 3-pointers in pick-up basketball. When I cook my oven pizza without burning the crust. When I watch a Matt Damon movie (okay, maybe not “We Bought A Zoo,” but whatever). As of late, I’m finding a more consistent source of swagger in the form of YG’s new album “Still Brazy,” which solidifies the rapper as one of the West Coast’s best. While fellow Compton natives Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar rap brilliantly about the complexities of black life in America, YG focuses on his first-hand experiences with Los Angeles gang life. Last year, he was shot in the hip outside his recording studio, but the wound didn’t stop him from returning to the studio the next day. He recounts the incident on “Who Shot Me?”- an early candidate for song name of the century. On his song “Twist My Fingaz,” he reminds you of that unique toughness: “Hold up, I really got something to say/ I'm the only one who made it out the West without Dre/ I'm the only one that's about what he say/ The only one that got hit and was walking the same day.” While braggadocious, he still addresses America’s turbulent political climate on songs like “Blacks & Browns” and “Police Get Away wit Murder.” His song “F.D.T.” details his … dislike of Donald Trump: “Have a rally out in L.A., we know what’s up/ Home of the Rodney King riot, we don’t give a fuck/ Black students ejected from your rally, what?/ I’m ready to go right now, your racist ass did too much.” You’ll have to listen to the chorus to figure out what the song title stands for. While you’re at it, check out the entire album. As you listen, you may begin to strut and bob your head uncontrollably. That’s okay. It’s just the swagger coursing through your body.
Joe Jackson, "Look Sharp." Found an original double 10” vinyl of it at AR Record Exchange. $4. The cover, featuring a pair of white shoes, ranked No. 22 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest album covers of all time.
I am having an overly busy summer, and that's no good. If you're stressed out when it's hot outside, your blood might boil and you might have a heatstroke, or worse. Take care of yourself and listen to some Hawaiian music. And drink beer, cold. The album you'll want to put on is Gabby Pahinui's Rabbit Island Music Festival. File these vibrations under: good times/supine. It's like Uber, but for hammocks.
Frazey Ford's defiant video for 2014's "Done" came out around this time last year, at the dawn of an Arkansas summer that punished us less in its entirety than the current one has done in only the last few days. It is a giant middle finger to being made to be a soother, a fixer, a pleaser, and maybe the most triumphant reclaiming of a lover's dominion over her own sense of joie de vivre since Lucinda Williams' "Joy." (Bonus: it could also serve as a gentle reminder to save the body shaming for a cooler day—or for, ya know, never.)
I was excited to recently discover The Homosexuals were on Bandcamp. The brief-lived British garage-punk group are the ultimate coulda, shoulda band from that era in my mind. "Hearts in Exile" is the JAM. In a similar vein, but poppier, I've been revisiting The Clean and digging further into the Flying Nun catalog. There are some good, easy-to-find Spotify playlists that gather songs the best songs from the New Zealand label from the likes of The Bats, The Chills, The Verlaines and Tall Dwarfs. Not at all similar: I really like to play this new DJ Shadow single featuring Run the Jewels while I'm driving with the windows down in my minivan.