This Week’s Model — Billy Bragg, “Can’t Be There Today”

billy bragg

I think this bloke says it best:

bragg tweet

Stephen William Bragg has spent the last forty years, give or take, surveying a tumultuous world and making sense of what he sees through the grounded poetry of his lyrics, often accompanied by a trusty acoustic guitar. Politically astute, socially empathetic, and a whip-smart thinker, Bragg has a way of getting straight to the core of a problem and finding the emotional poignancy that resides there. As we all keep our distance for the greater good, Bragg expresses the melancholy that arises from all the missed events and commemorations.

Like the bulk of his catalog, “Can’t Be There Today” is in dialogue with the moment in which it’s written. Thankfully, the technology exists to share the song now, when it’s needed the most.

This Week’s Model — Margaret Glaspy, “Devotion”


I became a devotee of singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy shortly after the release of her debut album, Emotions and Math. As often as I returned to the studio recorded etched into that record’s grooves, my regular urge to once again hear her meticulously crafted songs was just as commonly sated by interwebbing up one of the handful on live, pared-down performances she gave while making the promotional rounds. These weren’t grand reinventions, nor did they have an added purity that can emerge when an overproduced artist delivers an “unplugged” version of their songs. But there was an added charm that I found irresistible maybe because it was easier in those instances to see Glaspy racing up to the on-ramp to the highway populated by great singer-songwriter of pop music.

So as much as I’ve admired the procession songs Glaspy has shared in advance of her sophomore full-length, Devotion, I fully caved when the title cut arrived this week with the customary studio version, but also with a gleaming live session. It is sweet and lovely, infused with feeling. It is wonderful.


This Week’s Model — Margo Price, “Twinkle Twinkle”


Now that Margo Price has moved on from Third Man Records, it’s evidently time for her to make some music that sounds like it would have been snugly at home on Jack White’s Nashville-based label. For the lead single from her forthcoming third full-length, That’s How Rumors Get Started, Price hangs onto her pure country songwriting while adding a potent punch of nineteen-seventies classic rock guitars. Thanks the easy lilt of her vocals and evocative lyrics such as “In the back of my mama’s car/ Winding down that dirty road/ Town was close, but it felt far,” “Twinkle Twinkle” suggests the outcome if Dolly Parton had commandeered the Ozark Mountain Daredevils sometime around 1975 and never looked back.

So, yes, I’d like more of this, please and thank you.


This Week’s Model — Perfume Genius, “Describe”

perfume genius

“Describe,” the new single from Perfume Genius, opens with the lush, thunderous, bass-heavy wall of sound once glowed down a possible pathway, Emerald City–like, viewed by alternative music after the haze of grunge lifted. In these tones, power and beauty are one, as if this was the only proper way to ever express the eddying depths of human emotion in a pop song. How could others not have realized this?

Alternative rock went in a totally different direction, of course, defined by the jackhammer idiocy of bands that signaled their rebellion by misspelling words such as “Lincoln” and “Corn.” That leaves it up to the likes of Mike Hadreas, the creative force behind Perfume Genius, to demonstrate what could have been, not through retro pandering, but by taking a completely modern tack, picking up as if this is the journey we’ve been on all along. The assurance of the track is breathtaking, as if the step he’s taking stirs no worries because he knows there have been dozens upon dozens before. And when Hadreas’s velvety vocals delicately intone “The lock on the door/ Is barely holding/ Can you just wait here with me?,” its like a novel’s worth of truth packed into a few slender lyrics.

But I’m really only describing the first half of the track. With an elegant pivot, the thunder fades, and the second half of the song is sedate, soothing, probing, drawing on orchestral forms to shape a different kind of emotional landscape. It’s a reflection of Hadreas’s unique talent that these divergent ideas come across as intrinsically, inevitably bound together, like different chambers of the same heart.



This Week’s Model — Waxahatchee, “Lilacs”


I could type out a million words about the new Waxahatchee single, offering babbling descriptions of every favorite moment: the easy, melodic stroll of the intro, her delivery of the lyric “marking the slow, slow, slow passing of time,” the burst of shiny pop beauty when the chorus kicks in the first time, the piercing delicacy of “I need you to love, too,” and that only gets me to the halfway point of the track. No matter how much of the dictionary I dump onto the digital page, I’m not going to be able to capture the tingle of immediate adoration that came over me when I first heard it, nor the strengthening certainty with each subsequent listen that Katie Crutchfield is currently making her best music yet. Given what she’s delivered previously, that’s really saying something.

The new Waxahatchee album, Saint Cloud, is scheduled for release on March 27, 2020. It’s time for me to get in touch with my favorite record store proprietor.


This Week’s Model — Moaning, “Fall in Love”


Much as I try to avoid getting overly mired in nostalgia for the music of my youth, there are few sonic offerings that will set my heart aflutter quite as surely as modern indie pop that adopts the slick, sauntering swooniness of nineteen-eighties gems. Like Cut Copy, White Lines, and a hearty fleet of other bands, the L.A. outfit Moaning taps into a swirling pop loveliness that recalls immediate post–new wave tones while sweetly bettering what’s come before on the new track “Fall in Love,” released under the Adult Swim Singles program. If Jesus and Mary Chain went for dreaminess instead of tuneful abrasion, it would have sounded like this.

And, really, how could I be expected to resist that?