This Week’s Model — Lucy Dacus, “Forever Half Mast”

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Back when Fridays were turned over older songs excavated from my digital collection, the edition that landed around the U.S. federal holiday Independence Day often featured a track that somehow, some way spoke to the character of the nation celebrating its anniversary. I didn’t intend to follow the same model with the current sharing of a song to close out the working week. I sorted through my options and landed on the latest from Lucy Dacus because she simply one of my favorite current songwriters, who also delivers her tuneful handiwork in with illuminating performances.

“Forever Half Mast” is, according to Dacus, “about american cognitive dissonance,” and it’s aswirl in mixed emotions and misgivings. Those are basically Dacus’s specialties, but it’s especially potent to hear her sensibility applied to a broader topic, to weightier concerns. The song avoids easy platitudes or didactic sloganeering. Dacus opts instead to evoke the perpetual existential fretting of this moment in time, when the lyric “Yes, you’re evil but you’re not that bad” can feel like the full extent of achievable solace. We are broken, and it’s okay to say so.

So I might not have thought about the right song to place in this space for the 4th of July. Luckily, Dacus did that thinking for me.

This Week’s Model — Sheer Mag, “Blood From a Stone”

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I want music to be complex and surprising. I want intricacies and subversions, devilishly clever reinvention and bursts of inspiration that upend the very foundations of pop. But sometimes — often, really — what I want more than anything is a song that pounds with purpose, a band mastering the simple attack of guitars, bass, drums, and a buzzsaw vocal turn. I want, in short, Sheer Mag’s “Blood From a Stone.”

That’s it. That’s all I have to offer. What else could I possibly type?

This Week’s Model — Bob Mould, “I Don’t Mind”

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(Source)

Bob Mould writes about the impact of the Buzzcocks in his memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and MemoryAs a college sophomore, Mould saw the Buzzcocks opening for Gang of Four. Enamored by what was before him, Mould intently studied the guitar work of frontman Pete Shelley. The scrutiny was obvious enough that Shelley supplemented Mould’s studies by shouting out chord changes as he made them. Elsewhere in the book, Mould recounts meeting Steve Garvey, bassist for the Buzzcocks, enthusing about the long-past show that shaped him.

“I was again reminded that I’m simply part of the lineage, part of the continuum: both listener and storyteller, fan and creator,” Mould writes.

On the cover of the Buzzcocks’ “I Don’t Mind” released this week by Mould, he is clearly and wonderfully listener, storyteller, fan, creator all at once.

 

This Week’s Model — Jay Som, “Superbike”

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The press release connected to “Superbike,” the new single by Jay Som, states her goal was to sound like Cocteau Twins and Alanis Morissette. I can’t say I hear everyone’s favorite jagged little Canadian on the track, but the honey-soaked luxury of Cocteau Twins is clear as can be, albeit spruced up with a wistful sunniness that recalls the Sundays. The music is soft as a feathered pillow, even when the rich shoegaze guitar swells up on the song’s back half. The vocals have their own waft as Melina Duterte sings, “Now you’re waiting in the light/ Patiently to my surprise,” the sparse poetry managing to sketch in an entire relationship.

Anak Ko, the album that’s home to “Superbike” arrives toward the end of the summer. I’m going to have to muster my own patience, it seems.

This Week’s Model — Sleater-Kinney, “Hurry On Home”

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I have my doubts as to whether the picture-to-words exchange rate still operates at a multiplier of one thousand, but I am sure that a photo can make a mighty promise. The arrival, through social media channels, of a studio-snapped image earlier this year, with the members of Sleater-Kinney assembled in a mixing booth and St. Vincent sitting before them, slide pots below her extended hand. The most potent, powerful rock band of the past thirty years crafting new material under the watchful eye (and attentive ear) of arguably the most consistently great, deliriously inventive pop music creator of her generation? I was so light-headed I couldn’t even nod my joyful assent.

The first song from that collaboration — and therefore the lead single from the forthcoming Sleater-Kinney album — arrived this week, and the suggestion of grandness is thus far fulfilled. Opening with an electrified chorus of voices puts St. Vincent’s signature on the song immediately, and then the guitars and thumping drum kick in. Sure enough, it sounds exactly like Sleater-Kinney taken through a St. Vincent filter. I couldn’t quite fathom what that would be like previously, but it was unmistakable: thick, ferocious, shimmering, anxious, refined, steely, no nonsense, glorious.

 

This Week’s Model — Ezra Furman,”Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone”

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I’ve noticed that a lot of the music I’ve clung to like a life preserver these past couple years has been animated by a sense of enduring hope and camaraderie, seeking out the remaining shafts of light while storm clouds don’t just build, but loom more doomily, descending with a threat to envelop the entire land. The day after the 2016 election, I posted M.I.A.’s “Survivor” on social media and I still often think of its message of constancy of purpose even when the callously exploited flaws of a fearful citizenry test the soul. When I share a song such as Tacocat’s “Hologram,” Jess Cornelius’s “No Difference,” or Andrew Bird’s “Sisyphus,” I’m extending my mix tape manifesto of steadfast positivity in a time engineered to wear down the resolve of those of us who believe in equality, ethics, basic human empathy, and the other qualities that keep society moving forward.

Sometimes, though, my punk rock aspirant I was many decades ago — the one who still lurks sullenly and defiantly inside me — needs a cut that sounds a little nastier. Guitars should buzz, the drums must thump with a Ramones-esque single-mindedness, and the vocals are best delivered at a yelping rasp. I remain resolute in my convictions, but the pressure release valve of a song awash in unchecked anxiety helps from time to time.

So I must offer a thanks to Ezra Furman. The new song from his forthcoming album, Twelve Nudes, couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

 

This Week’s Model — Hatchie, “Obsessed”

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I’m well aware that I tend to lean on cockeyed comparisons when describing music I like, but I can’t help it. That’s simply how I wrap my understanding around songs that tickle their fingers merrily across buttons I didn’t even know I had. So when I assert that “Obsessed,” the new single from Australian singer-songwriter Hatchie, sounds like what might result if Carly Rae Jepsen quickly made a track after a year in isolation listening to nothing but Lone Justice and vintage New Order, it is an act of lovestruck admiration. It might not be what you hear (I mean, how could it be?), but I swear that delightful and orthodox algebraic baffler is precisely what’s coming into my ears.

Of course, there are other simpler ways to describe the new Hatchie single. It’s a pure delight. I think that suffices.