Have you ever wanted to discuss music with someone, except it’s not a discussion and the someone is me and I talk for several uninterrupted paragraphs about what I’ve been listening to? Well that’s kind of weird and you need to be more assertive about your boundaries but we’ll talk about that later because right now I’m riled up and ready to talk for several uninterrupted paragraphs about what I’ve been listening to. That’s right Toddheads, Toddlers, Toddlings, it’s that time of the week again! Except not really, because there’s no accompanying Movie Friday because it’s Moving Friday. Housing crisis. Uuuuuhhh okay music go
TOROKH | DakhaBrakha I’ve always been an unnecessarily invested detractor of the current genre system, and while worldwide isn’t quite as offensively dumb a category as rock or indie, I still wouldn’t let my worst enemy take a bullet for it. Like, “worldwide,” huh? Like your music is influenced by music from across the world? So, like, ska? Or rap? Or… or… rock?? Give me a break. I could go on about genres, and one of these days I will, but I could never take it out on the wonderful musicians behind Ukraine’s own DakhaBrakha. I’ve only heard DakhaBrakha through their fantastic Tiny Desk Concert, and that itself is only something I ran across after hearing their ear-worm song Sho Z-Pod Duba in season 3 of Fargo (obviously a must-watch, you have no excuses), so it’s pretty easy to retrace the brain pinball trajectory. In other words, my experience of DakhaBrakha is limited, and my knowledge of their language and culture is even less (are the towering wool hats a thing, or did they think of that first? Is “z-pod” a real word and would I go to Hell if I whispered it in a church or preschool?), so it’s hard to really speak with much conviction on any of their art. But like, this rocks, right? As I’ve exhaustively mentioned already, I’m not someone who hears the lyrics on my first few listens, but not knowing the language being sung (and sung SO incredibly well by DakhaBrakha’s main harmonizing vocalists Iryna Kovalenko, Olena Tsybulska, and Nina Garenetska) really frees monolingual (American) audiences to sit back and listen to the music. Torokh, this week’s pick, demonstrates not only incredible build over its runtime, but also shows off DakhaBrakha’s famously wild blend of instrumentation— accordion, cello, and djembe all make an appearance here, with didjeridoo, trombone, garmon, and zhaleika all featured throughout the rest of their discography. And no, I had no idea what those last two were up until two minutes ago either.
HEAVY WEIGHT | Wolfmother Alright, so last week I tore Wolfmother a new one for being predictable, but look who came crawling back. Regardless of whether or not what I said was true, I think I’ve become the very thing I swore to destroy in some regard. Actually, while revising my Songs of the Week well after it had been published for all the internet to see, the distinct memory of another Wolfmother review resurfaced. It was for the release of New Crown, Wolfmother’s third album and my second favorite, and this review was fangs-out, hackles-up, gunning for the throat. New Crown egged this reviewer’s house, stole their spouse, unplugged life support on their elderly parents, and this reviewer was out for revenge. I can’t recite the line verbatim, but what always stuck with me was the claim that New Crown was so unlistenable that a better album could’ve been recorded by some 15-year-old’s garage band. I, 15, took offense to that, and I’ve never really let it go. New Crown may be far grungier than the critically-maligned overproduction of the prior album Cosmic Egg (like most critically maligned things, it’s really not that bad at all), but try as I might, I can’t think of a bad reason for reconnecting with rock’s muddy, blues roots. In fact, every song on this album is proof that Wolfmother thrives in this environment, just as their biggest sound-alikes Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes did before them. “Heavy Weight,” bearing one of the bluesiest titles of the album, is perhaps the best example. With a slower, trudging, and deliberate beat, it harkens back to classics like “When the Levee Breaks” with murky yet somehow clear lyricism and a general dirtiness that, like all blues, rides the fine line between being unbearably bleak and undeniably fun. Unlike most blues, though, it steers pretty heavily into fun territory. Really, there’s nothing not to like here, and perhaps that’s the lesson— your favorite band may sell out or burn out, but there will always be an unsullied kernel of what you first loved them for.
BEAUTIFUL LOVE | Julian Cope Man, what a delight it is to exist in a world with Julian Cope. I’ve always grown up hearing his music (my Dad is a big fan), but I’ve only recently reflected on what a fantastically creative songwriter he is. Like another of my musical idols, Jim Noir (a criminally underplayed and wonderfully prolific musician who you have not heard the last of, mark my words), his songs are each a burst of pure, britpop happiness (there is a bubble pop noise in this song). Then again, that’d be an incredibly limiting perspective on his discography. Perhaps unlike Jim Noir (though I wouldn’t say inferior or superior), his lyrics tend to stray into the metaphorical, mystical, and transcendental, which aligns with his published writing concerning metaphysical monuments across the globe. Though I can’t claim to know him in and out, his entire body of creative work— maybe its mere existence at all— is a real inspiration to me. The man has done many things in this world, but it all reeks of Julian Cope. And what a life to live, right? But before falling too far into that rabbit hole, I’d advise pushing yourself over the cusp with “Beautiful Love”— a peppy yet sincere love song with a wonderful hook and horn section that also showcases Cope’s strong, Echo and the Bunnymen-esque (though still distinct) vocals. You owe yourself some fun— I know I do.
NOBODY’S FOOL | Shakey Graves Right out the gate, I’m just gonna say it: if you haven’t listened to Shakey Graves (from many previous Songs of the Week entries or just from general osmosis), don’t start with this. Not that “Nobody’s Fool” isn’t a wonderful b-side— it’s the b-side part that’s the issue. These past few years, Shakey Graves has won my heart time and time again with his soulful weirdness, with equal parts folk, twang, rock, fuzz, and maybe an extra portion of whimsy. He’s a born performer, a little black cat in a jester costume dancing in a halloween postcard pumpkin patch, and his one-man band playing guitar and a suitcase kick drum of his own invention is just as undeniable as it sounds. If you’re new to Shakey Graves, I’d rather direct you to his songs “Family and Genus,” “If Not For You,” and/or “Roll the Bones” first (as a brief digression, you’ll notice I’ve linked the live versions of several of these, which I think is pretty hypocritical for someone as neurotically purist as I normally am. If these live performances weren’t an act of God, a force to behold, I’d give you the recorded version first under any other circumstances. I need to micromanage how others perceive media. You don’t understand. I need this. I’ll talk to my therapist about it next week). Okay. Good? Good. All that aside, for all of my Shakey converts out there, “Nobody’s Fool” is one of the many mysterious b-sides on Shakey Graves’s well-named collection album, “Shakey Graves and the Horse He Rode In On.” I’ve only listened to it once through, so this opinion is far from final (I’ve warmed up to many a Shakey song I wasn’t sure about), but while disc 1 leans a bit too far into the wistful Texas twang that defines much of his sound, disc 2 is very nearly back to front bangers. Giving you “Nobody’s Fool” as a representative for this set of songs was a tough choice, because they’re all just as good— just as equally melancholic and sly and irreverent, all backed by bold guitar strummed in strange chords and sung in Shakey’s inimitable voice. Though it’s a lot easier on the ears (and perhaps somewhat more ballad than blues), I’d say this oddly pairs with my Wolfmother choice this week as well, given the grunginess and stripped-down nature of both. Get your tissues ready for this one, though.
THERE GOES A TENNER | Kate Bush Longtime Max Todd Dot Com enjoyers may remember mention of Kate Bush deep in the archives, a misty memory of long, long ago, back when I used to never stop talking about Kate Bush. Remember that? Crazy. Anyways, Kate Bush is a musical genius and The Dreaming exemplifies that miraculously well and should be sent to aliens as an emissary for humanity and everything we represent. Alright, with that out of the way… I get it. I get it when people think the Drama! of it all is a little too much, takes an arcing piss over the line between music and lunacy. While not her weirdest, “There Goes a Tenner” undeniably strays into that uncomfortably avant-garde theater element that I mentioned last week, and if you’re curious about Kate Bush, starting here might be unwise— especially out of context. One of the reasons I find The Dreaming to be such a masterpiece is its wholly immersive world— like much of her work, it has a magically vivid quality that can’t really be traced back to one distinct facet. Kate Bush builds worlds, and while I am a rabid defender of the cinematic needle drop, I can’t imagine her songs accompanying any visuals without completely overtaking and redefining them. This also applies to her songs in context— they hit hardest one after another. Preceded by one of the most spectacular album openers ever, “Sat in Your Lap,” Kate Bush trusts that we’ve been eased into her weirdest album by a pop song, in this example, before treading fully into cross-eyed interpretive dance with “There Goes a Tenner,” a song that, by all measures, should not work. It’s that song in musicals that you skip on the second listening, the comic relief character’s goofy march. It’s got chipmunk voices and cockney accents and directionless synths. But somehow, somewhy, it works? Like, really well, too. Like the reincarnated medieval bard she is, Kate Bush gives us a story of a robbery perpetrated by inexperienced buffoons that predictably goes wrong despite their astute mimicry of silver-screen thieves. It’s got flourishing lyricism, it’s got simplistic yet fleshed-out storytelling, it’s got yet another fantastic horns section… it’s got cockney accents and chipmunk voices… look, it’s good, I promise, I swear.
As for this week’s art, coming all the way from 1640, we have Saint Anthony and the Christ Child by Alonso Lopez de Herrera. I took a picture of this picture while at the Denver Art Museum’s exhibit on Light sometime in 2021, and light’s what I like about this one, even though I’m not usually a huge fan of religious renaissance hyperrealism. And oh wow, oh boy, that reads as SO unbearably pretentious on reread (like so many other things in this post) so I should give credit where credit is due: bonus points for the chubby, cherub babies with eerily human faces. Hope this week doesn’t find you looking like a sickly friar. See you guys next time!