Alright guys, let’s get serious for a second. I’d like to address something real quick before I get into it here, just before twitter hops on this and starts tearing me to shreds. I think in situations like these, the only solution is to come forward with the utmost honesty, humility, and integrity that I can, so that no one is left in the dark about the situation when the judgments start flying. I know we all come here every Friday to just forget the world and enjoy popular, mainstream, accessible music for twenty minutes, and I know that by breaking this tradition, I have broken your trust as readers, as colleagues, and as family. For this, I am deeply ashamed, but I have already begun my long journey in rebuilding these foundations which we collectively hold sacred, and I hope my coming forward about this issue will be the first brick laid. Because, as I’m sure you’re all aware, last week’s Songs of the Week was on September 30th, yet on its banner was emblazoned a lie, loud and proud: a release date on the 23rd. Shameful, I know— a monument to my fallibility even as a public figure, unable to be undone because nothing can be deleted on the internet. And I know what you must all be thinking— “what’s next, not using yellow, red, or white as the title font color? Have we forgotten our allegiance to the proud nation of San Diego?” To— uh… to that I say… to— um… shit.
COSMIC EGG (ACOUSTIC VERSION) | Wolfmother The title track of their sophomore album (I love saying that), “Cosmic Egg,” is arguably the sound people think when they hear “Wolfmother”— heavy, fantasy rock with a hefty helping of cheese, but not so much that it doesn’t rock (in this lucky case). Weirdly, though, I think this song’s acoustic version demonstrates the band’s unseen versatility. Just like their clear Led Zeppelin roots, stripped-down Wolfmother is incredibly bluesy. This version of “Cosmic Egg,” which has slowly become my favorite, trades in the key-change solo and screams of its counterpart for slide guitars and whispering drums that somehow create a scene just as epic. While one song feels like a storm, the other feels like the calm beforehand, with a sort of sizzling presence suggesting scale beyond what the song presents. Andrew Stockdale’s vocals, often compared to Robert Plant and Jack White in his more ballad-y songs, takes on a bit of a rawer sound here, which may not be some folks’ style, but I really like it. Shockingly, I couldn’t find the acoustic version on youtube to link (so you pirates better get on that), but you can stream or buy it on Cosmic Egg‘s deluxe edition, which, incidentally, has a far better cover. Full stop.
STYLO (FEAT. MOS DEF AND BOBBY WOMACK) | Gorillaz Speaking of deluxe editions with far better, bluer covers than their yellow-orange counterparts (“better” being defined as “fitting this week’s color scheme with no other criteria”), how about Gorillaz’s “Stylo?” It’s nothing like the last song, but I have to transition somehow, right? I know about as much Gorillaz discourse as I do Gorillaz lore, but what I can say is that during their incredible performance at the Ball Arena last week, this song was mind-blowing. I think it was initially overshadowed for me by the incredibly atmospheric, layered, brewing sound of “Rhinestone Eyes” from the same album (I liked it before it was a tik tok song, okay?! I think. No, I know. I promise. I need to be cutting edge. Please), but live, the slow but always intense build of “Stylo” came to the forefront. You really get taken away by the chugging beat as Mos Def’s distorted rap transitions to Damon Albarn’s soft but clear lyrics, which in turn transition into Bobby Womack’s soulful, powerhouse voice. While it starts insignificant, it builds to something hypnotizing, and I keep coming back to it this week. And also this music video that you are absolutely not prepared for.
MAN SCREAMING AND SOBBING | Flowerpot Press October’s the season when all the posers come out to play. “So ready for spooky szn UWU” this, “PSL” that. You really think fear is what you want? You don’t know fear. Not like this guy does.
TIME MACHINE | Black Sabbath If you put three black sabbath fans together in a room, there’s a decent chance they’re fans of three different bands under the same name— 1969-1979’s Ozzy Osborne-lead 70s occult metal group, 1979-1982’s Ronnie James Dio-lead epic metal group, or, if they’re a real hipster, 1982-1984’s Ian Gillan-lead group that released the born-again album Born Again. All this to say, Black Sabbath has experienced a Ship of Theseus scenario firsthand, with guitarist Tony Iomi and drummer Geezer Butler being the only constants through the years, and after a certain point, the music under the name “Black Sabbath” becomes so unlike the original in both style quality that I’m frankly afraid to touch anything after ’84. Unfortunately— and it’s hard to call anything about seeing Iron Maiden live unfortunate— I was exposed to one such hazardous late-Sabbath song on one of those pre-concert playlists, and I hate to report, but… it’s really great. It’s nowhere near the classics in quality, but it’s catchy, energetic, datedly futuristic (this is a compliment), and features Dio’s vocals AGAIN even though it’s from the far future of 1992. Nobody told me, but apparently, the band experienced a Dio-era reunion for their ’92 release Dehumanizer, which should be exciting but frankly has me nervous. I’m a fan of Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, and they’re both undeniably big shoes to fill, so if Dehumanizer can match even half of that energy (like it does in this song), then I’m tentatively in. If Black Sabbath’s 2013 OG reunion with 13 worked, there’s every chance this could, too.
RANDOM NAME GENERATOR | Wilco It’s come to my attention that we haven’t discussed the final member of my favorite bands trifecta, so all you Max Toddlers know what that means: it’s Wilco time. I’m trying to make these entries a little less bloated, so we’re not gonna dive into the background info too much (I say, lying), but in short, this isn’t where a lot of people would tell you to start with Wilco. They’re literally where the term “dad rock” originated, which ties back to some of their jam-band, alt-country style albums, in keeping with their newest release, Cruel Country. Now, I’m of the belief that all of their music is great after two or three listens— Jeff Tweedy, master of lyrics sarcastic and sincere, will win over anyone, eventually— but with the talent of avant-garde musicians like Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche in their ranks (and Jeff, once again), there’s some serious musical artistry happening that doesn’t always come to the forefront. If you’re going to start anywhere with Wilco, it might have to be the emotional tour-de-force of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a soundscape of its own that supports both their lyrical and musical strengths. If any album has come close to the initial excitement I felt from YHF, though, it’d be Star Wars— a surprise, free album dropped in 2015 with no prior marketing. It has a posh cat on the cover that blinks at you. Though there are a few excellent contenders, “Random Name Generator” is the perfect spokes-song for this album: it’s bouncy art-pop with crunchy guitar, almost psychedelic sounds, and a build you barely notice until the song explodes outwards at the end (Wilco is unmatched in their ambush sonic pyrotechnics. No Iron Maiden flamethrowers, but it sure hits you like one of those). Star Wars (named in order to deliberately incite a lawsuit, as the band wanted the album to actually be called “cease and desist,” but they got lucky/unlucky) listens much like this— almost like a firecracker in a tight room. Everything goes much wilder than any so-called “dad rock” might, but it’s contained by a shared musical language. I don’t know if the album is free anymore, but it’s available wherever you can stream things, so either way, you have no excuse not to listen.
As for this week’s art, we have a bit of a weird spread that isn’t viewed like this when encountered in real life. This is, of course, the cover of Maggie Nelson’s beautifully raw manifesto Bluets. I’m running out of words for when things are really cool, because the really cool things are the only ones I talk about on this blog, but Nelson’s poetry deserves whatever words I can throw at it. I’m not much of a poetry guy (which is maybe a little bit hypocritical considering how much of it I post), but I have not stopped thinking about this book since I read it two weeks ago. But we’re not here to talk about Bluets this time, unfortunately— we’re here for that cover by Suzanne Dean. The idea of creating a cover for an abstract poetry book with as much thematic scale as Bluets sounds like an impossibly daunting task, something which Dean confirms in her interview on creating the piece, and making sure the blues translated digitally. It’s a fascinating process that is always such an honor to peek into. As always, check it out if you have any precious free time, and if not, godspeed, little guy. Anyways, that should be all for this week— see you all next time with a yellow font and an incorrect date once again.
MAN SCREAMING AND SOBBING STANS PUT YOUR HANDS UP!!!!
I love you for including Man Screaming….it sounds more like a child screaming which makes it all the more disturbing.
It’s good for ambience