Songs of the Week 10/21/2022

when adam driver said

he was so real for that

SATURDAY PT. 1 / SATURDAY PT. 2 | Ty Segall It’s hard for me to believe this is only the second appearance of alt rock’s favorite gull on the ol’ Max Todd Dot Com. Though I don’t think it’s the part of Segall’s discography that defines his sound, his most recent album, “Hello, Hi,” has become something of a personal classic—I keep coming back to it week after week. Still, it’s not quite timeless yet, so it feels like cheating to talk about this album now when it already reeks so strongly of September for me. That’s a problem I’ve created for myself, though—as far as Ty Segall is concerned, these sounds fall “nothing, nowhere.” Where songs like “Hello, Hi” and “Distraction” might technically be stronger standouts, parts 1 and 2 of “Saturday” to me embody the spirit of the album more faithfully, and they’ve grown to be my favorite tracks after those previous two mentioned. Though the whole album has a soothing, psychedelic whimsy, these two feel right off of something like The Beatles’s Rubber Soul or even Revolver, all thanks to their ability to make such an off-kilter somehow approachable. All this “they” reminds me that I haven’t gotten all of the scheduled self-flagellating out of the way here, because speaking about two songs in one slot is definitely cheating, but given the build that the two create in tandem, I’m not sure one can function without the other. In particular, I think the outward expansion of Pt. 2 doesn’t carry nearly as much weight without the distant thunder of Pt. 1. Each does have their own highlights, though— where Pt. 1 lets Ty Segall flex his contorted vocal range, with some groaning lows to accompany the falsetto, Pt. 2 gets a little bit more experimental, finishing with a barely-bridled saxophone… duet? I’m not sure, it sounds like two parts, but it’s good stuff.

ILLEST ALIVE | Clams Casino If it hasn’t already become apparent, I have a very complex relationship with sampling. Make no mistake, I am all about the tapestries of disparate musical fragments woven by innovators like De La Soul and the Beastie Boys, whose collages are deserving of the same respect as any classical musician. That said, I get weirdly defensive of songs that snatch the hook from a much more creatively complex or soulful song and then just slap a base behind it and call it a day. What’s worse is if I’m seduced by the wiles of a catchy baseline into actually liking one of these songs without knowing the source first. So, um, cons here: the skeleton of this song is from Björk’s “Bachelorette,” a swelling, marching orchestral song that showcases her incredible vocals, which are so often lost behind the inimitable soundscapes she creates. But it’s like… just the one part. Regrettably, however, pros: this song actually slaps. I’m a man of principle (or something), but when a song slaps, it slaps, and I think that trumps any standards I have. In defense of my actions, however, I will say that this song doesn’t use its Björk as a crutch, but rather completely changes the tone of it with this minor, stormy sort of electronic beat that makes the song its own. Thanks for making me reexamine my biases, Clams Casino!

THE SENSUAL WORLD | Kate Bush I’m definitely getting ahead of myself, but in anticipation of next month’s Kate Bush album, The Sensual World, I decided to throw in the song that sort of brought me to my senses with Kate Bush almost exactly a year earlier now. I don’t like to talk about my dark past, but to my great shame, I actually hated Kate Bush from the little my unbaptized ears had paid attention to—the ~DRAMA!~ of it all was just too much for me. Needless to say, I was grossly wrong, but it’s weird that this song swayed me in the other direction. It wasn’t what put me over the edge, mind you—I have Hounds of Love to thank for that—but it set me up for salvation. As the title might suggest, it’s got sort of the structure of a sultry song (which is the least sultry way of describing anything), but with a really inspired combination of celtic and middle eastern influences, it’s able to achieve this wholly new, serpentine, coiling sound. It’s neither of these individual parts but the pairing of the two that, I think, sounds almost alien, which is appropriate for a song about a character stepping out of the black and white world of a book and into the real world—the Sensual World. And like, come on, right? Come ooooon. Just… no words. Kate Bush is so cool, right guys? Right? Anyone?

SHORTLY AND SWEETLY | Jim Noir As if the scheduled Kate Bush albums weren’t enough, we’re also getting blessed with Jim Noir’s monthly Patreon-exclusive EPs leading up to the release of his next album, Deep Blue View (so cough up some change). As someone experiencing burnout from a lack of creativity, it’s strange watching someone on the exact other end of the spectrum forced to follow up on the promise of, like, five new songs a month. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of something or whatever, but I’m not envious of Jim’s position, and his songwriting output is pretty incredible at that rate. That said, he’s said himself how tired he is, and I just hope and pray this pays off in the end for such a creative mind. Though the tiredness does come through in this wobbly, rickety song, it’s still got that bouncy, Jim Noir charm and whimsy that makes him always worth returning to. “Shortly and Sweetly,” true to its name, is only two minutes long, and has an almost looser feel than some of his other music, but is no less catchy. I’m personally a fan of the almost twinkling guitar breakdown at the end. As always, if you’re financially able, please support this genius weirdo man on Patreon.

GOLD DUST WOMAN | Fleetwood Mac Okay. So… okay. I never thought this day would come, but here we are. It truly rips my heart out to say this, but I am going to talk about a Fleetwood Mac song, and God damn, it’s a good one. To be clear: I do NOT endorse Fleetwood Mac or any Fleetwood Mac-based tomfoolery. I don’t care if they’re good, they’re a bunch of drama queens that all cheated on each other and then stayed in a band together. In all seriousness, there’s just an ick to this constant, incestuous loop of infidelity and toxicity that they’ve seemingly trapped themselves in, and it takes the punch out of any raw honesty they’re expressing through this music that they’re still willingly making with their abusers… or so I thought. I actually encountered this song against my will, in a giant lecture hall in a rock music elective I’m in right now. Mainstream rock in the 70s on its own is a hard pill for me to swallow, so you can imagine the wad I got my little pretentious panties in when I realized we’d be sitting through some five minutes of Fleetwood Mac (the humanity!). The moment this faded in over the speakers, though, I was rocketed straight into the stratosphere. Guys, this song is really good. It’s really, really good. It’s had an insatiable grip on me for the past two weeks and I have continued faithfully listening to it well past its expiration date. Depicting the desolate fallout of Stevie Nicks’s relationship after being cheated on (anyone have that on their Fleetwood Mac bingo?), this song truly transports listeners to the raw, hollow, and windswept ruins that can only be conjured by such a vicious heartbreak. It’s not even sad so much as it is truly chilling, first trudging steadily along through a slow, cowbell (?) beat over Stevie Nicks’s haunting vocals, and then slowly building to a rattling, wild, and despairing finale, complete with the mantra of a fractured chorus and a wailing like coyote howls carving through a moonlit canyon. I really can’t sing enough praises for the atmosphere that this song creates—clearly so detrital, but most definitely more scary than oppressively sad. I’d really hate to say this about someone’s personal emotional struggles, but it’s almost looped back around to being the sort of fun-scary that some of my favorite horror movies capture. And, in the end, no matter what I think of Fleetwood Mac, I hope they’re satisfied that their music has created something beautiful through their pain. Chills every time.

Finally, for this week’s art, we have something much less chilling (although a little creepy in its presentation): M.C. Escher’s “Dolphins,” an etching from 1923. Not painting, etching. This was carved into metal with an acid and then ink was applied in the crevices. As heretical as it sounds to say anything M.C Escher made is “pretty standard,” my reaction to this piece is pretty standard for Escher art in that I’m almost more impressed by the effort than the outcome. I’m not sure I can say that’s totally true for this piece, as it captures such a beautiful and truly eerie perspective on… get your mind out of the gutter, dolphins, those are dolphins. Maybe it’s the inverted shadows in this piece, but the sparkle of the water silhouetting movement rather than the actual shape of the pod surrounding this boat (itself only seen as a wake) feels like such an alien way of perceiving the world. I wonder if it’s how things would look if we could see smell, watching it diminish into the distance as it aged ever further from its source. Something to think about there to distract from how late I was with songs this week. Weirdly negative one this week, too, so I’m sorry about that, I think. We’ll see about changing that next time.

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2 comments

  1. JT · October 26

    Yep, don’t you hate it when you have to eat crow about band you hate? I will send you Rhiannon. I hate how good it is.

    • maxtodd · 29 Days Ago

      Being wrong’s just not something I’m used to

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