Whenever I write these posts, I space out the images first, and just leave “h” at the top until I get to this part. Every time I go to publish a draft, I creep closer and closer to forgetting to make an intro. Someday, it’s just gonna say h, and that’s when you’ll know it’s time for an intervention. But for now, I am here, and I bear songs. Behold, the man!
HELLA GOOD | No Doubt Alright, look, I didn’t think I’d be talking about Gwen Stefani here either, but we all make mistakes in the heat of passion. Sometimes, you just hear a song and like a song and don’t look closely at the putrid brain from which it spawned, because sometimes you just live under a rock, okay? That happens to all of us. Sometimes. So let’s just make this quick. None of that country singer BS. It’s a good song, okay? Rock steady, or whatever. No doubt. Steady as a rock.
IN PARTICULAR | Blonde Redhead I’ve broken my SOTW (Songs! Of! The! Week! Max! Todd! Dot! Com!) repetition rule for this song multiple times in the days before this blog’s unholy resurrection, and since it’s wormed its way back into my brain once again, I figured it couldn’t hurt to also revive “In Particular” for one last rodeo (??). Being (I think deservedly) Blonde Redhead’s one big indie hit (unless you count Rick and Morty‘s own revival of the Blonde Redhead song “For the Damaged Coda” in its most famous reveal and also its other most famous reveal… yikes, did I just admit to knowing about both? Somebody stop me), this song exemplifies everything that’s great about their work in six (too short) minutes. With such delicate vocals (from both Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace) and a spindly, spidery sound, their music takes on this scratchy-sketchbook quality that allows it to coexist in multiple tones, making songs like “In Particular” the creepiest coffee shop music could possibly be. There’s nothing overtly eerie here, but it’s not upbeat in the way most indie earworms can sound—it’s got this steady, tingling build, switching to one of my favorite, off-kilter baseline riffs at around the two minute mark. Also noteworthy are both the ethereal vocals and the wordplay they sing, which almost add a faint rustiness that I can’t totally place. There’s a reason I keep returning to this song and its whispery chanting, but it’s probably not as sinister as that sounds. Check it out. I promise it’s safe. It even segues nicely into the next pick:
BIG STRIPEY LIE | Kate Bush While this song almost certainly falls into Kate Bush’s less easy listening, I’ll always argue that it’s worth listening to. Like, my god, this song starts with chimes and it’s still absolutely Earth-shattering for me, as usual thanks to the raw passion that rips through Kate’s vocals. Like, yea, those were chimes you just heard, cupcake, but she meant it, so sit your sorry ass down and think about it. I digress. As with all of Kate Bush’s weirdest output, it’s best to treat the procession of abrasive feelings that follow as a story, though it doesn’t always have to follow an exact plot. Here, there’s a lot to listen to, though its driving percussion moves things so fast that I’m not sure there’s any time to savor it (though I wouldn’t have it any other way). I don’t want to spoil any of the fun, but I have some favorite moments that I can’t help but talk about. The lyrics “Your name is being called by sacred things / That are not addressed nor listened to / Sometimes they blow trumpets” followed by the weeping string section? Come on. The lyrics “Oh my God it’s a jungle in here / You’ve got wild animals loose in here” followed by background monkey noises clearly just recorded by Kate Bush herself? Come on. It’s so good, dude. So good. Alright, I’m rambling again, but there is a larger directionality to this trail of musical candy, and it seems to be comparing the thicket of a tumultuous relationship to the chaos of a dense jungle, as is reflected in the soundscape (even the non-monkey parts): it’s dominated by a reverberating, spiraling roar that contrasts so heavily with the tearful fragility of the background violins. Clearly, I have a lot to make of “Big Stripey Lie,” and this will not be my last stab at it. I’m currently writing a story that I started outlining when I first revisited this song, and it has heavily influenced the direction things are moving. Lots of stripes, lots of lies. Certainly more monkey noises. You’ll probably hear about it in a decade or two when I finish it. In that time, you can listen to “Big Stripey Lie” 15,173,077 times, by my conservative estimate. At that point you should have some pretty nuanced thoughts, so I expect feedback.
MR. MOTIVATOR | IDLES So, I said some opinions about punk last week, and the fact that they exist out there in the word is still making me nervous, but here’s some decidedly un-lukewarm things to say about IDLES, because they rock. With a title like “Mr. Motivator” and a band as bitingly angry as IDLES can (rightfully) be, the cynic in me always expects there to be some satirical twist to this song, but it’s about the most un-punk punk song ever. This aggressive manifesto for optimism, as is unabashedly shown in the music video (linked in the title), is all about caring, about encouragement, and about lifting one another up to do achieve our best selves. In case that sounds too boy scout-y, though, I’m sure the lyrics will convince you otherwise. My favorites are a tie between “like Kathleen Hanna with bear claws grabbing Trump by the pussy” and “like David Attenborough clubbing seal clubbers with LeBron James,” but the rest are pretty much of the same caliber. Even without those, though, the music itself is enough to scare you right out of bed. I’m ’boutta write ten bestsellers like Margaret Atwood slam-dunking on the red wave’s graves. How d’you like them clichés?
CROCODILE TEARS AND THE VELVET COSH | David J But for now, let’s wind down a little with something a lower energy, though I can’t downplay how tightly this song has had a grip on me these past few weeks. This mostly acoustic, singer-songwriter piece, almost reminiscent of Bob Dylan, might seem a little unassuming on this list, which is why I’m sure you’ll be as shocked as I was to find out that David J hails from some well tread ground here at Max Todd Dot Com (Max! Todd! Dot! Com!). That’s right—another offshoot from the Bauhaus diaspora! Known for his work as bassist for Bauhaus and bassist for Love and Rockets (and thankfully for my fingers, the list ends there), David J brings a much calmer tone to the table, which unfortunately might fade behind the goth of Peter Murphy and the glam of Daniel Ash, but which has no less value than either persona. Sometimes, the quiet context of acoustic guitar and disparate saxophone is what shows a song’s power best—in fact, it’s the subtlety that allows for such range. In particular, I really love how David J’s vocals strain towards the end repetition of “crocodile tears and the velvet cosh,” as though trying to push past an imposed limit. That image itself, too, has a lot of nuance to unpack—even just the idea of a velvet cosh could mean so many things, from softening a blow to beautifying something hurtful to even just indecisiveness, all of which pair well with crocodile tears. It’s lyrical, it’s powerful, and before I knew it, I found myself repeating this song constantly, or humming it to myself. I honestly haven’t figured out exactly why I like it so much, even after all of these words. Shoutout to my Dad for showing me this one—he’s where I get most of my music taste, so this might be a moot point, but he really surprised me with this one.
So, uh, speaking of dads and sons, looks like this guy hasn’t been getting the best music recommendations from his old man. What’d he listen to, Oasis? Okay, sorry, note to self, read the room. Peering from one of the corners of the Denver Art Museum’s Latin American Art exhibit is Ecce Homo, circa 1600, peering down from a shadowy perch. For a piece entitled “Behold the Man,” nothing about this harrowing depiction of Christ is regal, from his pallid skin, to his red eyes and their almost corpselike gaze. I think I, personally, am so used to seeing glistening and glamorous depictions of the crucifixion that it’s easy to forget just how harrowing such martyrdom might be, and I like that this piece doesn’t shy away from any of the gruesome detail—it really gives a striking weightiness to the subject that few other pieces achieve. If anything, I think this piece does more justice to biblical stories than any other sanitized depiction I’ve seen—the pain is real. It probably would have given me nightmares as a kid, though. Thank you, anonymous.