sick and snotty yuck yukc yuck make your own song pionions everythinbg sounds loud
EVERYDAY SUNSHINE | Fishbone Last time we talked Fishbone and their explosive, ska celebrations, we veered into some fascinatingly literary but existentially dire territory, something which this week’s ode to joy does its very best to avoid. From Fishbone’s double album The Reality of My Surroundings, “Everyday Sunshine” ironically transports listeners outside the reality of their surroundings, framing the utopic, euphoric lyrics as a wish rather than a straightforward snapshot. Even despite this wistful twinge, “Everyday Sunshine”‘s instrumentation and attitude rocket straight past these grey implications, blasting brass in full force alongside impassioned vocals. Though we’re made aware that this world of everyday sunshine lies in the dreams of our own, its happiness is made tangible by the giddiness and excitement with which Angelo Moore sings (and screams), a joy I’d challenge anyone listening not to be swept up in. If you’re looking to curate this song’s best listening experience, I’d say it stands alone and pairs best with butterflies and rainbows.
…buuuuut, since I can’t help but pick at things, I do find it shocking how many similar songs juxtapose their unbound happiness with strikingly defeated and bitter lyrics. Aside from directly preceding “Sunless Saturday” on The Reality of My Surroundings (which is a level of indecisive I find personally validating), I was surprised to find that the strong funk influence of this songs pairs it frighteningly well with Stevie Wonder’s powerhouse “Living for the City,” which, as a word of warning, depicts a two-minute whirlwind of police profiling and abuse against a tragic, black protagonist, backed by an almost offensively danceable instrumental breakdown that fades in and out with the chaos of city sounds. While I plan to talk more extensively about “Living for the City” and what a masterpiece it is in its own right, I found it to be such a fascinating pairing with “Everyday Sunshine,” and if it weren’t for the clashing tones, I’d even call it essential to listen to these in tandem—maybe if you’re as bad at hearing lyrics as I am, you’ll have an easy-breezy time of it. Give it a gander, I guess, channeling the unfazed optimism that made me use the word “gander” in the first place.
Pairs Well With: “Living for the City” (Stevie Wonder), “Maybe Your Baby” (Stevie Wonder), “All of Us” (I Love You)
ATOPOS (FEAT. KASIMYN) | Björk After three consecutive weeks of Björk (and four total this year), it’s safe to say that the Songs of the Week lore (Max! Todd! Dot! Com! Songs! Of! The! Week! Lore!) runs pretty deep. What can I say? I’m a pretty complicated guy, though nowhere near as complex as Björk’s 2022 album Fossora, certifiably some of her most abstract work to date. This January, my review of “Fungal City” lost control, spiraling into a befuddled dissection of Fossora‘s many unconventional creative choices that initially kept me at arm’s length from the album. By the time I’d moved onto the earlier Vespertine, though, I reached some flashpoint while marinating in Fossora that yanked me from my intrigued distance into far-flung epiphany. I always wish, in these moments, that I could get an instant replay of what synapses or chakra realigned to totally reframe a piece of art, but however my perspective shifted, I know exactly which song I have to thank for it: “Atopos,” the album’s opener.
As much as I now love “Atopos,” I wouldn’t recommend starting here if this is your first exposure to Björk—though it begs to connect with its listeners, this song is about as friendly as a carcass blooming with foreign fungi. While I wouldn’t want to belabor it, last time we talked Fossora, one of the main points of friction in my listening experience was its consistently disharmonious tempo, something which I’ve since found to be an acquired taste—a sudden and magnetic acclimation that snapped into place with a sudden “Eureka!” To me, the magic of “Atopos” lies in its disparateness itself; its rhizomatic themes and instrumentation which come together to synthesize a sensation from complete chaos—an alien and near-unreadable sensation, but a sensation nonetheless. The title should have been my first tipoff—”Atopos,” greek for out of place, not befitting, unusual, unbecoming; biblically for unrighteous or wicked; philosophically, “Atopy” to study our most ineffable, esoteric emotions. “Atopos” is also a genus of carnivorous sea slugs (yea), but as much as that would be within Björk’s ball park, Fossora instead focuses on a far more unusual kingdom: that of fungi and their vast, interspecies mycelial networks that puppeteer entire ecosystems. Ironically, it was through this much less approachable concept that I first found meaning in “Atopos”‘s many clashing elements—of course adjusting to a hive mind would sound about this overwhelming. Viewed through the lens of a plant root or leaf slowly intertwining with a fungal hyphae, receiving an onslaught of sour, foreign hormones, nutrients, and microbiomes, the musical overload begins to make sense. When “Atopos” begins, it feels like when you’re stopped at an intersection listening to your turn signal slip tantalizingly in and out of synch with your music, but by the time DJ Kasimyn’s crunchy, electronic baseline comes barraging in at 3:12, there’s an intuitive danceability that finally clicks into place, and which stays intact on repeat listens. I like to think that by 3:12, the communication barriers between assimilated organisms (!!!METAPHOR!!!) have been overcome, coming to some cobbled understanding.
All this said, I think starting with the music video would’ve drastically hastened my love for this song. I don’t think you have any excuses not to connect. Look at her pinchy fingers.
Though there’s nothing else quite like it out there, “Atopos” reminds me of a certain brand of rebelliously abrasive music. The lilting background hymns and shrieking construction-core metal guitar of St. Vincent’s “Grot” is the closest thing that comes to mind, though I’d argue it’s even harder to get into than this. Meanwhile, I think the freakout at the end of David Bowie’s “Blackstar” brings to mind this song’s own bass clarinets, which emit very traditional sound in a very nontraditional way. Like the best of music in a world where everything’s been said, though, Björk recombines a myriad of these scattered elements into a wholly new network that transcends its component parts. So, chew on that, soldier.
Pairs Well With: “Grot” (St. Vincent), “Sparrow” (St. Vincent), “Blackstar” (David Bowie)
STARSTRUCK | Sorry “Starstruck” is a survivor. Having been an outtake from Songs of the Week 01/13/2023, 12/09/2022, and as far back as 11/11/2022 when a friend of mine first sent it my way, it’s safe to say I’ve been sleeping on Sorry. In retrospect, it would’ve been a nightmare including this song in 11/11’s list, seeing as that post’s discussion of punk was already a brick through the window without the additional molotov cocktail of whatever the hell “post-punk” is. I have neither the time nor the energy to delve into that insanity, so let’s just call Sorry genrefluid. “Starstruck” is the perfect showcase of their soundshifting abilities—in just under three and a half minutes, it saunters through punchy grunge, hip-hop, and moody dreampop without once shedding Sorry’s strong voice. Seriously, the shift at 0:44 from Asha Lorenz’s sparse vocals in driven, 4:4 rock to a sultrier emphasis on the backbeat, in turn followed by another shift with 0:52‘s almost rapped chorus that remains laid back despite its chugging, stuttering lyrics…it’s all so smooth. While all of these modular segments, stacked interchangeably throughout the song, deserve their own focus, I’m particularly a fan of the scraping, hip-hop shifts the most. Maybe it’s just British profiling, but something about these near-spoken-word segments evoke the disaffected, deadpan delivery of indie superstars Wet Leg, albeit tinted darker. Though Sorry is by no means a clone, their brand slots in perfectly with other indie bands sporting dry femme vocalists and sproingy guitars (someone who knows more about guitars, please tell me what that means, please), trading Wet Leg’s signature sass for a standout bitter angst pervading their showy genre shifts. Oh, and the cherry on top? “Starstruck” is phlegmy, which I’m not sure I could say about any other song. Come on, the little “eugh” in the chorus? Isn’t that undeniably gross? Very punk, guys.
Pairs Well With: “Chaise Longue” (Wet Leg), “Mysterons” (Portishead), “Unholy Affliction” (Soccer Mommy)
JAMIE’S INSTITUTION | Perfect Confusion So Michael tricked me into liking a song from another band I don’t like. Here’s my story.
To be clear, I have nothing against Perfect Confusion, nor have I ever—”Jamie’s Institution” is the first and only of their songs that I’ve heard, so far as I’m aware, and it rocks. Sharp, sneering, and eerie, “Jamie’s Institution” absolutely reeks of the late 90s, with the kind of sarcastic bass, vocal rasp, and anti-establishment satire that can party with Toadies, Jet, and Social Distortion. Despite its 2005 release date, the influence of these peers is clear, and the Tom Morello acidity of the chorus isn’t exactly an anachronism. That’s a lot of comparisons without much to stand on its own, but to Perfect Confusion’s credit, “Jamie’s Institution” is hit material, and I’m surprised it’s not considered more of a classic—it’s always got me bouncing my head.
Fortunately for band members Matt Schultz, Brad Schultz, and Jared Champion, however, this isn’t a story about genius lost down the corporate drain—although, I don’t know, I’m not sure how many people have heard of those up-and-coming underground kids Cage the Elephant, do you guys know them? Yea, every time I think I have a good ear, I end up missing some celebrity lore—missing the Phish for the Trey Anastasio, if you will. In retrospect, I think my grasp on Cage the Elephant’s sound and media presence is tenuous at best—as my lovely girlfriend pointed out, a song like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” betrays an undeniable family resemblance despite the vastly different slide guitar. To be fair, even that song packs a lot more bite than I’d have expected from my snobbish preconceptions. Maybe I’m jumbling my taxonomy, but I’d always assumed Cage the Elephant to be a bastion of voiceless indie mediocrity akin to certain other Glass Animals or Hippo Campuses. Cage the Elephant curiosity was not on my 2023 bingo card, but neither was war with China, so… you know, never mind, moving on.
Pairs Well With: “Bulls on Parade” (Rage Against the Machine), “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” (Jet), “Backslider” (Toadies)
THE STONE | I Love You Unfortunately, if you were looking for a story about genius lost down the corporate drain—and I really do mean genius this time—I’d say look no further than I Love You, so obscure that I can’t even find their music on youtube. Though their 1994 album All Of Us has only just joined streaming, I grew up hearing I Love You so much that I’d always assumed they were way bigger. The title track, “All of Us,” has been a favorite of mine for decades, always delivering on a driven rock gem that thrashes harder than most in spite of (or because of) its acoustic rasp. We’ll talk about it someday. After a front-to-back listen of All of Us, though, I can safely say I’m even more flabbergasted by their fall into obscurity—though nothing quite tops that immaculate opener, the raucous, jangling campfire spirit burns through all fifty-four minutes without a single lull. “The Stone” is a testament to this spirit, a three-in-one song eleven tracks into the album without a lackluster section within it. After a thirty-second blustering prelude bursting at the seams with roiling harmonies and climbing chords coloring outside the measure lines, a single, twanging note on the gearshift sparks a funky groove that sputters to life like the best of Lenny Kravitz. While this main body carries the song like a breeze, the bridge at 2:40 maintains its easy tempo while shattering into Black Crows guitar tremolos, almost like a kite with inflatable streamers. Much like my favorite Wilco work, it’s contained chaos in the hands of playful talent, and it’s a minor travesty that I wasn’t alive to see I Love You play in a small club before they disbanded.
It’s nothing new for this website, but as with Jim Noir, Love and Rockets, and so many others, I project my own career fears and aspirations on artists brimming with talent that let success slip through their fingers, which is… unhealthy, to say the least. In the case of I Love You, I find myself wanting to blame drugs, but the truth is, luck is king when it comes to corporate success, and it’s a fickle king at best. If you know or love an underrated artist, I suppose the best you can do is support them—I can only speak for myself, but massive success doesn’t matter so long as there’s enough to sustain continued art. Love I Love You, and love whoever else consistently wows with their talents.
Pairs Well With: “Remedy” (Black Crows), “Let Love Rule” (Lenny Kravitz), “Heartbroken, in Disrepair” (Dan Auerbach),
Sorry about the wait these past two week, everyone—some twisted combination of sickness and midterms really threw me off my game, but I hope the hiatus was worth it. We’ve got another Fantastic Mr. Fox frame for our art this week, one that I’ve been staring at a little too long to remember the exquisite and intricate beauty of—I’m sure it doesn’t help that I sacrilegiously slapped an infected scab color palette over it. I’ve been picking at this one for far too long, so I’m excited to move onto something fresh next week. There might be a few more gaps in the schedule in these coming weeks—I have two papers and a novel excerpt to write between now and mid-March, but I really enjoy putting these out, and I hope you all do too, so I’ll do my best to keep them coming. In the meantime, what the cuss are you doing not watching Fantastic Mr. Fox? Winter’s almost over and you don’t want to skip straight to fall all over again? Suck it up, cupcake. I’ve been pregaming my midlife crisis since I was, like, nine. See you all next week.
oh man I’m a huge fan of that sorry song thanks so much!!
They slap, they have more good stuff I’m gonna talk about soon stay tuned
Oh yeah, I remember when I first saw the Atopos video, I think I immediately texted the group chat with excitement! Fraggle Rock meets Cantina (feat. Björk)
I agree, All of Us is solid from start to finish. I only remember seeing one video of theirs where they’re all in the woods tripping.
Pre-gaming my midlife crisis sounds like the title to your future short story collection!
Hmm yea that sounds about right, I’ll let them have their fun. Also, I knew I struck gold with that, I should’ve saved it.
I like Jamie’s Institution, thanks!