Songs of the Week 05/12/2023 (coming to you from 05/19/2023)

Another week of two Dark songs and a Kate Bush in change. You know the drill.

GOD’S WHISPER | Raury Lord help me, I am huffing and puffing and finally closing in on Dark’s finale after dragging my feet for the past few months. Actually, I even have the soundtrack to show for it! Jumping far ahead from last week’s picks all the way to season 2 episode 7, we land on what I’d consider to be one of Dark’s best closing tracks, even if it toes just outside of my comfort zone. I’m man enough to admit that I’m about thirty years behind the contemporary rap scene, so much so that I wouldn’t have even called Raury a rapper, despite his popularity—if anything, his name made me think I’d read it in a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book years back (that was Joshie, loved by Rowley, amalgamated into Raury). To me, “God’s Whisper” sounds much closer to Spotify’s mysterious “stomp and holler” genre. I’ve made my stance on genre stupidity abundantly clear here before, but even with a name as stupid as “stomp and holler,” I’d say it’s more accurately evocative than most, even if Ed Sheeran falls within its bounds. It’s the sort of onomatopoeia I immediately associate with this song’s folk hoots and whoops, loose like the cheers of a fireside congregation. Still, my first listen left me with the chemical aftertaste of processed, pop earnestness—only the slightest hint from its claps and its harmonies, but enough for me to scrunch my snobby nose. Still, between the song’s ragged emotionality and its feral backup voices, I soon shed any qualms about being hooked. While I love the tattered and raw cries as the song thickens, there’s nothing disorganized about “God’s Whisper”—the goosebumps-inducing chorus drop at the murmured word “because” (2:20) should be proof enough of that—and this sort of mastery has me curious about the rest of Raury’s debut mixtape, Indigo Child. Thanks, Dark.

And look, Dark, while we’re here… I know I’ve given you a hard time about your inconsistent needle drops in the past, but I think you made up for it with this one. Truthfully, Dark’s regular song-and-silent-montage segment right before its final scene has always been hit-or-miss for me, though not because of the music chosen—if it wasn’t clear, I think Dark’s soundtrack was gathered immaculately, even if it isn’t always applied spectacularly. Maybe I’m just too Noah-Hawley-Edgar-Wright-Quentin-Tarantinoed, but I think weaving outside songs into your series should symbiotically enhance the scenes they’re in, and as pretentious as it sounds, I don’t always feel like the tempo of what’s onscreen and the song that accompanies it are always in synch. This deep into the show, it’s hard to mention anything without veering into spoiler territory, but “God’s Whisper” felt like it exceeded expectations here in every way. From the title evoking some fateful force to the power conjured only by clapping hands and chanting voices, this song perfectly encapsulated the theme of humble efforts influencing cosmic power.

Pairs Well With:Devil is Fine” (Zeal & Ardor), “In the Woods Somewhere” (Hozier), “Staring at the Sun” (TV on the Radio)

2000 LIGHTYEARS FROM HOME | The Rolling Stones Maybe I’m projecting, but I think I’d feel pathetic if the entirety of my artistic career was forcibly branded around one-upping another, more successful group of visionaries. That might sound like a slight against The Rolling Stones, but I say so with nothing but sympathy—being branded from the beginning as the bad boy Beatles is not only creatively restrictive, but grossly reductive. Even as they entered more experimental territory, The Stones only did so in response to The Beatles, with the former’s foray into psychedelia, Their Satanic Majesties Request, transparently miming the runaway success of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—even down to their album covers. Achieving spiritual enlightenment for advertising purposes… well, it’s satire that writes itself, but I won’t go too hard on The Stones—while undeniably 60s cheese, songs like “2000 Lightyears From Home” are too much of a blast to write off, and proof that these musicians were artists beyond the boxes they’d been crammed into. Psychedelia seems like a strange match for the same rough-and-tumble rockers behind “Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Paint It Black“—all fantastic songs, by the way, but also all comfortably in their niche—and this discordance comes through here, clashing with the mystical fluidity they attempt to emulate. Despite eerie and wavering mellotron played like a fuzzed-out theremin, there’s a certain choppiness here that punches through the genre’s ethereal fluidity. Like the incredible lyric video below, this song almost sounds more like a collage than a tapestry, with loud and stumbling drums interrupting the strange melodies on mellotron and electric dulcimer (electric dulcimer, dude!). It’s a strange and almost repellent combination of instruments that continues to clash on the conceptual level, mashing the pulpy sci-fi aesthetic of silver-age comic books and the eastern-appropriating flower child sounds of the 60s. Yet riding right alongside the pulpy drama and cheesy spirituality is this truly alien, lonesome dread or fascination that cannot be ignored—almost like The Creatures’ much laterPluto Drive,” it’s a depiction of space that somehow melds a storybook artificiality with the real-world incomprehensible emptiness of the vacuum, and I love it.

It really does seem like there’s a lot of condescension in that take, but let me be clear: I love this song, so much so that I get righteously dismissive of any covers of it, even if their existence is a reassuring sign that this Stones era had a lasting cultural reach. Aside from the infectiously eighties Men Without Hats cover and a slew of other mediocre attempts, “2000 Lightyears From Home” also made it into my darling Legion‘s third season premier (I can’t find any clips of it—I bet Youtubers ignored it in favor of the diegetic Superorganism musical number that came mere minutes earlier. Legion is that good). That’s actually where I found it, and why I haven’t stopped listening to it. Creativity begets creativity, I guess, no matter what motivates it.

Pairs Well With:We Love You,” (The Rolling Stones), “Zooropa” (U2), “Pluto Drive” (The Creatures)

SURREAL | Dan Croll He may say “Tarot” like “Carrot,” but luckily for Dan Croll, his song “Surreal” is too catchy to ignore. Sonically, “Surreal” is easy and acoustic, much more so than most of my music taste—with just a hair less personality and drive, I might have even forgotten it mere minutes after I’d heard it. Instead, however, some combination of the quietly pushing drums and the wistful, transitional nostalgia of the lyrics hit a sweet spot for me—maybe it’s just college graduate “what now” syndrome, but I think the sort of listlessness of early job life is captured quite accurately here. Plus, those crescendoing harmonies that lead into the chorus are just weird enough to keep me listening, so points for that. Maybe my appreciation for this one is all in the timing, but for what it’s worth, I think it’s well done.

Pairs Well With:Swervin” (Harlem), “Kantori Ungaku” (Devendra Banhart), “Power Boat” (Muthi & Mcbaise)

IN THE WOODS SOMEWHERE | Hozier Onto Dark spoilers, part two—the last place I expected to run into Andrew Hozier Byrne. In theory, it makes perfect sense—at his best (at least to me), Hozier channels this almost arthurian, druidic presence that’s just as eerie as it is earthy. However, in my experience, this eeriness is usually constrained to his lyrics, with their folkloric imagery and weightiness—to me, not much of his work sounds outright eerie, save for one of my favorites of his, “It Will Come Back.” And by the way, I’m actually qualified enough to be saying that, you punks—at least, I thought I was, since I’d listened to what I thought was his whole discography (I try to be a good boyfriend). It wasn’t until the finale of Dark episode 5 that I realized I’d missed the bonus tracks on Hozier’s self-titled first album, and perhaps one of my favorite songs he’s ever done. It wasn’t until I witnessed these two together that I realized they were a perfect match. The funereal, marching tempo of “In the Woods Somewhere,” combined with what almost sounds like a loosely-strung guitar, sounds almost like following the footsteps of a prisoner. It’s a defeated, ragged, and ominous song, which is exactly how Dark‘s characters and viewers alike should be feeling by this point in the series. Kudos once again, whoever’s DJing—I’ll miss these picks when the series is over all too soon.

Pairs Well With:It Will Come Back” (Hozier), “Shrike” (Hozier) “God’s Whisper” (Raury)

SYMPHONY IN BLUE | Kate Bush Lionheart may not be my favorite Kate Bush album, but even after her tour-de-force debut The Kick Inside, who can deny an opener like this?? Just wow, wow, wow (wrong song, but maybe we’ll talk about it someday). I may not have original music to arrange, but I ponder album order quite often, and when I think about opening songs, they fall into two camps: songs that kick down the doors guns-a-blazing, immediately setting the energy of the album (Beck’s “Sexx Laws,” Massive Attack’s “Angel,” Kate Bush’s “Sat in Your Lap“) or “prologue songs” that start slow, but build tension for the incoming burst of energy (Nine Inch Nails’s “The Frail,” The Smile’s “The Same,” Kate Bush’s “Moving“). For the life of me, though, I can’t force “Symphony in Blue” into either role. Going into Lionheart having already heard it, I expected this to be a fourth-or-fifth song—the kind of slower-tempo, nuanced piece I’d assume you could afford to delve into once you have listeners’ attention with a snappy opening. Opening with this, I think, expresses some trust in Bush’s listeners—this isn’t the quietly building tension of a prologue song, but it’s far too delicate and serene to bust down any doors. That’s not to say it’s unengaging—”Symphony in Blue” is packed with beautiful baroque harmonies and some of the wryest Kate Bush lyrics in her catalogue, living up to its classical title. It’s no wonder this has so much intelligent pontification crammed into six minutes, seeing as Bush is riffing on George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, itself an entire symphony. I’m not familiar with Gershwin’s work, but the last book I read on an obsession with the color blue, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, took on a distinctly different tone. While all of the lyrics are worth reading carefully, I think this stanza about sums it up: “I see myself suddenly / on the piano, as a melody / my terrible fear of dying / no longer plays with me / for now I know that I’m needed / for the symphony.” It’s a defiance of the blue Bush starts the song wallowing in, and I almost read this as a thank you to her audience for partaking in the act of creation with her. Like I said—what an opener, right?

Pairs Well With:Wow” (Kate Bush), “Oh England My Lionheart” (Kate Bush), “Sun In My Mouth” (Björk)

I don’t do comic covers enough with Songs of the Week—the bright colors fit so much better than most paintings. This wonderfully weird piece comes from Doom Patrol/JLA Special #1, drawn by Clay Mann & Marissa Louise. As great as this cover is, I was reminded of it because of the current “Dawn of DC” (🙄) run on Unstoppable Doom Patrol by Dennis Culver, which is… well, sorry Dennis… it’s bad, man. Okay, maybe I should give it more of a shot, seeing as we’re only two issues in, but as a huge fan of Grant Morrison and Gerard Way’s wonderfully weird work on a franchise that’s become a haven for surrealist comic stories, these two issues have been a pretty big disappointment, though not without their good moments. To be clear, Crazy Jane as Chief is a super fun concept, Beast Girl and her inspired powers are a welcome addition to the roster, and a velvet worm-based supervillain is the sort of thing I’m jealous I didn’t think up first. However, what I didn’t like about these issues is almost exactly what I didn’t like (though not as intensely) about (sigh) “Milk Wars,” DC’s crossover with its weirdo Gerard Way imprint, Young Animal. Both, I think, fell flat because they try to tie in the politics of the main DC universe. While it’s far from unheard of in Doom Patrol’s history—hell, Beast Boy is an A-lister and he came from the Doom Patrol—dropping random Batman cameos into your niche surrealist superhero book makes the book’s purpose abundantly clear—not integration, but sales. At least, I can’t think of any other good reason for that, or turning the nebulous, groundbreaking, and abstract Doom Patrol into DC’s X-Men—a property that, by the way, may have been ripped off from Doom Patrol in the first place. Like, I love X-Men, and they’ve been their own thing from the start, but if the ripoff story is to be believed, how does it look if your original property becomes the thing the more successful ripoff actually pioneered? I don’t know, man, I think this might be my toxic fanboy moment—I’m sure Dennis Culver is a nice guy and a competent writer, it’s just hard for me to not see this as a sales initiative, especially given all of the “remember this?” moments meant to appease hardcore fans. In all honesty, it’s a story I’d be 100% behind were it in an already more mainstream book, but this gentrification of creatively cutting-edge stuff saddens me a little bit. Blah blah postmodernism, etc. Anyways, less negativity next week.*



  1. JT · 18 Days Ago

    I have to admit, that’s a solid Hozier song. Agreed, it’s a perfect pairing for Dark.

    • maxtodd · 18 Days Ago

      Right? I love how low the guitar goes.

  2. real ones learned about dulcimers from jack’s big music show

  3. Michael Bos · 15 Days Ago

    Dude, I’m going to be a total twat and say that the Rolling Stones was at least as influenced by Bob Dylan and HIS experimental psychedelic phase, considering they’re named after Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” The psychedelia was in their blood all along while the Beatles were dicking around in India learning how to meditate.

    • maxtodd · 15 Days Ago

      You know what? I like this take. Good take. This pierces the twatosphere where the Beatles staked their claim into certifiably enlightened territory

      • Michael Bos · 15 Days Ago

        As far as british psychedelic rock bands go, the ol’ Pink Floyd beats both of them anyways.
        Also, the Rolling Stones song “Something Happened to me Yesterday” is cited directly in Inherent Vice.

      • maxtodd · 15 Days Ago

        Why doesn’t Pynchon just suck it up and write some damn music

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