My Spotify Release Radar playlist was on fire today with tons of new singles out this week. I thought about switching to writing about one of those new songs that really fit the definition, but I decided to stick with my plan to write about “The Only Heartbreaker” by Mitski. It actually came out last November, but I didn’t really become aware of it until this year, and it’s one of my current favorite songs. So even though it isn’t the newest of new songs I wanted to make sure and write about it.
We are definitely going through an 80s synth revival at the moment, and as someone who grew up in that era it’s speaking to the music of my childhood so I am hear for it. Mitski is continuing that trend with her newest single “The Only Heartbreaker”, which is off of her forthcoming sixth album Laurel Hell. Lyrically it’s a very simple song with the majority of the lyrics being “I’ll be the only heartbreaker”, but it really works for me. It’s about being the one who destroys a relationship. The simple lyrics, the synthy rock music, and the inferno imagery in the music video all work together really well to convey the idea of burning a relationship down. I’m very much enjoying this song right now, and I think you will too.
I’m continuing my series on songs that I really liked in 2021 that I never wound up writing about for whatever reason. Today we’re taking it back to February 2021 with the song “Bad Girl” by Daya. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the song, which is probably why I never wrote about it in the first place. It is however a song that I do really love and don’t really understand why it never became a pop radio hit. I mean it has over 4 million views on YouTube at this point, so it’s not like it’s not a song that people seem to really know and like. It is something that I feel like would have fit into the pop radio landscape though, but as far as I know at least was not something that ever made that leap. I’m glad people found it anyway because it’s a great song.
There is some new Christmas music I have been waiting to write about until after Christmas because I refuse to start listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Since with the holiday this week there isn’t much else happening new music wise I figured today would be the perfect day to talk about some of the excellent new Christmas music available to you this season.
O Come All Ye Faithful by Hiss Golden Messenger
This album is a mix of your traditional holiday songs and new songs. This is the perfect Christmas album for people who aren’t super into Christmas music. The new songs mostly sound like they could be on any Hiss album and the covers of the normal Christmas songs still carry that same chill Hiss vibe that don’t necessarily make them feel like the super bright, cheery holiday fare that normally punctuates this time of year. As someone who much prefers melancholy Christmas music, this album is right up my alley. It also has one of the best Hanukkah songs I have ever heard on it. Not that I’ve heard many of them, so there may be a whole trove of songs about Hanukkah I just don’t know about, but the couple you hear in regular rotation are terrible. To highlight the songs on this album I shall leave you with “Hung Fire”, one of the original songs on the album. It pretty much encapsulates how I’m feeling this Christmas.
For Christmas by Amanda Shires
If you are someone who pretty much likes your Christmas music to be covers of the same songs just sung by different people, then this album is not for you as aside from “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve”, it is an album full of entirely original Christmas songs. Again it might appeal to those of you who aren’t so much into traditional Christmas music, but are interested in songs that give off a Christmas vibe. The music definitely has the same style and trappings of Christmas music, but with a wide variety of lyrics from nostalgic to tongue in cheek like “Gone for Christmas” I’m going to highlight “Home to Me” because it’s one of those melancholy Christmas songs that I love so much.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Allison Russell
The last Christmas music I want to highlight is a song, not an album. If you’ve been reading this blog during previous Christmases then you might recall that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is my favorite Christmas song, and spoiler alert Allison Russell has made one of my favorite albums of 2021. So I was excited when she released her own version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Even better she went with the superior version of the lyrics singing “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” instead of “hang a shining star upon the highest bough”. She also sings a version of it in French. It is definitely worthy of taking a spot in my top versions of this song.
I did not think I was going to write about Adele’s new album, 30. No one needs me to tell them that Adele has a new album out. If you’re into Adele you certainly know it. If you’re not into Adele you also almost certainly know it. I also didn’t really think I was going to have anything interesting to say about it based on the first single, “Take It Easy”. It’s a very stereotypical Adele song. It’s Adele doing what Adele has done up until now. She’s very good at it, but I personally had grown bored of it. I have already taken to changing the channel on the radio while I’m driving every time that song comes on. Though it is so ubiquitous on the radio right now that sometimes I just flip around from channel to channel and it’s the only song playing. I did want to listen to the whole album though, and it surprised me. I get why they chose to make the first single the one that sounds like everything that has come before, but this album is not that. There is a lot more going on sonically in this album than I would have guessed.
It starts off with the song “Strangers by Nature”, which sounds like it could have been plucked out of an old school Disney animated film with its strings, twinkly bells, and the lilt of Adele’s voice while she’s singing it. It has a lot influences from gospel, old school R&B, and also some more modern pop influences. She also throws back to some of her earlier music from 19 on the song “All Night Parking”. At first I was thinking that it had a little bit of Erykah Badu sound to it and then I was like it sounds like someone else too. Who is it. Then I was like duh, it sounds like Adele on “Chasing Pavements”. Go figure. She has definitely expanded her sound on this album, and I’m digging the results.
I think it strays less from some of her earlier sounds than other songs, but I’m going to highlight the song “Hold On” because it’s the one that was speaking to me lyrically this morning. I also like the way music starts off spare as she’s singing about feeling beat down but continues to build as she more strongly encourages herself to hold on for brighter days as the song goes on. It conveys that feeling of having to will yourself to keep moving forward until you eventual feel like you really can. She’s obviously singing about her feelings after her divorce and hoping for love, but for me right now it was speaking to my feelings about feeling defeated and trapped in this pandemic because while everyone else has decided it’s fine to move on either because they’re vaccinated or they’re not vaccinated and they don’t believe it’s real my immunocompromised self is still living in isolation.
I’m sure many of you are already listening to the Adele album or plan to, but if you like me were starting to right her off a little bit I encourage you to go take a listen. It might surprise you too.
There’s a new ABBA album out today for the first time in 40 years. Much to the chagrin of one of my co-workers I will not be writing about that even though she has been excitedly looking forward to it for several months. I highly doubt she knows this blog exists anyway. I will also not be writing about the new Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats album. I’ve come to the conclusion that I enjoy seeing Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats play live, but I don’t care that much just to sit around and listen to their music. I don’t turn it off if it comes on the radio or anything. I don’t hate it, but it’s not something I actively seek out to listen to. I much prefer Nathaniel Rateliff’s solo stuff.
Instead, I shall be talking about the new album, Valentine, by Snail Mail both because I like it a lot and also because she’s the hometown favorite of the new music out this week. She grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland which is outside of Baltimore for those of you reading who are unfamiliar with this area. So how could I not choose to write about the local girl. My local ice cream shop even has a new flavor they created in collaboration with her celebrating the new album.
Valentine is Lindsey Jordan, aka Snail Mail’s sophomore album. I actually don’t have a lot to say about other than that it’s a really great album from start to finish. Always impressive for a sophomore album, which are notoriously hard to make. It’s doubly impressive for someone so young who is definitely using this album to try and figure out who she is after growing up while touring her first album. The album ranges from more guitar heavy rock songs, to more synth influenced songs, to fairly spare songs. It’s hard to choose one song to represent the whole album, so I’m just going to go with the title track, “Valentine”, though I highly encourage you to go listen to the whole album.
The new album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore by The War on Drugs comes out today. It’s their fifth album and their first in four years. I’ve been looking forward to this album since they announced it. I wrote about “Proof”, the first single off of the album awhile back. I try not to write about multiple songs off the same album very often, which is why I haven’t written about the title song off the album, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” before now. It’s the second single and has also been out for a little while. I love it so much though and with the new album coming out today I finally decided to cave and write about it. My other option was to write about the new Tori Amos album, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to that one yet and I really wanted to write about this song. So here we go.
Bear with me as I make a brief digression. Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy fame has a new podcast that I hate but also can’t stop listening to. I don’t think she’s a good interviewer and this podcast reveals some rather kooky beliefs that she has that make me kind of hate her. Anyway, on the podcast she keeps talking about how she believes in the power of frequency and how people are drawn to certain frequencies and also she believes in something called frequency medicine, which she said she got into after she had a cyst on her pancreas. She said her doctors told her they would giver her 8 weeks to try her hocus pocus and if it didn’t work she was having surgery. Guess what? It didn’t work and she had the surgery, and yet somehow this confirmed her belief in it? I’m just thinking as I’m listening that she doesn’t seem to realize that she is sort of doing the same thing that the anti-vaxxers she also rails against in this episode are doing. She grabbed onto some pseudo-science thing that sounded interesting and believable to her and didn’t let go of the belief even when science and her own experience told her otherwise. The human brain is not evolved enough for the modern world y’all.
Anyway, the reason I tell that story is because despite the fact that I’m super dubious about frequency medicine and even most of her claims about frequency at least a little part of me thinks that there is something there because of songs like “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”. There are certain songs where the music just resonates with me so much like deep down into my soul that I don’t even know how to explain the experience. I think it’s one of the reasons I love music so much, and even if it’s not with music I hope that other people have something in their life that gives them that feeling. Often when I have that experience with a song it’s usually either the guitar work or something to do with vocal harmony. Thus my thought that maybe the experience does have something to do with the frequency in the song. This song gives me that experience both with the guitar and vocal harmonies. There’s something about the guitar in this song as well as the vocal harmonies that Lucius is singing that just ring down into the core of my being like I feel a tuning fork being rung inside my heart. That’s the best I can do to try and describe it. It doesn’t happen with every song, not even most songs including ones I really love, but man when it does it’s an incredible feeling. Needless to say I love this song, and now that I’ve listened to it I love the whole album. Hopefully you can experience even a little fraction of what I do when I listen to it.
For the second week in a row I’m switching up what I was going to write about at the last minute. Before I get to that I wanted to mention that there is a new Hiss Golden Messenger Christmas album, O Come All Ye Faithful, that was released today. I am very excited about it, but I refuse to write about a Christmas album in October so wait for me to circle back around to that one some time after Thanksgiving when it is appropriate to listen to Christmas music. Joy Oladakun also released a phenomenal cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” that includes some guitar work by Jason Isbell. It’s everything I love about cover songs, but it’s part of Spotify Sessions, so you can only listen to it on Spotify.
Anyway, what I am actually going to write about is a new album by a local Baltimore band, Angel Du$t. Until this morning I had never heard of this band. I’m not actually that plugged in to the Baltimore music scene. Hence why I have also never heard of the two bands, Turnstile and Trapped Under Ice, that this band is apparently a supergroup of. This album, Yak: A Collection of Truck Songs, was mentioned on NPR’s New Music Friday podcast this morning. I dug it, so I thought I should give the hometown band a little bit of love this morning. I’m going to feature the same song they did, “Love Is the Greatest” because it’s what drew me into listening to the whole album, even though it’s a lot more low key than the other songs on album. Most of the rest of the album is more pop punk. Apparently they wanted to create an album that sounds like your favorite mix tape that you would put on in the car to drive to. I would say for the most part there are a lot of really good driving songs on it, so they mostly met their aim. You’ll have to go look up the rest of the album on your own if you want to hear that though because song is not that.
There’s a new Adele song out today for the first time in five years. I’m not here to talk about the Adele song though. You don’t need me to tell you that there’s a new Adele song because everyone else already has. If you somehow are reading this while somehow having bypassed the entire rest of the internet since yesterday when the song dropped then bravo to you and I guess I’m really flattered that my blog is the one thing you look at on the internet.
Jason Isbell also released his cover album Georgia Blue today even though it wasn’t originally slated for release until November 25. He vowed that if Georgia went blue during this past presidential election that he would make a cover album of songs by artists from Georgia. He’s covering a lot of great artists along with the help of a bunch of other great artists. I haven’t had a chance to actually listen to it yet, so I’m also not talking about that today. But I’m super excited to listen to it when I get a chance later today.
I am however here to talk about the new song “Virginia Beach” by Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby. Those are two artists that orbit around a bunch of other artists that I love, but for whatever reason I am not super into. I’m super digging this song though. I love the steel guitar. The line, “I have been to a Carolina” cracks me up. It’s like I don’t know I was in one of those Carolina states. I don’t know which one. Doesn’t matter. I don’t know why it tickles me so much, but it does. It may be the foremost reason that I like this song. And that’s what I have to say about that. Take a break from listening to Adele and give this a whirl.
I had a couple of other songs that I was thinking about writing about this morning and then I heard this new song by St. Paul and the Broken Bones and decided to go with it instead. I will keep the others in my back pocket as we’re starting to edge towards the part of the year where at least historically not as much new music is released. I will just let the opening lyrics tell you why I switched things up and wanted to share this song today.
“Lose yourself in a song that doesn’t make you want to cry God knows we need it right now”
I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about going into today. Adia Victoria’s new album Southern Gothic came out today. The War on Drugs also dropped the single “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” featuring Lucius, which is a song I really like. However, I wrote about songs by both of those artists in recent weeks and didn’t really want to repeat so soon if I could find something else to write about. I did not realize that José González’s new album, Local Valley, came out today until I was listening to NPR’s New Music Friday podcast.
I had been enjoying the song “El Invento”, which was the first single off of the album, since it came out way back in February. I kind of lost track that there was still an album it was attached to that hadn’t been released yet. A lot of this album still has González’s signature rhythmic almost meditative guitar picking sound, but it also expands in new ways. It’s the first time he’s sung in his native language of Spanish on any of his music. Most of it’s English, but there are a couple of songs in Spanish. He also has a few songs where he gets a bit more expansive in his sound. I’m sticking with talking about one that still sounds very much like a José González song to me.
“Visions” is the song they highlighted on the podcast episode I was listening to. It wasn’t the kind of song I wanted to hear this morning, but it turns out it was the song I needed to hear. It’s been a bit of a difficult week in my brain with lots of feelings of loss and depression as so many people seem to have restarted living their lives as if there wasn’t still a pandemic raging, but I still feel stuck in isolation. It was one thing when none of the things I love were happening, but it’s another to know that they’re happening and I’m now just missing out on them. This song with it’s meditative tone and with sounds of birds chirping it in it was the perfect calm as I was on my walk just before sunrise with the ground still wet from rain and crickets loudly chirping around me.
The lyrics that reminded me everything is cyclical and life will continue to move forward in some way and that we are all connected on this world for good or ill. In a time where I feel increasingly angry at the people who don’t want to understand or care that their actions have consequences for other people and thus that connection feels poisoned, this song offered what I felt was a more hopeful interpretation of that connection.