Ending in Two

Yeah, I know…I’ve gone on record multiple times that years ending in two are awesome years in music. And 2022 saw a lot of great releases! But I think it’s me this time out that didn’t do my due diligence and connect as deeply with it all as I should have. It’s not that it didn’t interest me, as a lot of it did. It’s that I didn’t allow myself to resonate with it.

I’ve been using variations of the word ‘resonance’ a lot lately, in two different ways. Musically, it means “the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.” Emotionally, it means “the ability to evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions.” Both are important to me: things that hit me in the heart not just emotionally but creatively.

And I haven’t been letting myself do either of them over the past couple of years. Maybe it’s partly the pandemic’s fault for holding back or blocking so many musicians out there. Maybe it’s partly my own fault for not making a strong enough attempt to make that connection in the first place. Maybe it’s also partly my own fault for focusing on the acquiring (yay for being a discography completist!) and less on the music itself. Maybe it’s that I listen to KEXP so frequently that I don’t give myself enough time to relisten to what I already have in my collection. Maybe it’s that my Day Job doesn’t allow me the ability to listen to my collection while working. Maybe it’s just too many real world distractions. It could be a lot of things.

I think what I’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks is do a monthly overview of 2022 to reconnect myself with this year’s releases and posting them here. There were a lot of great songs and albums out there that I loved but for some reason never completely connected to. And I’d like to see what I might have forgotten. Maybe I’ll reconnect with them this time around.

Let’s start with what has resonated with me: “Golden Air” by Sun’s Signature — the first new music from Elizabeth Fraser in many years. I absolutely adore the EP it’s from and I think that’s a good place to start!

Stay tuned for more!

Coming Soon: A Listen to the Beatles’ Revolver: Super Deluxe Edition

When I have the time (and when Jules isn’t darting hither and yon and causing all kinds of chaos), I’ll finally have a sit-down-and-listen to the new Revolver box set! This album has long been my number one favorite Beatles record (with The Beatles coming an extremely close second) ever since I bought it sometime in the early 80s so yes, I am extremely familiar with it, inside and out. I’ve listened to it in headphones to recognize the quirks, semi-hidden sounds and edits. I play it every spring when I sit down to do my taxes. I’m slowly learning more of the songs on guitar.

So yeah…hearing this album with a completely new stereo mix is going to be interesting.

A bit on the new Cure songs

So The Cure, one of my favorite bands from the 80s and a huge influence not just my songwriting but my fiction writing as well, have finally slipped out a few new tracks! Well, sort of, at any rate. They’re in the midst of a tour and they’ve been playing what seem to be new songs, quite possibly from an upcoming album called Songs of a Lost World (at least that’s the current rumor).

This isn’t the first time they’d test out new songs live before recording them. A lot of bands do that, actually. Let’s give them a listen, yes?

I joked with my friend Chris, who shares my longtime love for the band, that these two new songs passed right by me because I swear they had a song called “Endsong” already. [Well, “End” is on Wish and “Plainsong” is on Disintegration, so my brain probably smooshed the two together.] Still…I like what I hear so far. It’s similar to their track “Homesick” in that it has the slow and extended opening before arriving at the main lyrics, which don’t seem to have a chorus. Very much a Disintegration/Wish vibe going here.

“It Can Never Be the Same”, on the other hand, reminds me a lot of 00s-era Cure, a mix between The Cure and 4:13 Dream. It’s got the patented dark dreaminess but with a tighter and more orchestral sheen. But it also hints at the construction of repetition that made Disintegration so mesmerizing.

What to make of these two tracks that may or may not be a part of a VERY long time in coming future album? It certainly shows that Robert Smith hasn’t rested on his laurels since 2008. Between the numerous tours and guest spots on albums and soundtracks, he’s kept busy. And that classic Cure sound hasn’t gone away, either…their best songs have either been the irresistible pop of songs like “Friday I’m in Love” or “Close to Me” at one end of the spectrum and the epic gloom of “Homesick” and “All Cats Are Grey” at the other. I’m glad to see they’ve still got it.

This Week’s Earworm: Cheekface, “We Need a Bigger Dumpster”

Thanks to KEXP, this little bit of silliness has been stuck in my head for the last several days. Cheekface comes from Los Angeles but definitely has that same slacker vibe that Pavement had, especially in the “Cut Your Hair” 90s, only much goofier. [Come to think of it, I think it also fits in with some of the late 80s humorous college rock as well, such as The Strawberry Zots, Beat Happening and King Missile. It’s just retro-sounding enough that I definitely would have included it on the mixtapes I made back then. It also helps that the covers to all their releases thus far are hand-drawn in that wonderful did-it-during-study-period style.] It’s not often that a song both perfectly embodies the decidedly Gen-X “we’re fucked but what can we really do anyway” vibe of Covid these last few years and contains a shout-out reminiscent of the Gunshow “this is fine” comic/meme.

I’m yet to listen to the rest of the album, but from what I’ve heard so far, I’m really enjoying. And come to find out, they also recently did a great They Might Be Giants cover!

Spare Oom Playlist, April 2022 Edition, Part II

Spring is awash with plenty of great new records worth checking out!

Hatchie, Giving the World Away, released 22 April. The long awaited follow up to 2019’s amazing Keepsake expands on the band’s perky dreampop, creating even more lush soundscapes and memorable tunes.

Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One [25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition], released 22 April. YLT had always been an indie favorite but a curiosity that never got its due until this eighth album that dropped in early 1997, and this one’s considered their best of their 90s era. It even spawned a minor radio hit with “Autumn Sweater”.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Omnium Gatherum, released 22 April. This band took me a few releases to appreciate…and of course thanks to KEXP for sharing their best songs and simulcasting a live show! They’ve always been a bit of a weirdo psych-prog band and this record is no different, but they manage to avoid the musical navelgazing and druggy weirdness to achieve a perfect level of enjoyable quirkiness.

Bowling for Soup, Pop Drunk Snot Bread, released 22 April. BfS continues their run of goofball punk with hilarious lyrics and catchy pop-punk melodies, including a hilarious single about wanting to be a gorgeous film star.

Fontaines DC, Skinty Fia, released 22 April. This Irish band continues to fascinate with their moody post-punk, this time inserting a lot more local color and culture. It’s not as dark as their previous album A Hero’s Death but it’s certainly a lot more dense.

Skylar Grey, Skylar Grey, released 28 April. Known more as a backup singer and songwriter with others such as Rihanna, Diddy, Macklemore, Alicia Keys and others, Grey has occasionally dropped a solo record that slides somewhere outside the pop norm and embraces her darker moods.

Toro y Moi, MAHAL, releaseed 29 April. Chaz Bundick has been putting out excellent chillwave albums for over a decade now, and this one continues his string of great records that are simultaneously relaxing and groovy.

Royksopp, Profound Mysteries, released 29 April. This one’s my favorite of the month — they’ve always been a bit of a laid back electronic band, incorporating meandering melodies that feel more like Air than Daft Punk, and this one’s full of them. It’s a lovely-sounding record and has already gotten significant play during my writing sessions!

Let’s Eat Grandma, Two Ribbons, released 29 April. This band has been around for a bit but I’d never gotten around to checking them out, and now I’m wondering what took me so long! I’m always a big fan of the recent waves of synth-pop, especially albums that fit my writing moods, and this band fits perfectly.

Spare Oom Playlist, April 2022 Edition, Part I

A lot of new releases popped out last month, enough where’ I’m gonna need to split it into two parts! And not only are there a number of new bands I’m really digging, there are a few classic ones that I didn’t expect!

EMF, Go Go Sapiens, released 1 April. I’ll be honest, I did not see this one coming! They may not be as funky and sample-rific as they once were (and to be honest, they’d already shed that by the time Stigma came out in 1992), but this is a pleasant surprise and and really enjoyable album.

The Clockworks, The Clockworks EP, released 1 April. It may only be a four-song EP, but I’ll take anything from one of my favorite finds of last year. They’ve definitely got that Interpol-esque post-punk sound down perfectly and I can’t wait to hear more!

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Unlimited Love, released 1 April. These guys have been around since the early 80s and it was only a matter of time before they moved a bit away from their patented punk-funk sound. It’s long, it’s a bit meandering, and a lot of it sounds quite mellow, but it’s still quite enjoyable.

Orville Peck, Bronco, released 8 April. The masked singer of unknown origins (although the prevailing rumor is that it’s drummer Daniel Pitout of the band Nü Sensae) releases his second album of spot-on old-school country crooning and it’s absolutely fantastic.

Son Lux, Everything Everywhere All at Once soundtrack, released 8 April. This quirky band was the perfect choice to do the score for the bonkers-yet-brilliant Michelle Yeoh/Ke Huy Quan movie that everyone’s talking about. And yes, the movie really is that brilliant.

Jack White, Fear of the Dawn, released 8 April. White’s solo releases have never failed to capture my attention and impress me with its catchy tunes. I’m really digging this one.

Oceanator, Nothing’s Ever Fine, released 8 April. Super fun boppy guitar punk that kind of reminds me of the bouncier side of Throwing Muses and Breeders. Go check out her stuff on Bandcamp, it’s worth a listen!

Wet Leg, Wet Leg, released 8 April. Slightly weird and a bit off, but full of super catchy melodies and humor. Definitely worth checking out.

Sault, Air, released 15 April. Not only did this mysterious collective drop an album with almost zero pre-release promotion — other than an “oh hey, check it out” tweet — but they dropped a…symphonic album? It’s definitely not the soul/rap/r&b hybrid their fans were used to. But it’s still amazing.

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See you next Tuesday for Part II!

Spare Oom Playlist, March 2022 Edition

It’s the end of the month, so it’s time to feature What I’m Currently Listening To once again! More good stuff from bands old and new — this year is definitely turning out to be a great one, just as I’d hoped!

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, IV, released 4 March. This band returns from its hiatus with more fun jangly, shoegazey indie pop that feels so relaxing and joyful. This is definitely a record that’ll show up on my writing session playlist!

Stereophonics, Oochya!, released 4 March. This Welsh band is still going strong after twenty-plus years with moody and melodic tunes that don’t quite fit into just one style.

Nilüfer Yanya, Painless, released 4 March. I discovered this singer on KEXP and I am totally in love with this record, especially the single “Stabilise”. One of my favorite records of the year so far.

Bob Moses, The Silence in Between, released 4 March. These guys come back with yet another great indie-synth hybrid record that I know I will constantly replay. So many great songs on this one!

(G)I-DLE, I Never Die, released 14 March. This K-Pop band returns with a full album of tunes that don’t always rely on their regular dance-pop style, even sliding into snarky rock such as on “Tomboy”.

Stabbing Westward, Chasing Ghosts, released 18 March. After an extremely long break, Christopher Hall resurrects his band and it truly sounds like he picked up where he left off, with their signature gothy alt-metal aural attack. Well worth the wait.

Charli XCX, Crash, released 18 March. Smooth synthy dance-pop similar to Robyn, full of catchy tracks including the single “New Shapes”.

The Clockworks, “Endgame” single, released 18 March. NEW CLOCKWORKS WOOOO! And they’re coming out with an EP on April first!!! My favorite new band!

Pinch Points, Process, released 18 March. Another one of those ‘never heard of them, let’s give them a listen’ bands that’s totally in my wheelhouse: twitchy angular punk that sounds like they’ve been listening to X’s Los Angeles. Good stuff.

PLOSIVS, PLOSIVS, released 18 March. Another favorite of the year, REALLY digging this record. I recently described them as a sort of bouncier, punkier Interpol, with really interesting melodies. “Broken Eyes” is a huge favorite of mine at the moment. Also, my favorite band name of the moment!

Bauhaus, “Drink the New Wine” single, released 25 March. The original goth foursome return with a new Exquisite Corpse-style song, each member providing their own segment with only a drum loop tying them together. (Just like their b-side “1-2-3-4”, actually.)

Placebo, Never Let Me Go, released 25 March. This band may have mellowed a little over the years, but their songs are still strong and vibrant.

Sevdaliza, Raving Dahlia EP, released 25 March. Following up from 2020’s delightfully odd yet catchy Shabrang is an EP further expanding on the singer’s electro dance grooves and disturbing visions.

Wallows, Tell Me That It’s Over, released 25 March. Fun SoCal low-energy indie pop similar to Cayucas.

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Next Up: April promises to be full of stellar new releases as well from the Chili Peppers, Jack White, Lucius, Fontaines DC, Wet Leg, Hatchie and more!

Spare Oom Playlist, February 2022 Edition Part II

As promised, here’s the latter half of what I’ve been listening to for February releases. A lot of old school — both literal and implied — hit my radar in just a few weeks, and it’s all I can do to keep up! Heh. Seriously, there’s a lot here worth checking out. Enjoy!

White Lies, As I Try Not to Fall Apart, released 18 February. This band reminds me of those glossy 80s synth bands that slid between glossy goth and epic production — not necessarily a bad thing if you can pull it off with excellent songwriting and catchy tunes. Really enjoying their new one a lot.

Sea Power, Everything Was Beautiful, released 18 February. Formerly known as British Sea Power — they dropped the ‘British’ last year for personal and political reasons — this band has always released strong and intelligent records that always seem to fly under most people’s radars.

Hurray for the Riff Raff, Life On Earth, released 18 February. Alynda Segarra’s ongoing project as HftRR has played around with all sorts of alternative rock subgenres, and her latest seems to wedge itself somewhere between PJ Harvey and Angel Olsen, featuring tense pop tunes that are super catchy and memorable.

Various Artists, Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono, released 18 February. A tribute album curated by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, this album will make you think twice about Ono’s musicianship. Several bands take Ono’s songs from her career and give them new life and charm.

Beach House, Once Twice Melody, released 18 February. I can safely say this is my favorite album of the year so far! While most of it has already been released as EPs over the last few months, the full eighteen-track project holds together amazingly well, refreshing and redefining dream pop genre.

Midnight Oil, Resist, released 18 February. The politically astute Australian band returned in 2020 with a wonderful mini-album, and the latest full-length is even better. After several years they still sound amazing, and they’ve never given up pushing and fighting for what’s right in this world. I highly recommend this one.

Gang of Youths, angel in realtime, released 25 February. This Sydney band is a bit like Japandroids in my head — not always noisy, but definitely always up-tempo and positive in their sound.

ADULT., Becoming Undone, released 25 February. I’ve always loved that Belgian/Austrian EBM sound of the 80s even though I’d never been able to find most of those records, but ADULT. has managed to bring that sound back, perfectly emulating that harsh, twitchy industrial beat. Weird as hell but also a hell of a lot of fun.

Deserta, Every Moment, Everything You Need, released 25 February. Another dreampop band and one whose first album was one of my year-end favorites a few years back. Their follow-up is just as gorgeous and already a go-to for my writing sessions.

Johnny Marr, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, released 25 February. Like Beach House’s new record, Marr dropped half of this new album in EP form over the last few months. As always, he’s one of the best guitarists out there and can still write a damn fine song.

Tears for Fears, The Tipping Point, released 25 February. Returning for their first new album since 2004 and after nearly a decade touring, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith are back with a lovely gem of a record that’s very reminiscent of their latter discography.

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From what I can tell, March will be just as full of great new albums…can’t wait!

Spare Oom Playlist, February 2022 Edition Part I

For a month that’s nearly always been quiet and unassuming in terms of new releases, February 2022 came out of the gate kicking and screaming with so many titles that I have to split this up into two posts and leave a few out! Hope you enjoy!

Lucy Dacus, “Kissing Lessons” single, released 2 February. Dacus slips out a new non-album single when no one’s looking (and perfectly timed for Valentine’s Day) and it still becomes a fan favorite.

Black Country, New Road, Ants from Up There, released 4 February. I’m still not quite sure how to describe this UK Midlands band other than that their quirky songs veer between chamber pop, angular post-punk and small town oddness, and that they’re a lot of fun to listen to.

Bastille, Give Me the Future, released 4 February. Bastille continues to write catchy and radio-friendly alternapop, but similar to Coldplay’s last few albums they’ve injected a considerable level of experimentation to their songwriting. The result is that they’re not always hit songs but their creativeness keeps you interested and intrigued.

Mitski, Laurel Hell, released 4 February. An indie rock fave at this point. Her latest record continues her focus on the personal, this time on change and transformation, with songs recorded at the height of the pandemic.

The Reds, Pinks and Purples, Summer at Land’s End, released 4 February. My favorite extremely-local band released their latest (and possibly last under that name?) album of moody and meandering ‘fog pop’ (as one-man RPP member Glenn Donaldson himself calls it) and it’s another collection of lovely Felt-like tunes.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, Cold As Weiss, released 11 February. This groovy jazz trio is always a trip to listen to, never wavering from their laid-back melodic funkiness. A simple melody like “Pull Your Pants Up” gets stuck in your head for days.

Eddie Vedder, Earthling, released 11 February. This has to be one of the most cheerful records I’ve heard from Vedder, whose solo and Pearl Jam records tend to lean on the more serious side of things. It’s full of bright and uplifting melodies and a really fun listen.

Andy Bell, Flicker, released 11 February. The Ride guitarist and vocalist gathers a number of unfinished songs he’s had in his cupboards over the years (some dating back to the 1990s!) and it’s a long and sprawling but ultimately fascinating record. There are some shoegazey Ride-like tracks on it, but there are also some janky alt-rock songs that sound like they were influenced by his years in Oasis.

Frank Turner, FTHC, released 11 February. Those expecting Turner to provide us with another album of spiky and often humorous troubadour alt-folk songs will be surprised by the level of raucous power in this record — after all, the title stands for Frank Turner HardCore. It’s a noisy dust-up of an album, but this doesn’t take away from Turner’s smart lyrics and songwriting at all.

Spoon, Lucifer on the Sofa, released 11 February. Spoon returns with an album featuring songs very similar to Kill the Moonlight (released way back in 2002) produced to sound tight and spiky. It’s the sound of a band having held back for too long and feeling the need to exert all that extra energy.

Alt-J, The Dream, released 11 February. This band, as always, never fails to amaze and confuse in equal measure. This new record starts not with calm melodies or even a hit song…but what sounds like a soda pop commercial. It’s kind of hard to figure out where where the band is going at first until you realize that’s the whole point of this record — it’s a fever dream of anxieties, distractions and oddly linked themes. It’s an album that’s meant to feel disjointed and tense, even when its melodies remain lovely and even heartbreaking at times.

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Stay tuned for Part II!

Spare Oom Playlist, January 2022 Edition

Do I have high hopes for this year because it ends in ‘2’? Of course I do. Am I pleasantly surprised that the first month kicked off in fabulous fashion with some solid records that I’m already grooving to? Yes indeed!

The Weeknd, Dawn FM, released 7 January. Descending further into a semi-retro mood of 80s grooves and out-there production, The Weeknd’s latest is a foray into moody late night FM radio, complete with a disembodied laid-back smooth-talking DJ (voiced surprisingly by none other than actor Jim Carrey…??) providing in-between track talk.

Cat Power, Covers, released 14 January. Chan Marshall’s third covers record continues in the vein of reimagining several songs (including one of her own) into something different. Her take on Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” is absolutely stunning.

Moist, End of the Ocean, released 14 January. This Canadian band has constantly flown under the US radar but I’ve always liked their records. This new album is full of uplifting songs and great melodies.

The Wombats, Fix Yourself, Not the World, released 14 January. This band always has a brilliant knack for writing such cheery songs with some of the gloomiest lyrics and they pull it off so wonderfully! This one immediately grew on me and I’m sure this one’s going to be getting a lot more play over the next several months.

Elvis Costello & the Imposters, The Boy Named If, released 14 January. EC is still going strong after multiple decades with no sign of stopping. And he can still be acerbic, gritty and urgent when it’s needed. This album is short, tight, and ready to roll.

Pedro the Lion, Havasu, released 20 January. David Bazan surprises everyone with a ‘hey guess what here’s a new album’ and drops the long-awaited sequel to 2019’s Phoenix, and it’s a corker. It’s dreamlike and even a bit playful, focusing mostly on his own childhood memories.

Kids On a Crime Spree, Fall in Love, Not in Line, released 21 January. This one’s a recent find for me, they’re locals (Oakland) and on the Slumberland label, and they’re named after the SF Examiner article that inspired the movie Over the Edge, and I love them already. Punky and semi-lofi (just like most of Slumberland’s signings), just how I like my indie.

Yard Act, The Overload, released 21 January. Another one of my favorite finds of 2021, this super fun band takes the jankiness of The Fall, the melodies of The Strokes and the humor of numerous Northern UK punk bands (these boys are from Leeds) and weaves together weird and hilarious songs that stick in your head for days. Highly recommended!

Paul Draper, Cult Leader Tactics, released 28 January. The ex-Mansun singer releases his second album with a much darker and harder edge. Its first single “Omega Man” is a duet with Porcupine Tree’s Steven WIlson, kind of reminds me of the creepier songs from Six, Draper’s 1999 album with Manson and its video — filmed in the Chernobyl exclusion zone — really underscores the heaviness of the song and the album.

Eels, Extreme Witchcraft, released 28 January. Mark Oliver Everett’s music evolves once again with a surprisingly poppy and upbeat record, just going to show that not all of his songs are dour or fraught with tension.

The Beatles, Get Back: The Rooftop Performance, released for streaming on 28 January. A playlist/streamed album created to tie in with the IMAX big screen event of the rooftop concert, this is the full forty minute “show” complete with between-song chatter and multiple takes. For a recording done outside in the dead of winter on a roof in central London, this sounds pretty damn good!

Our Lady Peace, Spiritual Machines 2, released 28 January. I’ve yet to give this a full listen, but I’ve been looking forward to it, as I loved their 2001 release Spiritual Machines record. Both are projects in connection with futurist Ray Kurzweil and are quite leftfield compared to their more straightforward rock albums and aren’t for everyone, but I remain intrigued. [I am, however, slightly let down that they chose to release this in NFT form a few months previous, as I am very much not a fan of crypto nonsense, but I digress.]

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Stay tuned for February, where we’ll see releases from Alt-J, Bastille, The Reds Pinks & Purples, Spoon, Beach House, Deserta, Johnny Marr, and more!