This week’s edition of Timely Tunes includes the latest by Hiss Golden Messenger, Foxygen, American Football and Swet Shop Boys. And of course, a new Spotify playlist for your listening enjoyment.
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Hiss Golden Messenger “Cracked Windshield” (From “Heart Like a Levee”)
I’m a bit late to the soulful country rock of Hiss Golden Messenger, picking up the story on 2014’s “Lateness of Dancers”. This sixth album has particularly shaken me, and I have woken up with “Cracked Windshield” echoing in my brain more than once this past week. The solo project of MC Taylor, formerly of hardcore punk band Ignota and San Francisco indie rock underdogs The Court & Spark, is beautifully sure-footed and full of the kind of storm-weathered lyrical insight that I miss from the late Vic Chesnutt. “I was a dreamer, babe, when I set out on the road, but did I say I could find my way home?”
I actually went back and forth on this one. Is it an endearing, oddball, orchestral epic channeling Randy Newman and Rufus Wainwright, or is it a chaotic, kitchen sink cacophony that leans a bit too heavy into Frank Zappa excess? It’s both. I thought their 2013 album “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic” was a charming Kinks love letter, but they lost me a bit on the overstuffed follow-up “…And Star Power”. This song actually makes me want to go back and give the latter another shot. Its off-kilter sprawl rewards repeated listens and gives me hope that whatever follows will be worth paying close attention to.
American Football “Desire Gets In the Way” (From “American Football”)
The first, and until now, only, American Football album was released in 1999 while I was still in high school. I remember downloading their music on a glacially slow Internet connection, blissfully unaware of the coming uncertainties of the Dubya/Cheney era, back when my biggest anxieties were social awkwardness and acne. Their debut was not commercially successful, but its stature and influence has continued to snowball over the past 17 years; its unassuming quietude aging better than many brasher contemporaries. Lumped in with a lot of emo bands of the time, but always feeling more akin to the mathy post-rock of The Sea and Cake, it’s reassuring to hear a band come back in middle age to sound this wonderfully present.
Swet Shop Boys “Zayn Malik” (From “Cashmere”)
Himanshu Suri (Heems) is a Punjabi-Indian from Queens, best known as a former member of cult rap group Das Racist, and Riz Ahmed (Riz MC) is a British-Pakistani from London who recently starred in the acclaimed HBO miniseries “The Night Of”, and they have teamed up for one of the more intriguing rap records of the year. “Cashmere” is a pun of “Kashmir”, the region of strife fought over by India and Pakistan since 1947, and the debut Swet Shop Boys album tackles similarly serious topics of anti-immigrant racism, the South Asian diaspora, cultural bastardization, and class with both cheeky silliness and barbed wit.
Spotify Playlist: Timely Tunes, Vol. 24
1.Townes Van Zandt “My Proud Mountains”
2. Hiss Golden Messenger “Cracked Windshield”
3. David Crosby “Laughing”
4. Van Morrison “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River”
5. Rufus Wainwright “Poses”
6. Foxygen “America”
7. The Kinks “Nothing to Say”
8. The Olivia Tremor Control “Jumping Fences”
9. The Appleseed Cast “Mile Marker”
10. American Football “Desire Gets in the Way”
11. Tortoise “Everglade”
12. Mykki Blanco “Loner”
13. Swet Shop Boys “Zayn Malik”
14. DJ/Rupture “AO1 Jibal Al Nuba, Gemini Dub”
Note by Deanna: What are you listening to lately? If you’re on Spotify, leave me a link. I’m always on the lookout for new music.