Here is the music I am listening to this week #8
More music. That I'm listening to. This week
A special edition of Here is the music I am listening to this week, um, this week. Because I’m in Italy. So it’s Here is the music I am listening to as I heavily perspire and look at old churches, really. That makes it sound like I’m not having a nice time. I’ve had a lovely time. I’m ready to be home with Elden Ring and my podcast editing software and guinea pigs now, but it’s been a smashing break. Here’s what has soundtracked it...
Lots of Soccer Mommy (but not the new album… yet)
Sophie Allison has a new album out. I haven’t listened to it yet. I will listen to it and I bet it’s really great, but I’ve got this thing where if I like a song by an artist, it takes me ages to untangle myself from it. Soccer Mommy’s second album, Color Theory, has been out for two years now, and I still can’t see much further than this song. I've sat on a lot of trains this week. Fast and humid trains, driving into the green textures of Tuscany. I’ve been thinking about the book I’m writing. There’s a lot of sad stuff in there. And as I’ve seen trees blur with bushes, and fields melt into mountains, I’ve listened to this song over and over and over again, my mind meandering into the past. It’s rare that the pre-chorus is the best thing about a song, but the “even when everything is fine” line is the most deliciously melancholy hook I’ve heard in years.
MUNA - MUNA
I was absolutely crazy about MUNA’s first album, 2017’s About U. An unbelievable record, with some really interesting ideas about sexuality, love/lust and gender. I played it into the ground. Me and my wife even chose the album’s stand out song, ‘I Know a Place’, as the first dance at our wedding. It’s a lovely memory remembering our friends and family cascading onto the dance floor to a song most of them didn’t know, but a song that I think most instantly felt (NB: all of the aforementioned is true, though I actually think the best song on the record is this - but that would have been a hella glum beginning to our marriage…). Few are the times I’ve been more disappointed by a record then, than 2019’s Saves The World. I couldn’t find anything I liked about About U within Saves The World. Nothing at all. It was as if all the warmth and wooziness and been ironed out of them. It was brittle. Glassy eyed. I almost wanted to find a way to them to ask if something had happened, it was so… hollow.
Maybe they felt it too. I normally feel like when a band releases a self-titled record a few releases into their catalogue they’re trying to draw a line on something that’s gone prior. MUNA, see, is some comeback and a near facsimile of what I loved about them from the off. Not that I want them to retread old ground forever, but unlike last time round, MUNA feels like a record made by humans and not algorithm. Its pulse is organic. It’s got dynamics. There’s pain there. And joy. Remember joy? And I actually think they’re pretty close to being my favourite modern pop group again.
dEUS - ‘Suds & Soda’
It’s been in my head all week. I think I heard a car alarm that sounded like the intro or something. He’d likely wince at it now, but I still think Pete Paphides’ one-line summary in Melody Maker is funny. “Art-wank, but as a big fan of art and wanking, I make no apologies for proclaiming dEUS the most refreshing guitar aspirants of 1994.”
The Beatles - ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’
My most recent Beatles obsession is still in full swing, and it’s this piece of 1967 Lennondelica that’s forming the crux of it. Putting aside the “Living is easy with eyes closed” line - which I can’t hear without having the mental image of an elderly John hunched over his laptop watching Infowars - I honestly think it’s their best song. You know the song, Beatles songs are as omnipresent as oxygen, you breathe them in as much as listen to them, but have you ever listened to it on headphones? Yeah, I know that’s the muso equivalent of ‘have you read the comic book?’ But if ever there was a song that sounded weirder, more interesting, heavier, on headphones it’s this.
Crack Cloud - ‘Please Yourself’
There’s a new Crack Cloud record out on September 16th. It’s called Tough Baby. The last one, 2020’s Pain Olympics, was one of my favourite records that year, so I’m pretty psyched. This is the very good lead off single. It’s opening line is “Please yourself reactive ass motherfucker” and it just gets better and better from there. If you’ve never heard Crack Cloud before, they’re a group from Vancouver made up of mental health patients and their support workers, and the visual media they make is as core to the experience as the music themselves. This is a very good pop promo. Crack Cloud are sort of like the LCD Soundsystem that I don’t find irrationally irritating.
Self Esteem - ‘I Do This All The Time’ (at Glastonbury 2022)
I really do think it’s one of the great modern pop songs. In lots of ways, the song’s parent album, Prioritise Pleasure, reminds me of the first Streets album (22 years old this year, FFS), which itself felt quintessentially like a walk through urban Britain. The blare of R&B radio. The taxis tuned to LBC. The cafe playing Radio One. The bustle of conversation outside the tube station. Honks and horns. Audio soup.
Delicate Steve - ‘Looking Glass’
If you’re new to Delicate Steve, he’s basically alt.muzak, which sounds absolutely fucking terrible, but bare with me. He’s recorded with Paul Simon (who thematically his music has a lot in common with), been sampled by Kanye West, toured in the Black Keys, while there’s licks of Dire Straits all over his music. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’ll let you decide (though you should know that this is my safe place), but it only enhances the belief I have that I’ll share with anyone who is listening that all modern American indie rock sounds like Dire Straits. Anyway, he’s got a new album out next week. It’s called After Hours. It’s what I listen to at the moment when I’m writing because it’s got no words to distract me. It’s really good.
Greg Puciato - ‘Lowered’ (feat. Reba Meyers), but all of the new album really
I’m 42 on Sunday. I’m fast running out of heroes. I’m starting to wonder whether I should be looking outside of rock ‘n’ roll for them. Feels dumb to keep pinning my hopes on vagrants. Might be too late to stop now. Anyway, Greg Puciato remains.
Here’s a podcast interview with Greg I recently enjoyed. And a great utterance below.
[Some musicians are in] this imaginary cage of, "I gotta keep getting bigger! We need to do more than we did last time! We need to sell more!" No, you don't! That's madness! Are you trying to be Walmart? What's your point in making art? Is it to sell the most stuff? It's just a horrible thing to do to gauge your success purely on quantification. I'd rather make five hundred cool records that, when I see one of our fans coming up to me with that record, it bonds us in a way and I'm like, "Oh, man! You've got one of those? That's incredible! Because I was involved in every process of this and there's only five hundred of them and you're one of them. That's sick!"
This song, from his second solo album, Mirrorcell, is astonishing. Iron edged, shoegaze infused rock. And get this… it’s not even in the top three songs on the album…
Regressive Left – Bad Faith (ft. Mandy, Indiana)
This is a very good song by a new-ish band I’m really excited about. It’s almost No Wave. I think they might be heterodox. The name suggests so. The song is about trying to understand complexity in people, specifically on social media, and not thinking you know someone from 280 characters. Thems my politics see. Questioning, empathetic, unaligned to ideology and with a humanitarian twist. I find myself walking into rooms these days and trying to suss out how heterodox someone is. Like dogs at airports sniffing for drugs. “Oh, you’ve got an opinion on critical race theory have you? Great, we’re best friends now…” But whatever, if you don’t care about any of that shit, you will agree surely that the bass on this song is magnificent.
Gojira - Fortitude
I mean, I listen to Gojira all the time, but to be honest, I was looking through the stats for The James McMahon Music Podcast earlier this week and thought, “hmmm, way more people should have listened to that podcast I did with Gojira” and I just thought I’d try to get some more downloads for it.
I don’t know what I did right, but loads of people have taken out paid subscriptions to this Substack recently. Thank you!