I wasn’t expecting Arrows, the second album by Polly Scattergood, to be as dark as it is. “Wanderlust,” the single, was mildly gothic, but I wasn’t expecting songs like “I’ve Got A Heart,” which sounds like she’s actually whispering her way through an emotional collapse. “Silver Lining” is somewhere in the middle; the chorus is catchy, but the verses are metaphors on top of metaphors about starting life off in dirt that smells like trampled dreams. “I feel no pain, I feel no pain” she repeats in a breathy soprano. “This is not pain,” she says, although it’s unclear whether who she’s trying to convince.
17. Janelle Monáe, “Electric Lady (feat. Solange)”
I liked “Q.U.E.E.N” fine, but I have no idea why it was released as the first single from Janelle Monae’s third album when it’s one of the least compelling songs on an album that’s pretty jam-packed with great songs. Like “Primetime,” her duet with Miguel, and this jaunty song, which features “woo-hoo” sounds from Solange.
On first hearing “Bipp” I assumed that Sophie was an anonymous teenaged girl who lucked into a really great pop single, all high-pitched vocals and big electronic beats. I did not assume that Sophie was an anonymous (but probably male) producer from London who refuses to speak in interviews and who told Pitchfork in an email that he (probably he?) chose the name Sophie because “it tastes good and it’s like moisturizer.”
Low, the ultimate downer band, have been producing musical laudanum for years and years and years now. Their music doesn’t resonate for me quite the way it did when I was a college freshman snowbound in the hellhole that is “just outside of Utica,” but The Invisible Way, appropriately released in the dead of winter, is probably my favorite album of theirs since Things We Lost In The Fire thirteen years ago.
I’m glad that they’re pissing people off by playing one-song sets at the Walker Art Museum, and I’m glad that Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are the same drone-pop sadsacks that they’ve always been.
I’m not actually the last living Ladytron fan—singer Helen Marnie’s solo album was crowdfunded, after all—but it does feel that way, sometimes. How else could I have not heard a single thing about her Crystal World album until single “The Hunter” appeared in a friend’s Spotify playlist. It’s not a bad album, by any means, and the English-lady-with-a-bunch-of-keyboards trend is hardly over. More people should hear it! But a band that was so outwardly trendy from 2000-2003 can hardly be expected to make headlines a decade later, I guess. This song, by far my favorite, was co-produced by sometime Nine Inch Nails member Alessandro Cortini.
The funny thing about year-end best of lists is that they often inspire me to feel bad about missing music the rest of the year. These New Puritans had a new album?!, I found myself thinking this morning while looking at another list. Jesus Christ, what have I been doing all year!
Anyway, Minneapolis rapper Lizzo slipped under my radar altogether until she appeared on a list of, I don’t know, LGBT-friendly music videos of the year or something. Because she used a gay marriage rally at the Minnesota State Capitol* as the backdrop for “Batches and Cookies,” the first single from her completely delightful album LIZZOBANGERS. Well, one of the backdrops; there’s also a motorcycle ride and a man getting greased up and some skinny boys eating crullers in their underpants.
Related to absolutely nothing, My new favorite fact about Minneapolis rapper Lizzo is that she used to play flute in a Houston prog-rock band called Ellypseas.
*I did a double-take, thinking she was at the Rhode Island State House, but actually I guess a lot of American state capitols look the same.** I didn’t realize that. I also didn’t realize that Rhode Island is one of only eight states to call their legislative building the State House and not the State Capitol.
The year’s more subtle pop metaphor about wrecking balls comes to us via Jessie Ware, the English singer-songwriter whose album came out a year and a half ago but which wasn’t released in this country until April. “Wildest Moments” is really sad, an almost-breakup song about two wrongs (no rights) who keep trying to work things out even though it’s clear that everything’s just totally gone to shit. Throughout it all Ware sounds pretty calm, which just adds to the effect that she’s either self-medicating or else totally shut off from her own reality.
Jenny Hval is not for everyone. Aggressively sexual but rarely very sexy, her songs read like they were written for a semiotics project, her voice getting higher and higher as she pulls lines from, say, Disney’s Pinocchio, or Twin Peaks. There’s a song called “Death of the Author” and there’s another one called “Oslo Oedipus” and they both sound like songs that would have titles like that. It’s a really good album, albeit one you hopefully wouldn’t be in the mood to hear very often, and the title track/opener, is a pretty dramatic indication of what’s to come later.