Bryce Rudow is a freelance political/pop-culture journalist and he likes music. You can send all hatemail to [email protected] and tweet vitriol at him @brycetrudow. Go to his website and read interesting things: BryceTaylorRudow.com
It feels weird to be writing a music column and not just pour out 18,000 words on To Pimp A Butterfly, but it’s really hard to do without using these Hot Take buzzwords…
Kendrick Lamar quick-take cheat sheet: “jazzy,” “soulful,” “experimental,” “discursive,” “heady,” “grower,” “incendiary,” “the 70s.”
— Steven Hyden (@Steven_Hyden) March 16, 2015
However, if you are feeling empowered as an individual and citizen in this democracy of ours after listening to Kendrick’s life-changing album, there’s nothing you could do that would help more than volunteering in your community.
And wouldn’t you know it? BYT just happened to step up their activism game and unleashed a great Volunteering in DC guide that helps you find the perfect place to best spend the time you’d normally waste watching Netflix and masturbating. Check it out and help yourself by helping others (I recommend 826DC).
Speaking of charity, please make sure to follow the Tunes You Should Know playlist on Spotify. It’s cool.
On to this week’s fixations!
- Will Butler – Policy
Last week, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of Broad City were on The Daily Show. After much mutual fawning over one another’s work, Jon Stewart thanked them for bringing back to television a palpable sense of joy in the creation process. They laughed off the compliment politely and that was that, but it’s all I could think about when I was watching Will Butler play Rock and Roll Hotel last Saturday night.
Marcus J. Moore of the Washington Post name-dropped allusions to things like (young) Paul McCartney and (younger) David Bowie for songs like “Take My Side,” and “Anna,” respectively, in his review, but I’d actually look a little deeper into the (North) American songbook. I saw Jerry Lee Lewis fire up there. I saw Elvis swagger, and I saw Neil Young raw vulnerability. Hell, I saw a few James Murphy moves that Butler must have picked up during the Reflektor recording sessions. Add in a pair of petite-sized doo-wop backup singers and a Man-on-Fire drummer decked out like a 70’s disco god, and you’ve got one hell of a show.
But while the crowd was more than happy to be there — they were finally getting to see the (other) guy from Arcade Fire! — the biggest smiles of the night seemed to come from on stage instead of in front of it. Will Butler, the other guy from Arcade Fire, was finally getting to be, as his simple but humorously impactful t-shirt reminded us, just Will.
- Young Fathers – “Shame”
Young Fathers, the band that shocked the world with their 2014 Mercury Prize win, has unleashed “the single.”
Yes I know they already released a song from their upcoming sophomore album a few weeks ago, but “Rain Or Shine” was a red herring, a dip into the waters to see what kind of press response they’d get. It was a good song, but it wasn’t ‘new single from 2014 Mercury Prize winner’ good.
And something tells me this is going to be the start of a momentum wave that Young Fathers is going to enjoy surfing on as they get ready for their record release. Fortunately, you can get a chance to catch them early on in this swell next month when they play Rock and Roll Hotel on April 12th. Get tickets here.
- Ben Khan – “1,000”
Ben Khan has yet to put out a song I don’t like, and I’m still constantly playing “Youth” months after it came out.
I’ve written about him before on more than few occassions, but at this point all I can say is that I want a full album and/or a North American tour from this kid.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
AURAL PLEASURE WITH FRIENDS: Lindsay Hogan Edition
Editor’s Note: Lindsay has written for this column on more than a few occasions, and she is the Queen of DC Concert Calendars.
- Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett’s new album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is officially out next week, but it’s streaming, as of yesterday on iTunes Radio. I’ve listened through a few times and came to all the natural conclusions that, yes it fulfills the overused promise of “perfected slacker rock,” and yes its packed with dense, hilarious lyricism, and yes, I want to drink too many beers with her on the roof and sing Dylan covers until the cops come.
Barnett’s song writing is modern and inviting. Its conversational, causal, and pretty damn funny. I’ve pinned Courtney as the nexus of my love for Joni Mitchell and Broad City. (Yeah, this chick is that fantastic)
The dominating track on the album, “Pedestrian at Best,” has been out for a month or so and if you haven’t heard it yet, get ready for the highlight of your day. Other tracks like “Elevator Operator” and “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party” are dripping with dry humor and simple, but clever observations.
In “Dead Fox,” she suggests in stream of consciousness: “more people die on the road than they do in the oceans. Maybe we should mull over culling cars instead of sharks. And lock them up in the parks where we can go and view them.”
To take it a little further, Courtney is the positive embodiment of the millennial -a term that has evolved into a derogatory dismissal of my generation. She may be a slacker and apathetic, but she is simultaneously intellectual and (perhaps overly) self-reflective. While “lazy apathy” gets a lot of press as the defining characterizes of our generation, we are at once multitalented, hyper-informed and self-aware. Courtney, probably unintentionally, shows this through conversational simplicity and unforgiving bluntness. “Jen insists we buy organic vegetables and I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first. A little pesticide can’t hurt.”
The majority of Barnett’s album is made of these quirky, neurotic ragers. And while I was afraid this tone was starting to get repetitive, I have to point out other tracks like “Kim’s Caravan,” which are more dramatic departures from the folksier tunes. Its a dark song full of beautifully cynical observations (“the great barrier reef it ain’t so great anymore. Its been raped beyond belief. The dredges treat it like a whore”) and culminates in angry instrumental catharsis.
Perhaps Courtney’s humor is just front to keep her darker thoughts from getting the best of her.