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
Tons of music and great word-thoughts from yours truly today, so let’s get right to it (after the inevitable plug for the Tunes You Should Know playlist on Spotify):
- Shark Week – “Why Did I Let You Go?”
My biggest fear when I meet members of a band I like is that they will be assholes. Partly because no one likes assholes, but also because I have a hard time separating “the band” from “the music”. It’s why you should never meet your idols.
But Shark Week, one of the more well-known rock bands in DC, are like the Bizarro version of that.
The band’s roster happens to be full of some of my favorite characters in DC — Dan Newhauser is one of the more intelligent and articulate drummers you’re going to find and I’m convinced Ryan Hunter Mitchell is part mythical creature — but my dirty little secret was that I didn’t actually like their music. I’d given their older catalogue more than a few tries and I’ve seen them live more times than I can count, but it just didn’t do it for me.
This new Beach Fuzz EP though, this changes everything. “Why Did I Let You Leave” is a barnburner of a song, “Desire” is an urban cowboy’s dream, and I know for a fact I’m not the only one who has whispered admirable surprise about the #maturation this band seems to have gone through.
If you want to hop on the bandwagon now before those whispers become Washington Post headlines (i.e. “This Critic Wants Shark Week to Last All Summer”), pre-order their upcoming album that will be released on May 19th and stay ahead of the curve.
PS: Speaking of Ryan Hunter Mitchell and his various mythical ways, he and fellow Mt. Pleasant resident David Cabrera launched a Kickstarter to help fund what they call a “a small repertory cinema” where that old cellphone store used to be on Mt. Pleasant St. Check out the video below, and donate some money so that we can watch the R. Kelly “Trapped In A Closet” series the way it was meant to be seen.
- Elle Varner – “Where Your Man Is”
Originally I was going to use this space to promote Jia Tolentino, phenomenal writer for Jezebel and friend of yours truly, and her Tiny Bitch Tapes playlist series that I have pilfered from for this column on more than one occasion (like right now, for example).
But all I can think about is Soulja Boy.
Do you remember that post-“Superman” song he did called “Kiss Me Through The Phone”? In the first verse, Mr. Boy discusses wanting to connect to his loved one via cellphone technology and he says, “You could be my wife/Text me, call me. I need you in my life.”
I’d like to posit that that is the first time “text me” was ever used in a song innocuously enough that it didn’t completely snap the listener out of the listening experience. In fact, it felt natural to we the audience because texting had become such an integral part of our daily life, and therefore our vernacular as well.
This happens with every new piece of technology — think Britney Spears’ “Email My Heart” or Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels And Nothin’ On” — and I believe Elle Varner may be the one to have done it with Instagram in her new song “Where Your Man Is”. It doesn’t hurt that the song is a pop R&B earworm, but who can’t relate to doing a little Instagram stalking and getting paranoid when some other woman tags our man in her pictures?
Elle Varner: Grammy nominee, mezzo soprano, pioneer.
- Lydia Burrell – Safe
On Lydia Burrell’s 2012 The Animals EP, lead-singer and songwriter Alex Smith belts over a catchy-as-hell tune, “I guess lyrically I’m a wall that no one can get over, which stretches out as far as human eyes can see.” It’s a humanizing resignation, but I don’t know if I buy it anymore.
Yes, Smith writes songs about debating the symbolism or lack thereof in spontaneous piles of dead birds (see “Pile Of Dead Birds”) and the pros and cons of serial killing (see “Carry Our Weight”), but after one very enjoyable listen of their brand new album that’s now available to stream on Bandcamp, it’s hard to believe that audiences aren’t going to flock to Smith and company like (non-dead) birds.
Over the course of 8 tracks, most of which break the invisible 5-minute mark, Smith explores the finer points of dogged optimism, existential pessimism, and everything in between, all over well-crafted and unique takes on what Spotify would probably call fuzz rock. There are lush arrangements and starkly personal moments constantly interweaving with one another, and Smith has never seemed more confident in his indecision about the world.
On the very first track of the album Smith wonders, “Maybe I’ll disappear into oblivious dignity,” but I think even he knows that with this kind of album, that kind of thinking is for the birds.
- Hop Along – “Sister Cities”
I am well aware I just wrote about Hop Along like two weeks ago, but that column turned a lovely human named Ben Wormald onto Hop Along and in his newfound obsession, he discovered this Hop Along rarity. Thank you Ben for sending this to me, and may your days be full of happiness and sunshine.