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Geoffrey Stueven: July 13, 2014

“When A Woman Goes Cold” b/w “My Offence”

The value of good songwriting in our vile nation.

  1. Wussy with Fury Things and Hollow Boys – Amsterdam Bar & Hall (St. Paul, MN) – Sunday, June 15, 2014

    Support your local Wussy, says a small non-community of people longing for community, but the message isn’t getting through in my Midwestern home, where the local radio station that should be playing them doesn’t, where the record stores don’t carry their albums, and where no more than 20 people showed up to see them on a Sunday night. But in the simple terms of the mechanics of working class city life, Wussy are ready to integrate: $7 gets you in the door, and in St. Paul, the new Green Line opened just in time to get you there. And those assembled 20 made up for the absence of their fellow citizens, with one of the warmer and more welcoming receptions I can remember. But the one thing Wussy don’t have a cure for is exhaustion (real, not music-induced), and I was barely on my feet by the end of their set. Pretty much as it was happening, the night transformed into a dim memory of the perfect rock show, the kind I imagined when I was young and adults I knew liked bands like this. The songs were great and I vaguely hoped I would hear them again someday.

    True to their name, openers Fury Things recalled the directness of Dinosaur Jr, and Hollow Boys (though I came in late, as they were ending their set with loud waves, repeating) the indirectness of the guitar bands they inspired.

  2. A Sunny Day in Glasgow with Field Trip – Icehouse (Minneapolis, MN) – Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    I don’t regret anything I’ve said about Deerhunter, but I remember suddenly that A Sunny Day in Glasgow is America’s most magnificent rock band, 2007-present. Or, they share the title on a rotating basis, depending on who’s released an album most recently, and right now it’s ASDIG, with the excellent Sea When Absent and a supporting stop in Minneapolis, in my very neighborhood, that showed them finally taking the form of a band qua band.

    As far as I could tell there’s one person in particular to thank: Every band should be so lucky to have Jen Goma join as a singer. ASDIG has always been a radical take on a choral group, in a way, and I never would’ve accused mastermind Ben Daniels of limiting female voices according to the music’s design, but nor had I yet suspected how much scene-stealing energy Goma brings to the new album. She is the band, now, and its greatest listener, smiling while not singing, often in the direction of the guitars. I felt the same way, a jazz head at last, laughing at musical details because I could recognize the gesture, the bounty of satisfaction to be had. (Helpfully, ASDIG salvages all the music I’ve loved most for 20 years.)

    But that was my reaction to the music as delivered. The band’s creative process is still thoroughly mysterious to me. They played 12 songs in 60 minutes, mostly highlights from Sea When Absent and 2009 masterpiece Ashes Grammar (nothing from the debut), ending with the latter’s “Shy.” They won’t top this song, nor should they try. It’s infinity itself, and there’s a vocal melody that comes in right after 3 minutes (on the recording) that breaks my heart every time, for reasons I can barely express, except that it suddenly darkens the unthinking rush that precedes it, mortality’s necessary intrusion, I guess. Anne Fredrickson sang it, further evidence of a bedroom project’s restructuring as a joyous, vital, legitimate band: all the various voices of the albums, now fully expressed by two women.

    The night’s small but not depressing turnout paled in enthusiasm next to Wussy’s audience of 20. The restaurant-venue was an awkward fit, allowing people to remain seated rather than move to the floor (sure, ASDIG can be enjoyed from a sitting position, preferably when you’re alone at home, not when there’s a live band across the room, playing to seemingly no one). I was one of four people standing, but I didn’t have to work to create a more perfect scenario in my mind. The sound sufficed. // Field Trip must be one of the most used band names of the past few decades (in one instance it appears with an extra ‘p’), and a band with this name opened the show and, at their best, suggested Bettie Serveert or Twin Sister, depending on which century I placed them in and what the vocals were doing.

  3. Mary GauthierTrouble & Love

    After 2010’s great, defining The Foundling and a lot of touring, it’s great to have Gauthier back with a smaller album that’s exactly the sum of its parts, eight perfect songs, modestly orchestrated, finding new details among reprisals of established themes, imagery, vocal registers. That is to say, the ideal country album. This time I like the details of her songwriting best when she makes large numbers comprehensible, even singable—room rates (“$48.50 if you pay in cash”), apartment addresses (“1411 13th Street”)—and I like her voice best during the first four lines of opener “When A Woman Goes Cold,” when she still sounds blank, hoarse, not yet decided on a sequence of inflection. By “cold” she means emotionally unavailable, not dead, and it’s a song that a lot of people might want or need to hear right now, depending on their belief in the power of relationship-complaint songs to illuminate society’s fucked up attitudes about gender. “I wish she’d scream and shout,” Gauthier sings cruelly, and she’s the rare songwriter who can place herself on both sides of the conflict she describes. I suspect her album would have to be renamed Ultranonviolence to be heard as widely as it deserves.

  4. Hercules & Love AffairThe Feast of the Broken Heart

    It’s John Grant, of course, who leads me back to Andy Butler, six years after “Blind.” Butler’s treatment of his singers defines his sense of love and his sense of control, equal and complementary forces that extend to the music. He gives them something to say, too. I’m only interested in club music that has something to offer by way of language; I’m only interested in club music made by gay people (an exaggeration, but only barely). Instead of commands and non-telling portraits of romantic types, Feast pulses with relevant lyrical matter: “My essence is my offence,” sings Krystle Warren.

  5. YGMy Krazy Life

    Not quite the comic strip fantasia the title suggests, or maybe it is: The only artist whose work itches as badly and with as few elements as George Herriman’s is DJ Mustard, probably, and like the collected Krazy Kat but with a unifying narrative, this is the long-form showcase he deserves. (I’d also accept radio saturation, but Mustard-quoting “Fancy,” summer’s most inescapable song, doesn’t count.) But the central figure here is YG, mainly because he inhabits and reacts to every scene. He’s an appealing, low-key guy, and even the sex talk has a not-upsetting ring to it and just sounds like part of the goings-on in YG’s sun-dazed Coconino city, where the impact of a love brick sends him reeling with customary rhetoric. Where I’d normally feel shut out, being the aural recipient of sexual promises has a certain value, here.

  6. She SirGo Guitars

    The title looks like it’s missing an exclamation point, but more likely it follows the pattern of The DictatorsGo Girl Crazy: It describes a tendency. Still it’s a bit misleading, since She Sir go guitars here in a much less overt way than on crushing 2006 debut EP Who Can’t Say Yes, such a strong and unexpected resurgence of a classic shoegaze sound that I briefly attempted to declare a new epoch. In the intervening years they’ve only released an EP in 2010 (Yens, helpfully compiled with Who Can’t Say Yes as Ev’ry Thing in Paris, a Japanese import) and a single in 2012, so Go Guitars is a major statement in the form of a very short LP. (It’s the same with The Chambermaids, et al; when did abundance become anathema to this kind of music?) But it succeeds by having nothing much to prove. The album’s biggest, weirdest, most imaginative moments achieve Sunny Day in Glasgow heights, but mostly the band makes sideways moves toward other sounds current in the time of their debut. Synths arrive via The Rosebuds or Black Kids, vocals via Rogue Wave, then muted. Those familiar with the band’s debut will find the voice remarkably unclouded here, but certainly not otherwise.

  7. The Proper OrnamentsWooden Head

    After Slumberland grad Archie Moore made up fake Stereolab song titles for a collection last year, Slumberland freshmen The Proper Ornaments simply name a song “Stereolab” on the fabulous Wooden Head, their collected dreams of the 90s. “Sun” creeps like Sebadoh’s “Nothing Like You”; “Step Into the Cold” is the composite of all Ride songs. “Ruby” implies Flying Nun by reminding that (authentic, local, non-corporate) pop music constitutes a folk music, however many generations and miles removed from land. There’s no unifying method here but there’s also no error in the sequencing, and I like the jagged rush of styles, which could be read as a challenge to James Hoare’s lovely but more confined main band Veronica Falls.

  8. PS I Love YouFor Those Who Stay

    A “very indulgent and decadent album” recorded with “fancy gear” in “a proper studio,” Paul Saulnier jokes, I assume, because even though the compositions here are weird and knotty or possibly made up on the spot, the duo’s playing is still impassioned, desolate, hope incarnate, three albums in. [Out 7/22 on Paper Bag Records]

  9. White FenceFor The Recently Found Innocent

    Tim Presley has been on this musical walkabout ever since his band Darker My Love found itself on the verge of achieving truly important bombast. You’d think by now he’d trust himself to return, but whatever, White Fence’s albums are good, and this is the best one yet, probably because Ty Segall is involved. [Out 7/22 on Drag City]

  10. Schoolboy QOxymoron

    Drug music transcends genre, or constitutes its own genre, so Oxymoron has as much in common with Lower DensNootropics as it does with good kid, m.A.A.d city. It’s a hideous, hypnotic album, and I have to go straight to its source (“Prescription/Oxymoron,” where violins tease and a child asks daddy what’s wrong while Broadcast or J Dilla echoes from the grave and angel on angel dust Schoolboy Q holds the listener with the equal, heavy weight of his lines, even when he starts to twist his voice with that gnashing/crying thing that has become the chosen register of our century’s nervous collapse) before I can begin to enjoy would-be singles like opener “Gangsta.” When I saw him live in 2012 I thought I glimpsed the bad shit in his past, and a sense of optimism. The former is obvious, but the only optimistic angle is that he’s made it, sort of, and that he allows himself to be one of the people who are “known to you because they make themselves known” —Questlove.