80 - Ray LaMontagne - Beg Steal or Borrow
We’re going to be talking a lot about pop music today. It’s the New Year and you should be reminded that Top-40 stations in this still infantile decade are mostly doing a public service: They are America’s splash of ice water after forcing yourself to listen to talk radio for more than ten minutes.
God bless you, Beyonce. You’ve saved us all. In so many ways.
Anyways, Ray LaMontagne finagled his way onto some Top-40 stations this year. Not sure how it happened. He probably convinced a Viacom rep that he was James Taylor, but that he had a Cat Stevens-like conversion and became a Mennonite.
In a utopian future, I feel like this is the new elevator music. It’s what they’ll play at CVS while you buy gold-encrusted future shampoo and flying car polish and try to talk yourself out of spending three dollars on the bag of Riesens that’s been sitting there since 1997.
79 - Fresh & Onlys - Waterfall
“You and I know from the radio that the radio never lies / and the radio said that the TV’s dead ... but the TV said you can’t believe everything you hear.”
I just read that Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley came out of the closet. It’s very, very early as I’m typing this, so pardon me if this reaction is too visceral or too sweeping.
But, damn, I’m proud of this guy.
I don’t want to extrapolate too long-windedly here, but I spent a lot of time being a very bad reporter at Red Sox games for the Globe last year. I was horrendous, just bumbling from place to place for hours on end. I’m pretty sure John Smoltz thought I was a lost puppy. This would explain so many things.
I do a lot of pro sports reporting, still, but there’s really no place like a Red Sox press room. And I mean that in every pejorative, shady way you read it. Maybe it ages very well and you develop a palette for it, like foie gras or something. I doubt it.
But, if it does, Steve Buckley is in that place. He makes that area work. He is a gem of an adult in a Boston sports media sphere that is filled to the brim with six-year-olds with hurt feelings and giant heads.
Again, this is probably the hour, but I’m spending actual, human minutes that were given to me to be on this Earth to go through the Herald’s comments section tonight. (I know. Email me and I’ll give you the address where you can send me my medal.)
The response is overwhelmingly positive. How couldn’t it be? This is a heartfelt, emotional story coming from a guy who generally knows how to craft such things. Here’s a paragraph that shouldn’t have to be written, but he does it with remarkable grace.
But during this same period, I have read sobering stories about people who came undone, killing themselves after being outed. These tragic events helped guide me to the belief that if more people are able to be honest about who they are, ultimately fewer people will feel such devastating pressure.
There are those commenters, however, that worry for the sake of the players in the locker room. These poor players! How can this now outed gay man ever conduct himself properly around these semi-naked, mostly-fat, mostly rude baseball players?
This has been planted in their heads by the same bigoted talking heads that harbored the same anachronistic thought process that would’ve kept women out of the locker room 20 years ago. Then we wouldn’t have had, say, Jackie MacMullan, who is one of the best sportswriters this city has ever had.
I’m sure those millionaires will grow to be fine with it. If not, they’ll eventually grow up, but they probably won’t be as brave as Buck was when he hit ‘send’ on his story.
78 - Menomena - Tithe
This song is capable of giving me the chills.
77 - Uffie - Neuneu
Let’s talk about Ke$ha.
Please, don’t recoil in horror immediately. This isn’t the unedited script of The Last Airbender. You’re okay. And you’re with Ke$ha, remember. You just have to hate her out loud. It’s weird to admit that, but you are.
From all that I’ve read about Ke$ha, she completely sucks as a person. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve read too many interviews at this point, and every interviewer secretly wants to shove her in a bag and sell her to the Chinese. It burns through the page like holy water in a Dan Brown novel. Features in Complex (this month) and Rolling Stone (over the summer) include some variation of this sentence:
“She very clearly slept her way to the top, as evidenced by this oft-repeated story about her vomiting in Paris Hilton’s closet (really), and—don’t tell her I said this—she smells like a BLT, but she’s really smart. Fifteen-hundred on the SAT!”
So I tried to like her. I failed. It happens.
She might be good for music anyway.
Look, “Tik Tok” did some interesting things for a pop song.
It starts off with an 8-bit synthesizer. It eventually uses it like a sample, but doesn’t just repeat it over and over again like an Usher song. It has a dynamic bridge. It does things musically, on purpose.
It’s going to make it so people can find out about artists who have been doing this for a while—but focus more on the music-making than the closet-vomiting. Uffie, for example, exists in this capacity.
76 - Love in Stockholm - The Tally
Call me dumb, maybe a little soft, or slightly weakly willed, but I don’t truly understand the appeal of local music.
In fact, let’s back up: Just call me “cotton ball brains.” That seems to encompass all of those things. Call me that. That sounds like a cool nickname.
Sorry. We were talking about local music. What I’m trying to say is that it’s bad. Almost always objectively bad.
Sure, I could go to the converted basement of a guy named Dan and hear some 19-year-old sing about why his dad doesn’t love him while a bunch of girls with headbands on nod in agreement and drink Poland Springs vodka. This how I could spend my Saturdays.
Or! Or I could punch all of my teeth out one-by-one with a bandsaw.
These two things, stacked right there next to each other, are both valid options.
So local music is a usually infuriating, always trying, and a sometimes physically painful waste of time.
Until you see Love in Stockholm.
Someone willed me to see them with some Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You-level Kennedian rhetoric on Halloween night this year. She should receive an award.
“They sound like Maroon 5 if they had any edge or character whatsoever,” she said.
Deep down, isn’t that what everyone secretly wants out of a band? For them to sound like Maroon 5, if Maroon 5 liked dirty guitar solos and if anyone in Maroon 5 ever had a real problem that needed to be dealt with and possibly couldn’t be fixed?
The answer is yes. That’s all you want.
They played Sgt. Peppers in its entirety that night because they were dressed like the Beatles, so why not? Also, they completely destroyed it.
Listen to Ol’ Cotton Ball Brains on this one. This is Boston’s best right now.
75 - I guess I should put something by the Black Keys here
Why did this album, of all Black Keys albums, wind up being the one that blew up? I like it and all. I sound like I'm in a Tennessee garage taping a show for the Discovery channel. I know that's what they were going for. This band wrote "Grown So Ugly" previously, which is almost perfect. Why now? Is it the album cover?
If it's the album cover, I totally understand.
74 - The Script - Breakeven
Hey, I told you there was a lot of pop music today. The best summer melody in a very long time. Plus, how many Top-40 songs do you know that start with a lyric like this?
“I’m still alive, but I’m barely breathing / I’m just praying to a God that I don’t believe in.”
This is coming in a year wherein a top-10 hit had these lyrics in the chorus:
“Baby got some boobies like wow-wow-wow.”
He also lifted the entire chorus from Homer Simpson and won’t admit to it.
It’s impossible to see where music is going. Because it’s not going in one direction.
73 - Ryan Adams - Happy Birthday
It is increasingly hard to write about Ryan Adams without sounding like Ryan Adams. I guess that’s what happens when you listen to this much Ryan Adams.
If I had my way, this song would be ranked somewhere much higher, maybe in the teens. But that would be unfair to you. You might think I’m weird, today, having no experience with Ryan’s work. I would understand that. So he’s here, dawdling in the back amongst Uffie and a one-hit wonder, where he’ll be until everybody else figures out what he’s been trying to say for the last ten years.
What he’s been trying to say is, hey, everybody, I’m completely brilliant and I’m not just saying that.
Ryan Adams has become the greatest connector amongst friends, a conduit for consistent relationship upkeep, the stickum powder that is life’s Danny Woodhead hands.
I’ve gone months without talking to specific people and then it happens—he’ll come out with a new album or a song or project and we’ll reconvene. We’ll all dissect and dissect.
It seems like sort of stupid behavior—to just pick apart one person like this with great admiration. The closest comparison that makes even the slightest sense is a less hairy Bruce Springsteen or Elvis Costello without all of the nice hats. Hundreds rally behind these people and I mostly don’t understand it.
But even that’s unfair. No one rallies behind Ryan Adams because he’s the most energetic entertainer in the world.
We rally behind him because he’s the most transparent person in the world. We all want to see what’s going to go on in our lives next.
We all discover little bits and pieces at our own pace. There’s just too much material. Sometimes months will go by and nothing, then we find something and it makes a little sense of everything at the time. A friend will figure out Gold as I start to get what he’s saying in Destroyer. It makes us all feel very smart, very official. We’re all wearing very nice suits as we talk about this over the phone.
This must be, we all say, how the profoundly dumb feel about Jimmy Buffett.
We get very attached to a part in an album that rings particularly true or funny or singular and it reveals a little about ourselves. This happened to me with “You Will Always Be The Same” right before III/IV came out in December.
Then III/IV had “Happy Birthday.” It contains these lyrics. I think they’re brilliant. Other friends think they’re a little insane. They’ll come around eventually and call me about it.
“I told everybody I was late, but I was hiding in the back. Hiding in the back, my hands would shake. Happy birthday, I’m your birthday cake and I’m lit.”
But they’re still listening to it. Because Ryan Adams writes hooks by mistake.
72 - Various remixes of the Yo Gabba Gabba theme song
It's funny because you thought I was kidding.
71 - Hungry Kids of Hungary - Wristwatch
(Note: Slightly not safe for work language.)
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