The War on Drugs are a hardworking rock band from Philadelphia. Actually that’s a totally misleading description; War on Drugs look and feel like a hardworking rock band, but they don’t sound like they have to put in much effort at all. That’s what I was first taken with when I heard their last album album, 2011′s Slave Ambient; these guys make is sound so easy. That freewheeling effortlessness continues on Lost in the Dream, a record that already sounds like their career statement after just one listen. Check it out at Pitchfork.
When I was trying to organize a music festival last year I reached out to Tom Krell, the guy behind How to Dress Well, directly. I really wanted him to play the festival, but I also didn’t want to come across insincere or trite in my praise for his music. I settled on saying that his last album, Total Loss, did something very “amniotic” for me, and I still kind of like the description. There was a stretch after I first bought the album where I would put it on the turntable, lay down with my eyes closed, and let the whole thing surround me. It’s a record you can swim around in.
I wasn’t able to pull the festival together, and I don’t honestly remember that much about the uterus, but needless to say I’m really excited for whatever Krell follows up with. “Words I Don’t Remember” captures everything he does best; those warm hushed but present vocals; the light knock of a sparse beat; the perfectly placed synths that feel more organic than a lot of guitar-band music coming out these days. No confirmation yet on a new album, but check out the song below.
For this edition of Catchy, Good or Both? we’re going to be taking a long sideways glance at Jason “Jay-Saaaaawn” Derulo’s new joint “Talk Dirty to Me”. Derulo’s most recent chart entry prior to “Talk Dirty to Me” was “Marry Me”,a sweet song about living to be 105 so you can watch your lover’s sagging booty list slowly from side to side before she drops it down one last time, never to pick it back up. I have no real beef with Derulo, other than the fact he made no effort to extol the virtues of Imogen Heap when she essentially made a song for him. Whatever, let’s get into it…
What makes it catchy?
-Let’s not beat around the bush here, that SAX HOOK! WOOOOOF!!! It’s just so damn sleazy, so ugly and sweaty and stinky and oozing raunchy sex. It’s almost certainly NOT a real saxophone, but neither are the boobs of most of the women on Derulo’s team…
-”I got lipstick stamps on my passport, you make it hard to leave…” This one is not too bright, Jay. Passports are technically government property, so letting your weird paper-phillic plaything put kisses all up inside of it is not only odd but also illegal. Good luck getting out of Bangkok.
-”Been around the world don’t speak the language…” is a really honest moment of self-affacing… “but your booty don’t need explainin’”. Oh.
-The beginning of 2 Chainz’ verse is “Dos Cadenas, closed the genius/ Sold out arenas, you can suck my penis”, which is really just excellent stuff.
What makes it un-good?
-Following a song like “Marry Me” with a song like “Talk Dirty To Me” throws off the whole cadence of Derulo’s career. I’m almost starting to suspect that some artists make music about stuff that isn’t actually happening to them in real life. It’s ridiculous.
-Seriously though, I’m sure he’s not talking about the woman he just proposed to. Who would want to marry somebody who doesn’t even speak the same language? She must have said “no” (or possibly “nein”).
-Derulo’s voice has this weird raspy 16-year-old-boy-who’s-been-smoking-since-he-was-5 thing going on. Works well for Miley Cyrus, not so much for Derulo.
-The sax hook. This is a weird meta moment for “Catchy, Good or Both?” The sax hook in this song approaches the Platonic form of something simultaneously epidemically infectious and brazenly terrible. It is at once impossible to rid from one’s head and truly, completely, bad. It is the quintessence of dick-swinging amelodic drivel, but it is also, like, so super fun.
Jason Derulo – “Talk Dirty to Me”
Final Verdict: Really Catchy, Pretty Terrible
Sea Change came along at a very inappropriate moment of my life. I was a freshman in college and I was riding a wave of late-adolescent mirth that carried me through that year. Everything was new, everything was fun, everything smelled like Otto’s jacket. I had a radio show with a friend of mine at the time and he suggested we play “Little One”, his favorite track from the new Beck record. I enjoyed Beck’s previous work passingly so I was game. The song sounded different from other tracks of his I had heard, and when I mentioned that to Mike as it played he responded, “Oh yeah man, this whole album is like that, it’s super sad.” I had no aversion to sad music at the time — Postal Service and Death Cab‘s Transatlanticism were on repeat for me that year; Ben Gibbard really gets white male college freshmen with long distance girlfriends and a mounting subcurrent of loneliness– but it wasn’t anything I was trying to seek out.
So it took a while before I got around to the full album. When I did I was drawn in not because I was feeling what Beck was feeling, but because I was viewing this profound sadness from a comfortable smirking distance. It wasn’t until I got down into some depths myself that I fully connected with the kind of desperate emptiness Beck was feeling when he made that record. In the years since, things have leveled off for me and it sounds like they have for Beck as well. And on Morning Phase he shows that you can still be sad and be a grownup too.
Some of these tracks, I’m told, actually are outtakes from Sea Change. It sounds reductive to call this a sequel, but it’s not an insult. The players are the same, the production values are very similar, and the songs are borne of the same winsome dolor that flavored Sea Change. But now Beck seems wiser; less interested in having a fire sale of his own anguished thoughts and more interested in connecting with the listener. Album opener “Morning” is a 40-second string piece that plays with the same intervals that appeared all over Sea Change. That gives way to “Morning”, a track which rolls along at the same impossibly slow rhythm as “Golden Age”, but tells a very different tale. Where many of the songs on Sea Change centered on listless resignation, here Beck isn’t giving up so easily.
“Blue Moon”, Morning Phase‘s masterpiece first single, finds him imploring an “other” to not leave him all alone. On Sea Change he would have just told us that he was alone, and that it wasn’t fun. This kind of measured and considerate valuation of one’s troubles is characteristic of a more mature individual, and that’s what we get on Morning Phase. More than anything my impression is that this is an album, much like Sea Change, whose sound and meaning will morph as time goes by, and that’s about the best I can ask for out of a record.
Morning Phase is out February 25th. You can stream it through NPR’s First Listen Series here.
Beck’s new LP Morning Phase has leaked ahead of its February 25th release. I haven’t had time to hear the whole thing, but so far it sounds excellent, very Sea Change-y. Enjoy!
The album is now streaming through NPR’s first listen series here
You can check out my review of the album here.
In this series we substitute out a single word in some classic song lyrics/titles to see what we come out with. In the past we’ve done love=drug(s), and this time around it’s me=meat.
Rolling Stones: “Now you always say/ That you wanna be free/ But you’ll come running back/ You’ll come running back/ to meat.”
Frank Sinatra: “Fly meat to the moon, and let meat play among the stars…”
Cold War Kids: “Now hang meat out to dryyyyy/You wrung meat out too too too many times.”
Fleetwood Mac: “Don’t say that you love meat/ Just tell me that you want meat.”
America: “Can you meet meat in the middle?/ Will you meet meat in the air?”
Elton John: “Don’t let the sun go down on meat…”
Radiohead: “Why so green, and lonely? Lonely, lonely?/ Heaven sent you to meat, to meat, to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat.”
Def Leopard: “Pour some sugar on meat…”
Patti Lupone/Madonna: “Don’t cry for meat Argentina…”
Taylor Swift: “Now do you ever think just maybe/ You belong with meeeeat?”
Rick Ross: “These hoes won’t hold meat back….”
Evansecense: “(Wake meat up) Wake meat up inside/ (Can’t wake up) Wake meat up inside (SAAAAVE MEEEEEEEAT)”
Shaggy: “But she caught meat on the counter (it wasn’t meat)/ Saw meat bangin’ on the sofa (it wasn’t meat)/ I even had her in the shower (it wasn’t meat)/ She even caught me on camera! (it wasn’t meat)”
Nirvana: “Rape meat/ Rape meat my friend…”
Toby Keith: “I like talking about ‘you, you, you, you’ usually/ But occasionally/ I wanna talk about meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat…. wanna talk about meeeeeeheeeeeat”
A-Ha: “Take on meat (take on meat)/ Take meat on (take on meat)…..”
Mario: “Baby, you should let meat love you/ Let meat be the one to give you everything you want and need/ Baby, good love and protection/ Make meat your selection….”
Spoon: “Don’t make meat a target, don’t make meat a target…”
Backstreet Boys: “I don’t care who you are/ Where you’re from/ What you did/ As long as you love meat…”
Smokey Robinson and the Miracle: “You treat meat badly, I love you madly/ You really got a hold on meat…”
Paul McCartney: “Maybe I’m amazed at the way you love meat all the time…/ Maybe I’m amazed at the way you really love meat.”
Talking Heads: “Take meat to the river/ Drop meat in the water…”
Here’s a very good reason to get excited about Beck’s forthcoming LP Morning Phase, his first since 2008′s Modern Guilt. “Blue Moon” is unmistakably the work of the same players and production team as Sea Change, it roils and glides with a freewheeling folksiness, but this time the lyrics limn a more hopeful prospect. Where most of the songs on Sea Change were a man at the absolute depths of dejection and resignation, “Blue Moon” seems to suggest the possibility for reprieve. Beck implores his lover to not leave him alone and we get the sense that the searching which seemed reactionary and therapeutic on Sea Change has now become simply a part of how he approaches the world. Morning Phase is out 2/25. Check out the really beautiful “Blue Moon” below:
It’s cold as balls outside. People don’t think that expression makes sense but it actually does because balls stay at a slightly cooler temperature than the rest of the male body.
But enough about my balls, let’s get a playlist out there to cut through some of the winter doldrums. I’ve been in the habit of making mixes periodically for a certain lady friend, and I sent this one her way this morning. It’s in its true form in Grooveshark and a slightly different form in Spotify. I did this because the new Beyonce album is not up in full on Spotify yet. Because, you know, Bey’s already made eleventy billion dollars from iTunes sales so why cough up the rest of the album to these $10/month freeloaders. It’s a brief but I think nicely economical playlist, hope you enjoy!