Halfway Report February 2019

…………………………………………………………..not a great start to february

  • I gave short shrift to Sharon Van Etten‘s new album Remind Me Tomorrow at the beginning of the year, which was my bad. “Comeback Kid” is absolutely the best song of the year so far, with “Seventeen” not too far behind and “Jupiter 4” making a strong showing too. The cross between Springsteen and Stevie Nicks works incredibly well, creating a vibe equal parts triumphant and wistful.

  • Could the long-overdue rock peak of the music cycle finally be around the corner? Or has the industry been so fundamentally changed that we’ll never see “edgier” music in the spotlight again? Grimes, for all her eccentricities, is exactly the sort of artist who could act as a conduit for a revival of heavier music. That is, if she writes something less rote than “We Appreciate Power”, which completely sacrificed her melodic sensibility for aesthetics. Her collaboration with post-hardcore grunts Bring Me the Horizon is marginally better, but “nihilist blues” sounds exactly like what it is: a song from a band that missed the crossover window years back. And then you’ve got HEALTH, who have been teasing a garish, brutal new album for several months now. The bleak electronic indie group have modified their sound with a similar industrial pop chug, and could also herald a new mainstream genre of “dark electronica”. Or this could be just 2019’s version of chillwave.

  • It’s unclear if Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers‘ new project is self-titled or if they’re going by Better Oblivion Community Centre. It’s also unclear as to why this project needed to be trumpeted as such a huge deal. It’s just pleasant folk rock, inoffensive but far from groundbreaking. Lead single “Dylan Thomas” is the best song, but it does contain a five-note interpolation of that ever-present melodic curlicue I’ve so affectionately dubbed “the Shrek theme“. Can bands please just leave that sequence of notes alone for a few years? It’s the laziest hook one could imagine, and it’s present in every genre imaginable. The previously mentioned Bring Me the Horizon song also uses it, and neither of these tracks need it. It’s not a central part of the song, and if it were excised both songs would in fact be better.

  • Weezer have entered a strange self-referential ouroboros that has looped back on itself so many times it’s hard to imagine them as an actual band that makes actual music. They are a brand based entirely on their constant awareness of their own legacy (see: “Heart Songs”). This has now morphed into awareness of that awareness (see: their latest tour which plays on the convention of touring heavily on the strength of The Blue Album). Rivers Cuomo‘s obsession with memes about himself also adds a strange dimension to the whole affair. To put it succinctly, current day Weezer is like a joke band parodying a Weezer cover band. A funhouse reflection of a reflection of an echo. The Teal Album is a collection of cover songs inspired by the success of their “Africa” cover, which only existed due to a viral campaign by a Twitter account. The natural conclusion to this is a concept album about the band’s past year, which the upcoming Black Album may or may not be.

  • Last year one of the early contenders for the year-end countdown came from Mansionair in the form of “Astronaut (Something About Your Love)”. The follow-up singles have not yet been on the same level, but all of them have been on a steady level of quality not often heard recently. It’s shaping up to be a solid 4-star album, something full of above-average tracks and (at least) one great one.

  • Beirut, on the other hand, has made a new album that sounds like a bunch of friends just trying out various new instruments and making European picnic music. And you know what, I can’t fault him for it. It’s definitely not something I like, but at least he’s sticking to his style all the way through.