The Playlist Archives: March 2019

I’m in between new music posts at the moment now, so I thought I’d use this downtiming to dip back into my playlist archive and talk about some music I otherwise wouldn’t get to today. This time, I’ve chosen one from roughly two years ago: March 2019. I even looked up some fun facts for the occasion: The Lori Loughlin scandal broke that month, Beto O’Rourke announced he was running for president, Billie Eilish released her first album, and Dick Dale, Nipsey Hussle, and Scott Walker all passed away. I don’t think there was a global pandemic that month but my memory’s pretty foggy on that.

The majority of songs from this playlist comes from one of two camps: new stuff from the first couple months of 2019 (there’s nothing from 2018 here at all, I’d already left that year in the dust) and albums that were new to me from 1994, which I’d chosen to be my “anniversary year” (25th) for the first part of 2019. I think I must’ve made it at the beginning of the month, because most of the new music is from February. State Champion, Dark Blue, Spielbergs, Killdozer, Xiu Xiu, Swervedriver, Flesh Lights, and Lambchop are this playlist’s double dippers.

Next time I do one of these, I will go further back. We’re talking 2015, 2016. I got cold feet this time because…well, all will be explained in the future. Before that, though, I want to cover some new, fresh music, so look for some album reviews before the end of this month.

You can follow the entire playlist on Spotify here, and Bandcamp embeds are included when available.

“Sunbathing I”, State Champion
From Fantasy Error (2015, Sophomore Lounge)

I have been known to outsource the incredibly important task of starting and ending a playlist to others before—here I have bookended the list with both of State Champion’s “Sunbathing” songs from the start and finish of 2015’s Fantasy Error. Picking a favorite State Champion album would be like choosing a favorite child (actually even harder than that one, which is my cat) but this song and its cousin go a long way towards helping Fantasy Error’s case. The final minute (“Wondering where you tanlines led tonight/And are you gonna color them in this time?”) is where the goosebumps are.

“Waterford Crystals”, Dark Blue
From Victory Is Rated (2019, 12XU)

Oh, I’m happy to get to talk about Dark Blue a bit here, who released one of my favorite albums of 2019 with Victory Is Rated. I’m not entirely sure how to describe their sound—maybe “Britpop-informed Philadelphia post-punk” would put us somewhere in the ballpark, although I certainly am not happy with it. How about this: “Waterford Crystals” sounds like what one might expect a song called “Waterford Crystals” to sound like: intricate yet expansive, towering and glacial, totally overwhelming. Lead singer John Sharkey III’s baritone gives the song even more class, but there’s still a certain darker edge to “Waterford Crystals” that I can’t quite pinpoint.

“Distant Star”, Spielbergs
From This Is Not the End (2019, By the Time It Gets Dark)

Norway’s Spielbergs burst onto the scene (well, my personal scene) around this time with the really exciting This Is Not the End, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I kind of lost track of them after that. Looks like they made an EP in late 2019, I think I listened to it once or twice and it didn’t stick with me the same way. Perhaps I should go back to it. “Distant Star”, though, is just a perfectly executed indie rock-punk intersection—I still regularly catch the chorus in my head, which is strong enough to enter the lyrics into the pantheon of great songs built around “We could be…”

“Knuckles the Dog Who Helps People”, Killdozer
From Uncompromising War on Art Under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1994, Touch and Go)

2019 was the year I was fully baptized into the church of Killdozer. I remember hearing or reading someone (who I, unfortunately, can’t remember) say about them “They’re funny, but they’re not joking”, and this, their signature song, is probably as good an exemplar as any of this. Fitting their sludge into a classic ascending chord progression and adding triumphant guitar solos turns this into the Killdozer version of cheese, but no amount of smirk-worthy lines prevents “Knuckles the Dog Who Helps People” from being a rousing and somehow even a little bit touching sing-a-long. Should note that there is some non-subtle ableism in this song—for the purposes of parodying schlock and inspiration porn rather than punching down, to be sure, but regardless of intent I’m sure it hits different for different folks.

“Caring Is Creepy”, The Shins
From Oh, Inverted World (2001, Sub Pop)

The Shins get lumped in with the 2000s indie folk rock boom (you can thank Zach Braff and that perfectly fine song I don’t really need to hear ever again for that) but they really hew closer to styles more my speed than your average cool-soundtrack-stuffer. They were a sincere guitar pop band that were in the right place with the right slant at the right time, which rarely happens. I’ve called them, and in particular Oh, Inverted World, “chill XTC” on multiple occasions (XTC, despite not being on this playlist, will still be mentioned here later on). Despite this I’d never given them a full listen until around the time this playlist was made. As I expected, it was pretty good, and “Caring Is Creepy” is the kind of lilting new wave that in a more just world would’ve been their breakout. I mean, they still did alright for themselves.

“Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy”, Xiu Xiu
From Girl with Basket of Fruit (2019, Polyvinyl)

To people who don’t like Xiu Xiu—I get it. Hell, I’m not even sure if I’m a fan, even though there are multiple songs from their then-new Girl with Basket of Fruit on here. I’d be deeply concerned if Jamie Stewart was some kind of landscape-uniting lowest-common-denominator figure. But I don’t think I need to jump onto any kind of bandwagon to like “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy”—funny, creepy, kinetic: what more could you want? Like Dan Bejar guiding me into yacht rock territory, I’m not sure if I would’ve got on board with this kind of thing without Stewart as the vessel, and it’s still kind of a sore thumb on here, but two years later I can still hang. By the way: this is what popular music sounds like now, no?

“Dylan Thomas”, Better Oblivion Community Center
From Better Oblivion Community Center (2019, Dead Oceans)

The last time around on a playlist archive post I talked about how Phoebe Bridgers usually has one song per record/project that blows me away, and, well, here we are at the one from Better Oblivion Community Center. Actually, “Dylan Thomas” is an even better song than “Me & My Dog”; while that one does its build-up perfectly, here Bridgers and Connor Oberst make something immortal for the entire 3:30. It’s whip-smart as hell, knifing me line after line and completely justifying its lofty political and cinematic shadings (not to mention the invocation of the titular poet). Nobody is clamoring for me to crown 2019’s song of the year in the midst of a blog post in March 2021 that no one will read, but I’m calling it now—it was “Dylan Thomas”.

“Karma Wants to Call a Truce”, Flesh Lights
From Never See Snow (2019, ATHRecords)

The unfortunately-named Flesh Lights rip through a hooky, populist strain of garage punk that I will always consume eagerly when well-written, and 2019’s Never See Snow very much fits the bill. “Karma Wants to Call a Truce” is, of course, one of the best song titles here—serving not even as the chorus of the song, but rather as its climax. It’s a jubilant number, lyrically trying to adopt a glass-half-full approach while still planting foot firmly on the ground, all the while exercising its rights as a power trio with chiming guitar and furiously melodic bass plucking.

“Spiked Flower”, Swervedriver
From Future Ruins (2019, Dangerbird)

I like Future Ruins a good deal, although I remember the fan reception being kind of negative. Sorry they didn’t just re-record “Son of Mustang Ford” twelve times, I guess. “Spiked Flower” is pretty far removed from the muscular shoegaze of Raise or Mezcal Head, to be sure—it’s pure fuzz pop. Adam Franklin’s vocals, still not quite “clear”, shine through on the insistent “Why don’t you talk to me?” chorus, right before digging into that main hooky guitar riff and letting it do the rest of the work.

“You Need a Visa”, Really From
From Verse (2017, Topshelf)

Indie-emo-jazz-math-punk-junk band Really From are, as of my writing this, gearing up to release their third album, and I’m excited to give it a listen when it comes out. In March 2019, however, I was still stuck on their sophomore album, Verse (initially released under the name People Like You, causing me some confusion for a couple months). I listened to it when it came out, I remember, but I think it took me coming back to it a year and change later for me to decide I was into it. “You Need a Visa” is such a nice, stately opener, with (for the most part) clean, confidently simple vocals gliding over prominent trumpet (yes!) and noodly, mathy guitar (yes yes!).

“Fade My Mind”, TK Echo
From TK Echo EP (2019, Dischord)

One of my favorite microtrends is “DC era Dischord/post-hardcore bands that clearly have listened to a lot of XTC”. It’s mostly just the Dismemberment Plan and Q and Not U, and it’s the latter one that’s the string connecting us to TK Echo in 2019. Chris Richards, before he broke bad and became a music critic, played guitar and sang for the excellent Q, Not U for its seven year duration, and the new wavey subtext of his old band is just, well, text here. “Fade My Mind”’s got the hooks, and it’s got the beat.

“Oh, What a Disappointment”, Lambchop
From I Hope You’re Sitting Down (1994, Merge)

How often is it that you can go all the way back to a band’s rarely-discussed first album and find that it’s just as strong as their later-career commercial and critical pinnacles? Well, one can certainly do that with Lambchop. After I Hope You’re Sitting Down, Lambchop would begin the long process of refining their sound until they reached the (excellent) chamber pop LPs of the early 2000s, but their debut still stands in all its garish, beautiful, excessive glory. There is nothing I love more than a band that makes you work hard to get to a real emotional core, and even when you get there it’s confusing, corrupted, distorted—still very potent, but nothing easy about it. It’s clear that something disturbing has happened in “Oh, What a Disappointment”, but the narrator (narrators?), other characters, motivations, timelines…like much of I Hope You’re Sitting Down, it’s just out of reach.

“Sunshine Rock”, Bob Mould
From Sunshine Rock (2019, Merge)

Sunshine Rock is funnier in hindsight—it’s still strong as a celebration of Bob Mould’s career and life in general, but it now also serves as the setup to the punchline of Mould following it up with his most pissed-off sounding album to date. “Sunshine Rock”, the song, is as much of a song about being happy as its album’s reputation suggests, but it is also a song about wanting to be (and wanting to stay) happy—“Please don’t leave me in total darkness” and “There is no second chance” are its “Please don’t take my sunshine away”.

“Celebrity Lifestyle”, Swans
From The Great Annihilator (1994, Young God)

The Great Annihilator is probably my favorite Swans album by default. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to it fully, but I remember it marrying what I liked about their neofolk work with the edge of their industrial era without being too A) snoozy or B) grating. I am not exactly a Gira lifer (not even getting into what he has been accused of, which this blog post isn’t remotely qualified to address but I would feel weird not mentioning). Considering I’m going through playlists made years ago for my own personal purposes, we’ll probably run into more awkwardness in the future, but this is the only Swans song, I think. As for the song itself—”Celebrity Lifestyle”, with its relatively conventional structure and Hollywood-invoking setting, provides a more interesting background for your typical seething Gira-isms than normal. It’s practically their “Beverly Hills”, no?

“Touch Me Fall”, Indigo Girls
From Swamp Ophelia (1994, Sony)

The Indigo Girls rock. I am being completely serious; they are going to get a major critical reevaluation at some point (this is GameStop stock—get in now). And Swamp Ophelia is, track for track, their crowning achievement. If you don’t believe me, just jump into “Touch Me Fall”—a six-minute, multi-section orchestral-folk-rock-prog-opera hybrid beast that manages to sound like a power ballad, a symphony, and classic Indigo Girls all in the same song. This isn’t even mentioning the drum-centric breakdown towards a minute left of the number that both makes you go “wait, who am I listening to?” and then resolves effortlessly into the central hook. If, say, Fiona Apple or Annie Vincent made this it’d be on every year-end list you could aggregate.

“Come for Me”, Sunflower Bean
From King of the Dudes EP (2019, Mom+Pop)

A decade earlier and a continent away Sunflower Bean might’ve gotten caught in the landfill indie gold rush, but I think that they are better off rising now, where they can proudly wave their classic hard rock & glam influences without any kind of baggage. “Come for Me” introduces some Nile Rodgers-y disco guitar into the mix, which may have been the final ingredient in making the ultimate amber-ready Sunflower Bean Song. Its sexually-charged bar-fight lyrics are the polar opposite of the closest modern musical comparison I can conjure for them, the Thin Lizzy collectivism of Sheer Mag, but that’s certainly not an issue. Sometimes you jump up on the table with your bullhorn and manifesto in hand, but sometimes you just want to see who’s got the guts to knock you down.

“Everybody Disappear”, Eerie Family
From Eerie Family (2019, Alien Snatch)

The punk-to-darkwave pipeline lives on! At least I think that’s what’s going on here—I’m not too familiar with the duo behind Eerie Family or their predecessor band The Hex Dispensers. They’re from Taylor, Texas—how cool is that? I’d never heard of a band being from there before, although upon further research apparently Greg Ginn (and therefore SST) lives there now. “Everybody Disappear” is, despite its dour clothes, an excellent pop song, all spare synths, dark handclaps, and marimbas (perhaps played on a skeleton’s ribcage?) and Alex Cuervo deadpanning his “oh-ohs” while Alyse Mervosh intones the titular line over and over in the background.

“Clockout”, Devo
From Duty Now for the Future (1979, Warner Bros.)

The second straight Rosy Overdrive playlist to feature a song from Devo’s second album, but in this case it’s an original rather than a David Nance cover. “Clockout” is Devo at their wildest, with that recurring drumroll accompanied by Gerard Casale really hamming it up singing the song’s title being a moment of abandon that the band didn’t always allow themselves. Still, it’s Devo we’re talking about here—the verses are all careening stops-and-starts, vaguely uncomfortable suit-and-tie lyrics, and of course the immortal line “I’m afraid the future’s gonna be maintenance-free”.

“Juicy”, The Notorious B.I.G.
From Ready to Die (1994, Bad Boy)

It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up magazine. I should put a nineties hip-hop song in the middle of all of these playlists, but unfortunately this one and the Tribe song in the last playlist are more of the exception than the rule. Anyway, I heard Ready to Die in full around March 2019, which probably would’ve constituted my first non-passive experience listening to Biggie. I can’t really wade into the debate of where that album ranks among its peers, but I can say that “Juicy” is as good as anything I’ve heard from the genre. The whole thing sounds great, the hook by Total is an all-time, and you can hear the myth being made in real time.

“Over the Falls”, Exasperation
From Paradise (2019, Postlude Paradox)

The San Diego post-punk-garage-rockers Exasperation released Paradise in 2019, which was as solid as it was overlooked. The whole thing is worth a listen, but “Over the Falls” here is the pop-friendly album highlight to my ears. The majority of the song is pretty subtle in its charms—the steady rhythm section, the swirling guitar—but the song’s stomping chorus is anything but. “’Cause I’ve got no control / Over the falls in a wooden barrel” is shout-along-worthy, landing somewhere in the vicinity of the effortless cool of Dinosaur Jr.’s hooks and the barking of The Fall.

“Gates of Heaven”, Killdozer
From Twelve Point Buck (1989, Touch and Go)

Another Killdozer number, this one taking place (where else?) at the Pearly Gates. The poor recently-deceased man that “Gates of Heaven” follows, Jesús, is a typical Killdozer character—lonely, drunk—who couldn’t even muster up a fight against his “William Holden” death. In “Gates of Heaven”, Michael Gerald’s growl is accompanied by what could only be described as Killdozer’s version of “bouncy”—this particular blast of guitar is positively jaunty. Butch Vig’s production on Twelve Point Buck is supposedly what led him to produce Nirvana’s Nevermind—I can’t find a source that confirms this directly, but it is generally agreed to be the album that put him on the map as a producer, so I’m just going to say that Killdozer deserve royalties from “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, or at least “In Bloom”.

“Propane”, The Wrens
From Silver (1994, Grass)

Silver, The Wrens’ first album, is…completely fine. It’s a too-long, disjointed, Pixies-worshipping unstable journey that nevertheless shows plenty of traces of the band that would go on to make a minor (Secaucus) and a major (The Meadowlands) masterpiece over the next decade. The brief, 80-second opening track “Propane” doesn’t really give away what the listener is in for over the following 68 minutes of that album, though. Effectively a prelude (I guess an interlude in this context), “Propane” lays out its best absurd Alternative Nation imagery over minimal guitar strumming—nine bibles to rest your head on, throwing down marbles in a field of stray boys, you know, the usual.

“The Lonely Crowd Fades in the Air”, Swervedriver
From Future Ruins (2019, Dangerbird)

As solid a pop song “Spiked Flower” is, “The Lonely Crowd Fades in the Air” might be the better all-around cut from Future Ruins on the playlist. It has some fairly simple but still effective guitar heroics going on, and it kicks up some dust with its propulsion like some of the classic Swervedriver numbers. It sounds exactly like a song called “The Lonely Crowd Fades in the Air” should sound like: a rusty spaceship sadly hovering over the ruins to come, a song aware of the danger of the future and what we’ll lose along the way.

“Mother”, Tallies
From Tallies (2019, Kanine/Hand Drawn Dracula)

Sparkly, shiny, jangly dream pop that recalls a peppier Sundays and the more guitar-heavy end of classic 4AD. The Toronto band dropped their self-titled debut album, which contains “Mother”, a little over two years ago and haven’t released anything since—hopefully they’re still around and working on LP2. At least we have “Mother” in the meantime. Sarah Cogan’s lead vocal is a lot clearer than, say, your typical Elizabeth Fraser-led tune, but the song similarly puts a good deal of emphasis on inflection, particularly in the “It’s not safe! It’s not safe!” bit at the end. The song’s lyrics are about Cogan’s growing appreciation for her relationship with (as the title implies) her mother, which is a nice change of subject and probably unique on this playlist.

“Sundrops”, Kristin Hersh
From Hips and Makers (1994, 4AD/Sire)

Rosy Overdrive has given Throwing Muses love in the past but this is the first Hersh solo song to appear on one of these—and what a song it is. Hersh has incorporated the acoustic atmospheres of Hips and Makers so seamlessly into her repertoire that it’s easy to miss how the album was probably a bit of a shock to fans at the time. It’s a great album, a career highlight—Hersh excelled at musical evocation more than most of her peers with Throwing Muses, and nothing is lost in translation here. “Sundrops” rocks as much as an acoustic-guitar-and-cello number can possibly rock, with Hersh’s frantic strumming and Jane Scarpantoni’s one-person orchestra accompaniment more than compensating for lack of plug-ins.

“Bad Friend”, Spielbergs
From This Is Not the End (2019, By the Time It Gets Dark)

The second Spielbergs song on here isn’t the unabashed anthem that “Distant Star” is, at least not by comparison. It’s certainly as catchy, and that chorus is just as big and loud, but the fuck-off subject matter and the way Spielbergs bury the verses give it the album-track feel. It’s less evocative of taking on the world head-on and more about just taking back one small slice of it for yourself. “Bad Friend” shows that the band doesn’t take on any emotion half-assed, though. After the “I don’t wanna be part of your future” bridge builds up and then explodes, you come away knowing the Spielbergs don’t just love fireworks—this band is fireworks.

“Couldn’t I Just Tell You”, Todd Rundgren
From Something/Anything? (1972, Bearsville)

“Couldn’t I Just Tell You” is the Todd Rundgren song that always makes me say “why don’t all Todd Rundgren songs sound like this?” This would probably be on my classic power pop anthem shortlist if I were the kind of nerd to make that kind of list—Rundgren ripping through the verses only to pull back just enough to let the airy chorus stand tall is more than enough to wreck anybody who’s ever bought a used Raspberries LP, to say nothing of that blissful studio fuckery at the end of the bridge (around 2:30). I probably heard Game Theory’s cover of this song before the original—unsurprisingly, it’s also great, but I have to give Rundgren the advantage here despite my biases.

“Soaky in the Pooper”, Lambchop
From I Hope You’re Sitting Down (1994, Merge)

I can think of no better “Lambchop in a nutshell” moment than crafting a beautiful, affecting, masterpiece of a song and then titling it “Soaky in the Pooper”. Part of me is still annoyed at how it makes it harder for me to get people into Lambchop, but, you know, you do gotta hand it to ‘em. And if the song’s title is what prevents “Soaky in the Pooper” from ever being reduced to Spotify mood playlist fodder or a schlocky adult contemporary cover, then it’s more than served its purpose. The song isn’t background music—the trumpets and harp soundtrack some of Kurt Warner’s most brilliant and upsetting lyrics, in which someone dies from (presumably) a drug overdose in a vividly-described bathroom. Fair warning about this one.

“Living Waters”, Silver Jews
From Starlite Walker (1994, Drag City)

“Living Waters” got the nod here over a couple of technically-better songs from Starlite Walker (I’m thinking of “New Orleans” and especially “Trains Across the Sea”) because of how giddy and infectious it is. Maybe on its own it might cause a skeptic to wonder “what’s the big deal?”, but to me it’s part and parcel of what drew me and kept me with the Silver Jews. It’s going from “When they turn on the chair, something added to the air forever” to the car horn sound effect in “Honk If You’re Lonely” in the same album. Being able to pull off both is indicative of David Berman’s unique appeal, the one that made me want to (lightly) roast how many music writers were excitedly profiling Berman when he came back while at the same time eagerly reading every one of those profiles. Oh, right, “Living Waters”. I know Berman felt smothered under the shadow of Stephen Malkmus and Pavement around this time, and with good reason since he was better than Pavement, but Malkmus could really bring out the best of Berman’s songwriting, as he does here prominently.

“Beeker St.”, Flesh Lights
From Never See Snow (2019, ATHRecords)

The hits keep coming for Flesh Lights with “Beeker St.”, which is even more of a classic power trio anthem than “Karma Wants to Call a Truce” was. “Beeker St.” never lets up on the gas for its entire two minutes and thirty seconds, pulling no punches with its cascading downhill guitar and bass flourishes that didn’t have to be nearly as noticeably satisfying as they are for the song to work. Max Vandever’s vocals are cleanly melodic but a little weary, conjuring up fellow Austinite Rhett Miller fronting a sped-up, punked-up version of his normal band.

“Water Wings”, Superchunk
From Foolish (1994, Merge)

I was a Superchunk fan for quite some time before I was fully on board with Foolish. I’d heard it a few times, but in my mind I’ve always kind of thought of them as a singles band, and there’s no “Hyper Enough” or “Precision Auto” on Foolish. Needless to say I was wrong—I swung hard for that album in 2019 between revisiting it for its 25th anniversary and getting really into the Acoustic Foolish album that would come out a few months later. “Water Wings” is not the best song from the album, but it is one that went from “couldn’t pick it out of a lineup” to “prime example of Superchunk at their mid-90s peak” over time.

“I Won’t Try That Hard”, Diva Sweetly
From In the Living Room (2019, Seal Mountain)

Oh, very nice. The Diva Sweetly album is really fun; I’m glad I get to highlight it here briefly. “I Won’t Try That Hard” is a frantic two-minute carousel of a pop-punk song with some tactically-deployed hooky synths. In the Living Room has plenty of sugar-rush moments like this, with the gang vocals and Rentals-esque keys, but they also spread out a little with some more mid-tempo, turn-of-the-century emo tunes. Like a lot of bands on this playlist, it would be nice to hear from them again soon. Until that moment, though, I’m gonna enjoy raging against my own perceived failures and personal dead ends, like “I Won’t Try That Hard” does.

“Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House”, Yo La Tengo
From And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (2000, Matador)

Here for no reason in particular, other than I was still in the process of inching closer and closer to becoming a Yo La Tengo fan after years of them being the big 90s indie rock band that I “didn’t get” (I’m working through this with Stereolab now). “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” is a great exemplar of the Big Quiet Late Night Drive Yo La Tengo Album, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. A shuffling drumbeat, simple organ chords, and Georgia Hubley’s dreamy vocals help the song plod confidently along. Lyrically, “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” (apparently named after a Simpsons gag) does nothing to lessen Yo La Tengo’s reputation as “indie rock for record collectors, by record collectors”, with its bizarre narrative featuring Frankie Valli and the titular Orlando containing several references and allusions to the bandleaders’ respective careers.

“Let Me Tell You a New Story”, Dark Blue
From Victory Is Rated (2019, 12XU)

The second Dark Blue song on this playlist is in the same world as the first one, although “Let Me Tell You a New Story” introduces a shimmery, hooky guitar arpeggio and John Sharkey III stretches out his vocal range a little more to great effect. The triumphant chorus, featuring a confident “Days go by” and “Veins run dry” rhyme, is positively anthemic, featuring trumpet played by none other than fellow Philadelphian Kurt Vile. The simple yet effective lyrics of “Let Me Tell You a New Story” remind me of the songwriting from Sharkey III’s just-released solo album, which I think I will have more to say about on Rosy Overdrive soon.

“Normal Love”, Xiu Xiu
From Girl with a Basket of Fruit (2019, Polyvinyl)

Bad news for people who don’t like Xiu Xiu: we’ve got another Xiu Xiu song here. Somehow I didn’t even know that Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson was the other vocalist on “Normal Love” until I looked it up just now, but as soon as I read his name I immediately thought “Duh! Of course! Who else could that be!” Anyway, this song is the classic Xiu Xiu ballad, minimalist piano and bass setting the stage for all sorts of uncomfortable Jamie Stewart-isms (and Robinson-isms this time!) to crawl creepily over it.

“Sunbathing II”, State Champion
From Fantasy Error (2015, Sophomore Lounge)

Maybe one of these days I’ll talk about a State Champion song from their most recent album, although by that point they’ll probably (hopefully?) have something new out. Anyway, today is not that day, but it is the day for “Sunbathing II”, which is a slower, lazier (not in execution but in what it evokes) sequel to the first “Sunbathing” that kicked this whole thing off. None of the emotional impact of the other “Sunbathing” is lost here, not even after the Sparklehorse-esque static interruption about a minute-and-a-half into it. Lot of gems here, but “My backyard is bringing me down / And my front one is freaking me out” is the line that sticks out to me at the moment; just one of many, and nobody does it better than State Champion.

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