Each week in these intros, I try to find something remarkable about the past week. Though this week, not much is coming to mind. Well, other than all the bad stuff that’s going on. I suppose yesterday was mother’s day, though I don’t think many people managed to have typical mother’s days, and if they did they probably shouldn’t feel great about it. But I can’t point too much blame on people who are trying to have some semblance of actual human contact with the people they love. It’s hard. It’s all hard, and if we get to see our friends or family soon, that will be swell. But for now, there’s still the comfort of music and movies and whatnot.
Ok, here’s something that was remarkable about this week, though celebrity deaths sure have been a sad way of keeping track of the passage of time these past few months. It’s kind of amazing how long the architects of rock and roll lived (apart from Elvis), considering they all seemed to embody the wild music they helped create. Of course, Little Richard may have been the first artist to truly distill rock and roll’s wildness into music form as well as in his persona.
I don’t return to Little Richard’s early, monumentally influential records very often, but every time I do, I’m blown away by how raw and electrifying they still sound. There’s just something about hearing records that were clearly produced in the button-downed ’50s, and much like Little Richard himself, they scream out of your speakers. Then when you add on top of that the fact that Little Richard was black, flamboyant, and incredibly sexed up, it’s no wonder this became the music that scared the shit out of straight America. God bless that magnificent maniac.
Speaking of sexed-up maniacs, this week seemed like an ample time to finally start getting into Madonna. Or at least as much as you can “get into” someone who has been a cultural mainstay for as long as I’ve been alive. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Dua Lipa’s latest album had me feeling a little Madonna-curious (not to mention that this week’s Pick is Dick Tracy), so I decided to buy her self-titled debut on vinyl. On an unsurprising side note, vinyl records (along with my Nintendo Switch) have been my main comfort purchases during quarantine. It’s hard to say if this debut album is suitable music for these times, but they certainly provide a pick-me-up if you’re willing to let them. I mean, come on. The album has “Lucky Star”, “Borderline”, and “Holiday”. How can you not wanna dance to that shit?
As I just mentioned, one of my first purchases after it became clear that we’d be spending a lot of time indoors this Spring was a Nintendo Switch. While Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been a very rewarding cultural phenomenon that I’ll probably continue playing for a while, it seemed time to check out something else the system has to offer. Since an indie game is never a huge commitment, I figured I’d check out what might be the most acclaimed indie game for Switch. I knew it had a reputation for being a hard as well as a game in which you die a lot, and while these things are true, I’ve had a lot of fun with Celeste nonetheless. Maybe it’s because I have a special affinity for SNES era platformers (despite never owning an SNES), while my reflexes for these kinds of games seem to be relatively intact. Also, I found the key to not going crazy while playing Celeste is to just let those strawberries go…
So yeah, it’s a pretty music-heavy post this week. What can I say? I’m still working full-time (fortunately) and music is very easy to consume while I’m working. While my new vinyl purchases have kept me relatively sane, there’s one album that came out about a week and a half ago that I was anticipating, but has left me scratching my head. This is the first album of completely new material from Car Seat Headrest since 2016’s excellent Teens of Denial, and it seems like frontman Will Toledo made a decided left turn from that album’s rock-leaning style towards something a little more dance-y and electronic. This is not a stylistic decision I would be against in theory, but I don’t know, some of these songs just feel a little half-baked.
The album is made all the more frustrating by the fact that after the album establishes itself as a combative mix of dance grooves and atonal guitar melodies, it actually kind of settles into something emotionally resonant in it’s last few tracks. The plaintive synth-ballad “Life Worth Missing” and the epic “There Must Be More Than Blood” point the way towards a more melancholy sound I wish this album had actually been chasing, instead of whatever the LA-hating tantrum “Hollywood” is supposed to be. So in the end, Making A Door Less Open feels a bit like Car Seat Headrest’s unsuccessful knee-jerk reaction against their newfound indie fame, and yet it still provides some glimmers of hope for this band’s future.