Compare/Contrast: Heaux Tales/Ignorance

Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales / The Weather Station – Ignorance

It’s hard to say what new music will look like in 2021. You would think that there may be a dearth of album releases due to the pandemic making it harder for musicians to collaborate in the studio over the past year. Though unlike film and TV, music doesn’t rely as much on large groups of people for creative fulfillment, and as we even saw in 2020, some artists are perfectly capable of writing and recording worthwhile material while in isolation. So for that reason, I think 2021 won’t be the greatest year for music or anything, but I don’t think it’ll be a complete wasteland the way movies were in 2020 and TV will almost surely be this year.

I can’t verify whether both Jazmine Sullivan’s and The Weather Station’s new albums were recorded during lockdown (though I know Heaux Tales was), but their introspective nature certainly checks off what we want out of music these days. They’re two albums that are among the most critically lauded albums of the year so far (though I suppose Heaux Tales is technically an EP), while also being probably my two favorite albums of the still-young year. They’re not that similar of sounding albums, as they’re coming from two artists that inhabit two very different spaces of the music world (Sullivan coming from the mainstream R&B world, while The Weather Station comes from the artier side of indie-pop). However, they feel worth comparing to me because they both see two artists in similar stages of their careers finding their sounds in truly revelatory ways. Continue reading

2010s Music Revisited: Smoke Ring For My Halo/Slave Ambient

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo / The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient (2011)

It’s interesting that both Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo and The War On Drugs’ Slave Ambient sat with Radiohead’s King of Limbs just outside of my Top Ten Albums of 2011. First, because they’re both quite a bit better than several albums that made my top ten that year (remember Cults?). But also because Philly boys Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel used to be bandmates in The War On Drugs just a few years prior, while 2011 marked a kind of turning point for both of these mainstays of 2010s indie rock. Continue reading

Pop Girl Summer

Taylor Swift – Lover / Lana Del Rey – Norman F***ing Rockwell!

I’m well aware that these will be very cold takes, considering these are two pretty huge albums that got the hot take treatment upon their release a few weeks ago. However, I couldn’t help but feel the need to compare and contrast these two albums, considering they have a lot in common, as well as a lot of differences in terms of how their pop star creators have navigated their careers up until now. Also, I’m not sure that they’re albums that are all that conducive to the “hot take” treatment, considering their breadth and ambition. Continue reading

You Can’t Always Listen To What You Want

Kurt Vile – Bottle It In / Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth

I know what you’ve probably been thinking as I’ve been throwing up all these year-end wrap-up posts: “I don’t have time for this”. And that’s perfectly understandable. When it comes to pop culture these days, the hardest thing to come by is time. There’s just so much content out there that it feels basically impossible to devote the necessary amount of time to the music and movies and TV that’s worth approaching, so sometimes you just gotta say “I don’t have the time”. And that’s pretty much what I had to do with these two albums, which seemed perfectly worthwhile, but were just too damn long for me to finish. Continue reading

Born Again

A Star Is Born (1954) / A Star Is Born (2018)

If this was a more well-researched piece, I would’ve gone to the trouble of seeing both the 1937 and 1976 versions of A Star Is Born, but I only have so much time. Also, from what I’ve gathered, the 1954 version is the most acclaimed version of this classic Hollywood folk tale. Well, perhaps except for the Bradley Cooper-directed version that’s currently in theaters, which seems to already be an Oscar frontrunner. I’m not sure that this latest version bests the version starring Judy Garland and James Mason, but I think it does manage to tap into why this is such a durable story, and why it has been applied to such different eras of Hollywood filmmaking. Continue reading

Anything But Phoning It In

BlacKkKlansman / Sorry To Bother You

Prior to seeing BlacKkKlansman, I thought about comparing and contrasting it with another somewhat widely released movie from earlier this summer, Sorry To Bother You. But, as basically every Compare/Contrast has, it felt a little reductive to compare two movies so full of social complexities. But then I saw BlacKkKlansman, and remembered that it does share one big plot similarity with Sorry To Bother You – in that it is also about a black male trying to do his job, and then attempts to get ahead in his job by using his “white voice” while talking into a telephone. Then there’s also the fact that Sorry To Bother You director Boots Riley got into a bit of a kerfuffle with Spike Lee about BlacKkKlansman on Twitter. So here I am, talking about two of the more memorable movies of the summer in the same light. Continue reading

Clean History

Lucy Dacus – Historian / Soccer Mommy – Clean

Is it a bit reductive to be comparing the likes of Lucy Dacus and Soccer Mommy, two young singer-songwriters who seem to possess boundless potential? Perhaps. But then again, the conceit of this Compare/Contrast feature was to explore the idea that lots of art and pop culture gets compared to itself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If anything, the fact that two uniquely fantastic albums anchored by two superb songstresses were released within weeks, just continues the hopeful theory I’d laid down in a past podcast that the future of rock is decidedly female. Continue reading