Once again I’m trying to keep my pencil sharp by reviewing single tracks from wherever, whenever, most of it fairly new unless otherwise stated. This time around I’m calling it “This Week’s EP” because the EP is a lovable form: brief, intense in its focus compared to an LP, but spacious enough for some noodling around. The idea is that the included songs would fit on an EP. If that means six songs, or two, so be it. The point is to write this off-the-cuff, no planning, typos okay, lots of semi-colons, perhaps.
The endeavor on this site to create a weekly update, or any kind of regular update, has failed before, and I expect it to fail again.
Track 1. “Complicated,” Fitz and The Tantrums, from their new self-titled album (Elektra/WMG)
The zenith/nadir of indie pop in the sense of highly compressed synth-crunch made with the “spirit” of indie-rebellion-something-or-other, this song, on the heels of the band’s single “HandClap,” reminds me of the white-collar bar near the Short North Market called Brothers, a meat market kind of place I wandered into once years ago and will never wander into again. “Kissing like a car crash” is a good lyric, though. My rating: three half-smoked cigarette butts on a sidewalk.
Track 2. “Feel Right,” Esme Patterson, from We Were Wild (Grand Jury Music)
Patterson starts off her album with a lyric that explains what I think of “Complicated”: “No one wants to feel something that don’t feel right.” Furious guitar strumming on a bouncy beat, straightforward lyrics, simple chords, simple changes, slightly overdriven vocals: is this not pop? Patterson has a kind of typical quirky voice, pinched, a lot of “whoo-hoo” high notes, but she sings with absolute confidence in herself, and the music’s too busy racing along to spend any time flattering the singer. Barely three minutes of relentless energy.
Track 3. “Whatever, Whenever,” Band of Horses, from Why Are You OK (Interscope)
I dozed off.
Track 4. “Working Poor,” Fantastic Negrito, from The Last Days of Oakland (Blackball Universe)
The groove of The Beatles’ “Come Together” decked out for the contemporary age and reminding you of where those four lads got their beats. You call a song “Working Poor” and I’m immediately going to listen, but you also better damn well live up to it, and Fantastic Negrito more than does. He has a clear-eyed, no-bullshit approach to the facts, which are that thousands and thousands of people bust their ass and barely get by. It’s a great album.
Track 5. “It’s Over,” Roy Orbison, from Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night (HBO, 1988)
I have no idea why they insisted on shooting/post-producing this in black-and-white, but minimize the video and just listen to Orbison, who was 52 when he sang this not long before he died. The way he lights onto the slightly higher notes in the verse, ie. “in the wind,” “before they fly”–Jesus, it’s beautiful. Climbing to the first climax, Orbison’s a little shaky, searching for some of the notes, but then he just slides into the first “It’s over,” and lets loose the second one like the proverbial single tear down the cheek, which looks trite when you see it on someone’s face but sounds miraculous when you hear someone sing it. Slower, heavier, even more melodramatic than the 1964 Monument single–and minus that annoying triangle–“ting!”–this version of “It’s Over” sounds even more fated, more doomed from the start, as in: It was always over, you just didn’t know it. I’ve been listening to the performances from this tender tribute–I could have written about “Running Scared” or “Crying” or “Only the Lonely” or “Leah”–and what I’ve been noticing about Orbison is his restraint, how, as in the verses of “It’s Over,” he could gently sustain a note and make you feel what the note could have been, the drama hidden behind it, waiting, waiting, waiting to come out. I’d just discovered Roy Orbison a year or two before he passed away, and I think I admired that he looked like such a geek, like me, with those pudgy cheeks and blocky sunglasses; he was the eternal runner-up compared to Elvis and Buddy Holly in terms of image, sex appeal, sales (I think, I’d have to check), and he might as well have been the kid who gets sand kicked in his eyes in those back-of-the-comic-book ads, but the only muscles he needed were in his throat. You’d fuck Elvis, but if you wanted love, you’d stick with Roy.
Track 6. “Off Off Off (Cavs Song),” Lil Wayne
I’m not a closet/bandwagon Cavs fan. I was raised near Cleveland. When I think of where I’m from, it’s Cleveland. I just don’t have the occasion to write about the Cavs, or sports, and with my publicly visible and “professional” social media accounts, I have to be careful not to go spitting my fan-fueled joy and rage into the Twittersphere or something. Anyway, I have strong feelings about this Finals series as it’s playing out, mainly: 1) the Warriors get away with more moving screens than any other team in the NBA; 2) Dray’s a punk; 3) keep KLove in the starting lineup, hide him on Barnes, switch less, and see what happens; 4) Klay Thompson complains too much; 5) Kyrie is still learning; 6) if the Cavs win tonight, they’ll win in 6 at home and Cleveland will explode in a blaze of deliriousness. The hate for LeBron is weird, the love for Curry is weird, but I’m slowly understanding that somehow Curry has become the Everyman whose skills you can learn while LeBron is being cast as the freakishly-built god who no one can ever hope to become. It’s all about aspiration, about seeing ourselves in our idols. Never mind that LeBron has, you know, worked on his game. (Need to work on that jumper in the summer though.)
Anyway, this Lil Wayne song has all of that wrapped into it. My rating: 10/10