With Jonah, Nick & Charlie
The 7/5 Edition
We’re All Gonna Die // Dawes
- pessimistic mope sessions
- dreary gray days
I’m on a bit of a mellow downtempo indie kick right now. A song from an earlier FMF, “Dusty Eyes” by Bedouine, is a wonderful example of the style I’m talking about. A more modernized, genre-fluid example is “We’re All Gonna Die” by Dawes, a mournful, orchestral ballad sitting somewhere between folk, rock, and indie that I promise is (slightly) less of a bummer than the title suggests.
Dawes is clever with how they use sound to articulate emotion. The droning piano bass note in the beginning, so low a tone you can barely hear its pitch, is wonderfully eerie and dark. From this first gloomy note, the tone for the song is set.
Dawes reinforces this tone by juxtaposing heavily distorted sounds with spare, “cleaner” backgrounds. The juxtaposition of sweet, bright violins with grungy, dark, distorted guitar sounds in the breakdown at 3:50 adds dimension and nuance to what otherwise might be a depressing mope session.
Right before the chorus, at 1:23, there’s another gorgeous instance of this contrast. The arrangement fades, clearing the way for a solitary high-distortion electric guitar chord to ring out. The lurching, sputtering sustain, emphasized by the empty space around it, has a uniquely lonely, immersive quality that’s easier felt than explained.
“We’re All Gonna Die” features — surprise surprise — no shortage of morbidity. Despite its title, the existential nihilism has a kind of nonchalant, breezy angle to it. Rather than using mortality as an excuse to give up on everything, it becomes a way to not worry about stuff so much. It’s not “we’re all gonna die” with a wailing, desperate sadness, but rather a little shrug and a knowing grin. Oh, haven’t you heard? We’re all going to die.
Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang // Silver
- dancing like an idiot
- embracing the inherently cheesy nature of 70s music
- anyone who loves ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”
After “We’re All Gonna Die,” I think we’d enjoy a nice palette cleanser. To pull a whiplash-inducing 180 with the genre and mood, I offer you all Silver’s “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang,” a gem of late-70s disco-pop.
Before we get any further — yes, I am a huge sucker for the Guardians of the Galaxy movies (Who isn’t?). The moment in the second movie where The Sovereign’s spacefleet of gold people suddenly appears en masse and the exuberant “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang” breaks out is easily among my favorite movie moments in recent memory. The first time I saw it, I ran it back about ten more times (I still sing the “Soup! Soup!” line that Kraglin ad-libs in place of “Ooh, ooh” while he’s eating soup). The song choice would be complete nonsense in an even-slightly-more-serious movie, but in GotG2, it’s downright brilliant.
Without even starting the song, there are strong clues as to what you’re about to hear. Any song titled “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang” could have come from few eras besides the 70s, and few genres besides the disco-tinged pop rock of that time period.
The 70s was, in some regards, a wondrous time (I assume). Music was expanding rapidly, and everything that is now corny or cliche was compelling and fresh. Without the seemingly mandatory guise of irony/detachment looming over this generation’s music, disco-pop’s unabashedly corny spirit thrived in songs like “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang.”
Lots of modern music struggles to be joyous or positive at all without some kind of asterisk or strings attached. This isn’t a bad thing by default — many times, the end product is a more honest, nuanced, and thus relatable work. But there’s something to be said for genuine, straightforward happy music that just tries its damn best to pack as much color and light into the minutes as possible.
Sometimes you just need to boogie around the kitchen looking like an idiot without an ounce of shame. When this is your goal, disco is your friend, and Silver’s “Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang” is a stellar place to find it. So see if your next shitty mood can make it even halfway through this awesome throwback banger. It won’t stand a chance.
Free Cocaine // Our Brother George
- meeting your ex for “closure”
- thinking about exciting-yet-toxic times
Y’all know me. I would NEVER advocate for the use of drugs. Ever. However, my pick this week is from the Southern folk-rock group Our Brother George and it seems like THEY know a thing or two about the devil’s drug: cocaine.
Free Cocaine isn’t meant to be taken literally though. While the substance is referenced throughout the song, they refer to an individual that seems to be an old flame. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fair share of bad relationships with people throughout the years; yet even though I know it’s not in my best interest for me to see them, if I see a “wyd” message from them at 1:30 in the morning, you best believe I’m headed over. This song is for all of us, who even though we know someone is bad for us, we just can’t say no to them.
“I won’t pass you up I couldn’t give you away, you’re my free cocaine. It’s not a good idea causing so much pain, but you’re my free cocaine.”
The song is primarily lyrically driven, with the instrumentation mostly staying in the background, while still allowing for a bit of guitar soloing as well as a jam session near the end of the piece. The whole piece screams modern folk, from the subtle use of distortion in the electric guitar, all the way to lyrics that most mainstream country artists wouldn’t dare touch with a ten foot pole, even though its full of real feelings that you don’t have to experiment with drugs to understand (although it would help, so I’m told).
“Some voices sound like home, and we were tired of being stoned”
So, if you need a song that will make you feel better for visiting that person you shouldn’t, or even a background song for texting your ex, check out this bittersweet folk jam.
Mal Hombre // Lydia Mendoza
- moody night drives
- practicing your Spanish
- plotting your man’s “accidental” death
Want to listen to an amazing ballad? Trying to learn Spanish? ¿Por qué no los dos? Oh boy, do I have the song for you. Born in 1916, Lydia Mendoza was known as “La Alondra de la Frontera,” or the Lark of the Border for us gringos*. In 1934, Lydia released “Mal Hombre,” a ballad about a man who is able to charm young innocent women into spending their time with him, only to leave them on the street at the first chance he gets.
“a merced a tus artes de mundano
de mi honra el perfuma me llevaste.”
“thanks to your worldly charm,
you crushed the flower of my innocence.”
Like my previous pick, it’s a lyrically focused song that tells a heartbreaking story for anyone who has been scorned by a previous lover. While the direct English translation might seem clunky, I promise you the original is a much more beautiful combination of words. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, anyone who appreciates this style of ballad will understand the pain and suffering that is conveyed in the sound of Lydia’s voice.
tan ruin es tu alma que no tiene nombre.
Eres un canalla. Eres un malvado.
Eres un mal hombre.”
your soul is so wicked it has no name.
You are a pig. You are evil.
You are a cold-hearted man.”
This song has a soft spot in my heart. Something about the combination of the beautiful-yet-painful lyrics alongside the simple strumming of guitar chords makes me feel like I’m right there with her, suffering from the same heartbreak she is. On top of being hauntingly beautiful, an added bonus of listening to music of another language is that it is one of the best ways to learn said language. It’s also not that difficult of a song to understand, so even if you stopped trying to learn Spanish after you finished your foreign language credits from your freshman year of college, you’ll still be able to understand the overall message of the song.
*Gringo means foreigner in a Spanish speaking country, but is commonly used as a substitute for American
Direct translation of lyrics provided by https://lyricstranslate.com
Strange American Dream // Rayland Baxter
- post-Independence Day vibes
- contemplating the future
Rayland Baxter has a distinct, floating sound that is boosted by his top notch songwriting. He paints vivid pictures using whimsical melodies that slowly overtake the listener with joy.
“Strange American Dream” speaks to the shifting standards of what the American Dream has become in modernity. The words speak to it’s contradictory nature but are backed by a lively piano and Baxter’s sing-songy lullaby of a voice. Together, they create a vibrant and complicated mindset that many young Americans feel.
It’s the perfect track to stare at the stars to, or to play before all your buddies go off to college again. The musical scope and variety offered by Baxter is impressive and worth your time this summer.
Country Music’s Dead // Mike & The Moonpies
- an instant pick-me-up
- driving along Route 66
Spoiler alert, it’s not. That said, Mike & The Moonpies aren’t exactly pleased with country music’s current state of affairs. Throughout the track, they criticize the ills of the industry, including ghostwriting and being whored out to money. It’s antithetical to “bro-country.” After establishing the genre’s faults, in true country fashion, the band incorporate their own failings and struggles on the road.
Despite the seemingly gloomy subject material, this song is actually a damn jam. The rapid pace is set early and only escalates. It features real country twang and soul, my personal favorite aspect being the liberal organ use as the piece crescendos.
This downhome, outlaw country is ideal for any chill or fast situation. It’s immensely versatile and honestly just a good time. Thanks to guys like Mike & The Moonpies, country music will never die.
Music Video of the Week (Charlie’s pick)
715 – CR∑∑KS // Bon Iver
Autotune gets a bad rap in my opinion. I remember, especially in the early 2010s, that there were constant complaints about autotune and how it allows bad musicians to sound good; and I can’t lie, I used to be one of those complainers. However, after a few years of listening to other types of music, I came to realize that it can actually take SKILL to use autotune in an interesting way (shocking I know). That’s where this week’s video comes into play.
Bon Iver is known for his indie-folk beginnings, yet he has never been a fan of being tied down by genres. “715 CR∑∑KS of primarily artificial electronic sounds, yet uses them in such a way that makes his music sound extremely emotional and “real,” and the music video only adds on to those emotions.
Even though it’s only a lyric video, it still has no issue ripping out the hearts of anyone who watches it. The lyrics are displayed by being typed out in a word document, complete with misspellings, backspaces, and autocorrect messing with the verbiage. In the background of this document, there are many different screen-saver-esque types of images, full of colors and patterns that seem perfectly matched with the artificial computer sounds. To me, the music video seems like someone collecting their thoughts after a bad break up, which explains the misspellings and vocalizations between sentences.
It’s a short song, barely reaching the two-minute mark, but the combination of artificial sounds and very real emotions makes it hard to watch this video without getting introspective, and possibly shedding a tear or two.