Hello, welcome to the Unskippables (10 Minute Taylor Version).
This week I was taken by Hanson O’Haver’s piece on the post-ironic world of taste and consumption in Gawker this week. I can’t TL;DR it any better than he does here:
In recent years, the internet-fueled monoculture has both spread and contracted simultaneously, with increasing speed. All but the most obscure items are made accessible with a simple search; on YouTube, it takes just as much effort to search for a 1985 Merzbow cassette as it does the latest Lil Nas X single. Jonathan Franzen said that, “When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.” A similar thing holds for taste: when almost any record or T-shirt or piece of Danish cookware can be found on eBay, are they still impressive to own?
It wasn’t just fun and good writing (though it is) - it also served as an effective post-script to Kelefa Sanneh’s MAJOR LABELS, which I finished the same day this piece dropped. Each chapter about the winding path of seven genres ends with Sanneh taking stock of the 2010s/2020s ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ flexible-yet-flaccid approach to genre, ultimately talking a lot about Post Malone.
The book’s greatest sections are about the moments of discovery - an acid rave, a punk LP, or a singular concert - that feel increasingly rare in a world where communities are increasingly replaced by the timeline. It’s hard to feel your world crack open when everything is already an endless rabbit hole.
That’s why the “post-taste” approach to music (think the critical pass given to John Mayer’s deeply uncool songs) feels like the moment we’re stuck hanging out in, complete with espresso martinis and an unclear sense of what pants men should wear to look cool. Who knows!
Other good things from the week:
The returned Beats In Space has a new entry with Anthony Naples on Apple Music
Steve Albini *kind of* talks through his problematic past music, statements, and his whole vibe with MEL Magazine
Vulture dips a toe into end-of-year content with a Best Albums of 2021 So Far list
Last week’s Pitchfork Sunday Review was a very thoughtful evaluation of White Town and the album that contained their one hit wonder “Your Woman”
THE UNSKIPPABLES #15
HARD FEELINGS - About Us
Hard Feelings, the new project from Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and NYC singer Amy Douglas, hits every note of huge 90’s house without the baggage of nostalgia. Their self-titled debut album is all disco sheen and huge diva choruses, indulging in major drama and big unserious piano chords, but Douglas’ vocal commitment pushes every song from throwback to timelessness. “About Us” is the album’s most subdued cut, riding urgent kicks and pillowy synths, with the track’s refrain - “but they could never know about us” - delivered with a lived-in emotional presence from Douglas. Hard Feelings aim high, and on their debut, they rarely miss.
Beach House - Once Twice Melody
Usually my line about Beach House is that they’re the perfect example of a band doing the same thing over and over again, but in a good way. Their best songs and albums lean on the same soft-lit Casio-and-reverb gooeyness that elevate heartbreaking choruses from Victoria Legrand to the sky. This track, from their upcoming four chapter, eighteen song album of the same name, pulls its colors from a slightly more austere palette, recalling Tender Buttons-era Broadcast through a detached vocal performance and greyed-out arpeggios. It’s slightly bleak, but it still spirals upwards towards something resembling hope via a Moog melody that caps off the song.
Summer Walker w/ Pharrell Williams & The Neptunes - Dat Right There
MAYMIND - Left To My Own Devices
The latest LP from Los Angeles producer (and friend!) Maymind is out today, and the opening track “Left To My Own Devices” finds him in a rare 4/4 mood, with a kick fading in at the one minute mark to anchor the song’s distorted backbeat and chopped vocal samples and polyphonic pads.
Jason Code - Decisions
Nashville-via-Seattle producer Jason Code dropped his first release for UK label Scuffed Recordings this week, with shifting acid/DnB textures simmering underneath twitchy, insistent kicks. The rest of the EP is similarly energetic, filled with the kinetic UK-inflected throb Scuffed is best at.
PHREEK - Much Too Much
One of the bluntest and heaviest moments in Patrick Adams’ discography as a producer, with maybe my favorite bassline of all time.
Thanks for reading - see you next Friday!