My fellow gummers, ’tis with a heavy heart that I let you know today is my last day on staff at Stereogum. I picked a hell of a week with Obama giving his farewell too, huh? My tenure here isn’t and won’t be minutely as important or memorable as Barry O’s, but I share the same sense of honor he felt in serving you over the past year and some change.
I moved to NYC four years ago on a 3,000 mile leap of faith with the hopes that I could actually sound smart enough for people to read my shit and affect the way they think on a daily basis. I even dared to hope that a few people would seek out my byline and appreciate the unique perspective I (and only I) could open folks up to. I had no clue that I would ever have the chance to do that at Stereogum after reading the site for years, and I’m happy that I landed here. I always thought people were way too mushy or just flat-out delusional when they spoke of commenting sections as communities, but there truly is a community here. I thought I’d only be kicking knowledge here, not receiving it, and in retrospect I realize how naive that was. Writing can feel like a solitary act in many ways before you hit that publish button, but once you send those words into the world you have no clue how people will interact with them. That has made me open myself up to all kinds of people, perspectives, and thoughts that I never imagine, and helped me learn so much during my time here — from both my colleagues and readers.
So whether I hit you with a passive-aggressive comment, or you actually-ed me like an asshole, or thought my take on something was irredeemably stupid, or I wrote a line that resonated with you in one way or another: Thank you. Thanks for reading, thanks for listening, thanks for commenting, thanks for tweeting, thanks for reminding me that writing is not an act of solitude.
You’ll still see my byline, even though it will be less frequent. I hope you’ll be as excited to read what’s underneath it as I am to write it and discuss it. Peace. –Collin
I. MISS. FUCK BUTTONS! It seems like the ideal time to hear a new album from the duo. They make expansive songs that could soundtrack the apocalypse, and their last album, Slow Focus, came out way back in 2013. Who knows if we’ll ever get another, but this week, Fuck Buttons’ Benjamin John Power put out a new Blanck Mass song that fills all of the same cracks in my brain that I’ve been looking to have filled for awhile now. It starts with a steady hum, the sound of an empty room, and steadily builds from there. A skittering drum and a few electronic impulses push the track forward until it expands to make room for a choir of disparate sampled voices. Powers wrote that this song is intended to remind listeners of the importance of love. And since it lacks any distinguishable lyrics, you kind of just have to focus on the intermingling of all of these sounds, some of which would be straight-up abrasive on their own. Together, they become a loud gathering of friends and revelers. They’ll surround you with unbounded joy if you play this loud enough. –Gabriela
First and foremost “The Bus Song” is a sterling piece of music. The guitars shimmer and chime. The vocals move with liquid grace atop rhythmic strumming that carries the track forward like a rushing current. The onslaught of voices that joins Melina Duterte to protest, “But I like the bus!” is one of the great musical accents in recent memory. And when the triumphal brass kicks in, I hear moody ’90s alt-rock merging with ornate mid-aughts indie a la Broken Social Scene and arching upward through the present and onto Jay Som’s glorious future. All this, and we haven’t even addressed Duterte’s poetry sorting out whether a friendship could blossom into something deeper, an array of intimate details and mundane daily minutia that reveals just enough to feel tantalizingly elusive. It makes me eager to see how this song’s story plays out, and this band’s. –Chris
Sampha’s mother died in 2015 after a long battle with cancer, and “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” — the latest single from the longtime guest vocalist’s debut album, Process — acts as an ode to both her and the warmth and nourishment her home provided. “No one knows me like the piano in my mother’s home,” he sings over a muted backdrop that shows off the instrument well. While Sampha was off building a name for himself with Drake features and SBTRKT and Jessie Ware collaborations, I’d imagine that childhood piano collected a lot of dust over the years, but the idea that it would always be there undoubtedly served as a source of comfort for the young singer. Of course, until it wasn’t, and his new song bears the weight of all that, too: “An angel by her side, all the times I knew we couldn’t cope/ They said that it’s her time, no tears in sight, I kept the feelings close.” It’s a touching tribute to our creative muses, and a sad rumination on standing strong after they’re gone. –James
“Wild Fire” is really more of a slow burn. Where “Soothing” saw Laura Marling pushing her sound further into jazzy experimentation, this is right back in her folky wheelhouse, a loose ramble of acoustic guitar and flickering keys. That’s not to say it’s a step back. Every unhurried beat hits with the force of an anvil, weighed down by unspoken meaning, while Marling’s voice shifts from a Lou Reed spoken-word cadence to full-throated singing to the glowing center of a warm gospel harmony. And she uses that voice to narrate an oblique story of a relationship that becomes an exploration of identity and perception, singing, “Wouldn’t you die to know how you’re seen/ Are you getting away with who you’re trying to be?” In Laura Marling’s case, the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. Laura Marling is getting away with whatever the fuck she wants. –Peter
This song gets me. I left LA for NYC over four years ago and I’m still “confusing love and nostalgia” like one Allison Crutchfield, trying to enjoy makeshift palm trees and imagined beach backdrops the same way she does in the video. What’s great about “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California” is what makes all of Tourist In This Town great: finding comfort in unfamiliarity. Initially, it may seem like other songs on the album are more representative of it as a whole, but what Crutchfield captures here courses through the entire thing. It’s strength and conviction among so many parts moving so quickly they’re disorienting. Crutchfield can coolly condense that feeling into one candid line like, “We’re pretty far away from Philadelphia and that’s fine ‘cause I’m really starting to hate you and anyway I’m looking to move,” and make it cut that much deeper with the perfect accompanying chords and urgent synth-work. Today, she may feel more at home in California. Tomorrow it may be Philadelphia. Next week she could take comfort in the endless possibilities of places to live on this earth. What’s constant is her awareness that she doesn’t know, and that she will have to look to herself and others she trusts to make any place feel like home. Lucky for us, she puts those thoughts and feelings to music marvelously. –Collin