T. Cole Rachel
I recently stopped by Stereogum’s NYC offices to sit down and have a chat with Lily Allen. Given how contentious Allen’s relationship to the press has been in the past — particularly in regards to the varying and often contradictory interpretations of her new album, Sheezus — I wasn’t sure just how amenable Allen would be to talking with yet another journalist about her polarizing new set of songs. In the end, she couldn’t have been lovelier. Opinion may be split about her new record, which tows a fine line between calling out feminist double standards and inadvertently playing directly into them, but what makes Allen such a compelling presence is just how honest she is about the whole thing. Whether it be in her music, in the press, or on Twitter, she just can’t help but say what’s on her mind in any given moment, even when it gets her into trouble or, as some have complained, sends a complicated jumble of mixed messages. When I asked her about the seemingly contradictory messages at work in Sheezus, Allen was nonplussed. (“I’m not a politician,” she quipped.) Regardless of how it’s received, Allen appears genuinely happy to have made the record she wanted to make, but she’s the first one to own up to being more than a little frightened and insecure about trying to reenter the pop landscape after nearly a five-year absence. “I just try and be as honest as I can without sounding like too much of a dick,” she told me. “Maybe I succeed in some people’s eyes and fail miserably in others, but at the end of the day that’s the name of the game, isn’t it?”
The first time I interviewed Lykke Li was in 2008. I flew to Stockholm to spend a week following her around for a feature story that was to be published just as her debut album, Youth Novels, was seeing release here in the States. What struck me most about Lykke at the time was her absolute seriousness in regards to her music, coupled with her ambivalence about being considered a pop star (which is essentially what everyone wanted her to be). In the years since, even though much has changed in her life — her sophomore album, 2011′s Wounded Rhymes, made her something of a bonafide indie-pop celebrity — her attitude toward making music remains seemingly unchanged. As far as her career goes, Lykke still leads with her heart, which meant eschewing almost all traditionally “pop” notions when it came to the making her forthcoming third album. A breakup album in the classic “rip out your heart and throw it on the ground” vein, I Never Learn is both epic and incredibly intimate. It also speaks closely to the relative terrors of being in your late twenties and what it means (or doesn’t mean) to be emotionally adult. I had to the chance to sit down with Lykke a few weeks ago and discuss the making of the record and how she feels about entering this new phase of her career.
Considering the amount of love and affection that’s been showered on Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett for the past few months, it seems kind of insane that her excellent debut, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, is only now getting a proper physical release here in the States. The record (if you haven’t managed to hear it already) is a 12-song exercise in masterly exposition — a bunch of story-songs that run the gamut from detailing a panic attack while gardening to masturbatory confessionals, all tossed off with the kind of casual aplomb that would be annoying if the songs themselves weren’t so insanely catchy. I called up Barnett at home in Melbourne just as she was about pack her bags and fly out to California with her band to play Coachella. We talked about her new/old record, and what she plans on doing next.
Some of you were asking about my setlist. This is what I sent Nina and Louise. I included spots for them to insert some new songs.
1 – Get Back
2 – All Hail Me
3 – The Museum of Broken Relationships
4 – Straight
5 – NEW SONG
6 – NEW SONG
7 – Seether
8 – Don’t Make Me Prove It
9 – Shutterbug
10 – Forsythia
11 – Wolf
12 – The Morning Sad
13 – NEW SONG
14 – Fly
15 – Spiderman
16 – It’s Holy
17 – Celebrate You
18 – 25
19 – Shimmer Like A Girl
20 – Volcano Girls
I approve of this cat-oriented artwork. And the song.
With all due respect, I can only WISH that my name was Z. Cole Rachel Smith.
Thanks for your comments.
I generally enjoy that my Stereogum interviews are casual and conversational, but maybe you’re right–I probably could have cut some of our initial chatter. In any case, I hope there was at least something in the interview you enjoyed. I don’t want anyone to feel like their time is being wasted.
I wish. I would love to be able to take credit for writing “How Long Have You Known?”
Yes, total spellcheck malfunction. I could die a thousand deaths for not spotting that, as Icky Mettle truly is one of my favorite albums of all time. SORRY, FOLKS.
Yes, “When The President Talks to God” is a stand-alone single that Bright Eyes released in 2005. I didn’t necessarily mean to imply that it was included on “Wide Awake.”
I stand totally–and accurately–corrected. For some reason The Feelies have always felt like a predecessor to those bands, but clearly that is only a reality in my overcluttered brain. Thanks for setting me straight.