Whelp, today was a day. Donald Trump is officially the 45th president of the United States, and we spent most of the day blogging while watching live streams of the action in DC. 2017 is off to a bleak start, but we have some really inspiring music to be thankful for. Get into it below.
The recurring narrative that Spoon get pulled into time and time again is that they are “consistent” — reliably excellent, and uniformly-so across their catalogue. But what this narrative fails to capture is just how wildly innovative this band really is, and has been throughout the length of a career that’s now over two decades old. I mean, it’s impossible for Jim Eno’s drums and Britt Daniel’s guitar to come together and sound anything but like Spoon; the instruments’ union forms the core of the group’s trademark stomp and swagger. But this is a studio-minded band, so “Hot Thoughts” — built on a fairly straightforward backbeat and jangly guitar jingle — still experiments with space and tone in subtle ways that producer Dave Fridmann characteristically maximizes for immediacy. It’s uncompromising, but to Spoon that still means it functions perfectly well as pop music. It’s just what they do. They make the weird sound obvious, like that’s the only way this music could be reasonably put together. Handclaps on top a squirming synth drone. Whispering bells dancing over sharply snapping snares. A fidgety guitar shuffle cutting straight into a spacey middle-eight. These boldly eccentric juxtapositions are hardwired into Spoon’s DNA. They’ve built their reputation on constantly delivering, yet they’ve never repeated themselves. So as expected, “Hot Thoughts” is nothing as we could have expected. As always, it’s better. — Pranav
In his review of Near To The Wild Heart Of Life, my colleague Tom Breihan noted how hard it is to connect with Japandroids when you’re despairing about the state of the world. That’s true, yet a band like this can also pick you up off your ass if they catch you at the right moment. So it goes this afternoon with the seven-minute epic “Arc Of Bar” — and not just because of the lyric, “I got no plans at all except to drink as soon as possible.” The song is about private passion, not public revolution, yet there’s a grandiose sweep to it that practically carries you away on the wind. In spirit, sound, and execution, it suggests that any ambition can come to pass, even if in this case the ambition is merely the most audacious Japandroids song to date. –Chris
We’re lucky to have a band like Priests today; the DC punks’ latest album, Nothing Feels Natural, is a front-to-back biting punk record, filled with protest anthems that feel especially pointed at this particular moment in our country’s history. Katie Alice Greer shouts her (and the band’s) ideals loud and clear throughout, but my favorite song on the album is a nuanced one called “Nicki.” Greer’s lyrics are muddled as she sings its opening lines, but her voice grows and grows until it starts pitching upward and downward like a pouty wave hell-bent on knocking someone over. I’M THE STUBBORNEST GIRL IN THE WORLD YOU’LL NEVER DRIVE A HARDER BARGAIN THAN ME. That statement is bratty and angry and so self-assured that the following lyrics almost get buried under it, but they’re just as important. “Yes it’s true: I want more. I want more and more and more and more,” Greer sings. Well, I want more than a rapist, racist, proto-fascist for president — this song is a reminder that we can’t always settle for less. –Gabriela
We don’t deserve one Crutchfield, and somehow we got two. Allison’s new solo album Tourist In This Town is one of the finest debuts we’ve heard in ages, and it marks the moment where she moves out of the shadow of all her past bands and proves herself to be a songwriter on the level of her twin sister Katie, the woman behind Waxahatchee. You can hear virtually everything great about Tourist in “Expatriate,” the song that gave the album its title. Drawling hard through a sea of pianos and immaculately-recorded lo-fi fuzz, Crutchfield sounds something like Dolly Parton if she’d grown up on Rilo Kiley. And she shows real strength and verve, singing about the peculiar situation of sharing a tour van with a recent ex, learning how to stop apologizing, and realizing that sometimes you just have to lose your shit. –Tom
Sorority Noise can do quiet and emotional. Just see their recent EP It Kindly Stopped For Me, Cam Boucher’s spare meditation on the deaths of several close friends. But they’re even better at loud and emotional, at forcibly exorcising pain from the body with the help of fiery guitar hymns and some good old fashioned screaming. “No Halo” is another meditation on the death of a friend and the grief and guilt it brings up, but Boucher treats all that raw emotion like kindling, dousing it in kerosene and setting it ablaze. The result is one of the most life-affirming depressing songs you’ll ever hear, building to an explosive conclusion and a few precious seconds of peace. –Peter