The Queue is a recurring excuse for me to talk about songs or albums in short form. This week I examine a catchy Head Automatica track, my slow-growing love for Canadian pop star Lights and a great finale from Michelle Branch. Let’s investigate.
Head Automatica – “Laughing at You”
Head Automatica’s 2004 debut Decadence is, rightly, a pretty big deal and there’s a good chance that if you’re reading this you’re intimately familiar with, at the very least, the album’s standout track, “Beating Heart Baby.” After the cannonball entry of his side project’s first release, Daryl Palumbo’s second pop-rock entry, 2006’s Popaganda, made a significantly smaller splash. Popaganda doesn’t feel as revolutionary as Decadence, in part because that’s the curse of sophomore releases but also in part because it hewed closer to conventional pop-rock tropes. But the album has its moments, particularly “Laughing at You” which has a verse only a mid-2000s scene kid could love but a chorus capable of uniting everyone on earth in withering mockery.
Among my many faults is a completely inadequate knowledge of the Juno Awards. Not to be confused with the Ellen Page vehicle of 2007, the Junos are Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys and, had I been paying attention, they would have introduced me to the electropop of Lights a long time ago. 2017’s Skin & Earth was my introduction to Lights but the Junos were awarding the one-woman band of Valerie Anne Poxleitner as far back as 2009 when she won New Artist of the Year. She’s since won two Pop Album of the Year awards (for 2014’s Little Machines and Skin & Earth) and been nominated for two others (for 2009’s The Listening and 2011’s Siberia). These accolades don’t even consider 2016’s Midnight Machines which completely reimagines and, I would argue, improves nine tracks from Little Machines. In case it’s not clear: Lights is both very talented and very famous. I was late onto the bandwagon but there are still plenty of seats available. If you care for pop music, you’ll want to climb aboard.
Michelle Branch – “City”
If you were born before 1990 you know Michelle Branch’s biggest hit because it was literally everywhere. After dominating the early 2000s with one of the decade’s biggest hits, Branch stepped out of the Top 40 limelight, though she did shift gears and enjoy a number one country hit. Branch successfully blended that country inclination with classic rock influence on her 2017 return Hopeless Romantic which sounds very little like her breakthrough hits while also feeling like a natural progression from them. The album’s back half is its strongest with no song standing out more than finale “City” which sounds like sipping whiskey alone in a dive bar during a rainstorm. There’s some depressingly poetic closure in the fact that Branch’s most famous song was about being painfully in love while arguably her best is about realizing her marriage is over.