The Seven Best Albums of 2021

The Seven Best Albums of 2021

Presented in alphabetical order. 3 -- Envy on the Coast After the birth of Violent Joy, I thought Envy on the Coast was dead. Apparently, I was wrong. 3 is what it promises: a brief, three-song return, but that's enough. "FLASH BANG" is onomatopoeic, all big punches and explosive bombast; "GHOST" is lead-single material, hook-driven [...]

If I Could Do It All Again

If I Could Do It All Again

It’s fitting that Gates was the first band I saw in concert after the pandemic began. I’ve joked that they’re my musical spirit animal and it’s been so long since they passed The Dear Hunter to become the band I’ve seen the most that I can’t recall how long ago that shift happened or how [...]

This Is Not Really Happening

This Is Not Really Happening

During the year that I was a music major, one of my GSIs used Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” to teach us about complex song structure. Now, I don’t know if that GSI loved OK Computer as much as I—and, one assumes, the rest of my class—did or if she was just leveraging that predictable love to win our favor, but [...]

Exactly What We’re Here For

Exactly What We’re Here For

“Fences” is, pretty transparently, about the misery of being a celebrity. “You’re always on display / for everyone to watch and learn from,” sings Hayley Williams in the first verse. It’s not lost on Williams that this is a privileged position and also that, because of that privilege, because fame is considered desirable, there will always [...]

Shut Up and Let It Go

Shut Up and Let It Go

Being a Detroit sports fan in the ‘90s and early 2000s meant rooting against a number of bitter rivals. Hockey was my first sporting love and in those years when the Red Wings were dominant, it wasn’t frequent foil Chicago who was our chief divisional rival but rather the Chris Pronger-led St. Louis Blues. One [...]

All You’ll Be Is Sound

All You’ll Be Is Sound

Describing “Sound” to NPR, Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso said the song was both “a statement of purpose and a love letter to the listener,” a way of “translating your humanity through a machine in the hopes of connecting with someone on the other side.” That’s so beautiful. And true. The song starts with crackling electronica before [...]

How Does It Feel to Be So Wise?

How Does It Feel to Be So Wise?

Remasters are kind of a scourge on the contemporary listener, aren’t they? They appear with regularity—often unwanted and, more often, terrible. That remasters are pointless seems even more self-evident when you consider that the only albums that get remastered were hits in the first place—no one is clamoring for a remaster of Attila—so obviously people connected with [...]

And I’ll Try to Identify

And I’ll Try to Identify

Author John Green once suggested that, despite being irrationally intense and lacking a foundation of substantial life experience, the emotions of the young are no less real than the emotions of adults. I think he’s right. Is it objectively silly to be in love with someone that you met two weeks ago in a high [...]

Just for Fun, I Guess

Just for Fun, I Guess

Aimee Mann is not known for blistering guitar solos. Neither is Tim Heidecker, a comedian who is only barely known for music at all. Yet somehow these two wrote “Soon Enough,” the third single from Mann’s 2012 release Charmer, a song that, as far as I’m concerned, exists solely to give birth to a searing, scorching [...]