I’ve decided I’m going to retire this blog. I started 2021 with weekly reviews, then after getting behind I thought I might do it monthly, but I’m finding that without a clear challenge like the 366 Albums, 1 Year project, I don’t have the appetite.
I’ll keep it online as a journal of my musical journey and how albums preserved my sanity in a year like no other. I’ll gradually start proof-reading all the bumph I wrote during 2020 and perhaps look into creating an eBook or other document out of it all. I appreciate it’s very hard to find what you’re looking for in this free WordPress blog, so maybe it would be nice to have something you can just sit back and read.
Thanks to anyone who has read it and persevered with my idiosyncratic style and ill-informed opinions. I’m still listening to just as much music, but need to occupy my time in a different way now.
Welcome to Week 5 of these increasingly out-of-date round-ups of what I’ve been listening to during each week of 2021. A real mixed bag of stuff hit my ears on the last Friday of January.
Goat Girl – On All Fours (Rough Trade)
I’ve never quite worked out how much I like Goat Girl. I saw them live once on thought they were ace – energetic, moody, captivating. On record, I’ve never quite thought any more than “I like bits of it”.
I’m no surer on the back of second album On All Fours. If anything, they’ve maybe lost a bit of that quirkiness that drew me to them. Still, it’s a solid album, with ‘The Crack’ standing out for its pulsing, grinding qualities.
Their songwriting is no doubt maturing and becoming more radio-friendly, with a blues and soul nurturing shining through, but I still feel like I’m waiting to be really bowled over by these girls.
The Notwist – Vertigo Days (Morr Music)
I haven’t heard much of The Notwist. I vaguely remember some sort of animated video of theirs being on heavy rotation on MTV2 about 15-20 years ago, but that’s about it.
It’s probably time that changed as this is a fine album. Mournful and eerie, and in the vein of Sigur Ros in points, there’s a haunting xylophone/glockenspiel refrain that keeps repeating in the album, and there are certain hooks that just get into your head and stay there. The elegiac one in ‘Loose Ends’ jumps out, as does the murky trip-hop of ‘Oh Sweet Fire’.
Best record of this week for me – really enjoyed it.
Weezer – OK Human (Atlantic/Crush)
“All my favourite songs are slow and sad,” sings Rivers Cuomo on the opening track of Weezer’s fourteenth album. And I can go with slow and sad, but as an opener to this record, “all my favourite songs are cheesy and annoying” would be more accurate.
Weezer have never been a favourite band of mine but, like most people, I enjoy their best-known songs like ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Hash Pipe’ and ‘Undone (The Sweater Song’). In recent years, they seem to have adopted an attitude of doing what they want and say “fuck the critics”, and fair play to them I suppose. They’re in a position where they’re able to do that. The last thing I heard by them was 2019’s Teal Album, which was a collection of pretty corny pop covers. Now, they’re shunning guitars completely and have gone full-on orchestra pop, seemingly to pretty good reviews, but I’m afraid I’m firmly on the “what the hell is this?” side of the fence.
For a start, what a terrible name for an album! If it were some some sort of riposte to Radiohead’s OK Computer, or had an obvious element of humanity (maybe it does and I’m missing it) behind it, I might think it was acceptable, but it just seems like taking the name of one of the most influential albums ever written and using an unfunny play on words.
Instantly, the name makes me not want to like the album, and the music cements that. Soft and bland as anything, with tedious “oh-woah-oh” type vocals. I’m sure there’s a market for it, but personally, I couldn’t get through more than a listen and a half of this album. Horrible!
Portrayal of Guilt – We Are Always Alone (Closed Casket Activities)
Something totally different and not normally up my street, but I have fostered a bit more of an appreciation for death metal in recent times, so would I enjoy this new second album from Texas hardcore punk/black metal fourpiece Portrayal of Guilt?
Hmmm…in parts, maybe. I think where I struggle with this sort of stuff is that I find it very hard to differentiate between one band and another, or even remember which track is which. And because it’s all so intense, it’s hard to take much from it other than the intensity itself.
They do their best to make a soundscape of it, to their credit. Surprisingly, the most brutal track, ‘Masochistic Oath’, is the one I like best, along with the grimy, post-punk elements of ‘Garden of Despair’.
That mid-January week that saw new releases from Shame, Sleaford Mods, Yard Act et al was pretty phenomenal, and I’m using it as an excuse for my slow progress since. Week 4 certainly had its work cut out, but any of these three are worth your time.
Last year was shit, except for music, and this year looks likely to be very similar. There were some good releases in the first couple of weeks of 2021, but Friday the 15th really seemed to kick this year into life. I entertained myself with three albums and three EPs.
This week just gone (and yes, I’m already falling behind on these!) saw the first 2021 release I was actually looking forward to rather than just listening to out of a sense of routine and habit, but two others grabbed my attention as well. Let’s have a look at them!
I’ve settled on weekly roundups of releases as the future direction of this blog. January often tends to be fairly slow for albums, and the first Friday of 2021 happened to fall on New Year’s Day. Who in their right mind releases anything then?
Anything completely weird like the Clown Core album I did earlier this week instantly makes me think of Butthole Surfers. They’re a band I’ve dipped in and out of rather than exhausting their catalogue, so let’s hear what their first album sounds like.
It sounds a lot like Butthole Surfers, is the answer. There’s more of a straight-up punk sound in parts, like on ‘Butthole Surfer’ and the brilliant ‘Woly Boly’, but it’s always laced with psychedelia, and often unsettling experimentation.
‘Lady Sniff’ sees Gibby Haynes add sounds like spitting, vomiting, belching and loud fart noises to the mix, while ‘Cherub’ wobbles and hovers, sounding like a dystopian but low-budget sci-fi film.
I like this a lot, with the conventional punk edge a welcome antidote to Haynes’ comfortingly standard strangeness.
I mentioned when writing on Yo La Tengo’s latest that ‘Sugarcube’ by them is one of my favourite songs of all time. Another is ‘Winona‘ by Drop Nineteens.
I can’t explain my absolute adoration of this song. Perhaps it’s because, as some people in the YouTube comments allude to, it’s hard to imagine a more 1990s song. It came from the band’s 1992 debut Delaware – an album I would only rate as average-to-good despite that one sublime track.
The other day I discovered an article that caught up with the band. Before reading it, I’m not sure I was even aware that they put out a second album, National Coma, the following year, so I stuck it on.
If Delaware is average-to-good, then I’d have to say National Coma is closer to average. Even some of the band said in the aforementioned interview that they don’t listen to it often. It seems like they were trying to be a bit more arty and experimental, but the result is a bitty album. The production doesn’t do it any favours either – I can go with lo-fi, but it sounds rather thin, and quiet.
Still, they could write a tune, and some moments shine through. ‘Rot Winter’ is choppy and sloppy yet raw and abrasive, while ‘Skull’ is the catchiest track. It peaks on final track ‘Royal’ though, where a grungy, brooding verse is kicked into touch by an infectious chorus.