A Reflection on Teen Dream, Beach House’s Summer Masterpiece

Despite the title of this piece, Beach House’s third record Teen Dream was actually released in January 2010. It’s hard to believe it’s over a decade old; the songs here still sound fresh, unique, alive. It stands as one of the best albums of the 2010s (Pitchfork even placed it at 21 on their list), and possibly my favorite album of all time. As my final piece for the semester, without getting too sentimental or digressive, this is my love letter to Teen Dream, and the incredible duo that made it.

The record starts with “Zebra”, the animal that makes up the bright, summery album art (which I did not realize for years; I always thought it was just an abstract series of lines). Nonetheless, it’s a perfect introduction to the record, with chiming guitar arpeggios, soaring vocals, and a huge, immersive sound. As cheesy as it sounds, it really feels as if you’re entering the world they’ve built: the sun is out; the weather is warm but not oppressive; life is blissful, almost nauseatingly so.

Immediately after is one of Beach House’s best songs (which is saying something), “Silver Soul”. I don’t know what to say about this song other than it is the closest sonic approximation of pure ecstasy. The guitars, courtesy of member Alex Scally, are surprisingly heavy despite their sweetness, adding to the song’s massive sound in tandem with the thunderous beat, shimmering keys, and cymbals that crash into the mix every so often. It is blindingly bright, explosive, life-affirming music. And that’s even leaving out Victoria Legrand’s vocals and lyrics, which are some of the catchiest I’ve ever heard. As she repeats “It is happening again” over and over throughout the song, it’s hard not to get lost in all the beauty and lovesickness. (Side note: To hear the song in a rather different context, check out “Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar, in which producer DJ Dahi samples the song’s intro in reverse to create a woozy, intoxicating beat.)

The final chord of “Silver Soul” transitions beautifully into “Norway”, a dreamy track with seasick sliding guitars, sharp background vocals, and a powerful refrain of the titular Scandinavian country. The following “Walk in the Park” is one of my personal favorites on the album, mainly because it’s such a damn well written song. I’ve said quite a bit about the idiosyncratic sound of this record, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge just how fantastic the songwriting is here. Every single hook is an instant earworm, and the lyrics are simultaneously abstract and enchanting, though they can be somewhat hard to make out, as Legrand’s vocals have a similar obscurity to those of fellow dream pop legend Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. This song is no exception, with Legrand describing the difficulty of moving on with cutting bluntness: “The face that you saw in the door isn’t looking at you anymore / The name that you call in its place isn’t waiting for your embrace / The world that you love to behold cannot hold you anymore”.

The midsection of the album moves in a similarly moody direction, starting with the pulsing “Used to Be”, full of steady snare and pianos that accent the up-beat. The 2008 single version of this track, released on their 2017 B-sides album, is noticeably different with its distorted beats and lo-fi aesthetics, and while it’s still a good song, I think the album version fits much better with Teen Dream‘s aesthetic. “Lover of Mine” is a unique song in the band’s catalog, mainly in that it sounds strikingly direct. Scally works in some of his most tasteful guitar lines to date, and Legrand’s ominous harmonies on the chorus near a howl. It’s impressive how both members are able to show such skill in moving between restraint and catharsis. The seventh song, “Better Times”, pulls things back a bit for a piece for swaying indie pop, and a welcome moment of rest before the album’s final moments.

I’m pretty sure “10 Mile Stereo” used to be one of my least favorite Beach House songs. I’m not quite sure why that is; it doesn’t have their signature atmosphere, but that’s likely because it’s the closest thing the album has to a banger. The driving kicks, direct melodies, and increased tempo make it sound like a song perfect for soundtracking a scene of a character driving into the setting sun. The duo gives off incredible energy in their performance, especially Legrand’s vocals, which are nimble, soulful, and commanding as she sings “Limbs parallel, we stood so long we fell / Love’s like a pantheon, it carries on forever”. The song holds such melancholy for being so punchy, and that melancholy only grows as it transitions into “Real Love”, a stunning piano ballad and easily one of their most devastating songs. The opening line is one of my favorite lyrics of theirs for its raw emotion: “I met you somewhere / In a hell beneath the stairs”. The chord progression and vocal melody are nothing short of genius, and Legrand’s performance is a real tearjerker. The song is proof that even without all the sonic bells and whistles, Beach House can still write a hell of a song.

The album closes on the best note I could imagine, and that’s “Take Care”, an amalgamation of everything great that came before it. It’s gorgeous, spectral pop perfection, from the humming keys to the shimmering guitars to the sticky hooks. Legrand’s lyrics are deeply romantic, so much so I wouldn’t mind having this song played at my wedding one day. My personal favorite line, apart from the titular “I’ll take care of you, if you’d ask me to”, has to be “Hillsides burning, wild-eyed turning / Til we’re running from it” for its depiction of the manic desperation that comes with loving someone. Honestly, I encourage anyone reading to check out the full lyrics, as they’re quite lovely. Sonically, all the duo had been building for the entire record is fully realized here, even to the point of imitation, as after preventing the song’s use in a Volkswagen commercial, the automotive company licensed what was essentially their own copy of the song. Corporate drama aside, you couldn’t really ask for a better, more intense closer. 

And that’s the album. 10 songs and 49 minutes of dreamy, melancholy summertime perfection. Though they have since gone on to make other fantastic releases (the following two records Bloom and Depression Cherry are particularly good), Teen Dream remains Beach House’s crowning achievement in my eyes. Never in my life have I heard such beautiful, organic, awe-inspiring music, at once otherworldly and undeniably human. Listening to it feels like laying in the sun on a summer day: warm, bright, and blissful, but there are those nagging feelings under the surface: nostalgia, angst, naivety, heartbreak, longing for a time and place that doesn’t quite exist. Everything about it is great; it’s well-performed/produced/written, perfectly sequenced, and artfully packaged. In an effort to avoid gushing forever, I’ll just say this: I absolutely love this record, and I don’t think I will ever stop loving it. I am eternally grateful to Beach House for creating such a brilliant work of art, and being one of the reasons I love music to this day.

My Most Anticipated Albums of 2021

Though the year is nearly halfway over, there are still a lot of releases that I’m looking forward to in 2021. While a few artists have actually announced records to be released this year, there are many who have only hinted at the possibility of future projects. As such, this list will include both artists who have set details for their upcoming releases, and those that I’m just keeping my fingers crossed will put out something.

St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home (5/14)

As I’ve already talked about in this column, lead single “Pay Your Way In Pain” did not give me high hopes for this record. It was just too weird, and not in a good way. Second single “The Melting Of The Sun” is actually pretty cool, though! The background vocals are a bit overbearing at times, but overall it’s a groovy, well-written piece of old-school pop. The production is warm and clear, and it sounds like it could be an interesting new direction for her. It definitely appears like she’s going for a full reinvention of herself on this album, as seen in her new look complete with blonde wig and vintage fashion, and I’d love to see how that might be shown in the new sounds she’s working with. That being said, I admittedly didn’t love her last project Masseduction, so I’m nervous about her working with Jack Antonoff again (who seems to work with just about every female pop artist these days). I guess all I can do is trust in her immense talents as a songwriter and musician, and hope for those talents to be realized.

Black Midi – Cavalcade (5/28)

While not entirely familiar with experimental rock band Black Midi, I’d heard a lot of buzz around their 2019 debut Schlagenheim but never quite got into it. However, by the recommendation of a friend, I checked out the singles for their album Cavalcade due out at the end of the month. My feelings on the three songs (one of which is a b-side not included in the tracklist) are pretty mixed, to say the least. Lead single “John L” is, put simply, absolutely insane. The track is characterized by a squawking, stuttering melody, ominous spoken word vocals, uncomfortably long moments of silence, and each instrument making as much noise as possible. I certainly can respect the raw talent and creativity of the members, but I can’t say I fully “enjoy” it, per se. On the other hand, b-side “Despair” is a gorgeous alt rock ballad akin to something off Radiohead’s In Rainbows with its yearning vocals and twinkly arpeggios. It’s a real shame it didn’t end up on the album. The most recent single, “Slow”, features a sharp, panicked melody similar to the one on “John L”, but it’s pulled off a bit better here due to its variations throughout the song. It’s not my favorite track of the year, but it’s a great piece of supremely off-kilter rock music complete with strings, horns, and incredible drumming. Despite having mixed feelings on the tracks so far, the idiosyncrasy of the music as well as the colorful album art have me looking forward to see what the rest of the album has to offer. If nothing else, it’ll be an experience.

Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend (6/4)

Wolf Alice have never fully wowed me with an album, unfortunate as that is. Earlier this year, I heard their popular single “Don’t Delete the Kisses” and was floored with how one song could capture adolescent angst and yearning so beautifully and succinctly. I checked out their two records, My Love Is Cool and the Mercury Prize-winning Visions Of A Life, and was only somewhat impressed. There were certainly great songs, like “Bros”, “You’re A Germ”, and “Yuk Foo”, that showed there’s some real genius present in the band, but I couldn’t get into many of the songs from either album. I pretty much forgot about them after that, until they released the lead single from their upcoming record Blue Weekend, “The Last Man On Earth”. I listened to it out of mere curiosity, and can now say it is easily one of my favorite songs of the year. The song shows so much growth from the band, as if all of the potential I’ve heard only in small parts from them has finally been fully realized. It swells from a somber piano ballad to a swaying rock anthem, with some of the best vocals and lyrics I’ve heard from singer Ellie Rowsell as she bemoans the arrogance of people who act passively in their lives with the expectation that God will “shine his light on [them]”. The following single “Smile” isn’t quite as mature with its half-spoken, half-rapped vocals and muscular riffs, but it’s a strong song. The performances are energetic, and I like that the band sounds like they’re having fun, something I’ve always admired about their music. If the band keeps things as well-written and engaging as the singles, they just might release an album I love from front to back.

Deafheaven (2021)

While nothing’s been officially announced, Deafheaven’s management Sargent House confirmed in a tweet last month that they will be releasing new music in 2021, along with labelmates Lingua Ignota and Detroit band The Armed. They’ve received acclaim for just about everything they’ve released so far, including their most recent and arguably most accessible album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, and I’m excited to see how they continue advancing the sound of modern metal.

Lorde (unannounced)

The world needs another Lorde album. It’s been nearly four years since her incredible sophomore record Melodrama, and she’s remained largely out of the public eye since touring in support of it. She’s given occasional updates to fans through her mailing list, detailing her time mourning the loss of her dog Pearl,  working with Jack Antonoff (again), and a trip to Antarctica documented in a new photo book. She says the new album is “so f**king good”, and I’m inclined to believe her. I just hope I can verify that claim sooner rather than later.

Beach House (unannounced)

There are no set plans for a follow-up to 2018’s 7, but Beach House have remained busy since, most recently soundtracking a Las Vegas art exhibit by the collective Meow Wolf. In an interview on the exhibit in Rolling Stone, the duo claimed to be working on new music, but “without any set endpoint in mind”. I personally would love to hear them explore a bit sonically, despite loving how consistent their sound has been throughout their career. I thought was a decent record, but it just didn’t have the same otherworldly quality present in their best work (and some of my favorite albums of all time; more on that next week). Nonetheless, they’re one of my favorite artists for a reason, and they’d have to do a lot to disappoint me.


Album Review: G_d’s Pee at State’s End! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

G_d’s Pee at State’s End!

Constellation (2021)

Note: Godspeed You! Black Emperor does not make music fit for formulating opinions quickly. I expect to listen to this record several more times before I feel comfortable with my thoughts on it, and as such, my review will primarily be my immediate reactions to it. This isn’t because I think their music is just that deep; they just make really long, densely arranged music. Also, I thought I would mention that because the song titles are quite long, I’ll be referring to them by their specific movements as done on streaming services. But, anyway, on to the review. 

The Canadian music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been making some of the most essential music in the experimental scene for nearly three decades, with multiple classic records under their belt, most famously their 1997 debut F♯ A♯ ∞, and 2000 follow-up Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. Although they took a break from 2003 to 2010, their more recent output has been quality as well; while I haven’t heard each of the four records they’ve released since returning, their Polaris Music Prize-winning comeback album Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, is arguably my personal favorite release of theirs. G_d’s Pee at State’s End!, their seventh album, continues their tradition of making sprawling, deeply political music (they announced it with a list of demands, including to empty the prisons, end imperialism, and tax the rich). In a similar format to Allelujah, the album is made up of two longer tracks sequenced around two short ones, though on streaming services the longer tracks are split into four and two songs, respectively. 

“Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) [4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz]” is, like most Godspeed album openers, slow and unassuming, building tension with droning sounds and recordings of radio transmissions. After a surprisingly simple, catchy guitar line, it transitions into the next movement, “Job’s Lament”. While not the most interesting piece on the album, mainly due to the ascending melody and static chord progression becoming somewhat stale, the chugging guitar riffs and 3/4 time signature make for an admirable performance, like watching the group jam on a single idea for eight minutes. “First of the Last Glaciers” is much more enjoyable in my mind. With its swaying, hypnotic rhythm and powerful drums, it’s one of the most cinematic parts of the record. And to close out the first song, “where we break how we shine (ROCKETS FOR MARY)” is a short recording simply of birds chirping and what I’m assuming are rockets going off. It’s a bit strange, but I’d expect nothing less.

The first interlude, “Fire at Static Valley”, is a droning track primarily made up of chiming, delay-heavy guitars, eerie strings, and a steady kick drum. It’s a nice moment of calm, giving the listener a moment to breathe before the second longform piece, starting with “”GOVERNMENT CAME” (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz)”. On first listen, I was pretty surprised by this one. The first few minutes following the vocal snippets are some of the heaviest I’ve heard on a Godspeed album, full of distorted bass and sharp guitars. It sounds sort of gothic, or even metal-inspired. From then on, the track adds strings and some real tight drumming in a lumbering crescendo ending in layers of instrumentation getting tangled with each other. It’s chaotic, and quite impressive. Following this, “Cliffs Gaze / cliffs’ gaze at empty waters’ rise / Ashes to Sea or Nearer to Thee” is a decent movement to close out the piece. The buzzing drone that takes up the first half of the song isn’t bad, but the end is far more engaging. The driving rhythm section and triumphant lead melodies are straightforward and genuinely uplifting, a sound that reminds me of one of the best songs from the group, “We Drift Like Worried Fire”.

The record closes with “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (For D.H.)”, a six-minute string piece that completely blew me away. It is my favorite song on the record, and one of my favorites by the group in general. I don’t know how to describe it other than that it is absolutely stunning. The “D.H.” the song is dedicated to is Dirk Hugsam, a tour agent and friend of many Constellation Records artists, who died in late 2018. I think it’s a testament to just how communal and personally involved Godspeed are as a collective that they could have written such a devastating, singular piece to honor someone important in their lives.

Overall, this is a great record. It’s not an entirely unique project for the group at this point in their career, but it’s great simply by virtue of coming from them. The pieces are arranged, produced, and performed well, as with all of their work. If anything, it’s different for their outlook. While they’re not exactly making happy music, it seems as if there’s something bright in the songs amongst all the darkness. Even if they know things are pretty hopeless, it’s comforting to hear them sound so hopeful. As they said in their record announcement, “this record is about all of us waiting for the end… this record is about all of us waiting for the beginning”. This record showed me the nature of Godspeed You! Black Emperor as a collective of people, rather than just a band. It’s more than just the music, it’s what the music represents: human connection, basic rights, an end to capitalism’s destruction of society and the earth. While it might not be their best release, at the very least it affirms there’s something worth sticking around for, despite all the shit going on: each other.

– – –

The group addresses the political and personal sentiments behind the record in a statement accompanying its announcement, which you can read here. I highly recommend checking it out, as it’s actually quite beautifully written.

Albums for Your Springtime Enjoyment

Since it’s starting to become a little nicer outside and the semester’s ending soon, I figured I would talk about a few records I enjoy listening to in spring. Feel free to check ’em out and give some feedback if you feel so inclined. I hope y’all are doing well out there.

Congratulations – MGMT

I heavily associate an album’s artwork and the actual sound of the music, as well as with what time of year it reminds me of (as you’ll see in the other records on this list), and there’s not really a better example of that than MGMT’s Congratulations, the followup to their debut Oracular Spectacular. You know, the one with “Kids” and “Electric Feel”. As much as I love those early singles, I’m happy Congratulations isn’t just another helping of that sound, though many fans and critics don’t have the same feeling (that lukewarm 6.8/10 score from Pitchfork is still a surprise; they normally lose their shit over artists subverting expectations and all that). But, all early 2010s context aside, this album is full of bright psych pop and rock, as colorful as the cover. Across the nine songs, you can hear the a variety of inspirations the band is pulling from: 70s prog rock, Brian Eno (see: “Brian Eno”), British post-punk band Television Personalities (“Song for Dan Treacy”), surfing in the Arctic Circle (the 12 minute, multi-faceted “Siberian Breaks”). If that all sounds a bit silly and all over the place, that’s because it is. Yet, it works. It’s genius, in my mind, a shining example of combining experimental ideas with pop songwriting, and deserves a spot in your spring album rotation.

Brand New Eyes – Paramore

What a classic. I’m not exaggerating when I say every single song is a hit. I mean, come on: “Ignorance”, “Playing God”, “Brick by Boring Brick”, “Turn It Off”? What more do you want? Even the Grammy-nominated single “The Only Exception” and emotional powerhouse of a closer “All I Wanted” are on here. Hayley Williams sounds incredible as usual on this album, proving why she remains one of my favorite vocalists in music. It’s just a super solid emo / pop punk album, with great hooks, great lyrics, and great performances. It might sound cheesy, but just listen to the bridge of “Where the Lines Overlap”, when Hayley sings “I’ve got a feeling if I sang this loud enough, you would sing it back to me” and try not to shout along, or at least smile. And, yes, it’s over a decade old, so it sounds fairly dated, but I’m okay with that. It’s one of the few records I listened to in middle school that I can come back to and still enjoy the hell out of. If you’re looking for an album to sing along to in the car, this is it.

Francis Trouble – Albert Hammond Jr.

Francis Trouble is the 2018 solo album by Albert Hammond Jr., the musician best known for playing guitar in The Strokes, one of my favorite bands. Put simply, this is just a super fun rock record. It somehow takes all the most melodic sensibilities of The Strokes and distills them into some of the catchiest music I know. Hammond Jr.’s voice is quite different from that of Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas, though that’s not a bad thing. His more nasal, carefree tone is perfect for the pop and garage rock on this album, as evidenced by tracks like “Dvsl”, “Far Away Truths”, and “Strangers”, which each have some of the best hooks of rock songs in recent memory. The album is admittedly front-loaded, with the first four songs being the most immediate, and some of my most-played songs of the year. Still, there are still some late album highlights like the aforementioned “Strangers”, which is pure genius in pop songwriting, as well as the dark, groovy “Rocky’s Late Night”. It’s a quick, easy 35 minute listen worth throwing on at a party or if you just feel like doing some air-guitar alone in your room.

Mia Gargaret – Gia Margaret

To close things out on a chill note, Mia Gargaret is a gorgeous ambient album, and one of my favorite releases of last year. Gia Margaret, a purveyor of what she calls “sleep rock”, caught my attention with some of the ballads from her 2019 debut There’s Always Glimmer, but this record features a largely different approach, with her vocals only appearing on the final track, “lesson”. Instead, it sounds just like the cover suggests: buoyant, textured, serene. I love the gentle electronics that dominate much of the record, but arguably my favorite moments on the record are when Margaret utilizes live instrumentation. Two great examples of this are “lakes”, made up of warm acoustic guitar and sounds of waves crashing, and “3 movements”, which, as the title suggests, is a series of three stunning, pensive piano movements. I think what connects this album to spring for me is just how organic it sounds, like it was created both in and for nature (funnily enough, the opening of “sadballad” sounds right out of Mother Earth’s Plantasia). It’s perfect for an afternoon spent daydreaming, walking, having an out-of-body experience, or all of the above.

March Album Chart

Here are all the albums I listened to this month. I was in a musical rut and mainly listened to a few albums over and over (looking at you, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning), so I don’t have as many as I’d usually like to. That aside, I did listen to two albums that aren’t too popular in their respective artists’ discographies, Angles by The Strokes and Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie, and had some fairly positive results. Angles was about as good as I thought it would be, with no real bad songs but none quite as good as lead single “Under Cover of Darkness”. Codes and Keys, however, I actually really enjoyed. It’s one of their most disliked albums, with critics calling it boring, lazy, and predictable, and lead singer Ben Gibbard even ranking it lowest out of their records in a 2018 Vice article. It’s no Transatlanticism, or perfect by any means, but it’s an admirable set of songs full of piano, strings, a tight rhythm section, and some of Gibbard’s brightest melodies.




Music Update + Grammy Predictions

Since the pieces I’ve done so far have been fairly intensive, I figured I’d change it up this week and try a new format where I talk about some recent musical happenings in a shortform list. I still don’t have a better name for this segment than “Music Update”, so please feel free to suggest something if you’ve got any ideas.

St. Vincent Announces New Album, Releases Single

Earlier this week, musical innovator and guitar virtuoso Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, announced her sixth studio album Daddy’s Home, due to be released May 14. Once again working with producer Jack Antonoff (who seems to be absolutely inescapable in the industry at this point), Clark claims the album is inspired by both 70s music and her father’s release from prison in 2019. Along with the announcement, she released the lead single and album opener, “Pay Your Way in Pain”, and it’s different, to say the least. To be frank, I don’t like it all too much. It honestly defies description; every listen of it I get through, I find myself asking “What just happened?” . In terms of the vocals, usually a high point of any St. Vincent song, the deadpan speaking on the verse is awkward, and the hook is an earworm, but in an annoying, rather unflattering way.  Arguably the best part of the song is the intro, where ragtime piano and warm guitar lead me to think I’ll be hearing a sweet throwback pop song, but that only lasts about 10 seconds before abruptly crashing into the stilted, hulking beat that makes up the backbone of the song. It’s strange and experimental for sure, but to my ears it just comes off as messy. I’ve seen it being compared to the likes of David Bowie and Prince, and while I’m not incredibly familiar with their respective discographies, I fail to see how this matches the great songwriting of their best known singles, or even St. Vincent’s finest work herself. I’ve been a fan of Clark for a few years now, and while she’s never released a project I absolutely love from front to back, I’ve consistently enjoyed a majority of her music. As much as I admire her constant artistic reinvention (the new aesthetic is admittedly very cool), this single makes me a bit nervous for how the new record will come out.

Lucy Dacus – “Thumbs”

Singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus has come through with a new song, “Thumbs”, which she’d been playing live since 2019. It’s a big change of pace for her, and it works surprisingly well. With just an idyllic bed of synths under her, Dacus recounts a day from her time in college in agonizing detail. The vocals are distinct and warm as usual, but when it comes to the lyrics, I have never heard her sound so biting. The chorus, “I would kill him if you let me / I would kill him, quick and easy”, comes off remarkably sweet for being so cruel, and even that doesn’t prepare the listener for the graphic titular line of “my thumbs on the irises, pressing in until they burst”. I’d previously found her to be my least favorite in the three artists that make up the group boygenius, undeniably good but just not quite as good as the others (Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker), but this song has me thinking that certainly could change.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor Announce New Album

Experimental music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor announced a new album last week, titled “G_d’s Pee at State’s End!”. The enigmatic group has been the source of some of my favorite music in college, from the 1998 post-rock classic Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven to their cinematic 2012 comeback record Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, and I have high hopes that this album will be on par with their best work. As with their last album, the band released a statement of demands, including to “empty the prisons”, “take power from the police and give it to the neighbourhoods they terrorize”, and “end the forever wars”. As a collective, Godspeed has always been about politics, about art in all mediums, about people, about so much more than the music, and for that, I admire them deeply.

Laura Les – “Haunted”

Laura Les, songwriter and producer best known as half of the polarizing hyperpop duo 100 gecs, released one of the most insane songs I’ve heard this year on Friday. Now, it certainly isn’t everyone, as it takes all the distortion and autotune of 100 gecs and dials it up to 11. As someone who’s a fan of that sound (though it admittedly gives me headaches after prolonged listening), I can’t get enough of it. The chorus is pretty much unintelligible, but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly catchy. The production is equally crushing and sweet, with huge, blown out bass balancing well with bubbly synth arpeggios. The song has a great sense of energy, and I love being able to hear how much Les clearly puts into her music. My only complaint is that, at one minute and 42 seconds, I wish it was longer. Considering this is her debut solo single and it came out so good, I’m very excited to see what she has coming up in the future.

Grammy Picks/Predictions

As part of the music update, I figured I’d give a few of my picks and predictions for the 2021 Grammy Awards this Sunday in preparation for a lengthier piece on the Grammys next week.

Best New Artist

Nominees: Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke, Doja Cat, Kaytranada, Megan Thee Stallion

Who I think should win: Phoebe Bridgers

Who will probably win: Megan Thee Stallion

Best Rock Song

Nominees: “Kyoto” – Phoebe Bridgers, “Lost in Yesterday” – Tame Impala, “Not” – Big Thief, “Shameika” – Fiona Apple, “Stay High” – Brittany Howard

What I think should win: “Kyoto” – Phoebe Bridgers

What will probably win: “Lost in Yesterday” – Tame Impala

Best Rock Performance

Nominees: “Shameika” – Fiona Apple, “Not” – Big Thief, “Kyoto” – Phoebe Bridgers, “The Steps” – HAIM, “Stay High” – Brittany Howard, “Daylight” – Grace Potter

What I think should win: “Not” – Big Thief

What will probably win: “The Steps” – HAIM

Best Metal Performance

Nominees: “Bum-Rush” – Body Count, “Underneath” – Code Orange, “The In-Between” – In This Moment, “Bloodmoney” – Poppy, “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) – Live” – Power Trip

What I think should win: “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) – Live” – Power Trip

What will probably win: “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) – Live” – Power Trip

Best Rock Album

Nominees: A Hero’s Death – Fontaines D.C., Kiwanuka – Michael Kiwanuka, Daylight – Grace Potter, Sound & Fury – Sturgill Simpson, The New Abnormal – The Strokes

What I think should win: The New Abnormal – The Strokes

What will probably win: Kiwanuka – Michael Kiwanuka

Best Alternative Album

Nominees: Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple, Hyperspace – Beck, Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers, Jaime – Brittany Howard, The Slow Rush – Tame Impala

What I think should win: Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

What will probably win: Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple

Best Folk Album

Nominees: Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman, Thanks for the Dance – Leonard Cohen, Song for Our Daughter – Laura Marling, Saturn Return – The Secret Sisters, All the Good Times – Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

What I think should win: Song for Our Daughter – Laura Marling

What will probably win: Thanks for the Dance – Leonard Cohen

Pity Sex: One of Ann Arbor’s Finest (Former) Indie Bands


Pity Sex is a really great band name. It brings to mind the image of a grimy hardcore punk band known for their moshpits and blistering sound. That is not the kind of band Pity Sex was. Sure, their music is full of noise, but it’s far too sweet and melodic to be considered anything close to hardcore, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While they weren’t the most influential or captivating band in the scene, they put out some good stuff in the five short years they were active.

Pity Sex formed in 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as part of a local emo revival birthed out of Sigma Phi, also known as Metal Frat. Their core lineup of Sean St. Charles on drums, Brandan Pierce on bass, and Britty Drake and Brennan Greaves sharing guitar and vocal duties remained consistent until Drake left the band in 2016. After a split cassette with fellow Ann Arbor band Brave Bird, the band released their 2013 debut EP, Dark World. In brief, it’s a short, solid set of songs that mainly dabble in indie rock and shoegaze, though it’s tinged with 90s alt rock and emo sensibilities, at their most cloying sounding a bit like Pinkerton-era Weezer. The band hadn’t really honed their sound at this early point in their career, which made them sound a bit one-dimensional, but there’s something to be said about how well they portray adolescent angst and desire in the dreamy walls of sound and dramatic vocal tradeoffs between Greaves and Drake. Their most well-known song, “Dogwalk”, also came from this EP, and it makes sense why it had such popularity. It’s got a loose, infectious vibe characterized by a slinky guitar line that transforms into brittle noise on the chorus, as well as a catchy vocal melody and an admirably amateur-ish performance. The high-energy instrumental bridge is a nice, unexpected moment, too.

In the same year, they released their debut album, Feast of Love on notable indie label Run For Cover Records. This record saw them operating in much of the same sounds as their EP, with some notable improvements. Opening song “Wind-Up” doesn’t reinvent the shoegaze wheel, but it’s some of the band’s best songwriting, most noticeable in the earworm hook and inventive guitar and bass interplay. “Sedated” and “Honey Pot” are similarly bold and infectious (and actually transition into each other quite nicely!), though the real highlight comes in the mid-album moment of respite “Hollow Body”. The band strips things back to just gentle guitar arpeggios and Drake’s dreamy vocals, and it’s such a refreshing change of pace. It’s simple, elegant, and absolutely mesmerizing. I would have loved to hear them explore this lighter sound more in their time as a band.

Following the release of their debut, Pity Sex toured with some pretty impressive acts in the scene, including Basement, Tigers Jaw, and Code Orange side project Adventures. Following this, they released what would be their final album before going on an indefinite hiatus, White Hot Moon. As with their other releases, it’s an enjoyable, bright record with several highlights (the title track is especially great in its heaviness), but suffers from much of the same problems as well. They had certainly mastered the lo-fi, hazy shoegaze/dream pop sound reminiscent of classic acts like My Bloody Valentine, but throughout their career, they failed to innovate and move past their influences into their own distinct sound. It’s a shame their career was so short-lived; I think it would have been interesting to see how they may have evolved with future releases, especially as they became more established musicians, though I admire their DIY, fledgling spirit. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for music by some Ann Arbor natives, or just some solid music to throw on in the background at a party (or makeout session, if you’re feeling romantic), Pity Sex is a great choice. Let’s hope they reunite for some shows when those are a thing again.


Sidenote: I also think all their album artwork is beautiful!


Pity Sex Dark World.png



Dark World EP  (2013)

Songs to check out: “When You’re Around”, “Dogwalk”






Feast of Love  (2013)

Songs to check out: “Wind-Up”, “Hollow Body”, “Sedated”, “Honey Pot”






White Hot Moon  (2016)

Songs to check out: “What Might Soothe You?”, “Plum”, “Nothing Rips Through Me”, “White Hot Moon”