Mostly Cloudy

I continue to not get Tove Lo, and her debut Queen of the Clouds doesn’t help matters. Nearly every song is built around hinting at the same self-destructive behavior without going into any specifics about real danger or harm while also displaying an enormous self-pity that is less believable than it is tiring. Queen of the Clouds reminds me of those kids in college who simultaneously brag and ask for pity because they got trashed last night and are too hungover to get any work done now and it’s already Sunday afternoon oh my goddd.

It doesn’t help that the sonic palette for the whole thing consists of the same shade of gray. Drums plod along, reverb is piled on without abandon, synth pads drone. Soporific doesn’t begin to describe it. Tove Lo can be a compelling vocalist, but she’s in need of something less dour (see: “Strangers”) to convince me more.

screenshotsofdespair
My first screenshots of despair submission! I liked this because it has a sort of double despair: the question “Will you seek help?” and then the doom+gloom of the italicized you will not leave this page.
Screenshot comes from a brief screening questionnaire on my university’s mental health website that is supposed to make a broad estimate about whether you have depression, anxiety, or a substance abuse problem.

My first screenshots of despair submission! I liked this because it has a sort of double despair: the question “Will you seek help?” and then the doom+gloom of the italicized you will not leave this page.

Screenshot comes from a brief screening questionnaire on my university’s mental health website that is supposed to make a broad estimate about whether you have depression, anxiety, or a substance abuse problem.

Today is my 22nd birthday. It’s too bad there aren’t any cultural references I could make about my age, any songs or movies or anything like that – I had to photoshop all these other things to make it work! Oh well. I’ll still try to have a nice day :)

The Juan MacLean – The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love

The Juan MacLean’s gorgeous new album In a Dream plays like an hour-long dialogue between the band’s two members John MacLean and Nancy Whang. Even when one has a song to themselves, the other will often jump in, to great effect; take, for example, John’s “Don’t you know…?” that punctuates the end of Nancy’s chorus on “Running Back to You.” The two have a great dynamic, mostly in part to their vocals. Both have somewhat abrasive vocals; they’re pitchy, they’re double tracked, and they often clash against John’s smooth house productions. That both of them sound rough around the edges puts them on a level playing field. They sound like a couple that has been together for thirty years.

Album closer “The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love” is one of the few tracks that Nancy has to herself, but I can just as easily imagine that John is there, sitting at the live piano that bursts throughout the song. It’s also the best song of the album, and possibly my favorite song I’ve heard this year. The lilting intro sounds like space dust flickering in the sun, and the rest is a bounce castle of electropop that could not feel more ebullient in the face of its fatalistic lyrics.

The central line lays out the mortality — “What if the sun goes down forever?”  — but it’s immediately countered with, “The sun will never set on our love.” Nancy and John couldn’t care less about their apocalyptic visions; they know that nothing can take away what they have. And then, to emphasize that eternal love, the song ends on a slow slow fade as Nancy daydreams about what to do with all of that love: send it in a rocket ship, send it out to space, racing past the stratosphere, we’ll leave without a trace. Just as their love endured the quibbles, obstacles, and ordeals of the preceding songs, their love can endure the end of the world.

QT – Hey QT

I hate this damn song.

The past few years have seen major advances in bridging the gap between mainstream pop and the underground scene. Robyn goes from ironic pop-rap like “Konichiwa Bitches” to full-on melodramatics in “Dancing On My Own.” Charli XCX co-writes a massive pop hit while simultaneously producing edgier, punch-drunk songs. Grimes counts several pop icons as influences. “Hey QT” is a regression in the purest sense, hocking up mucus and spitting it in pop’s face. This is pop music for people who don’t want to like pop music, for people who envision all pop artists as ciphers shilling energy drinks. On that basis alone, I find “Hey QT”  offensive.

But the other thing about it is that “Hey QT” is offensive to my ears, and it’s not only because of the apparent choice of Aqua as the sonic inspiration/pop straw man. The mix sounds terrible, in part due to the pitch shifting but also because the synths and drums seem like they aren’t meant to be played on anything larger than laptop speakers. The kick drum and bassline elbow each other in the mix, the synth chords bleat, and the vocals are dry and not integrated into the track.

It’s easy to carry on about the inner workings and inauthenticity of pop, but this is why it matters. This is why good songwriting, good production, and commitment to the genre (however business-like and profit-driven) will always win out. “Hey QT” isn’t even disposable pop. It’s merely disposable.

Vengaboys vs. Britney Spears – Boom Boom La La (Smada Leinad Mashup)

A commenter points out that this sounds like "Carameldansen," and I really can’t think of a better comparison to emphasize the six-year-old’s sugar rush this mashup gives me. Apart from some harmonic clashing, “Ooh La La” sounds written for “Boom Boom Boom Boom!“‘s marshmallow cereal charms. It’s the perfect setting for the frivolity of the central line – “Baby come with me and be my ooh la la!” – with which Dr. Luke et al.’s club thump clashes. Another cool trick that Smada Leinad (side note: worse stage name than FKA Twigs?) does is stuttering Britney’s “Ooh” on the lead-in to the chorus, emulating the Vengaboys’ classic hook.