Deadshirt Is Listening… Bringing you a rundown of our staff and guest contributors’ favorite new tracks released in the past week after they’ve had the weekend to blast them in their cars, in a club, alone in their rooms, etc.
Sam Paxton is dancing by himself to…
Bleachers and Carly Rae Jepsen
Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2
At first blush, Bleachers should have been right up my alley. Though I dug the sunny electro-pop tracks and infectious melodies of Strange Desire, the band’s debut album, something about Jack Antonoff’s milquetoast vocal delivery ultimately left me cold. But it seems that Antonoff must have heard my complaints, because this week he unexpectedly dropped a new version of Strange Desire tailor-made for me. Entitled Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 ( a nod to his previous band Steel Train’s Vol. 1 of the same nature), the new album features reimagined versions of every track from Strange Desire covered by some of Antonoff’s favorite female pop vocalists.
While some of the tracks remain unchanged apart from the vocals—Charli XCX’s straightforward, no-frills take on the Springsteen-esque “Rollercoaster” springs to mind—others, like “Shadow”, are tweaked to better fit the new performer’s strengths. With a key change and an extra-thick coat of bubblegum pop veneer, Carly Rae Jepsen transforms “Shadow” from Ryan Adams to Cyndi Lauper, delivering a fun, feel-good bop. On the choruses, the lavish production of the original is ditched in favor of a stripped down approach, revealing the song’s surprisingly emotional core that Jepsen’s girlish voice conveys perfectly. Considering that Strange Desire was largely inspired by Antonoff’s relationship with women, it’s cool and refreshing to see him pay lip service to some of the powerful women that inspire him—and it’s nice for him to give listeners like me a new window to another chance at appreciating his music.
Dylan Roth is going Full Sadboy to…
I’d like to begin to confess that I’m not thrilled with this whole “aging” thing. I’m against it. I’m one of those cynical bastards who doesn’t believe truly great or meaningful music is likely to be conceived by artists over 30. (I used to say 28, but I’m 26 now so I adjusted it for inflation.) And as I get older, further from that sweet spot where innovation, expression, and authenticity reach their zenith, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me anymore when I hear something really impressive from someone much younger than me. In fact, I really shouldn’t expect it from anywhere else.
Julien Baker is a nineteen-year-old singer-songwriter who’s just weeks away from releasing her debut LP, Sprained Ankle. The title track to that album opens with the line “I wish I could write songs about anything other than death,” and it feels totally genuine, completely lacking in winking irony or English major smugness. Baker’s lyrics feel meditative, like unfiltered excerpts from a private diary set to haunting reverb-soaked melody.
I’ve got nothing against the more electronically-driven sounds being created by younger artists today (I’m not that old, Christ), but I do appreciate Julien Baker’s minimalist, coffee shop stylings. Using new technology and modern synth and drum sounds can make a song feel fresh today, but dated later on. “Brittle Bones” could easily have been recorded any time between the mid-80s and now and sound virtually identical, which speaks to Baker’s potential for longevity and cross-generational appeal. But more than anything, her songs feel absolutely genuine and heartfelt, and authenticity is one thing that never gets old.
Steph Salo is flying to…
One of the perks of my job is getting to travel a lot. Once you get past the banality that is the airport, travel can be fun and relaxing. For me, traveling forces me to just sit down and relax for a few hours, which is not something I get to do very often. When these moments strike, you feel pretty grateful for them. Being able to listen to a whole album right the way through without any distractions or concerns over having to do something else feels like a deep tissue massage for the brain. Airplanes are cool, man.
On my most recent trip, I had the opportunity to check out Saintseneca’s sophomore album, Such Things (out October 9th, but check out the first listen on NPR). The first single of the same name is complex, fun, and an overall good time. This is the perfect travel album because the lyrics are so captivating. As you listen to it, it gets more and more interesting. It’s pretty rare for me to get instantly enamoured with a band. I’m a slow grower. I have to listen to something a few dozen times before it really sticks. With Saintseneca, it was pretty much love right away.
If you’re into surf rock-y indie poppish Neutral Milk Hotel-esque music, this is going to be your new fave. My crutch is comparing things to other things, so don’t let me confuse you. Saintseneca is a thing all of their own. There was one moment towards the end of my flight when my plane was starting to descend and the burst of drums of the last tracked kicked in when the cabin pressure dropped. It was this crazy synesthetic experience (yes, I know I sound like someone’s crazy aunt that talks to her succulents and does acid but roll with me here) and it totally woke me up out of my plane coma. AND THEN the last moments of the last song made me lose my damn mind and forced me to say “OOOO” aloud, startling my neighbor. Saintseneca has something really magical here. It’s nothing too weird or too kitschy or too anything. It’s fun enough for mindlessly listening to, but interesting enough to study.