Baker's Dozen: Fiona Apple, Rina Sawayama, Laura Marling, and the Idiocy of Travis Scott's McDonald's Thing

Baker's Dozen: Fiona Apple, Rina Sawayama, Laura Marling, and the Idiocy of Travis Scott's McDonald's Thing

Baker’s Dozen is a recurring franchise in which I share a playlist of songs I’ve been enjoying lately, along with commentary on said songs and artists as well as whatever else I want to comment on. Usually it happens weekly. If it doesn’t? I’m sorry. (Trying on some humility for a change.)

Priests, “Texas Instruments”

Never liked Priests as much as others did, but this song from their last (and last?) album really does it for me—a nice mix of shoegaze-y guitars and the punk attitude that made the band so beloved in certain corners. If they ever come back, it’d be interesting to hear them push this sound further.

Young Thug, “The London” [ft. J. Cole and Travis Scott]

There are a lot of things to be mad about right now, and Travis Scott’s McDonald’s promotional partnership—the meal, the merch, the whole fucking thing—is certainly something that’s attracted my personal ire these days. Corporate tie-ins and specialty-item partnerships are nothing new in pop, I’m well aware of this. It’s far from new for Travis Scott, who released his own limited-edition box of Reese’s Puffs that is currently going for over $60 through Amazon re-sellers. There’s even a shirt commemorating the song he did for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Travis Scott likes money, and he will clearly do anything to occupy real estate in our collective consciousness.

But something seems particularly ugly and dystopian about Travis Scott’s McDonald’s thing. Maybe it’s me! Maybe I’ve finally decided to hop off the ledge after being pushed to the brink by the last several years of watching people stan corporations and IP as if it were some worthy cause beyond greasing capitalism’s gears. Maybe a general feeling of disgust is triggered when I see one of the biggest pop stars in the world partner with a company that, until last year, actively fought against the notion of paying their employees more than $7.25 an hour. Maybe it’s just becoming increasingly clearer than ever that, in the face of so much injustice and structural violence finally being recognized by the general public, most pop stars don’t really have an interest in standing for anything at all beyond shoving shit down the public’s throat for the sake of adding a few zeroes to their net worth.

Anyway. “The London” is a year old but I just came around to loving it (that’s not a McDonald’s pun), I hear it on Hot 97 all the time these days. I’d kill for a version without J. Cole, the song is a vibe, Travis Scott remains a killer pop-rap superstar who can spin hooks seemingly out of thin air. (Astroworld remains one of the best pop-rap records of the last several years, too.) It’s equally undeniable that he’s a greedy moron, too. Both can be true.

Patio, “New Reality”

Remember when I talked about how we seem awash in another post-punk revival? Well, here’s another one. Patio are from NYC, the album this one’s from came out last year, it’s very good. At times they remind me of Electrelane, another great band that I also skipped out of seeing live right before they broke up. Ah, regrets.

Minor Science, “Blue Deal”

Shout out to Angus Finlayson, who used to write for Pitchfork while I was an editor there. He was a good writer, and apparently he’s a good producer too. His first album as Minor Science is playful and dazzling, I’m impressed by how he pulls together disparate elements to make dance music that sounds suspended in some sort of colloidal solution. I hear a little bit of Aphex Twin in this track specifically, especially in the stop-start nature of it all.

Stay Inside, “Ivy”

Your weekly emo dose. Open wide!

Fiona Apple, “Ladies”

I’ve really only just begun absorbing Fetch the Bolt Cutters as a whole. It’s an intense album to sit down and listen to, which truthfully has kept me from listening to it as constantly as others. But it is indeed remarkable, and my favorite song from it changes every time I listen. This is the one I like a lot lately, it’s basically an R&B song to me.

Andrea, “Lana”

Ilian Tape continues to put out really good electronic music. Very pretty and chiming stuff, I’m not 100% into this whole album but that could always change, and this one stood out to me regardless.

Lido Pimienta, “Eso Que Tu Haces”

I love the way this song opens up, it sounds like space rock to me. A lot going on within this album as a whole, continues to intrigue with every listen.

Laura Marling, “For You”

Every time Laura Marling puts out an album, I’m like, “Right, this person is a genius, why am I not listening to their music all the time?” Song for Our Daughter might be her best album to date, she is an absolute treasure as usual.

Imaginary Softwoods, “Coconut Serenade”

Every member of Emeralds continues making music on their own that I love to envelop myself in, and that absolutely includes John Elliot’s Imaginary Softwoods project. Wasn’t there supposed to be an Emeralds reunion this year? What happened there? (Don’t say COVID-19. I know that happened.)

Crudo Pimento, “Ventana”

This song sounds like a broken radio (a good thing). Reminds me of Carl Stone’s Baroo from last year.

M. Ward, “Torch”

Get a load of M. Ward over here, just doing his thing. I don’t love all of Migration of Souls but there’s some strikingly beautiful songs on it, this is one of them. I don’t even know where I rank all of M. Ward’s albums at this point (Post-War was the one I listened to the most when it came out, I think), but seems like he’s continuing to quietly build a solid “Best Of” in his expansive solo career.

Rina Sawayama, “Tokyo Love Hotel”

What is Rina Sawayama’s deal? The first time I listened to this album—one million years ago, it feels like—I rejected it almost immediately, which meant that I made a note to come back to it at some point. Lo and behold, I’m increasingly into her thing, even if the whole album doesn’t play as excellent front-to-back. The blasé sentiment tucked within this perfect pop song (“I guess this is just another song about Tokyo”) is very funny and self-aware, two elements of her pop personality that make her incredibly interesting to me.

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Jamie Larson