Baker's Dozen: Flume, Narrow Head, the National

Baker's Dozen: Flume, Narrow Head, the National

Baker's Dozen is usually a weekly thing for paid subscribers, but today it's free! This is something I do on weeks where I don't have other free content planned, and also, I've had a lot of free subscribers sign up recently, so I thought it would be nice to give newbies and oldbies a taste of what you get when you move past the freebie (too many bies?) tier.

Also! Because there's so many new people on board, I'm extending the sale on monthly subscriptions for a bit—$1.50/month for the first six months, a 50% discount. I think I'm going to run this for a few more weeks, but who knows when I'm pulling the plug, so grab it here.

Rachika Nayar, "The Price of Serenity"

One more from one of the best albums of the 2020s so far, maybe the most awe-inspiring track on the entire record. The first half of this sounds so huge that it threatens to crush you...the fact that she's able to spin it into some delirious Unicorn Kid trance stuff without losing an ounce of momentum or heft is just more confirmation that she has the absolute goods, what vital work this is.

Flume, "SPOKE 2 ALIENS FINALLY 1.3 [2020 Export Wav]"

Longtime subscribers know that I can't mention Flume without bringing up the ass-eating incident, quite possibly the only good thing to ever happen at Burning Man...feels like a few big EDM producers sat in their gaming chairs during quarantine for long enough that they started to want to make weird music again, you can certainly sense that yearning from the last couple of years of output from Flume, who previously stood as the biggest and most utterly boring success story from the Future Classic camp. Everything he's doing is, at absolute best, diet SOPHIE (RIP), but it's not the worst substitute...I feel like he's actually coming closer to just straight-up making good music, I do love this track quite a bit, can't believe it's 2024 and I'm rooting for Flume but this decade's been really fucked up, man.

Paolo Nutini, "Take Me Take Mine"

Paolo Nutini, shitpost-ass name. Someone online told me a few years ago that Paolo Nutini is strictly "UK mom" music, I won't pretend to know the minds of those islanders (is it possible mum is rinsing Central Cee instead?) but I found 2022's Last Night in the Bittersweet to be the type of noxiously tasteful adult-contemporary fare that such connotations would imply. Of course, there's always some gorgeous diamonds in the rough when it comes to the thousand-year-old-tree boring adult-contemporary side of things...if you know what to look for, that is.

Rochelle Jordan, "Love You Good"

Some excellent Kelela-core from Brit dance-pop girlie Rochelle Jordan's 2021 album Play With the Changes, recent Kelela collaborator LSDXOXO throws in on this...expect me to hold court on the brilliance of his production approach in future installments.

Shaybo, "Good Time"

Shaybo's Queen of the South from 2021 fell kind of flat for me but this song stood out, I love the high register she hits when she sings "I just wanna be free," it sounds very lovely. She was working as a social worker in the UK before focusing on music full-time, that's some tough and respectable work right there.

Don Zilla, "Entambula"

Huge "Hackney Parrot" vibes from Ugandan guy Don Zilla, who takes Louie Vega's instantly recognizable and eternally classic "Deep Inside" and attaches two massive RPG cannons on top of it, obliterating everything in sight. Dope.

Narrow Head, "The World"

Oh no, I guess we're going to have to talk about all seriousness, a few years ago Narrow Head were one of a few bands ushering in the short-lived "grungegaze" trend, which I've chronicled a bit here over the last 18 months or so. Obviously, if you've been online at all in the past year, you know that shoegaze has become something else entirely—a few things really, I know we talk a lot about the pop implications of it all (which, by the way, won't end up adding to very much) but I also see Wednesday, who are doing indie's other big trend (Tonight's the Night-era Neil Young), as getting hybridic with the fuzz-pedal application in a different manner—and that the "grunge" of it all has been largely cast aside. How you feel about this is up to you, I never liked much grunge (sorry to my Gen X readers...I still love you, as long as you're not pro-Israel) so I was honestly kind of relieved to hear Narrow Head dialing back the grunge of it all on last year's Moments of Clarity. It's still there, obviously—how do you hear this song and not think of grunge—but the melodic sweetness of the shoegaze-iness of it all is more front and center, which I think just makes for better music overall.

El Ten Eleven, "Two Views of a Secret"

El Ten Eleven have been around for forever, I wouldn't call them canonical in any sense in terms of what they do but I think that they occasionally hit on something that has that satisfying post-rock nourishment to it—as they do here, on this cut from last year's Valley of Fire. It comes so close to being very "this is like all the other post-rock, huh," and then just explodes two-thirds of the way through in a very Young Team-esque way (maybe that's an overpromise...after all, nothing is quite like Young Team).

M1llionz, "Provisional License" [ft. AJ Tracey]

People are complaining a lot about the pure excessiveness of pop samples being used lately—see: the Coi Leray record, an album of recorded music so bad that it seems to be actively trying to do harm to anyone who listens to it—but I think one thing that has made recognizable samples so prevalent, aside from the TikTok dance stuff, is the fact that a lot of drill's 2020s wave has relied on throwing those drums and bass on top of increasingly wacky samples (bro, I heard a drill song that sampled the fucking ICE CREAM TRUCK SONG). At this point I'm almost like, "No recognizable samples unless it's drill," because that's the only way it works. In a few weeks (Sue from Glee meme voice) I'm going to share a drill song with a sample that is so obnoxious that you might hate me for putting it in front of you...until then you can have this well-it-does-work flip of "The Boy Is Mine" from M1llionz and AJ Tracey, which also serves as a reminder that the Y2K nostalgia craze is starting (not quite in full throes, but starting) to feel a little played.

Tomu DJ, "What's Next"

I hear music like this and I turn into the goddamn doge meme...such synths, many breakbeats, wow. (It's not cringe to reference doge if you're not doing it on Twitter, that's my own personal rule at least.) Real saucer-eyed naturalistic electronic music hours here, makes you want to touch grass in a real way.

The National, "Tropic Morning News"

The National are firmly in their "huge band that everyone fucking despises right now" phase right around the time in my life where I stopped absolutely fucking despising them myself...can I LIVE????? It's so funny that they named an album First Two Pages of Frankenstein, I can't even explain why, it seems to have given me material for riffing on future albums ("I guess they found more pages," maybe that's really the extent of the material but I won't stop saying it, so). I didn't think this record was that bad but it really did seem like this year they turned into late-period U2 (technically perfect, insufferably dull) for many listeners, I also thought Laugh Track was a little better, I'll share a track from that later on this year.

Jim Legxacy, "dj"

Maybe the most exciting artist to truly come out of nowhere in 2023, and I don't even think his aesthetic is 100% all of the way there yet...I'm a fan regardless, I crave new music from him deeply. Gorgeous song, kind of insane what he does here and across the record as a whole, it's this and "mileys riddim" on repeat for me a lot of times.

Avalon Emerson, "Entombed in Ice"

Avalon's been on the newsletter and — AND! — she's a paid subscriber, thank you for supporting the arts Avalon...more of y'all should be like her...just kidding, unless...anyway! It's really not bias when I say that & the Charm was one of the best records of 2023 period, she was already an incredible DJ and rock-solid dance producer but to be able to so seamlessly make the leap to electronic pop, while also keeping her dance bona fides...that's fucking talent right there. I could talk a lot more about this record right now but I'm going to share a few more songs over the next week or so, I prefer to drip the critical writings out sometimes like that, and if you take advantage of that sweet sweet sale at the top (last time I'll pull the hard sell, promise) you will see me doing that with a lot of stuff in the future, too.

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Jamie Larson