Baker's Dozen: Paramore, Drake, and Saint Etienne's Eternal Influence

Baker's Dozen: Paramore, Drake, and Saint Etienne's Eternal Influence

Today's Baker's Dozen—a weekly thing for paid subscribers of Larry Fitzmaurice's Last Donut of the Night newsletter—is free! This is a taste of what paying subscribers get at least once, sometimes twice, a week beyond what I usually share on here for free. And wouldn't you know it, I'm actually running a subscription sale through Friday as well, so if you like what you see, grab a subscription right here.

Pip Blom, "Keep It Together"

I was a big fan of Dutch indie-pop band Pip Blom's 2019 debut Boat, but a little less so of their 2021 follow-up Welcome Break—no real changes to their style, just a little less of a wall-to-wall-bangers record than Boat was. But the kind of indie-pop Pip Blom traffic in is pretty much in my lane regardless, and they're also clearly the kind of band who will deliver at least a few rippers every record regardless, so like many indie-pop bands past and present, I'm mostly just happy they exist.

Mush, "Positivity"

These guys are so close to being something I can't stand sonically, but I find their brand of post-punk—rigid, almost goofily stiff, anti-funk to the point where there's actually a little bit of funk, and good God that goddamn voice—to be weirdly appealing, kind of like picking a scab? I feel like Squid does something similar, I way prefer the varietal that Mush is pouring up.

Zefer and Moebius, "Once in a Lifetime"

Here's the other side of that Steppers x Krunk Kulture single I shared last week, if you didn't check it out already for yourself...I like this one a little less but it's splitting hairs because I love this kind of dance music so much, the 2step is definitely leavened with more house-y touches than on "Crux" (and, like, I love house music, so that's not a bad thing at all).

DJ Ridler and Riko Dan, "Dem Can't"

I mean, hell yes. Will definitely be occupying some summer playlists personally.

Spencer Krug, "Slipping In and Out of the Pool"

As far as this decade of Krug output is concerned, Fading Graffiti has a slight edge over Twenty Twenty Twenty One for me, but don't ever get it twisted—I'm always enjoying what he's serving up. Many quotables on this one: "Bury your brain in the snow/ Just to say I told you so," "Two articles online/ One on the start of post humanism and/ One on the end of time." Will forever adore and envy his perfect turn-of-phrase obtuseness, writerly in the most impressive way. Go check out my interview with him from last year here.

Gospel, "Deerghost"

Sick stuff from these NYC screamo guys' first album in 17 years(?!?). Kurt Ballou produced the album, of course...real endless-ziggurat stuff, like if Fugazi's The Argument was set on fire.

Jasmyn, "Blank Paper"

Did not listen much to Weaves but I know they had their fans, frontperson Jasmyn Burke's solo debut from last year In the Wild was eclectic and appealing though, not a huge idea of where her sound lands really but that's OK. Something snappy and alt-rock about this, obviously you could say that about a lot of music these days.

Karenn, "Crush the Mushrooms"

Back when the name Karen still meant something...every time Blawan and Pariah's Karenn project pops its head up, they're usually bringing some sort of fire. Plenty of solid club fare on Grapefruit Regret from 2019, this one stood out to me because, well, "La Rock 01" vibes. Looking forward to hearing what they get up to with their new band Persher.

Paramore, "You First"

In a sense, This Is Why never stood a chance with me. I'd always been an admirer-but-not-quite-fan of Paramore before 2017's After Laughter, which arrived right at the time where I was dealing with a lot of heavy shit (I wrote about this here); I developed an impossibly intimate connection with it, the kind of relationship to art that betrays logic and critical thought. So even though I didn't really like This Is Why when it was released and saw many others more or less felt the same, I made sure to dig into it again at a later point—and, you know what, I think it's fine. One thing is that I was never really that into what Bloc Party were doing the way a lot of my peers were, so the idea of a 2023 edition of Silent Alarm isn't half as appealing to me as it is to everyone else...that being said, there's some really capable hooks on this record regardless, I love that triplet guitar stab on the chorus especially. I've already heard this record in coffee shops, and that makes sense—it's not too abrasive, and at this point also Paramore are just generationally beloved so as we get older you're just gonna hear their music even more in public settings, the same way you do with artists that stand the test of time with their fans.

Drake, "Down Hill"

Christ, there is just a part of me—a large part of me at this point—that is just so sick of Drake. I stopped getting excited about Drake records with Honestly, Nevermind, which I actually ended up liking, but there was something about Certified Lover Boy—which I was actually really looking forward to, because I guess that's what all that time indoors during the pandemic did to me—where I was like, "Yeah, no, I think I just straight-up hate this guy now." I also continue to insist, and I think more and more people agree with me now, that at some point in the future we will end up finding out things about Drake that are just terrible, things that he's been what's-the-opposite-of-virtue-signaling to everyone about by, like, playing basketball with Tory Lanez and working with Chris Brown (and yes everyone in the music industry works with Chris Brown, but when Drake—someone who's had proximity to Rihanna throughout his career and is legitimately Taylor Swift-level famous—does it, it really does mean something) and saying Megan Thee Stallion lied about being shot. Of course, Drake's increasingly saying-the-quiet-part-loud misogynistic moves are part and parcel with a broader cultural backlash we've been seeing post-#MeToo, an attempt from the patriarchy to reassert dominance "in a man's world" and no doubt brought upon by the pandemic cutting these men off from society and making them believe that, when they re-enter, shouldn't we do away with all these rules and go back to a simpler time in life, when men were really, REALLY allowed to be men? So, yeah, I'm increasingly with Drake like, "This fucking guy, get him away from me"—and yet, I have to acknowledge that he still gets off good features occasionally and that Her Loss had some decent tracks on it (we'll get there later this year probably), and that Honestly, Nevermind is probably his best record since More Life, even though it's a Weekend at Bernie's situation where he's in a shitfaced k-hole in a hotel lobby, singing terribly over music that sounds like it was made for a hotel lobby. At this point I'd rather make music like this, where he sounds like he's being wheeled around like Dianne Feinstein in between sessions with Black Coffee, than have him continue to lean into what is clearly a nasty edge that he possesses, mentally and spiritually.

En Garde, "Not Penny's Boat"

Sometimes you listen to an emo record and you're like, "I bet this is just two guys"...I was surprised to find out that Origami Angel were two guys, but not En Garde. That's not a knock! I like what they do and think this song has a real forceful lurch to it, and also you gotta give it up for a Lost reference good enough that it has you thinking for the first time in years, "Maybe I should rewatch Lost?" (I will never rewatch Lost, to be clear.)

Duncecap and Hajino, "Ch-Ching!" [ft. Mc Eleven]

NYC dudes Duncecap and Hajino's Go Climb a Tree is very nice lightweight underground rap, floaty and funny and just kind of a short and sweet bullshit session. I like Mc Eleven's verse on this too, especially how he says "That's mad annoying."

Shania Twain, "The Hardest Stone"

Shania Twain's latest album is borderline terrible and maybe just straight-up embarrassing, and that's beyond the fact that it accidentally shares an album title with a (funny) Kroll Show's a classic example of a veteran pop artist who's made innumerable classic contributions to the genre just totally forgetting what's good about what they do, and instead trying to sound "with it" and embracing a variety of trends and styles that sound stale and don't fit too well anyway. I saw a brand-new vinyl copy on sale on the street for $8 the other day, that's how bad this record is. This song slaps though, she's clearly doing a "Tom's Diner" thing on here and the spaciousness reminds me of Clean Bandit's "Rather Be" and Katy Perry's "Small Talk" and (holds breath before mentioning Charlie Puth yet again) Charlie Puth, and also Saint Etienne, who I just hear in so, so much music lately...someone's gotta sit Shania down and play her Foxbase Alpha, maybe she'll be into it. I also love the way she sings, "I thought I would change/ Then I woke up dazed," almost sounding like she's losing her breath on "dazed"...the whole thing still makes such little sense on Shania (even considering that godawful "world music" version of Up!) that it's extremely jarring, but it works a little better than most things on the album do.

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Jamie Larson