Baker's Dozen: Blue Hawaii, Drakeo the Ruler, and Nice Surprises

Baker's Dozen: Blue Hawaii, Drakeo the Ruler, and Nice Surprises

Baker's Dozen is a weekly feature for paid subscribers where I share music I've been enjoying, along with some stray observations around it. Happy holidays to those who celebrate, and also to those who don't!

‎‎Steve Lacy, "Atomic Vomit"

Steve Lacy went from "popular but not famous" to "actually kind of famous" this year, good for him. I still need to make my way back around to the latest full-length, which sounded OK at first wife is a fan of his last substantial release and said this one's not as good, I'm sure she's probably right. One thing I find very appealing about his sound is the loose, off-the-cuff-ness of it all, kind of channeling a Cody ChesnuTT ('memba him?) vibe. That means that he tucks away little gems like these into releases like the odds-and-sods The Lo-Fis dump from 2020, which has a few nice tracks like this on it too.

Elvis Presley, "Don't Fly Away (PNAU Remix)"

Did 311 write "Beautiful Disaster" about Elvis? That's unfair, I actually quite liked (maybe even possibly loved) Elvis—but I'll save more thoughts on it for the gargantuan first-watches-of-2022 list I'm gonna put forth near the top of 2023. Brace yourselves! Anyway, this glowing Franken-mess of a "Suspicious Minds" remix from EDM's aspirant elder-abusers PNAU, fascinating stuff...I'm sure it sounds great on mushrooms, even if it were the last thing I'd probably reach for while tripping. Seems like PNAU is making a bit of a thing out of their "the oldies are goodies, in our hands" bit, let's see how long it lasts...probably not much longer. If you can even believe it, I'll be featuring another Elvis OST cut next week.

waveform*, "Shooting Star"

Connecticut's waveform* (real name, no gimmicks) re-released ‎their 2020 album Last Room at the top of the year, it's frequently excellent if you've been into the heavier-but-also-lighter strain of shoegaze-y indie going around these days. Speaking of shoegaze! Go read Eli Enis' massive shoegaze piece on Stereogum, it is the kind of thing that is very hard for anyone to pull together and it's a testament to his listening and writing abilities that he was able to do so in such an engaging way.

Kim Petras, "Party Till I Die"

‎Maybe the best Kim Petras song to date? Quite possibly top-3 for me at the least...I've done enough hemming and hawing around here about how she is a problematic fave at this point, would love to see her stop working with Dr. Luke but I'm not holding my breath. We'll see what 2023 holds.

Enter Shikari, "T.I.N.A."

Not even close to an Enter Shikari fan at this point in my life (although, given my overall aesthetic over-the-map-ness at this age of 35, who knows where I'm heading), but good lord this song rips...that drop, that chorus! It's very "we have Foals at home," yes, or even store-brand "Golden Skans," but when something like this is so vibrant, heavy-hitting, and playful, who are we to complain?

TSHA, "Change" [ft. Gabrielle Aplin]

My wife recommended a song from London producer TSHA's solid 2020 EP ‎‎Flowers, and after listening to the whole thing I ended up choosing a different song to highlight...sorry, Abby. TSHA dropped an album on Ninja Tune this year I still need to check out, great sound here, something mid-2010s about it but not in a bad way.

Matt Berry, "Forget Me"

Love Matt Berry as an actor, despite the show being run by a transphobic shithead no one made me laugh on The IT Crowd more (OK, maybe Richard Ayoade did), and I've been delighted to watch many more discover how hilarious he is on What We Do in the Shadows, the current season of which I still need to catch up with. (I tried one episode of Toast of London and got a distinct "too British for me" feeling, but maybe I'll give it another shot at some point.) I've been aware of his musical career for a while now but have ignorantly assumed that he was churning out leaden crooner stuff instead of, like, soft-focus Tame Impala-y psych rock? The outro to this track is quite nice, I can't really recommend his music on a whole, but it's cool that he does this.

The Districts, "Descend"

I did a bio for the Districts a long-ass time ago—like, three full-time jobs-ago ago—but I would've been drawn to what they do anyway, it's weird, they remind me of two very specific indie rock bands from the 2000s. Most of the time, their flavor of indie rock is reminiscent of forgotten Canadian band the Diableros (stream You Can't Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts now)‎, and then there are tender moments like this (from their 2020 album You Know I'm Not Going Anywhere) where they recall also-forgotten Danish indie rock outfit Figurines, whose back catalog you should also probably check out. In summation: the Districts! Good band!

Matthew J. Rolin, "Blue Columbus Moon"

Listen to this song on Bandcamp.

Ohio guy Matthew J. Rolin makes the kind of instrumental guitar music—swarming, huge-sounding, hypnotic, awe-inducing—that I more than abide by. His self-titled 2019 album is capped by this beautiful, towering track; he's got plenty more out that we should all check out together too.

Blue Hawaii, "Danced Into My Life"

I promised I'd share an original Blue Hawaii track soon and here it is...My Best Friend's House is a great title for an EP that is mostly pure and unadulterated house music, and what Blue Hawaii are doing here is very reminiscent of Herbert's classic also-a-punny-album-title Around the House. (Side note, Matthew Herbert recently did the score for Sebastián Lelio's fascinating and ultimately quite tense The Wonder, and it's very good!) You can count Blue Hawaii as one of the acts from the early-to-mid-2010s Arbutus-era "let's cover anyone within spitting distance of Grimes" phase of music media ‎that are still reinventing, refining, and turning out some really stellar music in the process.

Moneybagg Yo, "Said Sum (Remix)" [ft. City Girls & DaBaby]

Yeah, of course I love this, I post enough Moneybagg on here (another one in the next Baker's Dozen too, lol) to make that apparent from the start, and also I'm a City Girls stan, duh. Between this and when I shared "Oprah's Bank Account" earlier this year, we're probably done with DaBaby-posting around here for good now...let's hope.

Drakeo the Ruler, "Stop Cappin" [ft. Shy Glizzy]

RIP Drakeo, who died a little over a year ago now...his delivery was mesmerizing as it is here, ‎‎an icy sort of nonchalance that sounded very cool, very intimidating, and very perfectly suited to the production he typically favored. I love how Shy Glizzy says "Hasta luego" on this too.

Doja Cat, "Shine"

I swear I didn't mean to put Doja and Kim on the same playlist...really. Anyway! Spent some time with Hot Pink recently, as a Doja stan I have a hard time ‎deciding whether it or Planet Her is better at this point, I do think Planet Her is the "better album" while Hot Pink maybe has the "better songs"? How about this: If Doja Cat is the Replacements, Planet Her is her Let It Be, while Hot Pink is her Tim. Is that offensive enough to you (raises voice an octave for mocking effect) rockists?!? Alright, I'm done with that bit now. "Streets" is the best Hot Pink single but "Shine" is the best deep cut, that "dun-dun-dun-dun-dun" chorus is kind of perfect as well as more proof why Doja so easily comes across as a pop savant in addition to being one of the funniest people alive.

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Jamie Larson