Baker's Dozen: Coldplay, Parquet Courts, and Writing About Stuff I Said I Wouldn't

Baker's Dozen: Coldplay, Parquet Courts, and Writing About Stuff I Said I Wouldn't

Baker's Dozen is typically for paid subscribers, but I did another free one this week. Why? Well, largely because I have a few playlists queued up already, and other work has kept me from the type of nitty-gritty planning that scheduling out free newsletters typically requires. So I'm sharing more music, and thoughts about music, for everyone! Hope that's okay, and as always, there'll be another BD for paid subscribers on Friday. As long as I'm able to, all newsletter revenue is going to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

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Tirzah, "Beating"

My ‎‎party line on Tirzah up until recently has been that her music is just there, kind of boring and not quite ever able to make an impression on me—"art," yes, but the kind that doesn't quite 100% speak to me. But on the fourth or fifth listen of Colourgrade (I really do try, especially with artists whose "thing" I would typically be into) something just clicked with a few songs, even as the album as a whole doesn't quite bowl me over. This is probably her best song to me at this point, some really deep sonics going on and the simplicity of the lyrics (which sound like they're about the birth of her child) really helps you live inside this thing.

Wiki, "Roof"

I'm close to calling Half God a classic, it certainly captures the dirty details of living in the city more so than any other NYC-based album in recent memory. This song blows me away, feels like a portal to that first year of the ‎pandemic in the city, only not in a way that's totally traumatizing. I feel like I can wrap myself around these lines, or maybe they wrap themselves around me.

Coldplay, "Let Somebody Go" [ft. Selena Gomez]

"The new Coldplay sucks," I told a friend several months ago, in a statement that I now recognize as a half-truth if not an outright lie. It's fine, it's certainly not even the best late-period Coldplay record (as of now that goes to A Head Full of Dreams, don't @ me), there are plenty of embarrassing moments to go around on it, because it's Coldplay. Would you have it any other way? One thing about late-period Coldplay albums is that there's always a Song About Gwyneth. Ghost Stories was a whole fuckin' album's worth, and then you have the off-white gorgeousness of "Afterglow" from AHFoD; Selener joins Chris for this album's installment, and it's not terrible although it's awfully maudlin. (It's worth stating that if Ghost Stories is The Album About Gwyneth, then Music of the Spheres is really The Album About Dakota, nakedly so. Live your truth!)

Girlhood, "The Love I Need"

Real Wildflower-era Avalanches vibe on this, love it even though I don't love Wildflower.

Trupa Trupa, "B Flat A"

Wasn't‎‎ too into this Polish post-punk band's latest album overall, but this closing title track really scratches a certain ominous itch for me.

Strange Ranger, "Message to You"

Example number 1,000 of emo-leaning bands sounding more like the way indie rock‎‎ used to sound circa 1998-2004. Remembering the Rockets is a very solid album overall, has a loose and anthemic quality that really never lets up other than a few necessary breathers like this one.

Pop Smoke, "Dior"

I previously vowed not to express any particular opinion on Kendrick Lamar's Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, and yet here I am kind of doing so anyway, albeit in a circuitous fashion. After a few years of "Dior" being in the air, I find myself gravitating towards it constantly—maybe it's the weather—and I'm constantly struck by how it's the most visible instance of out-and-out homophobia in a massive rap song since, as critic Mosi Reeves pointed out to me on Twitter, Migos' "Bad and Boujee." (There have obviously since been myriad examples of homophobia in small songs by big artists, as well as in critically beloved artists' entire catalogues—I'm thinking of Future and Roc Marciano respectively and specifically, but it's a topic in which the examples flow forth like wine.) The arrival of Mr. Morale—a complicated and fascinating work that deserves to be heard and deeply contemplated beyond notions of "but is it good?"—offered a new twist in rap's ongoing relationship with homophobia in "Auntie Diaries," in which Kendrick talks about several trans relatives' experiences, and the struggle to offer empathy and love to them from himself, his family, and his community. He also uses the f-slur multiple times and deadnames a relative several times for narrative emphasis. This has all caused a lot of conversation online and elsewhere about what "Auntie Diaries" represents, and to my ears there's a lot less explicit homophobia in the song than, say, "Dior." But is it progress? I think that's a question best answered by those in queer communities directly affected by actions like the use of slurs and deadnaming, and I don't think anyone who isn't in those communities has any business coming up with an answer of their own, either.

Vegyn, "Energy B Thru"

Vegyn is simply one of the best to be doing it right now, he put out a massive mixtape earlier this year that is full of gems. ‎He's kind of mastered a specific sound here and has nowhere to go but up.

Camilo, "BEBE" [ft. El Alfa]

This song has been buried in my head since I first heard it. Just thinking of it gets it lodged back in there. Ah shit, here it goes again.

Parquet Courts, "Pulcinella"

The last one was my favorite record of 2019, but unfortunately I count Sympathy for Life as the first true miss in Parquet Courts' discography (we're talking full-lengths here exclusively). Just didn't quite connect with what they were going for, it happens. Exquisite album closer here though, I do think that delivering one or two songs "like this" every album will make me satisfied enough in the years to come.

Headie One, "Cold" [ft. Kaash Paige]

Headie One's Edna is a pretty solid British rap record to me, but I'm also aware that a lot of people are straight-up allergic to British rap in a way that I'm not, so YMMV. Kaash Paige really floats on the second half of this, sometimes I just fast-forward to her verse.

NLE Choppa, "Jumpin" [ft. Polo G]

Earlier this week (maybe it was last week, who knows), I watched an entire video of NLE Choppa ‎‎‎‎doing a service-industry-employee-for-a-day thing at a place called Slutty Vegan in Atlanta. I suppose it's sort of preposterous for me to be like "I watched an entire video" about something that runs less than three minutes in total, but my attention span sucks when it comes to YouTubes. Anyway, the video was mildly amusing, I mostly felt very nervous for the service workers who have to be like "Haha yes we love this thing that's interrupting our daily job, and also we have to pretend like it's not interrupting the job as much as possible because employment in this industry can be very shitty in general." I hope they get treated ok when the cameras are off! The whole thing was filmed in promotion for NLE Choppa's "Slut Me Out," a song that is, I have to say, just totally disgusting. This song is not disgusting, I mostly like it for Polo G's verse and the way he delivers these lines: "Uh, money counters beepin'/ Blue strip dreams while I'm sleepin'/ .40 with a beam if they creepin'/ Too Turnt Gang what I'm bleedin'/ Snatch who chain? Bitch, I'm squeezin'/ Bullets patch his brain, he ain't breathin'." Polo G, good rapper!

Young Thug, "Droppin Jewels"

Speaking of good lines: "She like, 'How the fuck you ain't never wrote a song?'/ Same reason your fine ass ain't never wore a thong‎." I didn't really like the Bhasker-ness of Punk all that much, but it had its moments, like this. Free Young Thug obviously, I'm no lawyer, the whole thing seems complicated and bad in ways, I don't believe in jail as the answer for anything though, so.

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Jamie Larson