Baker's Dozen: Giveon, Tomberlin, and Being Out of Step With Justin Bieber

Baker's Dozen: Giveon, Tomberlin, and Being Out of Step With Justin Bieber

Baker's Dozen is a weekly thing for paid subscribers where I share a playlist as well as a bunch of assorted thoughts on the songs in the playlist. Sometimes the thoughts are short, sometimes they're not, but they're always there regardless.

Future Islands, "Plastic Beach"

It took me a minute or two (read: eleven years) to get into Future Islands, or at least to connect more deeply with what they do. I first saw them open for Dan Deacon back in 2009 and I had no idea if they were for real, and now I understand their thing is extremely sincere and they've also only gotten better since. I think the latest album is my favorite of theirs at this point although I'm sure diehards would disagree. The Letterman performance of "Seasons (Waiting on You)" is still a thing of beauty, the type of overnight iconography that's all but vanished from American popular culture.

Big Thief, "Jenni"

Love this song but I suppose I'm destined to die on the hill of claiming that U.F.O.F. is overrated, even as I think it's a decently solid album. (I prefer Two Hands and think Masterpiece is, well, their masterpiece.) The way Media People talk about this band (and by extension choose not to pay much mind to Other Bands Like This Band) seems weird to me and always has, almost as if they decided to pick one Serious musical act that isn't a pop artist out of a hat to stan—but why am I even giving Those People half a bar on here anyway, and also it's not a bad thing that bands like Big Thief (which are, to be clear, a great band) get attention anyway.

Mare Cognitum, "Ataraxia Tunnels"

One of my favorite heavy records of the year, the kind of black metal that's truly transportive and inspiring. Every song is a banger.

Annie, "Miracle Mile"

I keep coming back to the Annie album from last year, a kind of weightless doom to it even as it sounds very inviting. Feels of a piece with a lot of the Cold War-era new pop of the early-mid '80s. Check out my interview with Annie from last year here.

03 Greedo, "Loaded"

From what is probably my favorite Greedo project to date, his melodic sensibilities here are unmatched.

American Football, "Doom in Full Bloom"

Got into American Football 3 a few months before the pandemic, when it already felt like parts of my life were falling apart around me. Beautiful album, my favorite of theirs but I'm also probably able to say that because I don't hold the sentimental connection with the first record (which is, to be sure, a classic) that so many do. This track kills me every time, really expansive and dazzling guitar work.

Grace Ives, "What's It For?"

2nd was an underrated record from 2019, Grace Ives is doing a few interesting things with her sound—kind of doing a lo-fi M.I.A.-ish approach with shades of the Blow and High Places, reflective music that's also playful. My favorite track from it changes every few months, this is mine right now.

Justin Bieber, "Deserve You"

Another hill I'm prepared to die on is that Changes is better than Justice, even as the critical reception seemed to suggest otherwise. Changes just sounds more like an actual album to me in terms of working within a uniform sound, I do not get why so many think it sounds boring (well, I kind of do, but I just don't agree) and I do not get further how general preference has been expressed for the grab-baggy follow-up that is Justice, an album that also features two goddamn MLK Jr. samples. But Justice does have some good songs on it; "Peaches" is the best Bieber single to date, "Lonely" is devastating even if you think he's a privileged POS, and there's a few solid Black pop cosplay moments like this one on there too.

Giveon, "Heartbreak Anniversary"

Speaking of "Peaches"! This song was drilled into my head because a food truck had it on repeat while I was waiting for an order and I ended up hearing it four times in a row. Grown-man R&B, really good shit imo.

Cut Worms, "Unnatural Disaster"

Really like the recent Cut Worms album even as it runs ambitiously long, he's kind of got a Paul McCartney-by-way-of-Cass McCombs thing going on. Easy to understand why this is effective.

Good Sad Happy Bad, "Star"

Last year I posted another song from these guys and claimed that they'd changed their name from Micachu and the Shapes with Mica Levi still at the helm. Turns out Mica's not part of the band anymore. I regret the error! Still good music, astounding how much these guys sound like Broadcast.

Sofia Kourtesis, "By Your Side"

Perfect song on a perfect record, huge DJ Koze vibes. Five years ago she'd be an overnight sensation for something like this, now it seems like it's a struggle to have any artist that's not marquee gain lasting press coverage in general. Not a great trend, but great music nonetheless.

Tomberlin, "Natural Light"

Stunning songwriting, speaks for itself really. Can't wait for the next record, this one sure was good.

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Jamie Larson