Baker's Dozen: Lydia Ainsworth, Lil Yachty, and Stuff That Sounds Like Saint Etienne

Baker's Dozen: Lydia Ainsworth, Lil Yachty, and Stuff That Sounds Like Saint Etienne

Baker's Dozen is a weekly thing where I send out a playlist of music I've been listening to lately along with some thoughts about it. Usually it's for paid subscribers, earlier this week I did one for everyone—now we're back to paid. If you want to get these weekly, subscribe!

James Blake, "I Keep Calling"

I always have slight reservations about going in too hard with regards to, well, pretty much everything James Blake has released in the last five years. It seems like it comes from a sincere place and that he's doing some deep reflecting on relationships and mental health, and it's nice to see a man in any musical space taking that stuff seriously in a way that doesn't come across as totally self-serving. That being said, most of the music just totally sucks. What's even more paradoxical is that when James Blake does stuff that recalls the exciting post-bass music he made his name on, no one really seems like they want to talk about it? This track's from his more left-field Before EP from last year, which garnered a few news stories but no critical appraisals. It's almost as good as "If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead," another really cool-sounding left-field thing he did that no one seems too interested in discussing. Ah well.

Knox Fortune, "Compromise"

Thought this guy was a rapper, turns out he just knows rappers. Either one or the other these days, I guess.

VINCNT, "Miss You"

Very big-sounding song with an intimate sentiment, seems made for a huge EDM remix (or, like, eight thousand huge EDM remixes) but given that this dropped just pre-pandemic and hearing EDM remixes at festivals was put on pause for a year-plus, I think it missed its moment. Still a good song though!

Konx-om-Pax, "Rez (Skee Mask Remix)"

Planet Mu put out an anniversary comp last year, it's worth a casual spin if you're typically into what they do. Great melodic spin from Skee Mask here, who is as good with the playful-sounding material as he is with the twice-cored dub techno dealio.

Will Butler, "Surrender"

Huh, had no idea that Win Butler's brother's solo music also closely resembled Arcade Fire stuff, but I guess I shouldn't be shocked. Haters will say that this is better than anything on Everything Now, I (a serene, level-headed maniac) will say that all of you were too harsh towards Everything Now, which simply isn't that bad of an album. Who is right? Who can say!

Kitten, "Memphis"

Have consumed this song several times now without realizing that it's the band that Chloe from Nasty Cherry is in. OK! Nasty Cherry are not great and they sound ghostwritten to death of course (all thanks to the brothers Raisen)—I can't say this is much better although I enjoy the energy and drive behind it, a song that kind of sounds like a ton of cultural artifacts from the 1990s thrown in a particle separator. If it came out in the 1990s I imagine it'd be a minor radio hit, a la OMD's "How Bizarre" (which it vaguely reminds me of in style if not explicitly in content).

De Lux, "875 Dollars"

From 2018, Los Angeles duo who sure sound like they're scumming about in the McKibbin lofts regardless. Would be cool if they put out another record—just, y'know, not on Innovative Leisure.

Claud, "Guard Down"

The Claud record is better than people think, this is one of my favorite songs of the year. Has a Saint Etienne-y sparkle and is formally the type of thing they'd be into in general, at least in the earlier parts of their career. Probably a good time for a Saint Etienne reissue campaign again (I know we just did it a decade ago), important band that seem to have a lot of DNA in the mix with a lot of this bedroom pop stuff even if the makers of the bedroom pop themselves are probably not listening to too much Saint Etienne.

Jim-E Stack, "Note to Self" [ft. Empress Of]

Have never really cared for the music of Jim-E Stack OR Empress Of, but they both deliver really satisfyingly here. Jim-E Stack in general seems to have finally found a groove of sorts, which is "the type of bouncy electronic pop that Diplo was occasionally turning out at the beginning of the 2010s," I was surprised in general about the general strength of EPHEMERA.

Lydia Ainsworth, "Edge of the Throne"

Hey, here's someone else whose stuff I have always wavered on who's finally catching on with me. Haven't gotten around to listening to her latest yet but it's in the queue, Phantom Forest from 2019 is well worth your time though if you like this, or if you've previously written her music off the way I had.

JPEGMAFIA, "BALD! REMIX" [ft. Denzel Curry]

Like Denzel's energy on this, perhaps unsurprising if you know my taste but in general I like him more than JPEG (haven't listened to the new album yet), this beat is probably the coolest thing to date that JPEG has done though IMO. Kind of serene and aggressive at the same time, I wonder if he'll ever top Veteran as far as statements of purpose (again, I haven't listened to the new album yet).

Lil Yachty and Tierra Whack, "T.D." [ft. Tyler, the Creator and A$AP Rocky]

For all of Rocky's try-hard post-KIDS, post-Blonde art school tendencies the last few years, he always sounds most at ease when on the same track as Tyler (see also: "Potato Salad"). They should just make a collaborative album together at this point, or perhaps Rocky would be better off just not making music at all. Either way! Yachty is great on this, I am in general becoming more of a fan of his as of late after several years of struggling to take him seriously (I assume this is the case for others as well).

Tierra Whack, "Dora"

As for Tierra: Whack World is still a classic, the kind of thing that's singular and impossible to replicate. I found myself not too impressed by what followed, and I'm not sure it's really her fault—it seems like my brain was just programmed to expect more "Bee Thousand, but make it rap" stuff from her, and it just consciously rejected what she had to offer afterwards? I'm trying to be blame-evasive here! Anyway good song here.

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Jamie Larson