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New Music Week Of July 20th, 2009 Part 1: What We Fall In Love With When We Fall In Love With A Song For the First Time

The One – Mary J. Blige
History Sticks to Your Feet – Modest Mouse
Here Comes Your Man – Meghan Smith
Say Please – Monsters Of Folk
Of all the things pop music has to do the single most important thing it is has to is to get you to want to hear it again. The hook -the musical or vocal repetition, the “yeah yeah yeah” or the “ella ella ella” if you like, is the bulwark of pop music. It is the jelly in the jelly donut and one of the greatest gifts a popular songwriter can have and it has NOTHING to do with any form of “Selling Out”. It was Glenn Matlock who made the Sex Pistols the Sex Pistols, it was always “no fuuuuuuuuuucha” that was the calling card. All four songs I am reviewing here (two of which I’ve mentioned before) are very new and I am just sorry there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to listen to these hooky proto-classics more often.
With Mary J. -surely the best soul singer of the past decade, it is the “I’m the best but I’m the best” that sucks you in and won’t let you out and the wholehearted vocal at odds with the electronically doctored back up tracks (is her voice doctored as well? the bridged appears to be a little out of her range) and it seems to missing verse entirely: going from chorus to bridge back to bridge again. Except for Drake’s rap. Thought I forget that, right? Well, I like what I’ve heard from Drake so far but I am not thrilled here and I am not claiming he isn’t working hard here what I am claiming is a) it doesn’t help the song in the slightest and b) you can rap about putting a ring on anybody’s finger if you don’t sound so damn reticent about it. It’s not enough to ruin the song but I am sure it has broken big R&B by now and bet it is hovering in the pop charts and will launch off fine.
Modest Mouse are an alternative band whom I pretend not to like very much and it’s worth keeping in mind they are not a group but an experimental group who only seemed to figure out that they can write very accessible songs and ergo get, ahem, popular, if they write em. 06s “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” had some real good songs and some less good good songs and Johnny Marr on guitar and Isaac Brock. Brock sounds so all the times and he is a smartypants lyricist who seems to be getting at something the way Michael Stipes seems to be getting at something fully formed but not fully: like a concept with a black hole in the middle drowning thoughts ever downward. The hook on “History Sticks To Your Feet” is the “mystery, history” rhyme though what is on Isaac’s mind I don’t quite grasp. Something to do with cynicism or informed ideas. Like much of Modest Mouse there is this enormous alienation where you either join in the alienation and form a community or you ignore the community and stay alone because whatever Brock is trying to do here is not use lyric to communicate a story but a feeling of how far pessimism can take you.
Sure, I like Francis Black. I do. I like him. I do. And sure “Doolittle” is a terrific album. But even Dylan improves with a pretty cover -I mean, ever heard Van Morrison’s “It’s All Over Now (Baby Blue)”? So it isn’t an insult to say Meghan Smith’s “Here Comes Your Man” cuts the original because it takes a brilliant idea for a song (the US atomic bombing bombing of Nagasaki that ended WWII) and though even originally the song was really catchy and gorgeous it is also cute in Smith’s version which is a perfect example of a happy song about world class terrible thing. It is enormously smart lyric which clicks in place like the end of the of “Sixth Sense” once you know it. The hook is the repeating of the title for the coda, the little yodel she gives it at the end of the line. By the way, I thought the song was a variation on “I’m Waiting For The Man” -which I would have liked as well because then Smith woulda been talking to a junkie in that cheerful sweetiepie way, but I went on to -a website I simply can’t live without and it is really shocking how smart the guys are who post there.
I was talking with a friend of mine and she is obsessed with Conor Oberst -much more than I am because there is no sexual portion to my love (I’m guessing that: if there is it’s rumbling way in my subconscious if not unconscious …nobody here folks, just us cobwebs), but it is as easy to obsess about Conor as it once was about Dylan. He is just too good -he is on a whole other level of good and the poor bloke, who is nowhere near as popular as he would be in a less fragmented market place, is bending into a pretzel to prove he is just one of the guys and doesn’t want, because it’s weird and creepy, to be thought of as a rock and roll mesiah, but HE IS A ROCK AND ROLL MESSIAH. Conor can’t help it, he is just that good. Conor is Gaye, a Dylan, a 2Pac, a Cobain, a McCartney, The man can write fucking great songs time after time after time. This is his second terrific song SINCE RELEASING OUTER SOUTH. It is preposterous. Jim Jones is a talented fellow and My Morning Jacket blew me away New Year’s Eve and M. Ward’s new album is small but perfect but Conor is a different league entirely. It’s the “Hold out your hand…” here that’ll rock ya world.

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