This week’s shoutout is directed to the namesake of this blog, the man responsible for one of my all-time favorite songs, Dev Hynes. That song, Midnight Surprise, is what you get when you toss British emo, Americana, indie, and a movie score orchestra in a blender. It feels, at times, disjointed, and the direction is ever-changing. It doesn’t matter how much music you’ve heard; you won’t know where this song is going. And yet it shines like the best fiction–each character and plotline connecting at a cohesive theme. It’s miraculous, like another song I’ve written about this week.
Dev Hynes, more recognizable by his current moniker, Blood Orange, is a musical genius. His new mixtape doesn’t resonate with me the way his Lightspeed Champion music did, but he is only 33. He’s traversed so many avenues in music that his next step could very well be the moment that vaults him to universal acclaim. At this point, he is a critical darling, but hasn’t quite amassed the populist appeal necessary to supplant him in “best to do it” conversations. But his trajectory is awfully interesting.
At 23, he wrote one of the best songs I will ever hear. Even if that’s his peak, it’s a contribution to art I’ll never forget and never undervalue.
I haven’t been as enthusiastic about a week’s music output in a long time. Every song on here is one I’ve spent time with. I find new layers and different moments elicit unique responses every single time. Here are those five titanic works.
Benjamin Gibbard – http://www.benjamingibbard.com/
- The 42-year-old frontman of Death Cab for Cutie and one-half of the Postal Service
- Grew up immersed in the grunge scene of the Pacific Northwest
- After his divorce with Zooey Deschanel, he got into running ultramarathons, presumably to get as far away from her as possible
- These are not his lyrics, let’s be clear. This album is a covers album commemorating Scottish band Frightened Rabbit’s incredible 2009 release The Midnight Organ Fight. It was released to celebrate the life and impact of Scott Hutchison, frontman of the band. He died of suicide in 2018. The album, a project Hutchison was fully involved in, marks an end to Frightened Rabbit, who say there is no band without him.
- Every song’s artist, direction, and production were approved by Hutchison.
- Keep Yourself Warm is about the unfulfilling act of casual sex. Its placement on the album is important within the context of the whole project. It follows a track with antithetical values called The Twist that highlights the narrator’s primal urge to hook up with someone.
- The thesis of the track comes down to this line:
It takes more than ****ing someone
To keep yourself warm
If we have a hormone race
I’m bound to finish first
Suggests that part of his apprehension probably comes down to his inability to maintain stamina, something that makes Ben Gibbard being an ultramarathoner extremely funny to me.
Why I Like It
There’s a band in the periphery of my brain at all times called Grandaddy. The intro to this song really reminds of something that would be on Grandaddy’s 1997 masterpiece Under the Western Freeway.
Purple Mountains – https://twitter.com/prplmtns
- Purple Mountains is a Chicago-based indie rock band formed by former Silver Jews member David Berman
- Their eponymous album is also their debut and was released this week
- Silver Jews remains one of the enigmatic fixtures of the indie music scene. Their name has never been explained. They’ve teased new music countless times. Most recently in 2015, band member Bob Nastanovich posted two pictures on Facebook of them rehearsing. It was an elaborate prank. Silver Jews also features Stephen Malkmus of Pavement fame.
- I Loved Being My Mother’s Son is an ode to David Berman’s late mother.
- He mentions he wrote the song immediately after her death in her little house.
- The lyrics suggest that he loved her and that her death absolutely gutted him.
When she was gone, I was overcome
The simple fact left me stunned
I wasn’t done being my mother’s son
Only now am I seeing that being’s done
She helped me walk, she watched me run
She got where I was coming from
And when I couldn’t count my friends on a single thumb
I loved her to the maximum
Why I Like It
Berman masterfully balances anecdote with poetry.
Summer Salt – https://twitter.com/SummerSaltATX
- Summer Salt is a beachy indie rock band from Austin, TX
- They’ve had moments of serious controversy that have resulted in significant lineup changes
- Their 2015 EP Driving to Hawaii is about as good as an EP can be
- Coming Up is about how life has just been kicking this dude over and over again, and how this person he loves has an intimidating amount of influence on his future.
- The opening lyrics highlight how conflicted he is
Well don’t come ’round here
Looking for me when your eyes turn me to stone
- He believes, at the end, that this person can actually help him ascend out of his funk
Well I’ve been awfully sure again
That this world’s trying to push me down
Well if it’s down where it wants to be for me
I’m coming up
You say it’s not going to be that hard
I can tell you I’ve got to lift up this whole whirlwind
To tell you how it feels coming back
Why I Like It
Of all Summer Salt songs, I think this one has the strongest guitar riff. Past Summer Salt jams have standout drums and melodies, but this one relies on the crunch of the riff. I dig.
Right On Dynamite – https://www.roughtradepublishing.com/artist/right-on-dynamite/
- Right on Dynamite is/was a Brooklyn-based rock band that New York Magazine referred to as “the Human Sexual Behavior of New York rock, perfectly adolescent yet surprisingly deep.”
- They haven’t released any original music since 2011.
- This cover of Frightened Rabbit’s Fast Blood highlights the relationship the two bands had with each other. Right on Dynamite opened for Frightened Rabbit in 2009.
- Fast Blood, like many songs on the album, is about sex.
- It’s poetic about it, but it’s very explicit.
And the fast blood
Hurricanes through me
And then it rips my roof away with her fire heads
This is the longest kiss
And your black eyes roll back
Midnight Organ Fight
Why I Like It
The instrumental outro is so explosive, not unlike the theme of the song. Folks.
Inletts, or Inlets (it’s not clear) – does not have a working website
- Featuring Sarah Schimeneck and Jeff Zeigler, Inlet(t)s is a total mystery.
- Interviews with Scott Hutchison suggest the duo’s name is Inlets, but Spotify only has record of Inletts. This is the only song by them.
- Inlets music is incredibly hard to find, as their bandcamp isn’t even active.
- The lyrics aren’t the point, but are as follows:
It’s the year, oh oh, extra super very (x8)
- The song sculpts a world akin to Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. There’s a sense of talent in the song’s craft that I haven’t heard much this year, but it’s shrouded in almost Hitchcockian levels of WTF. Who the heck are these people? Why is this their only song? And how did they manage to create something so compelling and unique?
Yes, the lines are all the same, but my favorite is at 2:53 during the fade. It’s here when you realize you’ve been immersed in this incredible world for only three minutes, even when it seems like you’ve always been there.
Why I Like It
Its gradual build is palpable and it’s certainly sensory overload but it feels like it exists in something beyond time and space. I can’t describe as well as I want to. It feels like a miracle.