Forgive me reader, for I have slacked.
It has been three weeks since my last column, and in the time since plenty of songs worthy of your attention have materialized, only to be left unwritten about and unshared by me.
But this week I atone: Here are the week’s (or the last three weeks’, really) best new songs.
Waxahatchee — “Lilacs”
What a privilege to watch Katie Crutchfield grow up in public. The balanced production of tick-tock drumming and locked-in guitar arpeggio is not entirely un-Hootie-like, and suitably the chorus glides rather than soars. All Crutchfield’s wise metaphorical lyrical curlicues here are just how she finds her way to a simple truth: “I won't end up anywhere good without you.”
Amanda Shires — “Deciphering Dreams”
There’s not much that’s “Americana” about one of Nashville’s sharpest fiddlers here except her drawl, if such things matter to you. Which they shouldn’t—not if you like big drums propelling a guitar chime forward with nigh-psychedelic momentum and a downward wafting hook that reminds me a little of “Ring My Bell.” Which you should.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit — “Be Afraid”
Shires’ husband writes pretty good songs too. In the face of the political realities of 2020, Isbell sounds a lot readier to fight here than his equally righteous and thoughtful compatriots in the Drive-By Truckers, and if “Be afraid, be very afraid/Do it anyway” reads like bumper sticker stuff, that’s not how he sings it. Also, on a purely musical note, that Byrdsy intro should shame generations of retro obsessives who struggled to get half so close.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — “Cars in Space”
Everyone has a band they love on sound alone, where you can’t point to any musical innovation or lyrical insight or defining personality that sets the music apart, but you’re just sated. And by melding a variety of indie guitar styles, these Australians hit my sweet spot. They jangle, they chug, they achieve liftoff with a sleek solo outro—what more could I ask? Oh, I know, plenty. But with a group this engaging, that would just feel rude.
Otoboke Beaver – “Dirty Old Fart Is Waiting For My Reaction”
This Japanese quartet turns their rage spigot on full and lets some unwitting troll have it, and though I don’t understand a word of it, I know it’s all true. The track is exactly one minute long (which is 60 seconds longer than the titular gas leak deserves), but with at least three distinct parts, it feels epic.
U.S. Girls – “4 American Dollars”
Meghan Remy sure sounds a whole lot like St. Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell here, and even if that doesn’t mean anything to you (what do they teach you kids in school these days?), lyrics like “You gotta have boots if you wanna lift those bootstraps” should do the trick.
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2020 playlist.