Merrill Garbus sings about other people with great empathy and endless curiosity, and with a lot more generosity than when she addresses her own anxieties and concerns. It’s no surprise that when she comes up with a solution to problem of how to “find a new way,” she finds it in observing the strength of other people around her. “When I see you changing, I believe that I could change too!,” she exclaims, sounding as though she’s cracked a code. The Garbus of Nikki Nack isn’t quite the superhumanly self-assured warrior-woman of w h o k i l l, but in showing us this vulnerability and crisis of confidence, she’s even more inspiring. Hearing her change makes you feel like you can change too.

Tune-Yards Somehow Got Even More Fierce On “Nikki Nack”

I wrote about the new Tune-Yards album, which I really love.

In other words, [Review] is a satire of New Golden Age of TV Drama antihero shows hiding in plain sight. It takes the basic “man ruins all he cares about in the name of something that makes him nominally freer and more powerful” structure of the genre and plays it for deliberate laughs. Instead of a meth empire or a mafia family or a double life, he commits his bad acts in the name of the television show that chronicles them. He’s Walter White, but without the sense that there’s anything tragic about him — he’s just an oblivious faux-smart buffoon. It’s a satire of the middle-class middle-aged white-male entitlement and privilege that all the big dramas treat as the stuff of life. And it’s unbelievably funny.
When men display Amos’ brand of unpredictable, reckless ambition, we call them geniuses. Think of Jack White, or how very strange Radiohead’s Kid A sounded when it was first released but how enthusiastically that strangeness was greeted. Look outside of music, too, at how we adore the formal experimentation and/or self-indulgence of David Foster Wallace, or Charlie Kaufman, or Community creator Dan Harmon. Spike Jonze just got an Oscar for writing about his imaginary girlfriend! For a guy, doing strange things with form and pulling up bizarre visions from the core of his own personal torment is proof that he’s a capital-A Artist. But we scarcely mention it when we talk (or don’t talk) about Amos. I hate to pull a “because the patriarchy” here, but I can think of no other reason why so many people have worked, so hard, to avoid engaging with her work — or why they so often do it by way of trivializing Amos herself. When a woman claims the freedom to experiment that’s necessary to approach “genius” territory — the freedom to disregard or flaunt expectations, to alienate people, to fall flat on her face, to produce something that it might take more than one or two casual listens to penetrate — she’s grabbing at a traditionally male prerogative. When that happens, rather than admitting that a woman might intentionally release unusual work because she’s got some new ideas, most of us decide that she’s letting weird stuff leak out by accident, instead of applauding her sense of purpose.

Where Would Music Be Without Tori Amos

You really need to go read this thing Sady Doyle wrote about Tori Amos whether you like Tori Amos or not.

I think a lot of people [in indie rock] now are inherently apologetic because of the things we grew up with in the ’90s, and we saw rock music go from the most beautiful, amazing, culture-changing thing to, like, rap metal. The world of indie and rock music became very apologetic, and no one’s trying to be too good and they’re always trying to hold it back either with the songs or the production. No one wants to be quote-unquote “obvious.” But, like, everyone references Paul Simon, and Fleetwood Mac has become a huge indie reference nowadays, but that’s all bullshit because the most important part of that reference is not the dry snare drum, it’s the unbelievably classic songs and production. After rap metal in the late ’90s, there was this split of mainstream and indie and rock, like they couldn’t coexist. But I grew up when The Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam and Nirvana were all mainstream, but they were also really good. I’d much rather be a part of mainstream culture than be a part of my own culture and have it be not…all the way.

Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff Refuses To Be Apologetic About His Music

I really liked talking to Jack Antonoff from Fun. and Bleachers – he’s very confident and has a lot of bold opinions, and I definitely agree with him about this bit in particular.

It’s easy to describe Morning Phase as a sequel to Beck’s quiet, melancholy 2002 record Sea Change, but while there are aesthetic similarities and nearly identical personnel, it seems inaccurate to sell this as a depressing record. Yes, there are notes of sadness and regret over the course of its 13 tracks, but it’s all rather muted. Whereas Sea Change was written in the immediate aftermath of a painful breakup and has the distraught yet blank feeling of clinical depression, the pain in Morning Phase – particularly on cuts like “Say Goodbye” and “Blue Moon” – feels like it’s been long since processed and accepted. The only tension in the record is in figuring out which parts speak to a genuine, newfound serenity for Beck, and which parts are just him giving a cold, thousand-yard stare.

Who Is Beck, Really?

I wrote about Beck’s Morning Phase, and also a bit about Midnite Vultures.

But while bands will still adopt and adapt to other music – and sometimes, like Radiohead, be loved for it – “Discotheque” also threatens to hold up as threadbare the entire vision of rock as the natural base of musical progress. If “rockism” has ever meant anything, it means what happened on [U2’s Pop] – an assumption that other musics exist to provide new directions and stealable ideas to four rock guys in a guitar/bass/vox/drums lineup.

U2 – “Discotheque” | FreakyTrigger

I actually quite like U2’s Pop, but I can’t really disagree with much of anything Tom Ewing wrote in this incredibly smart piece about the record and specifically its lead single “Discotheque” over on Popular.