Tag Archives: 2021

Daddy’s Home, by St. Vincent – New Release #5

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Daddy’s Home
2021, Loma Vista. Producers: Annie Clark & Jack Antonoff

(3 minute read)

Saturday Night Live was on my childhood TV viewing schedule long before I was old enough to understand it. I know I watched the famed “Mardi Gras episode,” from February, 1977, and, seeing as it aired at 8:30 pm instead of 11:30, it could have been my entree into the show. I was in fourth grade then, around the same time I discovered Monty Python’s Flying Circus on PBS. This means the inappropriate-comedy-for-nine-year-olds time frame checks out. An early episode of SNL featured Art Garfunkel as a “battered, masturbating husband.” Even though I didn’t know what that meant, I figured it was something interesting when my mom immediately ordered me to bed. By fifth grade I was wearing a Rosanne Rosannadanna t-shirt to school.

I watched the show for all the comedy I didn’t understand. But I also loved the music on the show, too. Saturday Night Live famously has a musical guest that performs live each week, and I saw some weird, cool stuff. It’s where I first saw Devo, who became a favorite of mine in middle school. I saw The Talking Heads, who seemed even weirder than Devo, for some reason. I saw Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger, neither of whom I really knew at the time. (I’m sure I had heard of The Rolling Stones, but I didn’t know band members’ names.)

It’s true that the comedy on SNL hasn’t been consistent over the years. And as an early-adapter, I’m always prone to state that “the show’s gone downhill ever since Bill Murray’s first season!” However, even the great early years had some stinker skits. And the new seasons can still be pretty hilarious. My wife and I have been watching a lot recently, since we got YouTube TV and no longer have to stay up ’til 1 am to watch. (Yeah, I know. VCRs have been around for 40 years, TiVo for 20. But whatever.) And the musical guests are often really good. A case in point is the recent show featuring St. Vincent as musical guest. She was great. Both songs. When her new record, Daddy’s Home, was released a few weeks later, I listened right away. It’s a good one.

St. Vincent is the name used by one-woman-band Annie Clark, a great guitarist and all-around musical genius. Daddy’s Home is her 6th record, and the title refers to her father’s release from prison after serving time for fraud. The album is rather mellow, but it really reveals itself in multiple listenings. It’s got great sounds, and lots of cool guitar work. What it lacks in rock it makes up for with groove and style.

The first song, “Pay Your Way in Pain,” may be the best. It’s got a slinky groove, and Clark’s vocals, describing the tribulations of the everyday, twist around it, supported by great backing vocalists Lynne Fiddmont and Kenya Hathaway. “Down and Out Downtown,” and ode of sorts, to NYC, has a sultry swing, with a lilting “I was flying” hook and chorus, and psychedelic-sounding guitars. “Daddy’s Home” is an organ-based splash of slow funk about her father’s return from prison. Clark’s impressive guitar work is buried for much of the record, but the final two minutes of the lush, Pink Floyd-y “Live in the Dream” feature a terrific solo.

Speaking of Pink Floyd, “The Melting of the Sun” references them on another slinking, dripping groove. Much has been written about Daddy’s Home being a salute to 70s Glam Rock. Frankly, I don’t hear it. To me it sounds more like mellow 70s R&B. “The Laughing Man,” a great headphone song, slows things down to a dreamy crawl while Clark describes depression. My favorite song on the record is “Down,” which opens with a groovy, dirty organ. Clark’s voice oozes around taps and clicks and guitar scratches, while the backing singers work their magic. It’s an angry breakup song, and it’s excellent.

Somebody Like Me” is another favorite of mine, with its lilting acoustic guitar and gently driving drums. It also has some sweet pedal steel guitar. I really don’t like “My Baby Wants a Baby,” which repurposes the mind-numbing Sheena Easton track “Morning Train.” As much as I respect St. Vincent, she can’t do it -the song still bites. (But nice try!) “…At the Holiday Party” has a flowing groove, and really shows off Clark’s singing on lyrics about a past romance. It also incorporates great horns on top of fine guitar and bass work. Finishing up the record is “Candy Darling,” a sultry number about a lost love.

It’s a great record that improves with each listen. I could use a few more rockin’ numbers, but I can’t deny that it’s got a lot to offer. I’ll keep watching SNL to see what other new music I may find!

TRACK LISTING:
Pay Your Way in Pain
Down and Out Downtown
Daddy’s Home
Live in the Dream
The Melting of the Sun
Humming – Interlude 1
The Laughing Man
Down
Humming – Interlude 2
Somebody Like Me
My Baby Wants a Baby
…At the Holiday Party
Candy Darling
Humming – Interlude 3

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Cooler Returns, by Kiwi Jr. – New Release #3.

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Cooler Returns, by Kiwi Jr.
2021, Sub Pop Records. Producer: Kiwi Jr.

(2 minute read)

The song “Undecided Voters,” from Kiwi Jr., popped up in my Spotify feed recently, and, sadly, I’m now familiar with the creepy feeling of having a computer understand my personality and tastes, so I didn’t even think twice. I just heard the song, loved it, and thought, “I gotta hear more of this!”

Cooler Returns, from the Canadian quartet, sounds like a cross of some of my favorite old and not-so-old bands. I hear some Modern Lovers in the deadpan vocal delivery of front man Jeremy Gaudet, and the double guitars of Gaudet and Brian Murphy, with the propulsive rhythm section of bassist Mike Walker and drummer Brohan Moore, call to mind Parquet Courts. Their loose sound and quirky style give them a Pavement vibe, as well. Cooler Returns puts those sounds I like to great use in songs that are catchy, fun and invite repeated listening.

Opening track “Tyler” starts in a singer/songwriter vibe, then introduces jangly guitars and rangey bass as Gaudet speak/sings about some strange events. But the closing song, “Waiting In Line,” might be the best example of what the band’s doing.

Throughout, the lyrics on Cooler Returns are obscure stories told by an outside observer, in a vein of Steely Dan or Belly. “Maid Marian’s Toast” demonstrates the band’s facility with melody, and introduces some harmonica. The songs are all catchy and interesting. “Only Here for a Haircut” is a swaying feast of slide guitar and backing vocals. “Guilty Party” is my favorite song on the record. It’s a bit of a rave-up, with a catchy riff and nice vocal harmonies. The title track is a Strokes-esque piece, but a bit less arch.

The songs are generally under 3 minutes, and the spare nature allows for interesting additions, like the instrumentation (is that an accordion?) and multiple sections in “Omaha.” The song “Nashville Wedding” is a jangle-fest with lyrics expressing a desire to “strangle the jangle pop band.” “Dodger,” in which Jack the Ripper plays “Daytripper” on the bari sax, is a simple, fun number chugging along to a circular riff, before introducing a few new patterns.

The guitars on the record are cool, bouncing off each other playfully, and the vocals and melody are strong, with nice harmonies. The songs are often supported by piano and keyboards to fill out the song. It’s a record I recommend to anyone with a taste for jangly, clever, tuneful bands.

TRACK LISTING:
Tyler
Undecided Voters
Maid Marian’s Toast
Highlights of 100
Only Here For a Haircut
Cooler Returns
Guilty Party
Omaha
Domino
Nashville Wedding
Dodger
Norma Jean’s Jacket
Waiting In Line

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