What Music Do You Want To Talk About?

So anyway I’ve been listening to a lot more clipping. lately, and I think I’m agreeing with your assessment here. No doubt there’s some influence given the abrasive and aggressive approach they often take, and the noise elements harken more to punk noise than to something like Merzbow. But it also doesn’t feel like a terribly proximal influence either - as you say, I get the impression that they draw their inspiration from more recent experimentation.

The dark horrorcore aesthetic also pulls from metal pretty significantly, which is not shocking given how much metal pulled from punk. It definitely comes through on a number of tracks, particularly ones with aggressive vocals and droning back beats - “Body and Blood,” for example.

But the thing I find really interesting that I didn’t know before is that both Splendor and Misery and “The Deep” were nominated for Hugo Awards. I mean granted the Hugos are whatever, but as far as I can tell they’re the only hip-hop works to ever be nominated. I think it’s a testament to the kind of experimentation that they’re doing - it clearly has some cross-cultural appeal, and given that science fiction fandom is still very white despite increasing pushes for celebrating diversity in authors, I think it puts them in an interesting position to advocate hard for black issues and afrofuturism generally.

I want to try to classify their sound somehow, because it’s definitely distinct. This sort of tension-driven aggression gives the music this incredible urgency, which underscores the importance of the politics they bring to the table - so I see wanting to lump it in with punk, but it’s also that kind of brutal political truth rendered through a different cultural lens and I don’t want to erase that either.


My spring/summer happy wakeup music album this yeas has been Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa. It’s perfect dance/disco/pop music which, like the title suggests, mixes new production with 90’s vibes. The lyrics are quirky, but on the right side of cheesy, and Dua Lipa has a super expressive voice. The arrangements are spot on, especially the bass lines. Of the 11 tracks, 9 could be single releases. There’s no filler. You’ll have heard a few on the radio this year, if radio is a thing that ever enters your life.

However, it’s really hard to share the music in a forum like this, because the default way to do so is with music videos. And the music videos are all terrible!

Dua Lipa can’t dance! And it’s all dance music! For most acts, you can just get in professionals to do the dancing and let the act do something else, like stand behind a DJ console or pretend to be singing on stage.

The problem with Dua Lipe is that she’s suitably good looking enough that the directors must include her looking sexy in the videos. There isn’t an option for someone with her talent not to have her looks on display.

Her voice is super expressive, and it’s really recognisable. I got to know her as a singer as she was featured on dance tracks by other producers.

But that isn’t enough. Her body has to be the center of the music videos, and she doesn’t know what to do with it, and she becomes a charisma vacuum.

I think this is purely because she’s a British act. In the UK you can make it to the top of the charts off the back of a few catchy songs and a solid album. People will be happy with the fun music and fun lyrics, and don’t really care about the dancing. You can see this comparing boy bands… the americans have entire dance routines, while the british boys mostly sit on stools, then stand up for the last chorus.

In the USA, you don’t even get your foot in the door unless you also have super high-level dancing skills.

Anyway, here’s the current hit song:


No wait, that’s the Walk Off the Earth cover version! Here’s the actual original artist doing the same “performing on a zoom call” stunt, and it’s by far the worse version:


Sarah Blackwood from Walk Off the Earth has a million times the stage presence, and it’s amplified in a silly attempt at a viral video.

Maybe Dua Lipa has an amazing live show, but I’d never see that anyway, so all I have to go off are the music videos (which make me depressed) and the album (which I love).

Listen to the album.

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I like Dua Lipa a lot! I have never watched the music videos (just Spotify for me). I’ve also listened to a bunch of Switched on Pop podcasts mention her.

I really love Dounia: I think it’s the accent and the attitude. I heard her first through a Spotify auto-curated playlist, but it looks like she had an unlikely start and determinedly worked her way into music.


Ok so it’s Brucemas and I could write a whole book in this thread today, but I’m gonna keep it short by just talking about this song from his 2012 album Wrecking Ball, which as a whole never got it’s due

This album had a huge uphill battle because Bruce had not made a good album since 1987, 25 years earlier, and the last albums of his that did well on the charts were Human Touch and Lucky Town, both of which are still considered by far his worst albums, doing well commercially due solely to the success of his last two albums and the fact that they were released simultaneously. The album people say was “his great album after that” is The Rising which is a really good album but it’s also the musical embodiment of that feeling of unity people describe and exaggerate when they say “9/12” and the three albums after it were just horrible.

But here’s the thing, a culture that is fed up with large powers they don’t have much control over generates a mood that Bruce can channel into better songs than any other time. It’s easy to attack Wrecking Ball as a rich man giving pity to struggles he’s never faced, but look if you’re gonna go that way you gotta admit Bruce hadn’t had a manager since he got enough money mowing his aunt’s lawn to buy a guitar when he was 14, and you’re gonna have to tell me that the entire state of New Jersey is wrong about Bruce’s ability to tap into their despair despite always being a little removed from it. The financial crash of '08 created a culture like the late 70s recession that drove Bruce to make The River, his first number one hit, so it’s not a shock that the later recession drove him to innovation either.

But the common thing that Wrecking Ball has with The River is that it borrows from a small but thriving genre and makes those elements fit with Bruce’s style. I can’t call The River a New Wave album but it definitely borrows a lot more from The Jam and Blondie than the acts he’d been taking inspiration from before. Wrecking Ball does the same with Southern Gothic, a subset of of Americana that uses country/folk traditions to make a spookier kind of sound, stuff like The Dead South and Colter Wall. It’s a weird juxtaposition that really shouldn’t work with Bruce’s style that Jon Stewart described as “epic poetry about losers” but it does.

This song is basically every part of that album that makes it weird without contrasting at once. There’s a horn section in the overture, there’s a choir singing between the verses, there’s a point where I don’t think he got canons and shotguns in the studio but those noises sure are in the recording. All that is tied together with traditional Irish melodies on flutes and mandolins as the glue that brings it all together. And somehow it works? He doesn’t get distracted by any of the parts, which are central to other songs on the album where other elements don’t show up. United under lyrics about the banks that evicted residents of houses they may or may not even have paperwork for, it feels more like that solidarity of a variety of working class people against large forces who don’t ask them before they make decisions against them that made Grapes of Wrath feel powerful in 1939 when the Depression was alleviated but not over more clearly and powerfully than the 1995 Bruce album that was explicitly trying to do that.

Anyway now you know what the articles I write and don’t publish read like.

I mostly agree with this article about Kid A being a good album becoming a great album due to timing, and reflecting the early impact of internet discourse on popular culture.

Adam Neely is my favorite YouTuber, and sometimes he takes a dumb idea and uses it to explore concepts like rhythmic confusions and the odd copyright implications of deepfakes/vocal synthesis.


Today is the 40th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s The River. It’s not an album important enough to me I wanna publish an essay on my column about it, but I do wanna talk about it today because it’s kind of weird within the Bruce canon. A double album being an artist’s breakthrough in 1980 was kind of unthinkable. Most of the cost of a record release was the vinyl, so labels raised prices to cover the cost and this usually damaged the sales. The Rolling Stones’ magnum opus Exile on Main Street was a sleeper hit, performing moderately on the charts for a long time as their fans took the time to make sure they wanted to invest that, and they were the biggest thing in rock when it was released in 1972. So in 1980 when the late 70s recession is still going and Tom Petty’s next record will be $9.00 in defiance of the company trying to raise it to their A-list pricing, Bruce Springsteen’s 12 dollar double album doesn’t seem like it’d do fantastic. After being the cover story of Time and Newsweek the same week in 1974, Born to Run did well enough to secure Bruce a second contract with Columbia, but not much beyond that. The hype earlier in his career about being “The New Dylan” or “The Future of Rock and Roll” were done and Darkness on the Edge of Town also only did modestly well.

If you asked me why The River overcame all these I’d struggle to answer. The 1978 tours were legendary performances and were more frequently broadcast on radio than any tour before, getting him more exposure. It’s a more contemporary (to it’s time) album than his first four albums, possibly excluding E Street Shuffle which just didn’t have a good single which presumably helped. “Hungry Heart,” written by Springsteen for The Ramones after meeting Joey in Asbury Park one night, hit number seven on the charts for some reason and is still the worst wedding song wedding bands play anyway today. This is all good, but it doesn’t quite make sense that it translates to a double album going #1 on Billboard’s Hot 200.

It’s not a great double album either. It’s a great album and a half, but double albums are extremely difficult to make come together into one piece. Tracks like “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” “I’m A Rocker,” or “Drive All Night” which was a good bridge to Backstreets during the 1978 tour but does not have the ability to go for over eight minutes, as it does on the album, without getting stale. Bruce loves this album though. Part of it is surely the association with the personal and professional success that he had in this period, between his deep depressions audible on the previous two albums, but he also just loves the music, apparently. No other reason he’d release a massive box set of outtakes and tour on them, playing the entirety of The River in 2016. After a few weeks on the road he started abridging the album, which is good because many of the songs were slowed down live making the already 80 min album stretch into almost 2 hours, but he sure did love those early gigs. The box set, called The Ties That Bind, is kind of baffling to me in what didn’t make the cut. “Meet Me In The City,” “Chain Lightning,” and “Party Lights” are just better than anything on the 1980 album, and the less than stellar cuts like “Whitetown,” “Where The Bands Are,” and “Dollhouse” would have at least reduced the monotony of the final double album.

But at the end of the day I think The River was even more of a personal project than Nebraska, an album that Columbia agreed to release on the condition they didn’t waste money promoting it (and thus why it’s universally considered the "most underrated Springsteen album’ which… ok tangent for another time). Springsteen has said that The River is the final chapter for a narrator who was first written on Born To Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town continued. With the former being an album about needing to get the fuck out of Jersey, the latter being an album about being lost and having no purpose outside of Jersey, and The River being an album about coming to terms with your adult life in… Jersey. In retrospect the division between The River and everything after is clear since there is nothing carried over in the outtakes, save for this bizarre New Wave/Bob Dylan thing which has most of the lyrics to this desperate and miserable tune on Nebraska in it. But even within the text it’s pretty clear that this is the end of this story to anyone who keeps the continuity in mind, since the last track on the album is “Wreck on the Highway” where a man meditates on the gruesome roadside fatality he saw, which is presumably the teenage loser who told Mary she ain’t a beauty but hey she’s alright in 1975.

Weirdly as much as the joke on how every Bruce Springsteen song is about leaving Jersey but he doesn’t is fair, I think The River is the last album with songs about leaving Jersey, even in the metaphorical sense where Jersey is whatever prison your mind is trapped in. The album that makes him a superstar in 1984 has only one song about leaving anything. The rest of the tracks are either carried over from Nebraska and thus about criminals, or pretty meaningless popcorn songs like “No Surrender” and “Cover Me.” Since then he’s more or less been writing about either romance or hard workin’ people just tryna get by. Sometimes this goes great like on Tunnel of Love or Wrecking Ball, sometimes it goes poorly like on Ghost of Tom Joad or Working On A Dream, and there was that one time in 1992 when I’m not sure why he released anything at all, but the “gotta get out of Jersey” motif died in a wreck on the highway in 1980, evidently.

His next album, Letter To You is already shaping up to be pretty generic. His last three albums varied in quality but they did have an idea better than these first two singles do. But it is Bruce so I will listen, and it’s the first time the E Street Band is in the studio with him live since 1984, so I’ll watch the documentary they’re making.

I wish the days of double albums would come back. I rarely see any release these days with more than ten tracks.

I’m glad double albums are gone. I think there’s only two that I think are worth being so long that aren’t anthologies, Exile by the Stones and The Monitor by Titus. A lot of the bulkier releases today – Folkore by Taylor Swift and The Big Day by Chance – are suffering because there’s no real reason to not make a 20 track release and see what hits, so they do and the album as a format suffers for it.

I don’t see too many people doing the shotgun approach. What I see are people maximizing revenues based on the way streaming platforms work and pay out. Several “pre-release” singles followed by a mini-album or regular album (which is still quite mini) that includes all those pre-release singles, the title track, and maybe up to 5 b-sides if you’re lucky. Not to mention a large number of those b-sides will be kinda meh tracks that are “featuring” another popular artist in order to cross-promote. Also, all the tracks are individually short, since more plays is more cash.

What I’d like to see are people making huge albums where every single track is a hit. You’re right the double shouldn’t be used as a means to throw more shit against the wall. It should be because you have too much good stuff and you don’t want to hold back.

I mean I do want albums to come back, I wrote a whole article on why they’re dying and why I want them not to back in March. But I also don’t even know what you’re talking about anymore. Like, what’s a “B-Side” when we haven’t had physical media for singles in over 20 years? In the last calendar year I can think of a boatload of albums that needed to be refined and workshopped a bit longer. I also wanna argue on “every single track being a hit” being a good thing, but I’m not sure if you mean a hit like a song that would get a lot of attention or just a great song, which are very different things.

A b-side in 2020 is a track that isn’t actively promoted. While it’s released on the album, it doesn’t get a music video. It doesn’t get radio play. It doesn’t get a released as a single. Streaming services don’t put it on playlists. The artist doesn’t perform it live during promotional activities, like when they are appearing on a late night show. The only time you ever have even a small chance to get a live rendition is if they are headlining their own concert, and they feel like putting it on the list. It’s a track that’s on the album, and you’re pretty much not going to hear it anywhere else unless you listen to the album and seek it out on purpose. The odds of someone who is not a big dedicated fan of the artist ever hearing or knowing about the song are incredibly small, even if the artist is huge.

When I say I want every track to be a hit, I mean that I want the album to be long and include many tracks, but they shouldn’t be filler. Even though those b-sides might not be actively promoted, they should be as worthy of being legendarily good as the title track is. If you imagine yourself in the position of hearing the album and having to choose which track is going to be the title track, it should be a very hard choice, not an obvious one. When people hear the album they should be adding every, or almost every, track from the album to their listening rotation. Far too often I hear a great track, add it to my playlist, listen to the whole album once, and add maybe only one more track stands out and becomes playlist worthy. I want to click on the button that adds the entire album to my playlist, because all the songs are worth of several repeat listens.

Then why do you want double albums? The sheer number of songs means it’s extremely unlikely to have every song be a hit. Like not even Exile on Main Street is that. “Let It Loose” and “All Down The Line” kind of rely on you being carried by the strength of the first three sides, and then hope you make it to “Shine A Light” and “Soul Survivor.” Most double albums are confused wrecks like Physical Graffiti or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a bunch of great songs but not enough for both discs and the flow gets confused.

Also I’d like to amend my earlier statement that there are only two great double albums, because I didn’t realize To Pimp A Butterfly is double album length because I’ve only ever listened digitally.

I want someone to be good enough that they release a double album and it’s all good.

I mean you can waste your summers praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets, but I already spent enough time doing that so I won’t be joining you.

While I’m certainly interested in albums that are :100:% quality with no BS, and every track hitting perfect, that doesn’t mean every song needs to also work stand alone as a hit single potential. Especially for a concept album you will find tracks that are needed and very good, but not real worthy of putting on like a mashed up random playlist. Many of the best albums have tracks that build the up the whole without themselves working outside the context.

Like, there’s a few tracks on even To Pimp a Butterfly that without being in the context of listening to the whole album are not exactly standalone hit material as published, though they are still excellent tracks within the album context. (Im going to expose my bias or whatever and suggest How Much a Dollar Cost is not on nearly as many playlists as Blacker the Berry)

I can also think of plenty of great albums where there are not any tracks that bring the thing down, but where I have 2-3 favorites. Usually with the trademark lines or the signature riffs or just a certain memorable hook that stands out.

But to be clear yes a lot of albums do kinda have that 3-hits and a pile of “B-side” filler vibe.

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B-sides are NOT just a non-single track from an album.

The whole point of a B-Side is that it ISN’T on the album, and is a reason to BUY THE SINGLE even if you already own the album, so you’re getting something you don’t already own.

If a single is released before the album is available for sale, it was common to have a “double A-side” of two album tracks.

If a B-side became a popular song in its own right, it was often included on a later album, or a re-release of the same album.

A non-single track from an album are called “album tracks”.

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More clipping., and Daveed Diggs continues to be a lyrical master.


This latest album appears to be a continuation of There Existed an Addiction to Blood - I mean the cover art literally references the previous cover art so I take that as a clear signal. Both albums use the trappings of horror stories - some well-known, like this song which uses the imagery of The Candyman - to talk about the brutal reality of black lives. This song in particular drives hard at BLM and the racist motivations of the war on drugs

Increasingly I think these guys are really masters of the craft. Hip-hop writ large is very concerned with the black lived experience, but I think Daveed’s lyrics take it to another level and really drive home the raw truth of the subject matter. He paints pretty vivid images, and I think tying it to a very visual striking medium like horror movies is an extraordinarily clever way to give the music extra impact.

It calls up images with which I am familiar, and then replaces them with the images they want me to see - sort of piggybacking on existing effective media in order to make your media that much more effective.

I’m not sure if the people who need to grok what he’s talking about are even going to bother listening, but I don’t think he’s even writing at them anyway.

I seriously cannot say enough good things about these guys.

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Gonna continue the Clipping. streak since I finally caught time to check their latest double-track music video.


So, these are really awesome tracks from the album. Tons of musical layers here. There’s pounding bass dropping on your head, soaring moments that don’t feel freeing but hypnotic; otherworldly lyrics painting ominous pictures with sound and word, and then you’re hearing the visuals. Or are you? What’s what? It’s so oppressive and heavy.

These tracks aren’t following the sort of more campy horror reference path (at least not in a way obvious to me) that many of the other tracks are. But these tracks are still ominous, dark, and certainly full of terror. They transcend the more raw visceral horror the other elements of the album hit.

What’s interesting here with Clipping on these tracks is while they’re doing a great job of arranging different aspects together, I am thinking in the back of my head how a lot of these individual elements are coming from various scenes and Clipping. is essentially tapping into them and packaging those sounds into their work. So that’s a good thing, but if you want Merzbow like, don’t get it from a Clipping. album. And so for me what’s interesting is where is Clipping just doing what many bigger acts do and take a whole goddamn genre and then sample it to inspire one song?

I’m not saying Clipping’s crew isn’t pushing things in their own way and making their own sound. But I am getting a vibe that a lot of the real interesting stuff is tip-of-the-iceberg reference to worlds of sound exploration going on in various scenes.

Certainly a scene I do think about while listening to a lot of this album, is the wider range of horrorcore, dark trap, phonk, and other offshoots of the Memphis rap scene.

There’s been a few characters (I don’t know what the proper title would be) putting together a lot of mixes of very dark grimy horror-themed Memphis-rap-derived, chopped and screwed trappy tracks, layered together with various visuals and sound clips from horror/gory movies from the 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. And certainly it’s all working from the same strings what Clipping’s been pulling on.

Stuff like:




But what they’re doing is just repackaging various music into a presentation that uplifts the feeling. (People making mixtapes and playlists aint no big new thing but themed audio-visual aesthetic playlists is a more new thing I’d say)

If you just want the raw source you got various artists who themselves are onto the aesthetic:


But of course

A lot of popular horror aesthetic is campy and raw and gory. Clipping is all of the above but usually it’s made to such a degree that it transcends its origin. There’s artistry, musicianship, message, and concept at full force. These mixes on the other hand bathe in the giblets of their source material. They’re straightforward. And they go fucking hard.

Where I’ve previously turned to metal, more and more I have been turning to this stuff. I think this trend will be true for a lot of people going forward.

Certainly in some ways it’s working it’s way back through the genre forests towards metal. Ghostemane’s latest stuff is pretty-much throwing back to Marilyn Manson-era Nu Metal


So in a way this is just one corner that I’ve been exploring but it’s an interesting slice of what’s common throughout the music world. We have some artists in their little corners, making work squarely within a movement. Genre artists, kids on soundcloud or people who just pioneered a specific sound for decades. Then we have these compiler groups who are creating high-quality concept work that spans multiple movements, pulling it together to do their own thing with all the influences allowed and no boundaries left. Lots of mainstream acts end up here as they’re pulling in features, being influenced, trying to make big stuff that can’t be contained by strict genre traditions. In some sense this makes the most powerful work but individual elements might be a bit watered down in the mixing process. Then we have these other compilers who are not even really making music but instead curating and presenting a sound as a package deal, yet are in their way significant to cultivating the aesthetics around the music in the modern YouTube space.


Is it just me or do these sound like anime openers? Like, not a good one (13-25 episodes, with deep and rich characters) but one of the really trashy ones (100+ episodes, but it is beautiful trash that tickles your brainscape in weird way, so you watch not only all of the episodes, but also the 14 OVAs).

I think it’s the fast, funk basslines and the bouncy, jazzy melodies that are pulling me in that direction, but what do I know, I’m just a drummer!

I don’t think I have too much to say about these, other than they’ve only recently come across my feeds and I thought they were pretty good. I feel like it’s music that I’ve needed in the past few years, what with all of the exhaustion and gestures vaguely at life in the US.

Anyway, hope these will bring some joy to someone that needs it, or at least a couple headbobs!