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Darlings

We’ve eaten spicy food, we’ve gone on many, many walks… this kid just refuses to leave the friendly confines of Mrs. YHT’s midsection. Well the adorable little squatter is in for quite a surprise this weekend, as our doc has decided it’s time to induce. Eviction party starts Saturday night. Wish us luck, y’all.

Darlings — “Eviction Party” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Beyoncé

Flawless

There are few things I enjoy more in life than finding the perfect song to complement what’s going on around me.

I’m pretty sure I have my dad to thank for this impulse. He was a college professor, and every year, after he was finished grading spring semester exams and had driven into work to turn in grades, he’d come home, walk triumphantly over to the CD player in the den and play the Jamies’ iconic “Summertime, Summertime.” He was never happier or more carefree than he was when that song was playing. My sister, my mom and I all loved it.

I’ve carried on the practice by pairing meals with records and prepping for important basketball games by playing certain strategic albums — Mrs. YHT and I have even started a tradition of playing my vinyl copy of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and sporadically proclaiming “What a dick!” while decorating our tree — but there’s one accompaniment nut that’s been impossible to crack: What should be the first song my daughter hears after she’s born?

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Natalie Prass

Natalie Prass

In certain areas of life, you’re better off not seeing how the sausage is made. Unfortunately, pop music can be one of those areas. It’s not on the same level as legislation, or ya know, actual sausage, but what you find when you pull back the curtain and learn about how your favorite top-40 songs were made can be stomach-turning nonetheless. The corrective recording technology. The lists of songwriters that would reach the floor if published in scroll format. The contradictions between artists’ public personas and personal lives. It can get ugly. I’m not proud to admit it, but there are times I’d rather not know who was singing that radio hit I’ve grown attached to for fear it’ll turn out to be a star whose fame has crossed over into infamy. It’s judgy, I know, but who is doing the singing and how something is created matters. It just does.

That’s why seeing the “Bird Of Prey” video, which gives us a glimpse into Natalie Prass’ collaboration with the Spacebomb team, made my day yesterday.

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Daniel Bachman

Daniel Bachman

I’ve written at length about Daniel Bachman before, but I’d like to mark the release of his new album Orange Co. Serenade by sharing a slightly different impression of his playing, along with a sample track off the new record.

I’m sure you’ve heard people who are confronted with an adorable baby or puppy say something to the effect of “Oh my god, [he/she/it] is so cute I just want to eat [him/her/it] right up!” Everyone knows they’re not cannibals or puppy eaters — it’s just an expression that spills out as a result of overflowing enthusiasm. (Then again, cuteness has been shown to activate the part of our brains that regulates aggression…) You hear similar language in book reviews. Prose is “gobbled up” when it’s particularly enjoyable. Some things are so good you just want them to be a part of you — to be absorbed, so you can go about your daily life with the elevated level of joy you felt when you first encountered them.

There’s a close cousin to this type of enthusiasm, and it’s another book review mainstay — “I just want to crawl inside it.” When a writer builds an especially vivid and inviting fictional universe, the words pull you in, and before you know it, you’re wishing you could cross the page’s divide and join the world the characters get to inhabit. (It happens in movies too — you might remember that a number of movie-goers were swept up in a wave of depression after seeing James Cameron’s Avatar because they couldn’t cope with the fact that the idyllic Pandora wasn’t a real planet they could emigrate to.)

That — minus the delusional depression bit — is how I feel when I listen to Daniel Bachman play the guitar.

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Landlady

Landlady

Landlady broke my Spotify classification system.

I have a bunch of Spotify playlists, but one has become absolutely indispensable since I started adding to it — my hastily named That’s My Jam playlist. It’s where I drag the songs I get most excited about and want to hear over and over (well, the upbeat ones — I have a separate sad sack playlist I’m too embarrassed to share the name of). Sometimes a song jumps out at me and has to go on TMJ right away, other times I’ll decide that I like a new album and will add one of its tracks so I’ll have a lasting tether back to it. “Lasting” is the operative word there, because I would be crushed if I lost this playlist. Whenever I have trouble logging into my Spotify account, a deep-seated, panicky feeling rushes in. (I really need to back up this list somewhere, but you’re talking to the same person who puts off doing laundry until he’s wearing bathing suits for underwear, so who knows when that’ll actually happen.)

I recently started another list called Favorite Whole Albums, for releases that seem are particularly suited for front-to-back listening. Usually they’re cohesive in some meaningful way, like how Beck’s Morning Phase feels like a single idea played out over multiple tracks, or how Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city tells a story that builds from beginning to end, with interludes that need to be played in the correct order.

When I step back and look at those last two paragraphs all typed out, it’s painfully clear how helpless trying to categorize and catalog your listening really is. It’s like trying to bottle up wind with a napkin, or something — just plain insufficient when you zoom out and consider the massive musical universe and all it has to offer. Taxonomy can feel insufficient in micro sense too, as Landlady just taught me.

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Lightfields

One more Commonwealth of Notions Presents memory from last Friday — Lightfields covering Archers of Loaf’s “Web In Front,” with a vocal assist from festival organizer and Clair Morgan bassist Shannon Cleary.

This was fun.

Archers of Loaf — “Web In Front” [Spotify/iTunes]

Lightfields — “Junior” [Bandcamp]

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Clair Morgan

Clair Morgan

Music is full of little miracles that are easy to overlook. One of the most fundamental is the fractured nature of performing as part of a band.

When you’re at your favorite venue, hearing familiar songs come out of a few, huge speakers, it’s easy to process it all as one thing, and to forget that the parts of that whole are the result of individual human beings putting into motion an unfathomable number of neural pathways and muscle groups in just the right order, at just the right time. It’s what makes being in a band so frustrating and so rewarding. When you get up on stage to perform with other people, you’re on a tightrope together, and the gravitational pull of chaos never abates. The universe does not want to be as ordered as you’re forcing it to be when you play a song.

After spending a few days thinking about why I so enjoyed seeing Clair Morgan at Strange Matter on Friday night, I’ve decided it has something to do with the remarkable way they walked that tightrope, and the daring way the band’s frontman and namesake (“Clair Morgan is and is not a band,” as the t-shirt I bought at the show explains) courts chaos, making the walk all the more thrilling.

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