I’d like to share some new music and books I’ve enjoyed so far in February!
First off, Father John Misty is coming out with a new album that sounds thematically closer to Fear Fun. Of what he’s released so far, I particularly like “Ballad of the Dying Man” which has a rich chord progression and classic Josh Tillman songwriting: “So says the dying man once I’m in the box / Just think of all the overrated hacks running amok / And all of the pretentious, ignorant voices that will go unchecked / The homophobes, hipsters, and 1% / The false feminists he’d managed to detect / Oh, who will critique them once he’s left?”
Next, I haven’t gotten into any previous Mac Demarco but was instantly drawn to two songs off his upcoming album, “My Old Man” and “This Old Dog”. It’s hard to pin this to a specific genre, but these songs feel a lot to me like Cat Stevens covering Sublime’s “What I Got” with pinches of elegant synth, like a flavorful seasoning.
Earlier this week, while sifting through old Best Tracks of Pitchfork, I discovered an album I had missed from 2016 by Jenn Wasner, under the solo project Flock of Dimes. Wasner also sings in Wye Oak, which put out one of my favorite albums of 2014, Shriek. This new album If You See Me, Say Yes is very much a spiritual successor to Shriek, but the best analogy I can come up with for the distinctive vibe here is that she’s like an electronic Pocahontas. Her voice has always entranced me with its frontier-like quality, and I like to imagine a flock of dimes, like birds, flying over a river of electric current, the colors of the wind the same as those in Shriek’s “Logic of Color” and the sights and sounds along a boat ride with Jenn the subject of this new album’s tracks. The whole album is a delight to listen to on repeat, but start with “Semaphore” and definitely check out the last Wye Oak album as well, if you like her sound.
One more excellent discovery this week, courtesy of All Songs Considered and Pitchfork: Jens Lekman, “An Evening Prayer”, which I simply implore you to listen to.
My full February Mix, as it stands, can be found on Spotify.
On Tuesday I got to see Anthony Doerr give a hilarious and insightful lecture at Stanford as part of the Stanford Storytelling Project. All the Light We Cannot See, which I have previously raved about, is definitely in my top 5 books of all time (which includes The Goldfinch, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Infinite Jest, and… not sure about the last one). I had tried About Grace in anticipation of this lecture and hated it, but his delightful talk restored my faith in him, so I picked up a short story collection, Memory Wall. It is the best short story collection I’ve ever read. I had the opinion that the biggest problem with About Grace was plot, and it appears that his time spent mastering the shorter story in Memory Wall, to stunningly beautiful effect, probably gave him the craft necessary to pull off All the Light, which itself is written in short vignettes of interweaving stories. If you are not an obsessive reader like me, I highly recommend you give Memory Wall a shot as it takes much less time to fall in love with the power of storytelling.
I also made a lot of headway into Steve Pinker’s Blank Slate, which has some really provocative insights on human nature and the brain, like the idea that we are programmed with intuitive notions of mathematics, biology, statistics, etc. that in many ways are literally incorrect, so a great way to think about K-12 education is “rewiring” and “augmenting” our brains to think correctly about the world, as opposed to just filling it with knowledge. In other words, we are filling out students’ leaky minds with furniture instead of fixing the leaks. But before I could finish Blank Slate I had to return it to the library, along with Snow Crash, so I’ll have to comment on those fully once I can get my hands on them again.