All posts by Jake Brown

New Waxahatchee: Bored

Video: Waxahatchee – “Bored”

Directed by Corbett Jones and Nick Simonite. From Tigers Blood, out on March 22 on Anti-.

I love the Joey Santiago-style guitar that opens this song.

Katie Crutchfield says, “I feel like my comfort zone when writing songs lies somewhere on the emotional spectrum of sadness and heartache. Writing from a place of happiness scares me. Too earnest. Anger scares me even more. I wrote ‘Bored’ about one of those situations where anger was called for and was the only authentic place from which to write about what I was experiencing. It was a challenge for me and ‘Bored’ is the end result.”

Anger scares me too. I feel angry way too much lately. It sucks. But I’m not writing cool songs about it when I get angry. I just grump at my family. Crutchfield is dealing with her anger in a far more productive way.

Waxahatchee: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Kacey Musgraves: Deeper Well

Video: Kacey Musgraves – “Deeper Well”

Directed by Hannah Lux Davis. From Deeper Well, out March 15.

I like Kacey Musgraves. I like the idea of her whole cosmic cowgal thing. I’ll admit I prefer the earlier stuff, back when she was working closely with Brandy Clark and Shane MaAnally. But the newer, shimmery disco she’s been making with Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk since 2018’s Golden Hour is cool too.

“Deeper Well” sounds like a bit of throwback, at least musically. It wouldn’t be totally out of place on Same Trailer, Different Park. But lyrically, she no longer seems interested in the clever wordplay and conversational emotionalism that first got our attention with “Follow Your Arrow” and “Blowin’ Smoke.” She’s apparently gotten into astrology and self-help goopiness. Worse than that, “Deeper Well” has some lyrics that are just clunky.

I used to wake and bake
Roll out of bed, hit the gravity bong that I made
And start the day.
For a while, it got me by
Everything I did seemed better when I was high
I don’t know why.

But whatever, it still sounds great. And she’s still a super interesting person in the country music scene.

Kacey Musgraves: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Speedy Ortiz: Ranch vs. Ranch

Video: Speedy Ortiz – “Ranch vs. Ranch”

From Rabbit Rabbit, out now on Wax Nine.

Love this groovy Speedy Ortiz rocker that reminds me of all the coolest songs from the 90s. I don’t understand what any of the lyrics mean but I love the line: “Fuck off, my cackle shimmers like some crystal.”

Guitarist Andy Molholt who shot the video says, “In March 2022, Speedy Ortiz was finally back in the studio. I brought along my family’s treasured Hi8 camcorder from the early aughts to document our saga, hoping to capture some little and big moments along the way in the style of vacations past. Two years ago easily feels like ten to me now, and watching the footage feels like finding a time capsule full of lost gems. It’s a warm reminder of how much fun we had making Rabbit Rabbit, and of how integral the two eponymous ranches—Rancho de la Luna [in Joshua Tree, California] and Sonic Ranch [in Tornillo, Texas]—were to this record. […] If you get the chance, I highly recommend taking a bunch of footage of your life, then putting it away for several years. It’s nice to be reminded about how lucky we are to spend time with the people we care about!”

Unlike a lot of people of my pre-iPhone generation I have a lot of video footage of my youth. Throughout much of high school and college I was lugging a bigass VHS camera around with me. Since I’m positive most of the footage is extremely cringey I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch any of it in decades. I’ve got all my tapes in a box in a basement, secretly hoping they just rot away. But maybe it’s time to dust them off and check them out. It might be nice to be reminded about how lucky we were to spend time with the people we cared about.

Speedy Ortiz: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Phosphorescent: Revelator

Video: Phosphorescent – “Revelator”

From Revelator, out April 5 on Verve.

I was a pretty good dad when my son was a newborn. I had been warned that new parents don’t get any sleep for that first year but that wasn’t my experience at all. We had a system. He slept in a little bassinet in our bedroom and when he’d wake up in the middle of the night, I’d get up and change his diaper and hand him to my wife and immediately konk back out while she nursed him. When they were done she’d hand him back to me and I’d change his diaper and put him back in his bassinet and immediately konk. Even if this happened four times in a night I was losing maybe a total of an hour of sleep. No biggie.

I was a great dad when my son was a toddler. We’d sit on the floor do puzzles and play with cars and trains and read Richard Scarry books. And Jamberry. And Is Your Mama a Llama? So many books. I talked to him all the time. I’d make up stupid songs. He learned to speak super early and was pretty articulate by the time he was three. He was so smart. He knew all 50 states and once chewed a Pop Tart into the shape of Minnesota. He could do basic addition and subtraction. We watched Planet Earth and he loved the “Ocean Deep” episode with all the spooky anglerfish and siphonophores. He used the word “bioluminescence” correctly.

I was a good dad when my son was in elementary school. I read to him every night before bed. We’d go to the library and the bookstore all the time. He had a million books but his favorite was The Pokémon Essential Handbook that listed all 646 known species in alphabetical order with their moves, height, weight, and evolutionary chain. I helped him read the BOB books, even when it was hard for him. I promised that one day it would be easy and he wouldn’t even have to think about. “Remember how hard it was to zip up your jacket at first? And now you just do it.” I drove him to all his activities: cub scouts, swim lessons, basketball, tae kwon do, snowboarding lessons, lacrosse. So many activities.

I was an alright dad when my son was in middle school. He played the cello and got pretty good although encouraging him to practice was always a struggle. Just before schools shut down for covid he’d made first chair. During covid I had hoped we’d spend some quality time together. Seemed like everybody on Facebook was enjoying all the family time. But my son preferred to play videogames online with his friends. And since he couldn’t see them in real life it seemed reasonable. But I was watching him slip away, not needing me as much.

Continue reading New Phosphorescent: Revelator

New Weyes Blood: A Given Thing

Video: Weyes Blood – “A Given Thing”

Directed by Joey Frank. From And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow out now on Sub Pop.

No idea why Sub Pop quietly released a new video for a song on an album that’s been out for over a year by an artist who’s not currently touring and doesn’t seem to have anything new to promote, but I’ll take any opportunity I can find to listen to Natalie Mering’s amazing voice. “A Given Thing” is the closer from 2022’s And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow and it encapsulates all the cosmic Karen Carpenter vibes we’ve come to expect from Weyes Blood.

It’s not a one way street
Sometimes our love is enrapturing
And other times, it’s just unraveling in front of me
And it feels like we’re burning
Making ashes of our joy.

Hopefully this video is a hint that something new is coming. But even if it’s not, who cares, it’s nice to have more Weyes Blood to watch.

Weyes Blood: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Ty Segall: My Best Friend

Video: Ty Segall – “My Best Friend”

Directed by Ty Segall. From Three Bells, out now on Drag City.

Wiener dogs are the best. Ty Segall obviously agrees. A dachshund is a big dog trapped in the body of a little dog. They have a big bark and big personalities. But they fit comfortably on your lap. They’re like a cat who actually cares about pleasing you. They’ll even hunt mice. They’re the best of all possible worlds.

I’m on my third dachshund. First there was Frankie who we got as soon as we had an apartment with a yard. I worshiped her. A year later we got her a pal, Georgia, and Frankie full-on hated her for at least two years. They eventually became pals and would curl up in their bed, yin-and-yang style. Frank had attitude but George was sweet and dopey and never once barked or even growled except in her sleep. George lived to be 14 and Frank held on for a few more years. After George was gone, Frank was going downhill so we decided to her a new pal to see if that would brighten her spirits. Birdie had been in a puppy mill situation, bred too young and had a complicated litter that resulted in a hysterectomy rendering her useless to the breeders. Frankie completely ignored her. Maybe she just couldn’t see her or hear her since she had gone totally blind and deaf by then. Frank lived to be almost 19. So now it’s just Bird. And she’s the best. Her traumatic early life has made her completely anxious and needy and that’s alright: I work from home and I rarely leave the house. I hope Bird has Frankie’s longevity because I can’t imagine life without her.

All I need is my best friend, I do.
All I need is my best friend, I do.

Ty Segall: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Beths: Your Side

Video: The Beths – “Your Side”

Directed by Tristan Deck. From Expert In A Dying Field, out now on Carpark.

Does anybody write better melodies than Elizabeth Stokes? I can’t think of anybody.

It’s a bit of a cliche but I like it when a band has had an album out for a while and the label has already spent all the money they’re going to spend on videos so the band throws together a bunch of the stuff they shot on tour on their phone. It’s a fun look behind the scenes of a touring band. See them driving in the van, buying garbage food at gas stations, snoring in the van, checking their lattops in green rooms, playing what must be cricket, laughing in the van, and rocking out on stage.

But here I go again
Mixing drinks and messages.
So I’ll say it plain, baby
I want to see you.

“Your Side” is a song of aching loneliness but you might not catch that on first listen because it sounds almost giddy. I guess that would reflect hopefulness.

The Beths: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Beths: Your Side

Data: 2023 Total Music Sales and Streams

The music industry likes to talk about consumption, which is another word for tuberculosis, and it makes all real music lovers gag. They talk about consumption because they don’t want to talk about sales because sales are down from their pre-Napster heyday. Consumption is up though. So yay.

For real though, it’s a good thing that streaming has allowed people to listen to more music. Who could argue with that? (I mean, besides any artists who are unfortunate enough not to own their own masters…which is most of them.) But for fans, this is a great time to be alive. The celestial jukebox is real. And if you want something weird that’s not available on Spotify or Apple Music, there’s a good chance you will be able to find it on YouTube. Go nuts.

Just don’t try to convince us that streaming “love is embarrassing” 1,250 times is the same as listening to GUTS. You didn’t “consume” the album. So keep that in mind when you hear that total U.S. album consumption increased by 12.6% in 2023. Did it really? Song “consumption” may have increased but who knows how many people are actually listening to albums? There’s no way of measuring that.

But overall things do seem to be getting better for the music biz. Actual album sales rose a little bit. Vinyl is up. Even our beloved old compact disc did better this year. And of course streaming is way up. 1.453 trillion songs were streamed in 2023. That’s a lot of zeroes! 1,453,000,000,000 songs.

And a good chunk of those songs were recorded by Taylor Swift. No joke, Luminate reports that “1 in every 78 audio streams was a Taylor Swift song in the U.S. this year.” And Billboard points out that her collected catalog sold 6.172 million copies (3.484 million of that on vinyl!), accounting for “6% of all album sales last year across all albums by all artists.” She sold 1.014 million copies of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) on vinyl. It blows my mind that she even pressed a million records, let alone sold them all. It’s staggering.

* * *

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2023: 105.32 million
2022: 100.09 million
2021: 109.0 million
2020: 102.4 million
2019: 112.75 million
2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Continue reading Data: 2023 Total Music Sales and Streams

Wrapping Up 2023

This is the year the pandemic officially ended when the WHO declared the global health emergency to be over in May. I had managed to avoid infection until this March when I got it exactly six months after my updated booster. It sucked. I survived. So it goes. 2023 was the year we realized we’ll probably all end up catching covid if we ever leave the house. Pretty much everybody I know has had it, even my friends who are still super careful and wearing masks to the grocery store and avoiding indoor concerts altogether. It’s a bummer.

The virus seems to have warped our sense of time. Events might have happened five months ago or five years ago and you can never really remember which off the top of your head. Can you believe that the Chinese spy balloon thing happened in 2023? It did. Weird, right?

Lots of other stuff happened this year, believe it or not, such as Finland joining NATO and Donald fucking Trump getting criminally indicted multiple times. King Charles was crowned. Canadian wildfire smoke messed up our skies all summer. A homemade submarine imploded near the wreckage of the Titanic. Maui burned down. Taylor Swift got people interested in football. Taylor Swift got people interested in life. The Detroit Lions won games. Ukraine held on. Gaza, not so much. Elon Musk killed Twitter. That was all this year. Hope you were wearing a seatbelt. It’s crazy out there.

As always, lots of great music came out. Several of my longtime faves released solid new albums: Robbie Fulks, the Hives, the Handsome Family, Mustard Plug, Wilco, the Mountain Goats. Plus, lots of good new stuff by youngsters: boygenius, Gracie Abrams, Olivia Rodrigo. Some surprising remixes, reissues and posthumous releases: Replacements, Ben Kweller, Sparklehorse. And then there was Playing for the Man at the Door: Field Recordings from the Collection of Mack McCormick, 1958–1971, full of mindblowing artifacts, sort of like a sequel to Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music except instead of just being curated and compiled by one crazy guy, this collection was all recorded by one crazy guy. If you’re unfamiliar with McCormick, you won’t regret looking into him. Fascinating story.

I’m excited for 2024. In regards to music anyway. Not excited for another election cycle, which regardless of the outcome is guaranteed to be another shitshow. Who knows if we’ll survive it? But hey, I’m trying to be hopeful…and maybe even optimistic. I’m trying.

Continue reading Wrapping Up 2023

New J Mascis: Set Me Down

Video: J Mascis – “Set Me Down”

Directed by Callum Scott-Dyson. From What Do We Do Now, out February 2 on Sub Pop.

Oh wow new J Mascis solo music! This is the second single off his upcoming album. We somehow missed the first one despite the fact that its video features a bunch of J’s famous friends including Fred Armisen and David Cross. This new video doesn’t have any celebrities in it but it does have an animated rodent who goes on a bunch of adventures.

Unlike previous Mascis solo stuff, this new set features drums and electric lead guitar. Which is fun. Still mellower than Dinosaur Jr material though.

Mascis says, “When I’m writing for the band. I’m always trying to think of doing things Lou and Murph would fit into. For myself, I’m thinking more about what I can do with just an acoustic guitar, even for the leads. Of course, this time, I added full drums and electric leads, although the rhythm parts are still all acoustic. Usually, I try to do the solo stuff more simply so I can play it by myself, but I really wanted to add the drums. Once that started, everything else just fell into place. So it ended up sounding a lot more like a band record. I dunno why I did that exactly, but it’s just what happened.”

Glad it happened. I like the all acoustic stuff but there’s nothing quite like a Mascis electric guitar solo.

Continue reading New J Mascis: Set Me Down