Silent Shout: Pop Is Great Right Now So Why Am I So Bored?
Silent Shout is our recurring dispatch from pop’s fringes. It may not be music for the masses, but — to paraphrase *NSYNC — this might be pop.
Disclaimer: If you’d like to get straight to the alt-pop tunes and skip over some word vomit about the ennui arising from the state of modern music, scroll to the garish purple-and-green image.
Pop can be a boring place where the same ideas cycle into oblivion and, too often, to the top of the charts. A place where the same cadre of producers and songwriters sculpt the same shapes out of malleable stars. But that is not the pop of today! The genre’s upper echelon is atomized. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Drake, Adele, Bieber, The Weeknd, JT, Rihanna, Kanye — they’re all on their own wave right now and they’re all doing it while taking risks. Boundaries between genres have disintegrated, and music has never been more accessible. This word gets thrown around way too much on Pop Twitter, but, we’re truly #blessed to live in this music moment.
So why am I so bored with it all?
Is it just me? It can’t be, because a wise woman recently said “All the shit I hear is boring.” Is it the “tyranny of choice” thing that has arisen from streaming? Is it because of the fast turnover? I mean, Lemonade felt world-changing and now, barely a month later, the nature of the pop landscape demands that we’re already onto the next thing, whether it’s Fergie’s comeback or whatever we’ve all decided to be excited about. Frank Ocean has been working on his Channel Orange follow-up for some four years now. And upon its release, you just know it will be pulverized by the content farming mill in just a few hours.
People get thinkpiece exhaustion in the immediate aftermath of a blockbuster album drop, but I say we need more essays. Isn’t that the best part of all this? Analyzing, deconstructing, living in the music? But instead of truly engaging with important music over time, we drown ourselves in the new and the next. And it’s numbing. When someone asks what my favorite songs or albums are at the moment, I can’t even answer without consulting my 2016 playlist on Spotify or my running Best Of note in my phone. Nothing absorbs anymore so I need a machine to remind me what I like.
You can’t sit down with an album and parse it and swaddle yourself in it, because then you lose the click race. This shit isn’t fungible, listening to one album for too long means you’ve closed yourself off to countless others in that moment, and conversations about those others that are happening in realtime on that stupid little computer in your pocket. And then you’re stuck playing catch-up and it all seems so overwhelming and futile so why not just go listen to Hoplessness for the next month because what’s the point?
Does this mean I’m ungrateful? Am I taking this cultural moment for granted? Discuss. Or don’t, none of it fucking matters.
TALK ABOUT POP MUZIK
Tobacco — “Gods In Heat”
If you’re familiar with the work of Pittsburgh’s Thomas Fec, either under this solo alias or with his band Black Moth Super Rainbow, then you know this’ll be some scuzzy synth-psych vocodered to another dimension. “Gods In Heat” has his requisite smearing of electro trash, but the empty space, the little unadorned melodies and something approaching a verse-chorus-verse structure all suggest Sweatbox Dynasty (out August 19) may have more of a focus on songcraft.
Lidija — “Only Love”
There’s not much out there about this Swedish person/group. GvB points out that the project is jj-affiliated, and it sounds like there’s both a female and a male vocalist. The debut offering is a ghostly dirge that comes across like Bon Iver employing Sigur Rós’s flair for the cinematic. And the sound is peculiar enough that it doesn’t pin them down to a particular template or set of expectations for the follow-up. It could be anything, they could be anyone.
Baby Blood — “White Lotus”
Whaddya know, the third consecutive track on this list with thick vocal filters. The Danish producer/musician crafts an oppressive stillness with occasional trap bursts, and it’s all accompanied by a voice that zigzags between a hyper-feminine flutter and an underworldly bellow. Plenty of stuff gets the requisite doom-pop comparisons to The Knife, FKA twigs, Purity Ring and the like, but this time it’s actually earned.
Elliott Vincent Jones — “Dawawine”
Toronto’s EVJ calls his music “New Age Art Pop,” or at least his press team does, and that seems to be a concise way of saying “stuff that improbably makes a three-decade-old style of synth-pop still sound compelling.” As for what it is that makes Jones rise above countless ’80s retreads, I suspect it has something to do with his complete commitment to that arch, Anglo world of smalltown boys and West End girls and blue Mondays. His debut Arto Arto EP is out June 10.
Wendy Bevan — “Sweet Dedication”
Minimal wave has never really been a hotbed for stellar vocalists, which is what makes Wendy Bevan’s approach unique. Her rich, theatrical voice sounds out of place among the cold analog pulses, and the result is as spooky as it is hooky. Her debut album, Rose And Thorn, is due this fall.