New Music Recs: “Turn the Lights Back On” by Billy Joel

Just finished listening to this song and had to run over here to talk about it! I was (impressed? Surprised?) that Billy Joel doesn’t sound any different vocally. Musically, “Turn the Lights Back On” is so satisfying. I love choruses that settle, if that makes sense: they end on a down note. That feels like closure. Every time that hit in “Turn the Lights Back On,” it was lovely. Thematically, the song reminds me of “One More Time” by blink-182. The music giants of yesteryear are releasing new music (in Billy Joel’s case, for the first time in 17 [!] years) and using it to reflect on the past. But here, Billy Joel doesn’t linger in angst; he never has, really. Instead, he’s clear-eyed: “Stuck in a frame, unable to change/I was wrong.” His reflection is the opportunity to change (“I’m late, but I’m here right now.”) even if it might not be enough (“Did I wait too long/To turn the lights back on?”).

The song didn’t make me tear up like “One More Time” did. But it did make me emotional. Misty-eyed, as my friend and I say. These days, we’re all thinking about the past, and, as usual, music is our escape valve.

New Music Recs: “jamcod” by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Well, if any band is going to get me back into blogging, it’s definitely the Mary Chain. I actually didn’t even know that they had released this song until my roommate told me; I joked that I would have to turn in my stan card.

Jokes and self-deprecation aside, listening to the song is like putting on a favorite pair of jeans: they fit perfectly and you know right away that you love them. The song is a searing combination of all the best Mary Chain songs: “Automatic,” “Blues from a Gun,” even some sneaky “Sometimes Always” cameos appear in the guitar riffs. And Jim Reid doesn’t sound like he’s aged at all. His voice, as ever, fits the existential, gazing-from-the-void lyrics that are typical of the Mary Chain: “There must be an answer/To the question I don’t know.” They turn these parts into something familiar, sure, but also thrillingly new. Who knew that they’d hop on the all-lowercase-song-title bandwagon? Not me, that’s for sure. It’s an intriguing preview of their upcoming album Glasgow Eyes.

New Music Recs: “Did I Mention I’m Sorry” by Petey

I reviewed Petey’s album Lean into Life when it came out, and it’s been intermittently on repeat ever since. (Like last month, for example; I’ll get to my Monthly Obsessions soon.) His latest single, “Did I Mention I’m Sorry” came on a mix and so I thought I’d review it here.

To be honest, I almost didn’t recognize the song as a Petey song. It’s slower and quieter than much of Lean, yet in an interesting contrast, Petey himself sings faster and breathier. On Lean, his voice is a loud yelp that’s incredibly earnest without being harsh. The chorus of “Sorry” features a ghost of that yelp, which is when I finally recognized it as a Petey single. You hear his same earnestness here; it’s even in the song title.

Petey covers themes of nostalgia (“More to Life Than Baseball”) and confronting the past (“Don’t Tell the Boys”) mixed with the mundane elements of life (“Apple TV Remote”). “Sorry” is mostly about the past and addressing a bygone relationship. He so expertly walks the line between wanting to say sorry and deflecting it as sarcasm. His vulnerability is one of the reasons why I love his music.

New Music Recs: “One More Time” by blink-182

Not kidding when I say I ran over here as soon as I heard this song! I’ve talked about Tom’s voice before, and now that it’s changed, it suits the age and melancholy of this song in a better way. You hear the slight emo of their earlier songs with the line, “I miss you,” but overall, “One More Time” strikes me as a song about growing up and not wanting to move on. “Do I have to die to hear you miss me?/Do I have to die to hear you say goodbye?/I don’t want to act like there’s tomorrow/I don’t want to wait to do this one more time.”

The slow acoustic of the song is also quite beautiful. And I love how “One More Time” ends with an echoing church bell. That’s unique and feels perfectly final.

New Music Recs: “Your Power” by Billie Eilish

I would be remiss as a music blogger if I didn’t comment on “Your Power,” the new single by pop singer Billie Eilish. It’s an enormous departure for the 19-year-old. Her debut studio album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, was dark and introspective: even the cover is extremely creepy.

So far, her new album, the forthcoming Happier Than Ever, is much brighter – literally. The album cover is soft gold and Eilish has traded her green-and-black hair for blonde. It even has an old Hollywood feel, what with Eilish’s vacant expression and the font choice. “Your Power,” the album’s third single, exemplifies the new direction she’s headed in. The song is backed by meandering acoustic guitar, rather than the tight electronic beats of her previous album. Elilish’s voice sounds much more mature, which is fitting for the song’s content. She describes how the nameless subject abuses their power, specifically when it comes to mistreating young women. It’s incredibly haunting. “Your Power” features the lyrics “how dare you/and how could you.” They hit all the more deeply because Eilish isn’t yelling. She’s speaking directly to the song’s subject, but she could also be speaking to us. How do people in positions of control behave – how should they behave – and do we hold them accountable when they take advantage?

New Music Recs: “I Can Still Hear You”

This one is a different genre than I usually listen to, but it’s so, so good. Suzzy Roche and her daughter Lucy Wrainwright Roche have recorded a lovely folk song called “I Can Still Hear You.” It is such a soft and cozy number. Their voices blend together in a light, airy harmony that’s sustained by gently strumming guitar. The up-and-down rhythm of the guitar, as steady as the rocking of a boat, matches the lyrics perfectly. “I Can Still Hear You” describes how time carries us all forward and how we’re often surprised to find that it does. Yet the “you” of the title is still there, either as a figure of the past or a relationship from the present. They ask something interesting of that “you” early on: “remember me too.” Their connection to this “you” will always be a constant. Maybe they’re hoping it’s reciprocal.

I think it’s the perfect release for COVID times. Being stuck inside makes us naturally turn inward and think about the past. We wonder whatever happened to so-and-so; we think about when we were able to go and do things. The Roches sing about that: “remember…the parts that you saved” and “how the summer behaves.” Oh, the times when summer meant being, you know, in the sun.

Until then, you can listen to this daydreamy song and enjoy the self-reflection:

New Music Recs: “Oblivion” by Alaska Reid

Terrible Records is an indie label with a deceptive name. One of their artists is Alaska Reid and her latest album Big Bunny has an excellent song that I’d like to focus on today: “Oblivion.”

First of all, Alaska has a beautiful voice. I don’t use that word lightly, especially since I know it gets thrown around a lot. It is so mature, somehow solid, even, and slots perfectly between the light crunch and snap of the song’s electronic beat. I love the way her voice stands its own ground during the chorus – “you and I, c-come on, somewhere in oblivion” – without getting lost in the rising waves of its synths. I do like how she allows herself to fall into a vocal fry occasionally because that makes her sound real and self-aware. She’s not straining herself unnecessarily. Her voice has echoes of King Princess, without the mumblecore. I also found comparisons between Alaska’s sound and Lorde’s, especially when it comes to the lyrics, specifically the lines about drinking PBR and talking about scars. “Hollow like the bottles that we drain,” anyone?

Speaking of those lyrics: they’re haunting when you give the song another listen. (I got lost in her voice so I had to reexamine the song a few times.) Alaska is talking about the ghosts of her past and wondering whether she really is better off without them, or if she hates herself for being unable to let them go. There is an excellent tension within the song between chasing after those ghosts and trying to leave them behind. I also loved Alaska’s description of meeting someone in the “pine trees and sweet grass.” It evokes a quiet, secret place where past and present mix.

Above all, this song is so incredibly catchy. Give it a listen and don’t be surprised if it ends up on repeat for you, too:

THE WLDLFE asks us “How to Move On”

If you’re on Spotify and don’t follow your “Release Radar” picks, what are you doing with your life?

Jokes aside, it’s been a great discovery tool for me. A recent song that I found through there is “How to Move On” by THE WLDLFE and it’s been on repeat lately. So me being me, I wanted to talk about it!

It might be a little bit surprising that I like this song so much. It’s written from the perspective of a slouchy, jilted guy who from the get-go asks us why we’re questioning his masculinity. The appeal of the song is all in the contrasts. It opens up so bouncily despite the Nice Guy opening.

I also love the line, “It takes more than just a flex to be strong.” That seems like a winking self-awareness. The whole song oscillates between this confidence before the narrator drifts back into self-doubt: “I’m learning from the times that I’m wrong/One day you’re here, the next one you’re gone/And you leave me alone/Tell me how to move on.”

I think the title of the song captures this tension as well. It says “How to Move On” as if to echo a self-help guide or affirmation, yet the chorus repeats the narrator’s request for us to help him move on from this relationship.

Unfortunately the song is left open-ended so we’ll never know if he did.