Editor’s note: From 2012 to 2014, Melody Rice wrote the music column Matt on Music for The Eastern Echo, the student newspaper for Eastern Michigan University. Beginning in 2016, Melody relaunched this column on The Young Folks. You can read past installments of this column here.
For people not in the mood for getting physical, here are my thoughts on two mixtapes, a SoundCloud album, and Battle Hymns, a digital-only purchasable album where all proceeds go to Planned Parenthood, 350.org, and the ACLU. Enjoy.
Neil Cicierega: Mouth Moods (free download) You know that Cicierega’s comedic prowess is legit because the more you listen, the more you discover gems that make you laugh as much as the stuff you noticed on first listen—the bounce sounds on “Wow Wow” were a big one for me. Years of absurd YouTube humor and experimental mashup albums have culminated in what may be the funniest mix of the decade, a subversive and brilliant piece that warps and connects music no other person would ever consider connecting. The tracks that get me the most are “Bustin” and “Tiger,” which imagine a world where Ray Parker Jr. got a hit song singing about freaky ghost beds and Survivor were a little too obsessed with big cats. But the mashups are the essential piece, like Girl Talk with an extra dose of hipster irony. Perhaps too kitsch for some, but for me, it presents a pressing question: if Brian Johnson and Vanessa Carlton can chill, and the Doobies sound just fine alongside Linkin Park, why does humanity waste so much time on hatred? 8.5/10
Battle Hymns (Quasiband.com) Who expected things to get as bad as they did as quickly as they did? Nobody was really prepared. But you can hardly tell from the opposition, which has been swift, organized, and life-affirming. Along with the Women’s March, there’s also the art world, which has proven to be just as harmonious in the face of a dangerous and hateful leader. Along with Bandcamp’s ACLU donation day last Friday, there’s also this record, in which numerous Portland-based indie musicians come together to produce a political, exciting collection of tunes. The songs are of varying levels of quality, and predictably, the best songs are by the artists who are still in peak form—especially Mac McCaughan, whose “Happy New Year (Prince Can’t Die Again)” cannot be forgotten when list season rolls around, and Mary Timony. But Stephen Malkmus still fits in fine, and nobody stands out enough to hurt the quality. All in all, this is just one of many great Trump-era protest records that will come out as long as we’re still allowed to use our voices. 8/10
Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamildemos (self-released) The only one of these eight works-in-progress I would go out of my way to listen to is “Satisfied,” because its bare-bones production and Miranda’s singing (never his biggest talent) highlight just how strong the melody is. Elsewhere, this is mostly fan service. Even the scrapped “Congratulations” is best heard on The Hamilton Mixtape, where Dessa turned it into a masterpiece on the level of any of the cast album recordings. In other words, these need work. 7/10
Lil Peep: Hellboy (free download ‘16) A rap album featuring Avenged Sevenfold and Underoath samples from a dude described by Pitchfork as the future of emo. I’m not immediately disgusted by that idea, since bad records often influence good ones and emo could use some hip-hop energy anyway. But I can’t deny that everything here from the suicidal themes and treatment of women to his voice screams rock, and lifeless rock at that. Someday, an A7X fan may release a fabulous hip-hop album—hell, Lil Peep might put one out. But for now, I have a feeling his biggest take-away from rap is an excessive use of the word “hoe.” 5.5/10
Single of the Week – Lizzo: “Scuse Me” (Atlantic)