CRAZY, crazy week. I mean, it doesn’t happen all that often that one of your favorite songwriters on the planet asks you to work with him. It’s been hard to keep a lid on who this person is and to be honest, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job. But wait, there was plenty more going on. I had a couple of inspiring meetings and a handful of nifty new projects looming on the horizon. It goes to show that sometimes, showing your teeth as a hustling freelancer helps if you want people to take you seriously.

I saw two pretty incredible films back-to-back at KINO: Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. As I was watching the former, I kept thinking “Good Morning, Captain! GOOD MORNING, CAPTAIN!!!!11!1!!”. Indeed, it’s more or less the movie version of one of the darkest and most disturbing tracks in alternative rock history, and logically The Lighthouse is a brutal motherfucking ax-grinder of a film. Gosh, I’m still having nightmares about that final shot.

Fortunately, Gerwig’s signature stamp on the Louise May Alcott-novel brought a lot of actual light. Florence Pugh’s performance as Amy was a godsend. However, I was a wee bit miffed about the ending (not going to spoil it, even if you have read the book), because Jo March (Saoirse Ronan, who is fantastic in this as well) at one point righteously sounds off about how women are fit for much more than love. Yet in the end, she agrees to the publisher’s request to write ‘the romantic ending that sells’.

It left me a little bit ambivalent because personally I feel romantic happy endings are oppressively imposed on us by popular culture (an opinion that felt validated by hearing albums like Moses Sumney’s ‘Aromanticism’ or Jenny Hval’s ‘Blood Bitch’). No one can quite live up to it, and it backfires painfully when you try to live up to those golden standards. But Gerwig’s movies have always highlighted these trials with grace and lightness… having a charismatic and super talented ensemble cast (I admit that Timothée Chalamet perpetually makes me feel inadequate) sure helps. She shrewdly addressed the ways we relate ourselves to fiction as well in the screenplay: “THE PRESENT IS NOW THE PAST. OR MAYBE FICTION”. It’s what you call “sticking the landing.” (and to be fair, this wasn’t a film made with sociopaths like myself in mind)

1. Lido Pimienta wrote a kaleidoscopic pop masterpiece

How perfect is ‘Eso Que Tu Haces’? It’s hard to fathom, even after hitting the repeat button on this track over and over. When pure unadulterated pop and bleeding edge sounds collide, it’s truly something special to behold. You can feel it…the way the brass instruments soothe the hard electronic edges like waves tickling your feet on the edge of the seashore. The way Pimienta’s voice soars. The way the song confidently morphs and contorts into different panoramic chapters. It reminds me so much of the time Björk released Homogenic.

The song deduces one forecast very clearly: Miss Colombia will likely end up very high on my year-end list. I like the whimsical conception of the album title, too: it’s based on the now infamous Steve Harvey-gaffe. The incident became the root of deeper meditations that marry the political with the personal: the music is imbued with themes of loss and selfhood, in confluence with Colombia’s rich tapestry of cultures, which have been fractured by the bane of inequality and racism. The production of ‘Eso Que Tu Haces’ seems to tell as much a story as the words (which were translated beneath Pimienta’s gorgeous self-directed video). It starts in a very earthbound zone, with a slinky, percussive cumbia/folk workout, pulling the listener close. Pimienta immediately creates a sense of otherness without trying too hard: those dark bass tones enwrapping everything like a warm balm, the clarinet swerving and cooing with jazz-like abandon, deftly bending into a dynamite secondary melodic hook. This song is basically an ecosystem of sound… Lido Pimienta has raised the bar sky-high for the rest of 2020.

2. Twenty Of Twenty-Twenty, Week 6

Yup, it was another loaded week, music-wise. The new Shopping record is an absolute delight. I’ve been talking about Shopping a lot lately, I know. But hear me out. Rachel Aggs has been a one-woman record factory with bands like Sacred Paws and Trash Kit (seriously, listen to the latest Trash Kit LP on your next train ride, thank me later), and at such a pace, the pitfall is to take that greatness for granted. The new Shopping album, All Or Nothing, once again made me realize how vital track sequencing is. It’s an art. For example, if you have a strong first single (‘Initiative’), sticking that sucker in as the second track of the album is always a good failsafe. More often than not, it clicks. Almost every Rachel Aggs-related album has perfect track sequencing, now that I think about it… something tells me that’s no coincidence.

Nadine Shah is back with a skeletal, seductive new track called Ladies For Babies (Goats For Love). To be honest, I was a bit late on the bandwagon with her. For the 2018 Mercury Prize, I reviewed her last album Holiday Destination for Drowned In Sound, which — come to think of it — was a nice exercise of summoning the courage to do this here Roundup. I’ve become equally fearless and bovine in exulting in all these terrible hot takes. Still quite proud of that piece to be honest. You can read it here.

Speaking of exercises, it seems congrats are in order: The Homesick released their Sub Pop debut ‘The Big Exercise’. Still feels a bit surreal. I previously mentioned Lido Pimienta and her ability to create these vast sweeping arrangements into pop sublimity. The Homesick attempt something comparable within their offbeat post-punk framework. It’s a tremendous record that flirts with the sonorous West Coast bluster of Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson, the iconoclasm of Syd Barrett and fellow Frisians It Dockumer Lokaeltsje, the genre-bending quirks of Stereolab or Silver Apples. SO to Unimog-enthusiast Erik Woudwijk, whose cerebral, machine-like drumming finally takes center stage. (it was an incredible honor to write the official bio for this album, by the way).

The aforementioned Moses Sumney released ‘Cut Me’, which has a lot going on in it as well. Sharon Van Etten returned with ‘Beaten Down’, which is kind of eerie because I had to think about Remind Me Tomorrow during the aftermath of IFFR when I was feeling particular, well, beaten down. It’s pretty baffling to see SVE’s career take off like that just as she is releasing her most experimental, discordant music yet. When you have a voice and acumen like that, it doesn’t matter.

Oh, right, one of my favorite bands of all time, Built To Spill, announced a Daniel Johnston-cover album: which makes sense, given the fact that they have been the DJ-backing band by proxy. The Innocence Mission quietly released another gem of an album a few weeks back. Probably the sweetest, most wholesome band I’ve ever interviewed… The Innocence Mission’s music represents a hermetically sealed sanctuary for me, a rustic scenery where you can retreat and imagine things as they were.

While some revel in the stationary reflection, others do so in constant movement. Irreversible Entanglements have announced a new album (Moor Mother secretly broke me the news a few months back), and ‘No Más’ divulges a more introspective side to their craft. To me they are the pinnacle of musical expression… and I have yet to see them do the same performance twice. My good friend Ella van der Woude is set to release an achingly personal album of piano instrumentals on Snowstar Records (also the home of broeder Dieleman, Kim Janssen, I Am Oak and more); ‘Sol Mineur’ offers another intricate glimpse. She will host a very special listening session at the Roode Bioscoop, Amsterdam next week, and I’m stoked to be a part of it. The day before will be all about Carly Rae Jepsen’s Paradiso gig, so it’s gonna be a week of extremes.

To echo her new song, let the extremes be friends. Perhaps subconsciously why I picked the first single off of Katie Gately’s upcoming album Loom as sort of a heads up. You indeed have to brace yourself for ‘Bracer’ and its sonic extremes: an unbelievable listening experience that changes gears in WTF-fashion (the ending reminds me of Girl Band at their most hellish for some reason). Be sure to check out this excellent Bandcamp piece by Andi Harriman if you wish to learn more.

Finally, the curriculum picks: of course, as a nod to The Lighthouse and the monochromatic madness of it all, there’s some Slint at the starting gun. Since we’re in such a jolly nautical vibe, the Weekly Ween should be at variance with that gruesome seagull-mangling imagery. In other words: Ocean Man! Since I’ve been babbling about pop music that seems to operate at the epicenter of well, EVERYTHING, allow me to quote:

“A voyage to the corners of the globe is a real trip”

Have a listen to the whole 202020 playlist, Week 6, below!

See you next week, believers and unbelievers! XXX