Farewell to The Thermals
Powerpop stalwarts The Thermals broke up earlier this week, and that sucks. The Portland-based trio still sounded fresh and full of ideas on 2016’s We Disappear, and they had at least one bona fide classic in their 15-year career—2006’s paranoid, Bush-era response, The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Dan Ozzi, equally bummed out by the news, called the band’s frontman, Hutch Harris, to talk about their dissolution. The timing, Harris says, just felt right:
“For me, I was like, this is enough for me. We were at a point where we didn’t owe a record to any label. I didn’t want to break up the band knowing that we still owed anyone anything,” frontman Hutch Harris told me by phone, noting that bassist Kathy Foster has been working on a new project, Roseblood, and he felt it right to give it space so that people wouldn’t reduce it to a Thermals side project. “We didn’t want to do the farewell tour. I always feel like that stuff is so crass. I didn’t want to cash in on the band one more time before we broke up.”
Hello Again (Finally) to Tinashe
25-year-old alt-pop mastermind Tinashe’s second album, Joyride, finally came out on Friday. It took a while. Weighed down by industry bullshit (and candid interviews about said industry bullshit), the record was held up for a little over two years. It’s a treat to hear now—”a fast ride with no seatbelt,” according to Kristin Corry’s Stream of the Crop review. But, Yusuf Tamanna wrote, the artist deserved better than this lengthy and agonizing process:
Let’s be honest, [Tinashe] can sing, dance, write her own music, produce her own beats and transcend genre. Yet it’s been a struggle for the 25-year-old to to reach her full superstar potential. When you zoom out to look at her career trajectory so far, a few issues beyond her control start to stack up. From the time she first teased news of a second album to follow Aquarius, in September 2015, to today’s long-awaited release of that album, Joyride, some combination of her genre-bending blends of pop and R&B didn’t quite manage to pull in the audience that you’d expect for someone with her talent. Throughout, social media has thus played a role in how she’s been able to express some of her frustration with the music industry machine, but that’s in turn shown how sometimes her honesty in interviews—and her willingness to bring her fans into the process—has ended up alienating her further with other listeners. With hit single “2 On” introducing her to us in 2014 and a series of co-signs, collaborations and tours, Tinashe has felt primed for huge success. But Joyride ended up like a labor of love that got caught in a major label tangle.
Hello Again (Funkily) to Chic
Chic were pioneers, and now they’re icons. Fusing disco, funk, and rock into an immediately recognizable and danceable genre of its own, they released a handful of songs that became ubiquitous—you’ve heard them, even if you don’t know it. But with the band playing Coachella this week, you ought to know where to turn when the Shrek 2 soundtrack finishes. Thankfully, David Garber and his in-depth Guide to Getting Into Chic are here to help:
Chic is the rock band that disco direly needed, even if neither the genre’s fans or detractors didn’t fully understand their significance at the time. Let’s be real, things were a bit blurry back then. The group was formed in the late 1970s by guitarist Nile Rodgers, a long-haired, self-proclaimed hippie with a penchant for Fender stratocasters, and the late Bernard Edwards, a Brooklyn-bred bassist responsible for some of the instrument’s most fawned-over riffs. The duo and their lengthy—like CVS-receipt-length—list of collaborators provided the humanistic feeling and lyricism that fueled disco’s status as a legitimate genre primed for mainstream success, and not just a concern for clubgoers.
Hop Along’s Francis Quinlan Digs Deep
Hop Along’s third album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, came out last week, and it’ll be on everyone’s end-of-year lists when December rolls around. The Philadelphia-based indie band pushed their structures further, building around lead singer/songwriter Francis Quinlan’s staggering voice and probing lyrics. But, as David Anthony wrote in his interview with Quinlan, the words didn’t come so easy this time around:
Quinlan has always had a penchant for shrinking herself, using her songs to show her flaws and, often, not allowing much praise to be worked in. It’s a struggle that most artists have, but since Painted Shut, she began exploring what was at the root of those tendencies. As she began writing for what would become the band’s third full-length album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, she saw that these things were implanted in her, not through her own self-doubt, but by a society that routinely keeps women from relishing their achievements, no matter how deserving they are.
Drill Music Is Being Used as a Scapegoat in the UK
Conservative-leaning, Murdoch-owned, London-based newspaper The Times ran a piece last week linking the city’s drill music scene to violent crime. Blaming music for violence is nothing new on either side of the Atlantic, but it’s harmful, poorly sourced, thinly-veiled horseshit nonetheless. Their sister paper, The Sunday Times, doubled down on drill’s violent consequences over the weekend, so Ryan Bassil took them to task:
Just like its midwestern cousin, rap conflict and gang conflict often overlap in UK drill. And as far as facts go, music videos intended to incite violence or a reaction from a rival gang have acted as evidence in several murder trials in the past few years (see these from 2016 and 2018). But this overlap is also where undeniable truth ends, and moral panic begins. With knife crime in Britain at an eight-year high, drill is now partly being blamed for a recent spate of killings—more than 50 in London so far this year. Yet to look at music as the source of the problem is a blunt refusal to peel back the layers of society, to neglect the reality of the environment sitting at the end of the line, to turn a blind eye to root causes.
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