Monday Mixtape: Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Baroness & More!
Every Monday, I make myself a playlist of (mostly) new songs. It gets me in the habit of hunting for new music and hopefully gets me embracing fresh trends. This is the Monday Mixtape.
Bruce Springsteen, “Sundown”
The new Bruce album Western Stars is a startlingly majestic album cover in search of some solid tunes, but it’s hard to deny Springsteen’s minimalist ode to the Laurel Canyon sound. I keep waiting for every song to find a second gear, though the only one that really does anything remotely like chugging is “Sundown,” which cashes a lot of checks on a surprisingly light touch on the old-man-at-the-end imagery. Springsteen might be playing himself by releasing a definitive Dad Rock album the weekend of Father’s Day, but maybe he’s just more business savvy than I give him credit for. And he still has a hell of a damn voice.
Madonna, “Killers Who Are Partying”
Everybody hated Madonna’s 2015 album Rebel Heart—everybody but me, apparently. As I noted in that review, I appreciated the fact that Rebel Heart lacked a cohesive sonic superarcs that were present on her other 21st century albums. A lot of the writing surrounding Madonna’s new album Madame X is lauding her for the aesthetic focus, but I kind of miss the ramshackle variations. “Killers Who Are Partying” is a classic latter-day Madonna song with too much concept and too many words, but it’s also the biggest of swings.
Baroness, “I’m Already Gone”
It’s almost inappropriate to call Baroness a band, because the only consistent member is frontman John Baizley and they have changed their sound on every one of their releases. Yet they are probably my favorite working band right now because no matter who surrounds Baizley or what lane they choose, they are always powerful and inventive. Having risen from the Atlanta-area sludge metal circles that have also produced Mastodon, Black Tusk, and Kylesa, Baroness have toyed with doom throb (Blue Record), arena-sized riffage (Yellow & Green), and feedback-heavy psychedelia (Purple). The latest album, Gold & Grey, is a largely acoustic affair that also seems to be mildly interested in late ‘90s trip-hop (on a long enough timeline, Massive Attack would have probably messed around with prog guitars and produced this). “I’m Already Gone” is a strong template for the rest of the collection, steeped in haunted acoustic loops and a sense of supernatural foreboding. It’s among the quietest pieces of music Baroness have ever produced, but it still rocks.
Sleater-Kinney, “The Future Is Here”
The first track we heard from the new Annie Clark-produced Sleater-Kinney album didn’t sound that far outside the box for the world’s most powerful rock trio, as “Hurry On Home” had the same springy, manic, noisy end-of-days vibe as the best S-K tunes. But this is something entirely different, and really wears its St. Vincent influence on its sleeve. It’s a slinky bit of robot rock, like the Go-Gos harmonizing over a broken down Depeche Mode stomp, and I love it. More of this, please.
Chris Shifflett, “Welcome to Your First Heartbreak”
The fourth-most interesting dude in Foo Fighters (sorry, Nate Mendel!) made a tasty little piece of power pop that melodically blows away everything his main gig has been up to for the past decade. There’s enough fuzz here to choke your dryer, delivered with the naive sweetness of a guy who sounds happy to pounding out low-stakes rock in his spacious garage. A revelation.
702, “Gotta Leave”
This girl group’s self-titled album just turned 20 years old, and I have often called “Where My Girls At” one of the five best singles from the entirety of the 1990s. (I am not wrong.) On this auspicious birthday, I listened to the rest of the album, which is mostly end-of-the-century R&B album filler, save for this absolute monster that, like “Where My Girls At,” was co-written by Missy Elliott. “Where My Girls At” is Missy tapping into her most commercial-ready lizard brain, but the syncopated slur gurgling under “Gotta Leave” is the ideal mate for Timbaland’s baby coo two-step on Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.” This is the sound of Missy in the absolute zone.