Echo Ladies

“Nothing Ever Lasts” – Echo Ladies

“Nothing Ever Lasts” starts cranked to 10 (or maybe 11), equal parts commotion and grace, and never lets up. I like how much the song accomplishes, dynamically, despite the sonic onslaught. In and around the foundational wall of sound, there is freight-train percussion below, a minimal, anthemic synth line above, and Matilda Bogren’s buried but endearing vocals.

Even with her voice mixed down, as the genre usually demands, Bogren steals the show for me, with a few astute moves. First, note the unexpected deviation in the verse—the way the she finishes the first two lyrical lines with an unresolved upturn (first heard around 0:24). In my experience, this kind of shoegaze or dream pop or whatever we might call it is happy enough enshrouding a sing-song-y melody in mud and volume, pushing aside the need for any further songwriting tricks. So that caught my attention. And check out, too, how crisply she manages to enunciate the last syllables of each line in the verse, despite how muffled the words. I may be easily amused but that’s kind of fun.

And then, one more subtle device arrives, first at 0:46: the repeated use of a wordless vocal tag (that is, the “ah-ah-ahh/oh-oh-ohh” part). This, again, strikes me as unusual for the genre. Normally, when a band opts for noise on top, melody below, there are actual words it seems to want you to strain to hear, or not hear. I find the “ah-ah-ahh”s in this context not only charming but a little cheeky.

Echo Ladies is a trio from Malmö. “Nothing Ever Lasts” appears to be their second single, and arrived as a 7-inch last week via the Swedish label Hybris. Thanks to indefatigable Powerpopulist blog for the head’s up.

photo credit: Ebba Ågren


“See You Around” – Hideout

An odd, enticing chugger of a song, “See You Around” has the relentlessness of a run-on sentence, packing a lot of action into a short amount of time.

We begin with a bass solo, which doubles as an introduction; when the singing starts, at 0:12, the first line is “Words keep pouring from your mouth”—and from that point, front man Gabriel Rodriguez sings without pause until 1:20. There don’t seem to be verses, and there’s no apparent chorus, just an edgy flow of words that hook you in through a few well-placed harmonic shifts (0:38, for one; 0:55 another). After Rodriguez finally takes a break, he starts up again with the more accurate observation “Words keep pouring from my mouth” (emphasis mine).

“See You Around” moves me in some mysterious way. Every time I re-listen, I seem initially to forget anew what it was I saw in it, only to remember again as the song takes off, and in particular when it arrives at the first shifting point, from 0:38 to 0:40. The song in that moment acquires some ineffable emotional capital that proceeds to grow as it careens to its early finish.

Rodriguez is a Manhattan-based musician who has played for years in the live version of the band Cults. He released his first album as Hideout in 2014. “See You Around” is from the new Hideout LP, So Many Hoops/So Little Time, released in February on Small Plates. “See You Around” is not the single, or featured track, but it’s the one that caught my ear. You too can listen to the whole album, and buy it, via Bandcamp.

The Sara Bareilles composition, “Seriously,” written at the behest of the formidable public radio show This American Life, imagines the thoughts Barack Obama might have been thinking as the 2016 presidential campaign came to a climax. Hamilton star Leslie Odom, Jr. sings. It speaks for itself, and demands to be heard, maybe even more so now than in October.

But hey everything feels political right now, doesn’t it? Seeking the meaning of life, trying to stay grounded in love, honoring a rock’n’roll icon, even just grooving to a retro beat, anything done mindfully feels like a defiant gesture when the occupant of the White House is so willfully ignorant, so apparently devoid of empathy, so blind to both beauty and mercy. The world doesn’t owe us a thing but each individual human being owes any other human being a recognition of their inherent dignity. Well, what goes up must come down. I have no idea what becomes of us collectively with this awful specimen of human being daily defacing the office he holds, but I know that in the end, he will personally fail, and fall, hard. Gravity is an implacable mistress; may we all fly forward into the light, sooner than later.

Full playlist below the widget.

“I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me” – Asobi Seksu (Asobi Seksu, 2004)
“Seriously” – Leslie Odom, Jr. (2016)
“What Is Life” – George Harrison (All Things Must Pass, 1970)
“The Universal Song” – Kim Carnes (Café Racers, 1983)
“Tennessee” – Arrested Development (3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of…, 1992)
“Nadine” – Chuck Berry (single, 1964)
“There Isn’t One Way” – Patty Griffin (Servant of Love, 2015)
“Oh Really” – Goldheart Assembly (single, 2009)
“United State” – Daryl Hall & John Oates (Voices, 1980)
“I Love You” – John Coltrane (Lush Life, 1957)
“Gravity” – Terri Hendrix (Wilory Farm, 1998)
“Public Image” – Public Image Ltd (Public Image, 1978)
“Aviation” – The Last Shadow Puppets (Everything You’ve Come to Expect, 2016)
“Alone Again Or” – Love (Forever Changes, 1967)
“Slave to the Rhythm” – Grace Jones (Slave to the Rhythm, 1985)
“No Need To Cry” – Neko Case (Furnace Room Lullaby, 2000)
“Hall of Tragedy” – Linnea Olsson (For Show EP, 2017)
“The World Don’t Owe You a Thing” – Freda Payne (Band of Gold, 1970)
“Miss America” – David Byrne (Feelings, 1997)
“Tomorrow on the Runway” – The Innocence Mission (Befriended, 2007)

This is the 33rd playlist in the Eclectic Playlist Series; there are only three artists in this month’s mix that have been featured here before, in one of the other 32 lists (and each has been featured only once previously). There’s really that much music out there, folks. That so much of it is squandered by the relentless reductionism of internet algorithms…well, let’s just say it’s a shame, and that if you’re reading this you’re in luck because it doesn’t happen here. This month’s playlist is another case in point, ranging reasonably far and wide in genre and decade, but also dancing through some serendipities of sound, feel, and outlook. The segues are occasionally challenging but I did my best to have the songs make sense even if they initially seem to be bumping into each other. And it’s all okay in the end because of the twin, Spector-ish culmination: the Ronettes into “Just Like Honey.” First we get an epic with as heart-rending a resolution, musically speaking, as has pretty much ever been written; then we can float off, Scarlett-Johansson-ly, to the indeterminate tones of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Everything, in the end, is lost in translation, most of all our heart’s desires. But it’s alright. Everything is everything. We make contact. The building may be burning but it’s we who are ablaze.

Full playlist below the widget.

“Around the Bend” – Martha Wainwright (Goodnight City, 2016)
“Everything is Everything” – Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998)
“Victim of Love” – The Eagles (Hotel California, 1976)
“You as You Were” – Shearwater (Animal Joy, 2012)
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (Wake Up Everybody, 1975)
“This Is The House” – Eurythmics (Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), 1983)
“Moving to L.A.” – Art Brut (Bang Bang Rock & Roll, 2005)
“But It’s Alright” – J.J. Jackson (single, 1967)
“Ablaze” – School of Seven Bells (SVIIB, 2016)
“Girls Talk” – Dave Edmunds (Repeat When Necessary, 1979)
“Contact” – Brigitte Bardot (Show, 1968)
“Lover’s Waltz” – A.A. Bondy (American Hearts, 2007)
“Mia & Sebastian’s Theme” – Justin Hurwitz (“La La Land”: Original Motion Picture
, 2016)
“Dim” – Dada (Puzzle, 1992)
“Jerry’s Pigeons” – Genya Ravan (Urban Desire, 1978)
“Nothing Burns Like Bridges” – Penny Century (Between a Hundred Lies, 2007)
“Let X=X” – Laurie Anderson (Big Science, 1981)
“Go, Hippie” – Fountains of Wayne (Utopia Parkway, 1996)
“I Can Hear Music” – The Ronettes (single, 1966)
“Just Like Honey” – The Jesus and Mary Chain (Psychocandy, 1985)

Billy the Zombie Kid

“Golden Rainbows/Diamonds in the Fire” – Billy the Zombie Kid

Every now and then a song comes along that’s as shiny and pop-saturated as can be and, somehow, all the things that bug the shit out of me when it comes to a lot of 21st-century pop just melt away. It’s often kind of a mystery but with “Golden Rainbows/Diamonds in the Fire” let’s see if we can puzzle out why.

To begin with, the cold a capella opening is not only a nice touch but quickly demonstrates some harmonic sophistication—take a listen to how that wordless countermelody snakes around the main melody, complicating what you’re hearing so that you are given the song’s central hook while also having it partially hidden. This allows it later to feel both familiar and new at the same time.

When the song kicks in (0:18), we get an upbeat dance vibe, but only sort of: there’s something patient and easygoing in the air, despite the beat, a feeling reinforced by those measured, four-note synth lines that we hear before the vocals start, with their sly three-notes-off-the-beat rhythm. The ongoing sensation that a little more is going on here than standard-issue pop is reaffirmed by that little wah-wah comment we first hear at 0:42—entirely unnecessary and as a result indicative of a guiding intelligence that isn’t just about formula and expectation.

Before we are led at last back to the big hook of the chorus, we are set up at 0:52 by a pre-chorus that adheres more or less to one note and stays almost completely on the beat. This, to my ears, makes all the more satisfying the incisive melodic leaps of the chorus, as well as its adroit alternation between two measures of singing on the beat and two off the beat. And I don’t mean to make too much of this on/off-the-beat distinction, but in the context of 21st-century pop music, which has been simplified and compressed into oblivion, I applaud any evidence of ear-pleasing songwriting craft. And applaud even further any pop song that saves room for a serious guitar solo (2:48, don’t miss it!).

Billy the Zombie Kid is a four-piece band from Borlänge, Sweden, an industrial town 130 or so miles north and west of Stockholm. The band began in 2013 as an unnamed solo project from singer/guitarist Stefan Altzar. Acquiring members and a name over the course of the year, Billy the Zombie Kid released four songs online in 2014, began playing locally, and started recording in earnest in the latter part of 2015. The end result is the album entitled We’re Always Right, which was released on the label Alternative Alien Baby in July 2016. You can listen to the whole thing and download it for free via SoundCloud. Thanks to the band for the MP3.