Maybe you’re the only one trying
Famously adored by a sizable silo of fans for her emotionally acute lyrics, Mitski has a secret weapon hiding in plain sight: the gorgeous tonal quality of her singing voice. Overlookable, perhaps, in the context of the synths and beats often surrounding it, her vocal power seems particularly on display throughout her latest album, the terrific Laurel Hell, which was released in February. It could also be that the 31-year-old singer/songwriter continues to deepen as a performer as the years go by.
“The Only Heartbreaker” delivers a melancholy interpersonal message over a rapid pulse. The New York Times last month referred to it as a “catchy pop song,” but is it, really? It’s got a body-stimulating beat, but little about Mitski’s delivery here signals “catchy pop song,” starting with the fact that the melody, already moving at half the pace of the rhythm, is consistently stretched in and around the song’s momentum. The potentially anthemic chorus repeats one line–“I’ll be the only heartbreaker”–in such an in-between-the-raindrops kind of way as to be quite difficult to sing along with.
As for the melancholy, the song’s narrator feels elusively aggrieved from the start, singing, “If you would just make one mistake/What a relief it would be.” The simple but emotionally potent idea here is that the singer feels to be the only one ever messing up in the relationship. One particularly striking lyric, however, hints at further depth: “I’ll be the water main that’s burst and flooding/You’ll be by the window, only watching.” As Mitski explained to Rolling Stone, “Maybe the reason you’re always the one making mistakes is because you’re the only one trying.”
You can listen to Laurel Hell on Bandcamp, and buy it there in a variety of formats, some with different packaging options. MP3 via KEXP.
Arriving in 2020 straight from 1965 or so, “Sun Gun” pays nifty homage to a variety of classic British rockers from an era when sturdy melodies poured out of rock bands like sunshine in August, tinged by an awareness of the psychedelia on the near horizon. The Zombies, the Kinks, early Pink Floyd, they’re all in here, in the jangly guitars, the sweet spacey sing-along chorus, the swell of background harmonies, and the general sense that tea was involved along the way. If you’re not careful you’ll notice a soupçon of young-ish David Bowie in the air, or maybe Marc Bolan, and in any case the Arthurs make a nice case for grounding the entirety of glam rock, by all accounts arising in the early ’70s, in those earlier mid-’60s sounds.
The trick in all this is not to sound like a tribute band, and although it’s hard to point to any one thing they’re doing that shifts things into the 21st century, I am nevertheless getting a strong whiff of present-day creativity here. At which point I should note that the original version of this song on the album is more than nine minutes long, during which it definitely becomes its own sort of trip. (Here’s a link to the full version if you’re curious and have some extra time on your hands.) Personally I didn’t think the song quite justified its length; and yet, oddly, now that I’ve been living with the shorter version, I do have a sense that it could be longer. (Some people are never satisfied it seems.)
In any case, what really sells me on “Sun Gun,” in either length, is the brilliance of the classic-sounding chorus, which gathers an impressive amount of heft as the song progresses. This is partially due to restraint—we only hear the chorus three times in this edited version. The verse melody is different but with a similar rhythm and feel so it works to reinforce and familiarize the ear while at the same time allowing the chorus when it pops in to feel extra memorable.
The Arthur Brothers self-identify as an “artistic alliance” grounded in the work of brothers Matt and Danny Arthur and songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist J.C. Wright. They are based in London. “Sun Gun” is the final track on their debut album, Nine, which was released last month. You can listen to the album and buy it via Bandcamp.
Things have been slow around here because I am in the process of moving. Fun!
In clearing out and packing up, I realized that I might have a few too many CDs lying around. Especially if the stated goal of the move is “downsizing.”
But my loss is your gain, potentially. I have packaged up a box of 30 (count ’em, 30) CDs that I have received promotionally over the last 12 years. Every CD in the box is from an artist featured at least one time on Fingertips. So while I can’t vouch for the consistent quality of every track on every disc in the grab bag, I do know that each album contains at the very least one very good song. Which is something!
For more information, visit the Contest page: https://fingertipsmusic.com/?page_id=15489
The Fingertips Contest returns, with a prize to read rather than to listen to. The Kinks’ front man Ray Davies has a brand new memoir entitled Americana, which is yours for the winning. Visit the Contest page and check out the details.
The Fingertips Contest returns, with a classic prize. 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Paul Simon’s landmark album Graceland, and the record label has packaged up some worthy material. I’ve got a combination CD/DVD to give away. If you’d like to know more, go to the Contest page and check it out.
Fingertips summer hiatus begins now.
Fingertips summer hiatus begins now. I will be rather far away for a while, and largely without the services of internet tubes. New songs return near the end of July. Enjoy your existing music libraries and/or go find some cool new stuff and come back and tell me about it. Also, listen to the birds.
See you in a month.
Memorial Day is coming a bit early around here, as it has been decided that the Fingertips Home Office will be shut down as of Thursday, and that all work in progress shall be halted until at least Monday. Who am I to stand in the way of not getting work done? This week’s songs have been selected but they will now become next week’s songs. Next week’s songs have not yet been selected, and lord knows what will become of them.
The good news out of all of this is that instead of being quite late (this week), the songs will be quite early (next week), arriving online some time on Tuesday. For the insatiably curious, check out the Fingertips Facebook page, where the songs have been announced. (Did you know that every week the songs get announced a day or so in advance on the Facebook page? I didn’t think so.)
For those in need of music more quickly than that, consider a visit to the Fingertips Top 10, a sturdy haven of recent favorites, some of which you just may have missed along the way.
So I’m not going to SXSW. Perhaps you aren’t, either. In honor of this I humbly offer up the latest Fingertips Playlist: the Not At SXSW playlist, more formally entitled the I’m Not At SXSW and Neither Are These Guys and Neither Probably Are You mix. As usual, the playlist is constructed of free and legal MP3s that remain available online.
This time, I feature only artists who will not be at SXSW this year. Turns out there are many such artists. Good ones, too. Go figure.
And for this new playlist, I’m offering, for a limited time, the entire list as one MP3, complete with segues and (I hope) volume equalization. Check it all out on the Playlist page.
The last week or so has seen an infusion of six new songs to the top 10 list.
Due to a post-new-year, snow-induced malaise, the Fingertips Top 10 found itself languishing without the requisite amount of linen-changing during the endless yet fast-moving month of January. I woke up in February and found a fair amount of housekeeping to do. (For newcomers, the deal is that songs remain in the Top 10 list for no more than three months. Barring snow-induced malaises.)
Thankfully, we’ve been having a bit of thaw both outside and inside. The last week or so has seen an infusion of six new songs to the Top 10 list, and not a flake of snow. (Well, maybe a flake.) Check it out when you have a chance.
Didn’t win the Laurie Anderson CDs? Have no fear. Another contest is immediately upon us. You can win a copy of Over the Rhine’s about-to-be-released album The Long Surrender, if you go to theContest page, follow the instructions, and get very lucky.
Didn’t win the Laurie Anderson CDs? Have no fear. Another contest is immediately upon us. You can win a copy of Over the Rhine’s about-to-be-released album The Long Surrender, if you go to the Contest page, follow the instructions, and get very lucky. First prize is the vinyl record, second prize the CD.