OPE! Mixtape #5: A Case of the Wednesdays
London Brew, boygenius, Doug Paisley, Wire Train, The La's, John Mellencamp, Rainbow, and more
Well, hello there, after a week off. How are you? If you celebrate Easter, I hope you had a lovely weekend.
My vacation was unexpectedly (and happily) extended longer than planned, so no longer blog post this week.
Some of these links and tunes are more than a week old (i.e. I caught them a while ago and am just getting around to posting about them), which on the Internet can feel like they’re years old by now. Hey, we do what we can. I’m also continuing to tweak the format of this newsletter. I get bored easily and am still trying to find the right fit. I think OPE! (at least for this newsletter as opposed to the blog) makes more sense as a mixtape of the songs that stood out to me in any given week, while also including a reading list to check out while you’re listening to the mix.
Let’s try it!
I also try to make a point each week to go through all the new music that enters my e-mailbox. I’m still terribly behind while I still catch up from vacation. Outside the first few tracks, I’m sticking to more of the classics this week. Next week should be full of new tunes for y’all.
LINKS TO READ WHILE YOU LISTEN
Epic’s Unreal Engine 5.2 tech demo is, uh, unreal.
Apple Music Classical is now available to the general public, and I’m cautious about a major streaming service taking care of a genre that’s not metadata friendly.
An interesting deep dive into Andrew Lloyd Webber for those (like me) mostly unfamiliar and indifferent.
Falling in love again with bicycles. (I love everything about this.)
Living in the age of average.
The exciting potential of more low-stimulus concerts for my fellow neuro’s (great for those who need or want it and no loss if it’s not your thing).
Ten years of “Blurred Lines.”
A handful of potential ways a TikTok ban might affect the Billboard Charts.
A reminder to, when you can, own your work.
Rereading Steve Albini’s now-classic “The Problem with Music.” (Surprise: the music industry was tough even back when anyone less famous than Taylor Swift could make money.)
Exploring the Global Music Vault that aims to outlive us all.
Rereading Roger Ebert’s review of The Diary of a Country Priest in honor of his passing 10 years ago. (So, so good)
THIS WEEK’S MIXTAPE
Listen on Spotify.
London Brew - “It’s One of These”
Another early contender for album of the year.
boygenius - “True Blue”
Three talented and distinguished songwriters — I wish they would have spent more than five minutes together fleshing out these songs to feel more coherent, rather than “OK, you do the chorus and I’ll do the verse and I’ll do the next bridge if you do this one.” “True Blue” stands out for its especially great lyrics and its shout-out to Chicago.
Wednesday - “Bath County”
I don’t share my colleagues’ enthusiasm regarding Wednesday. The press coverage of this album so far has come across as “I’ve never been outside a big city, so this must be what it sounds like to not be in NYC or LA.” Yuck. Not fair to the band, of course (I’m 100% projecting my pet peeves onto this band), though the band seems to play this up in interviews too. Every year needs that Prestigious Big Indie album, and since Big Theif released something last year, Wednesday in 2023 will have to do. A lot of people I trust love this album though, so who knows. I’ll gladly share any song that’s warming up more folks to Drive-By Truckers (more on them in a sec).
Vampire Weekend - “Big Blue”
I was actually planning to write a very long blog post about this song and a very specific association I have with it. Maybe one day I’ll write it.
Dean Johnson - “Faraway Skies”
Shout-out to my buddy Stone for this great rec. Strong Cosmic Country vibes that make me want to fall asleep in my imaginary backyard amongst all the fireflies. Spring is here, and I’m already looking forward to Summer with music like this.
Doug Paisley - “Because I Love You”
I keep telling myself that I need to listen to more Doug Paisley. I think this song will finally do it for me.
Wire Train - “Chamber of Hellos”
Another perfect song.
Prefab Sprout - “Appetite”
Following up on Prefab from the last newsletter: Another shout-out to my buddy Stone for convincing me that “Appetite” is another perfect Prefab song. What an album!
The La’s - “There She Goes”
Another perfect song. My favorite guitar tone ever. Everything I love about music is in this song.
John Mellencamp - “Small Town (Acoustic)”
I think it’s very hard to convey to those outside of Indiana of how great Mellencamp is at what he does. I’m so-so on the original version of “Small Town” but love love love this stripped-down take. This will always sound like home to me. Last year, I had the honor of writing the first-ever Pitchfork review of a John Mellencamp album. Though I panned it (I stand by that review), I felt honored as a Hoosier to write about such uniquely Indiana music.
Drive-By Truckers - “The Sands of Iwo Jima”
This is how you write lyrics. DBT’s vocals take some getting used to, but I’ll go to bat for The Dirty South any day of the week.
Trespassers William - “Alone”
How the hell is this song not bigger?
Pulp - “Dishes”
“I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials.”
Creedence Clearwater Revival - “Lodi”
Another perfect song. Not the best song CCR ever wrote, but the best song only CCR could pull off.
Gang of Youths - “forbearance”
If I was doing the newsletter a year ago, I would have not shut up about the latest Gang of Youths album. Still my favorite album of 2022.
LCD Soundsystem - “Home”
Take me hoooooooooooooooommmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Warren Zevon - “Desperados Under the Eaves”
I loved this recent Pitchfork Sunday Review on a Zevon album that I didn’t know too well. The rare song where I think it’s better to read the lyrics before listening.
Ryuichi Sakamoto - “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”
R.I.P. Mr. Sakamoto.
Belle and Sebastian - “Seymour Stein”
Also R.I.P. to the great Stein.
Pottery - “Hot Like Jungle”
The last great live band I caught in NYC pre-COVID. I feel like I’ve aged out of a lot of the shows I went to all the time while living in NYC, so Pottery earns a special place in my heart. If they’re touring near you, absolutely go. “Hot Like Jungle” is the only case where I think the album version is better, but everything else absolutely crushes on stage. There’s a sweetness here that reminds me of Velvet Underground’s happier songs.
Lenny Kravitz - “Again”
The best song Elvis Costello never wrote. I’m constantly underrating Kravitz’s riffs and his mostly very strong power ballads.
Rainbow - “Since You Been Gone”
I’m not sure if Rainbow (or Dio) is underrated. I do think we’ve reached peak Supertramp a la the Beau Is Afraid trailer, so we need some new power pop to save the day. Why not some power-pop from these early metal pioneers?
And that’s it! Until the next Monday when we’re all together.
With love and all the other good things,
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OPE! logo by Claire Kuang. words and cartoons by yours truly. all typos are intentional.
While obviously Hoosiers have a special dedication to John Mellencamp, as a Chicagoan who went to University of Illinois and thus attended the first Farm Aid concert (wish I had kept the t shirt!), I'd say all Midwesterners have a place in their heart for JM. I'm now in Minnesota and saw Mellencamp on Saturday night at the State Theater. He's still in fine form, when the audience messed up the lyrics to 'Jack and Diane' by eagerly skipping to the chorus, he stopped and explained what songwriting structure is and how we (not me, of course) were wrong and started over.
My son is in the Marching 100 at IU and I get a kick every time I see the Mellencamp Pavillion.