Dear reader, I did see Smash Mouth at Brat Fest. They didn’t disappoint! I maintain the band’s delightfully garish blend of glitzy rock and ska would still probably hold up 20 years on, even if they never caught the colossal wave of free weird press their meme status has afforded them in their post-Shrek years. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to announce that it was only last weekend that I learned “I’m a Believer” was not originally recorded by The Monkees. Guess I have to brush up on my classics…
Purple Mountains: “All My Happiness is Gone”
Sometimes a song title tells you all you need to know. After a decade-plus, Silver Jews songwriter David Berman is back, and he sounds sad as all hell. This is risky listening for someone who a few days ago heard “Song for Zula” for the first time in a while and burst into tears, but it’s absolutely worth it. The music video begins with the kind of guitar playing best associated with a roommate from the next room over who’s strumming while waiting for their mac and cheese to finish. But stick with it: The song kicks in with enough gusto you could almost feel motivated until you glance at the lyric sheet. Welcome back, buddy!
Online indie pop sensation Clairo will release her first album, Immunity, on Aug. 4. This news hits close to home for me. Her “4EVER” was nearly my very favorite song last year, and the viral hit “Pretty Girl” was a perfect lo-fi gem and probably the thing I watched most on YouTube in 2018. And Immunity is off to a tremendous start: “Bags” is a rainy-day banger, in the vein of perhaps Soccer Mommy. (Another fave I can’t believe I’ve only had on my radar since early 2018.)
Co-produced by Clairo and Rostam, the song’s understated strength owes a lot to its perfectly rigid drums. I grinned like an idiot on the Van Galder the entire time I listened to it for the first time; drums just don’t sound like this on songs like this. And that’s before I found out it was Danielle Haim! All of this beaming about the drums only accounts for a small bit of what’s going on in this song, a wonderful addition to a promising songwriter’s catalog.
Bill Callahan: “Angela”
Last week was a great one for new music by old dudes we haven’t heard from in a while. Bill Callahan, one of my all-time favorites, released as a preview the first side of his forthcoming double album, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (out June 16). There’s already a lot to love in these first six songs. Callahan beckons with his tight-lipped guitar playing and almost talk-sung verses, and who am I to not listen closely? He rewards longtime fans with allusions to prior work (“And I cut down the pines / The pines of, where did you sleep?”), but this bundle shows a masterful songwriter still looking ahead.