"Our Spilt Milk" looks at our favorite things this week, which also include Danny Brown and Tony Molina.
I’ve been playing Tove Lo’s Lady Wood on repeat since last Wednesday and it’s helped me channel some of my post-election sadness and angst. The melancholy pop album is titled as such because Lo wanted to create a phrase synonymous with the bravery associated with ‘having balls, explaining to 92.3 AMP Radio in New York that “it 's kind of like saying a chick with balls, but since we don't have balls, it's lady wood.” That’s one way of putting it.
Although the shock of the sometimes fictional, scandalous life of the Swedish pop singer-songwriter has died down, she approaches her usual themes in songs that reflect beautiful, messy, self-destructive lifestyles. Her signature minimalist style has a darker techno edge this time, as heard in “Influence” with Wiz Khalifa and True Disaster for example. With the sonic update, Lo sounds as confident, vulnerable, and raw as on her first album, Queen of the Clouds. (Emily Tonn)
Alternative rock band Wet's last studio album Don't You features some of my favorite breakup songs including "All The Ways" and "All In Vain." Recently, the trio has released two new tracks that successfully explore emotional spaces: "The Middle" & "Turn Away." The former is a poetic interpretation of what it feels like to be stuck in a tug-of-war between where we've been and where we want to be. “We won't rise / someone's always somewhere in the middle,” Kelly Zutrau sings.
It’s easy to hear “The Middle” as a lovers’ struggle, but in an email to The Fader, Wet wrote that this track was also inspired by the 2016 Presidential Election and the time that our country is in between presidents. They refer to the feeling as "collective anxiety,” and it’s something the trio has been experiencing as they prepare to release their forthcoming album. Change and transition can be very intimidating forces that leave us feeling stranded and, as Zutrau sings, “hanging on the fence.” (Ryan Knight)
Punk trained Tony Molina well. The Bay Area guitarist and songwriter has turned his attention to pop in recent years with hardcore’s impatience. No filigrees or needless flourishes and certainly no more words than necessary. Why waste time with a second verse when you said what you wanted in the first? That aesthetic means that on the recently released Confront the Truth, he gets through eight songs in 11 minutes, but he doesn’t do it through speed. The tempos are sane, perhaps even leisurely. What allows Molina to move through songs so quickly is his ability to focus on a moment and make that the song. At 1:22, “Hung Up on the Dream” is one of the longer songs on the album, and over a chord progression that recalls “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the song’s lyrics in their entirety are:
Hung up on the dream
that you never walked away
visions of the past are hard to leave today.
Woke up late
I can’t get out of my bed.
The voices in my head
they are killing me today.
Beatles references abound on Confront the Truth, but they’re logical. In a song about struggling with your dreams, something lysergic makes sense. “See Me Fall” echoes something pre-Revolver, but Molina’s punk sensibility kicks in there too, though. He has traded the Weezer-like crunch of 2014’s 18-minute album Dissed and Dismissed for his frequently delicate acoustic guitar, but whatever the instrument set, he’s economical. No composition has any spare parts, and when he employs duel lead guitars for the instrumental closer, “Banshee,” it’s for a specific, Thin Lizzy-like effect.
As a whole, Molina’s work is a sort of musical straight edge, but it’s more than simply an exercise is self-discipline. Whether with crunching electric guitars and squealing amps or hushed, finger-picked acoustic guitars, he has classic pop hooks and good songs about struggling with his life—moderately, or course. (Alex Rawls)
Danny Brown brought his Atrocity Exhibition Tour to Republic late last month, on the heels of his riskiest, most conceptual album to date. Atrocity Exhibition gave us a healthy dose of the Brown we’ve come to know and love, but ventured into uncharted waters production-wise, matching Danny’s spastic flow with a jumpy, almost free-jazz aesthetic. It was a welcome departure from his previous album, Old, which polished some of his rougher edges to market him to a more mainstream audience. At 35, Danny Brown hasn’t just returned to form; he’s gotten better.
Going into the show, I was excited to see how the new songs would play live. I assumed he’d dedicate most of his set to new material, but instead, the show was largely a throwback to XXX, everyone’s favorite. At one point, he went on a short Atrocity Exhibition run, showcasing some of the album’s more popular tracks, including “Really Doe” and “Dance in the Water.” The intricacies of the production were mostly lost to The Republic’s sound system, but the songs were still a lot of fun. Even at his advanced age (in relation to hip-hop’s increasingly youthful core), Danny Brown still knows how to enjoy himself. Over the course of his set, he pranced around the stage, throwing up his rock hands and opening his mouth wide to stick out his tongue and reveal his notoriously absent front teeth. Brown’s rock star mentality exerts an underrated influence on hip-hop’s current cult of personality. Unlike many of the larger-than-life rappers in the trap world, Brown actually performs his songs word-for-word onstage, and his flow is one of the most impressive I have ever witnessed. Stripped by circumstance of his heady production, Brown went in over generic-sounding booming bass and drums, but it didn’t stop him from absolutely killing it. (Raphael Helfand)