Songs of the Week: Got Those ’94 Weezer Blues All Over Again
Weezer, “Back to the Shack”
This is intended to be a throwback Weezer song, which we know because it’s produced by Ric Ocasek, and also because Rivers Cuomo talks about “rockin’ out like its ’94.” It signals the dawn of Weezer’s “still cruisin’ after all of these years” period. To be clear, “Back to the Shack” rocks out like its ’05 — it’s less like “Buddy Holly” or “My Name Is Jonas” than “Beverly Hills.” I have no reason to think Weezer’s next album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, will be any better than this, so why am I talking about it? Even though my gut tells me not to proceed any further, I’m ignoring my gut, for I am cursed as a thirtysomething white male rock fan to care about new Weezer albums for all eternity.
You Blew It!, “Surf Wax America” (Weezer cover)
If you’re looking for a spiritual Weezer throwback, You Blew It! delivered a good one earlier this year with Keep Doing What You’re Doing, an album of catchy guitar jams offset by 50 shades of anxiety. The Florida emo-punks have followed up that record with a more deliberate Weezer tribute EP called You Blue It that includes five covers, including this corker.
Hudson Mohawke, “Chimes”
One half of TNGHT and a recent production lieutenant for Kanye West, Scottish DJ Hudson Mohawke specializes in icy futurism that straddles the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music (as if there’s any remaining daylight between the genres). “Chimes,” the title track from his forthcoming EP due September 30, distills Mohawke’s sensibility into 211 beguiling seconds, with sprawling brass accents and guttural, Yeezus-esque barks cutting through a dreamy soundscape of exploratory synths.
White Fence, “Like That”
White Fence is a garage-psych band headed up by Tim Presley, a prolific songwriter whose reference points rarely reach beyond Syd Barrett and Love’s pre–Forever Changes albums. I own most of his records and like them all, though they are difficult to distinguish from one another sometimes. In my view, Presley is at his best whenever he teams up with SoCal riff-master Ty Segall, who gives White Fence a dose of clarity and rock-and-roll oomph. Similar to its wonderful 2012 collaborative record Hair, White Fence’s new Segall-produced LP For the Recently Found Innocent strengthens Presley’s hooks without losing their enigmatic, lonely weirdness.
Ethan Johns, “Talking Talking Blues”
Along with producing Jenny Lewis’s great new comeback album, The Voyager, Ryan Adams also recently oversaw The Reckoning, the second album by Ethan Johns. Johns himself is a producer best known for helping Adams make Heartbreaker, and his own songs are similarly forlorn and austere, favoring crisply strummed guitar lines that gird the sorrow in his vocals. “Talking Talking Blues” is relatively upbeat by the album’s dour (though oft beautiful) standards, but it’s representative of The Reckoning’s subtle, evocative power.
Judas Priest, “Redeemer of Souls”
Your mid-column heavy metal smoke break, courtesy of the new Judas Priest album, Redeemer of Souls.
Cancers, “Be Cool”
Naming yourself after a horrible disease that touches nearly everyone’s life in some way is probably a bad idea. But at least it is Cancers’ only bad idea. The Athens, Georgia, two-piece plays sludgy grunge-pop, so naturally it tapped sludge-pop’s greatest producer, Jack Endino, to help steer its debut album, Fatten the Leeches. On “Be Cool,” Endino supplies the thunder, and Cancers the bombastic bubble gum.
Field Report, “Wings”
Milwaukee singer-songwriter Christopher Porterfield has been plying his craft the old-fashioned way for more than a decade, first working as a backing musician in Justin Vernon’s pre–Bon Iver band DeYarmond Edison in the mid-’00s and then as a solo act under the name Conrad Plymouth. In 2012, he released his first album with his new band, Field Report, taking a significant leap forward as a songwriter and recording artist. Field Report’s forthcoming release, Marigolden, is yet another big step up for Porterfield, wedding introspective lyrics to beatific swirls of acoustic guitar strums and otherworldly synth washes. On “Wings,” Porterfield sounds both rooted in the quiet desperation of daily drudgery and unmoored from cold, hard dirt.
Sleep, “The Clarity”
This is legendary stoner-metal band Sleep’s first new song in 20 years, but personally I think they never stopped doing bowls and jamming on Dopesmoker and it took someone this long to remember to re-press the record button.
Hiss Golden Messenger, “Saturday’s Song”
This is one of my top summer jams of 2014. If the whole world dug the Grateful Dead, “Saturday’s Song” would be bigger than “Fancy.”