Elliott Smith, The Jon Brion Show
YouTube Gem of the (Songs of the) Week: a full 43 minutes of Elliott Smith playing his own stuff, plus covers of The Kinks and John Lennon, on The Jon Brion Show, a Paul Thomas Anderson–produced music-variety show from a decade ago that VH1 ordered but never put on the air. The footage is simple and straightforward, and therefore totally engaging; it’s Elliott Smith, a guy we now mostly just remember for his troubles, totally in his element, all smiley and self-assured. It’s also a good reminder that, outside of Warped Tour band front men and guys trying too hard to look cool in pickup basketball games, it was Elliott Smith buying up all the black wrist-sweatbands in the 2000s.
Johnny Marr, “Upstarts”
This comes to us off The Messenger, Johnny Marr’s first solo album ever. The dude’s moved from project to project in the decades since The Smiths — Marr has toured or recorded with Electronic, Modest Mouse, The The, and The Cribs, to name a few — so it’s not like he’s been slacking, necessarily. Still, it’d be great if, during the press tour for the album, Marr revealed the real reason he’s never found the time to head into the studio alone is because he’s been too busy battling a crippling addiction to Frogger.
Kim Deal, “Walking With a Killer”
Kim Deal penned classics for The Pixies (whenever Frank Black would let her), and fronted her own sister act with The Breeders — but has never gone solo before either. OK, I officially dub this Sidepeople of Legendary/Famously Contentious/Hugely Influential ’80s Bands Taking the Spotlight Week. Uh, we’ll hash out a more sensible name later.
Just Blaze and Baaer, “HIGHER”
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Production on Jay-Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint, arguably the man’s crowning achievement, was split almost evenly between Kanye West and Just Blaze, both, at the time, hungry, scrappy beatsmiths operating with the full expression of their considerable talents. The years since have been quite different for the two: Kanye’s now a polarizing Kardashian-impregnating superstar; Just Blaze’s now a grand old man of hip-hop, no longer defining the sound, but punching in for a mind-blowing banger or two seemingly whenever he feels like it. And so unlike his former peer and creative rival, Just Blaaaaaze has never really enjoyed the full burn of the spotlight, and that doesn’t seem right (in 2006, he told the Village Voice, “I could rap. I could rap right now if I wanted to. I rap probably better than most rappers … But do I want that lifestyle? Do I want that hecticness? No. I got bad asthma. I don’t want to be running around onstage for an hour …”). Which is why I have no problem with JB teaming up with the young producer Baauer to wander into the strange big world of EDM, where DJs are superstars. Let’s let Just Blaze get all the shine he deserves.
Meyhem Lauren, “The Laurenovich Angle (Fuck Pitchfork)”
Oh, this is so excellent. Meyhem Lauren got a middling Pitchfork review for his latest mixtape, Mandatory Brunch Meetings, and now he’s pissed enough to drop a diss track on them. And that was for a 5.2! Imagine what Meyhem would have done if the ‘Fork had gone full Travis Morrison on his ass. By the way, the track starts off bonkers — “A pitchfork’s a devilish tool / we don’t use those” — but ends up a little too even-keeled. Instead of contending with the review’s falsities one by one, Meyhem, couldn’t you have just gone ahead and accused Pitchfork of being in the goddamn Illuminati?
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “So Good at Being in Trouble”
Before coitus, during coitus, immediately after coitus, three hours after coitus while eating a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and watching a River Monsters marathon — really, this tender UMO heartache jam works as a soundtrack to any part of your sex life.
Mack Maine, “Kobe or Ginobili”
This new one from Mack Maine, a.k.a. Lil Wayne’s body man — and the same fellow who on “Every Girl” uttered the immortal words “I exchange V-cards with the retards” — is not, unfortunately, a musical exploration of the timeless question “Who would win an Eastern Promises–style naked knife fight, Kobe or Manu?” But it’s still worth a listen.
Wampire, “The Hearse”
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Wampire sounds like the name of a cheese-ball ’80s horror movie in which some devilish hybrid of a vampire and werewolf (obviously) terrifies a small college town’s worth of comely coeds until the horrid beast is finally felled by a rampaging crew of badass sorority chicks with sawed-off shotguns while only in their night-wear. Appropriately, “The Hearse” sounds like it’d fit right in on the made-up soundtrack to that made-up movie.
Dinosaur Jr., “Pierce the Sky”
And now, the new Dino Jr. video, starring none other than the James Urbaniak — a.k.a. the dude who administered the polygraph to Saul on Homeland this season — getting his head metaphorically smashed in by Henry Rollins. Good. Good. Very good.
Beach Fossils, “Generational Synthetic”
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So perfectly pleasantly unspoken-ly yearning, it’ll immediately make you want to set off on a disastrous-but-ultimately-life-affirming road trip with your best friend whom you’ve secretly been in love with since you were kids but who doesn’t love you back but [deep breath, forlorn stare at sunset] it’s gonna be OK. In fact, it’s gonna be great.