Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: paramore

Make Up for the Silence - Best of 2017!

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2017 Mix

Make Up for the Silence - Best of 2017!

When I ambled and rambled my way through a year’s listening habits last December, I noted that for as awful as 2016 was purported to be, it actually wasn’t all that bad as it happened. No, the issue with 2016 wasn’t 2016 at all – it was the certain doom of 2017 floating on the horizon, casting its long and ugly shadow over the year prior, distorting 12 months so fully that, looking back, all we could see in them were the mangled visages of funhouse mirror reflections except, no, these mirrors weren’t funhouse mirrors at all, we actually were all squashed and stretched and made grotesque now. The recent past was a decent past, but all we could see in it was the refracted dread of what was sure to come.

Well, shit. It sure came, didn’t it?

Look, nobody needs another recap of the dumpster-fire-inside-a-tire-fire-inside-a-world-on-fire that was 2017. Living it was plenty awful enough. So let’s just stick to the music.

The eighth* edition of my year-end mixtape has a lot in common with 2017′s, compositionally – a few core songs that were destined to make this list from the moment I heard them, and then a lot of listening to the 300-odd songs that eventually comprised my Top Tracks of 2017 playlist**. I’ve once again avoided the pop hits –- sorry, Selena Gomez and… Charlie Puth? (Charlie Puth?! Chariie Puth!) – because, well, if you want to hear what’s at the top of the charts, I’m sure Spotify will have you covered with one of a hundred auto-programmed 2017 mixes, and if you want a full-on survey mix, others do a better job than I ever would (or would want to.) While some of those pop bangers were essential listening for me this year, I gotta make the cuts somewhere, so why not cut what you’ve undoubtedly heard before? This place was always intended to be personal, not a reflection of anything bigger than myself (or, at most, whatever bigger things reflect off of me).

So what got me good in the disaster year that was 2017?

Well, for one, a lot of shoegaze. While article after article asked when the rock bands would lift up swords against the onslaught, many of the best instead raised their shields – walls of fuzzed-out noise to block out the incoming barrage; cocoons of fire in which to seethe, or roll through the hordes like an American Gladiator-gyroball-juggernaut; or, in the case of returning vets Slowdive, tiny but explosive big-bang-galaxies, a vast and alluring internal starscape check-marked with life-affirming infinities to be stumbled across within.

Mostly, looking inward seemed to be the order of the day. It’s been clear from the start that 2017 was going to be a war, not a battle – who can really blame those who took a little time to lick their wounds after the first skirmish Examinations of interior spaces; self-reflection; self-bolstering; finding forgiveness, for those around us and for ourselves. Steeling ourselves for the fight to come; rediscovering–and reaffirming–the reasons the fight is right, and needed, and vital. Celebrating others, and celebrating our selves, and celebrating the world that’s worth fighting for, a world that’s every bit as full of magic and wonder as it was the year before, even if those things are a little more obscured now.

One thing that isn’t on my list – which is wildly incongruous with what is maybe 2017′s biggest musical story – is pretty much any hip-hop. 2017 was the year rap ate “pop”’s lunch on the pop charts, in a way it hasn’t in over a decade. A great story, but really, I was kinda bummed out by pretty much every major sonic development on the mainstream hip-hop front this year: the xanned-out, tuned-out, tune-free rap of everyone named Lil’ Something; that Migos-triplet thing that was so quickly imitated, even as the members of Migos themselves drove it into the ground; the white dudes (so many white dudes!); even Cardi B, whose Horatio Alger-Cinderella-bootstraps story would make a wonderful movie (one preferably soundtracked by someone else’s music. It was a year ripe with creative innovations and new directions… and none of them felt particularly listenable to me.

(Also, as in the past, most of my rap/hip-hop consumption has been via the radio, so, what the hell, let’s just pretend it was all ineligible anyway.)

This year, we’re back to a mixtape that can’t be found entirely on Spotify. For reasons I can only begin to speculate on, sometime around the middle of the year, the two Hidden Ambulances tracks on this mix disappeared from the internet entirely – streaming, paid download, YouTube, everywhere. The band even vanished from Facebook. (Hoard your mp3s, kids!) So I highly recommend downloading this year’s mix.***

Makeup For The Silence – Best Of 2017

  1. Hang On Me – St. Vincent
  2. Heel Theme – Mansions
  3. Hole – Hundredth
  4. Everything Now – Arcade Fire
  5. Forgiveness – Paramore
  6. Take Me With U – Susanna Hoffs
  7. War & Wildflowers – Onlychild
  8. Don’t Let The Clowns – Hidden Ambulances
  9. Dawning – DMA’s
  10. Once In A Lifetime – The Night Game
  11. The Stack – White Reaper
  12. Nearby Catfight – Milk Teeth
  13. Shopping Is A Feeling – WHAT WHAT WHAT
  14. These Heaux – Bhad Bhabie
  15. Boys – Charli XCX
  16. A Better Sun – Sorority Noise
  17. Jaded – Winter
  18. Backyard – Sløtface
  19. How Do You Feel? – The Maine
  20. Aeronaut – Billy Corgan
  21. Star Roving – Slowdive
  22. Splendid Charm – Hidden Ambulances

click image to download

For once, I’m NOT going to promise to be back tomorrow with something-or-other and then not follow through on it. I do have my Top Ten Albums of 2017 prepared, at least in list form. I’d like to write about them, and I’m hoping that I’ll find the time over the next couple weeks to do so, though perhaps not as extensively as in past years.

One of my projects for 2017 is to move this blog from Tumblr to…somewhere else. WordPress maybe? I’m not really sure. Somewhere where I can restore my links page and better archive all the things I’ve written for publication. To be honest, between the death of the Tumblr music writing community (such as it was in, say, 2011 – there might be a whole new one now for all I know!) and the fact that Tumblr eating my HTML has rendered one of the key parts of this page useless – not to mention the uncertainty of Tumblr’s future itself – I’ve been left hesitant to invest much time over here. Especially because I know what a beast of a project relocating all of this will be.

I put myself on a couple social media diets in 2017, and while they were nice while they lasted, they were, like most diets, hard to stick to. For 2018 I want to take that break a little more seriously. I’d like to spend a little more time in the rich and unexplored (by me) past – I’ve got at least a hundred books in my office that I’ve been meaning to read and haven’t cracked – and a little less in the undifferentiated firehose of the present. I’d also like to spend more time focused on writing rather than constant consumption. (Turns out exposure isn’t the only Oregon-Trail-related death a writer needs to be concerned about in 2018!) (Let me be someone else’s consumption problem!) So, I’m going to spend the next couple weeks digesting the last bits of 2017 – reading end-of-year stuff I didn’t get around to for lack of time, hopefully writing my own end-of-year stuff – and then I’m going to flip off the lights on Twitter and Facebook for a while.

If I’m right, that means you might be seeing more of me here, or wherever “here” winds up being.

So, until then, friends. We’ve got to make 2018 better than 2017; we can’t afford not to. Time to get (back) to work.

*You can always find the complete collection of mixes which have appeared on Makeup For The Silence, as well as all the playlists I’ve contributed to elsewhere, right over here.

**I’ve archived my 2017 list and rolled my 2018 one right on top, so if you were subscribed, you should be following 2018 now. If not, follow along right here.

***That said… you can stream what’s streamable here.

#12 Album of 2013 – Paramore – Paramore

#12 – Paramore – Paramore [spotify]

(feat. track – “Last Hope” [spotify])

You know how, sometimes, an album is made up of so many great tracks that, on first listen, none of them really stand out, and so you make the mistake of thinking the record is just kind of average? That’s how I felt about Paramore at first.

It’s like mistaking a plateau for a plain – it’s hard to see the difference when you’re looking downward. Only when you spot external reference points, when you gain context, does which one you’re dealing with suddenly become apparent. Paramore has so many peaks – that electrifying moment when the Hayley Williams suddenly finds herself surrounded by a gospel choir in the coda of “Ain’t It Fun”; Ilan Rubin’s accelerating drum fills as “Part II” builds to its roaring apex; the gorgeous, Jimmy Eat World-esque wave of chimes and strings (arranged by Roger Joseph Manning Jr., natch!)  that washes through “Hate To See Your Heart Break”’s outro; the moment following the false ending where “Future” comes galumphing back in a sludgy wash of overtone-punctuated fuzz* – that it almost begins to feel like level ground. It was only after many months of listening to it in between other albums; of hearing its singles on late night TV, at the gym, on PAs between sets at shows, on PAs between shoe stores at the mall, seemly everywhere; of twice bearing witness to the strongest iteration of the band yet perform most of its tracks live, masterfully; and most of all, of seeing how deeply it effected some of my friends and peers and inspirations, that I really began to realize just how high Paramore towers over the pop landscape.

Part of my slow uptake is due to what I see as a small flaw in the album itself – at 17 tracks** totaling 64 minutes, it’s overstuffed, to the point where songs start to blend together. Some self-editing would have made for a release with a little more punching power, though even as I write that, I have a hard time figuring out what exactly should be cut. Perhaps the band saw the same dilemma I did; turning a few of these tracks into B sides would have been the move to make, but there’s really no B material here. Regardless, it’s ultimately an issue of digestibility, not quality, and Paramore is the sort of album that really merits (and rewards!) being chewed on for a while.

And really, that’s the worst flaw I can come up with for Paramore – the sort of flaw that lands an album at the back-end of a Top Ten Twelve instead of the front-end, but no worse. With what are easily Hayley Williams’ strongest set of lyrics to date, Paramore is a marvel of emotional maturity, a grown-up record full of grown-up feelings and grown-up ways of dealing with them.*** It’s sonically diverse yet remarkably consistent, catchy and unpredictable all at once, inspiring, enthralling and endearing. It’s easily the best album Paramore have released to date. I’m glad that, though it didn’t click at first, I still found a little something that dug in – just a spark, but enough to keep me going. I’m glad I let it happen.

*Though you’d have a hard time coming up with two more different bands, I’d love to play “Future” to everyone who loved Deafheaven’s Sunbather this year just to see what they’d think of it.

**Granted, three of those tracks are short ukulele-centric “Interlude”s, but that name is a bit of a misnomer – they’re all standalone songs, and while they take a different sonic tack to the rest of Paramore, they’re not mere snippets, nor breaks from the action. “Moving On” and “I’m Not Angry Anymore”, in particular, are two of the strongest songs here from a songwriting standpoint, and they’re absolutely crucial to the album; they’re the pivots on which the rest revolves.

***This for a band that had supposedly already made their “mature” album with 2009’s Brand New Eyes; listening to the two back to back, that album sounds positively adolescent in comparison.

2013 Year In Review

Motley Crue – Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)

Last year, I wrote up a lengthy State Of The Scene report, almost inadvertently – it began as a few stray comments I intended to send in along with my Pazz & Jop ballot, and spiraled out into something much larger.Those comments, unsurprisingly, didn’t get printed (though two of my picks did manage to get called out in this piece!)

The irony is that, this year, there would be no sense in me sending in something similar. What, last year, seemed to me so far off the critical radar that I felt compelled to shine a spotlight on it, is this year such a glaringly obvious trend that there’s nothing I could write that wouldn’t be redundant of the excellent, and well-read, work this year by folks like Ian Cohen and Leor Galil. What was a thousand words last year can, this time out, be reduced to an #emorevival hashtag and a few links.

The real kicker? Not a single artist that could reasonably be called an emo revival act made my list of albums or singles that I submitted to the Voice this year, nor will any make my Top Ten here. I don’t think any are even making the final cut on my 2013 Mix. These acts are calling back to a generation of emo which precedes the discovery of melody, or theatricality, or ambition, or edge, even cartoony edge. There’s precious little of that sort of stuff in my personal canon – American Football’s album and the first two Owen CDs; Mineral‘s The Power Of Failing; early Bright Eyes, if you want to count that – but noodly sadboy navelgazing has never really been my scene.

Even the stuff I liked most from that era, like Jimmy Eat World‘s Clarity or Death Cab for Cutie‘s The Photo Album, place song structure, harmony and production values at their fore. Of all the things you could ape about late-90s emo, “lack of vitality” seems like a poor choice, and yet it’s the dominant mode of the day. So you can write an intricately fingerpicked, multi-movement suite without a single memorable hook or any shift in emotional tone? Congrats, you’re Yngwie Malmst-emo! Pick up your award at the circular file under my desk.

What excited me this year?Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace waving her identity like a battle flag on True Trans. Bands with guitars that made me want to dance, from Haim’s Days Are Gone and Chvrches The Bones Of What You Believe to SmallpoolsEP and The 1975’s self-titled album. Wonderful comeback albums from two acts that could be called emo revival, except that they were part of the terribly uncool* era of emo we’re currently trying to pretend never happened: Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock And Roll and Paramore’s Paramore.

*Even a metal purist acknowledges hair metal as a part of the genre’s history, even an important (if embarrassing) step in it’s development. Why is it that old-school emo fans consistently privilege cool over historicity and narrative?

Follow-ups from acts that made my list a year or two ago and managed not to disappoint, like OMD (the perfectly-titled English Electric) and Mansions’s Doom Loop. Nu-twang that sidestepped clap-n-stomp blustering of Mumfordcore in favor of something a little more personal, like Twin Forks’ EP and Lacey Caroline’s Songbird and Jimmie Deeghan’s Cheap Therapy. Side projects of old favorites that not only delighted but surprised, like WhitewaitsAn Elegant Exit (Rob Rowe of Cause & Effect) and The Here And Now’s Born To Make Believe, Part 1 (Alan Day of Four Year Strong). My every-third-year nu-gaze treasure, this time around from The History Of Apple Pie, Out Of View.

And pop. Pop! So much pop! It was the year of the superstar: Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Jay Z, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Drake and Katy Perry all put out albums that were deeply intriguing, each one for vastly different reasons. Some were great; most weren’t; even the failures contained some combination of perfect singles and deeply ambitious overreaches that made me want to figure out what went wrong, and why, and how.

And if this was the year pop superstars reasserted themselves, the pop underground held its own too. Some of my favorite pop jams came from folks who didn’t even register a blip on the mainstream radar, like Kelsey Chaos’ Out Of This World and Tilian’s Material Me, Cady Groves’ “Forget You” and roboteyesself-titled. Even Carly Rae Jepsen, the most unfairly-scarlet-lettered One Hit Wonder in recent memory, got in on the fun with maybe my favorite song of the year, ”Take A Picture“.

So you can count me out on scenes for now. This is the state of my scene, and that’s a scene of one. It’s a post-genre world, and the freedom to run from what doesn’t click with you is just as exhilarating as the freedom to dig into something new or uncool. That’s where I stood for a long time, before the 2000’s emo revolution sucked me in, and it’s to where I gladly return. Everything old is new again. It’s the same old, same old situation.

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