Mitski, am I right? She’s almost too good to be true. 2014’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek was the record that got our attention, but she’s been honing her craft for years, and it shows. We love her for her lyrical prowess and her energetic, inventive melodies. Bury Me at Makeout Creek is a record I just can’t get away from, and I don’t mind. There are songs for quiet Sunday mornings, for driving home at night, and for dancing like you’re alone in your home bedroom again. Disparate moods and threads of stories are weaved together by Mitski’s compelling voice, which disarms with trembling beauty and screams when it needs to. It’s a cohesive record that tells the story of a life lived day-by-day until small actions coalesce into a month, a season, a feeling. Its intimate rebellion can be summed up by the line “I don’t need the world to see that I’ve been the best I can be,” its breathless adolescence by “I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony,” and its confessional candidness by “lately I’ve been crying like a tall child.” I could go on, but you’ll just have to listen closer for more gems such as “let me walk to the top of the big night sky.”
While I’m still enveloped by the world of Bury Me at Makeout Creek (I can’t help but be fond of a record that ends with the word “goodbye”), Puberty 2 (out June 17th on Dead Oceans) is going to be important. I love the title — it’s sort of cheeky to refer to this record as a sequel. It’s like she’s saying: here I am trying to grow up again in my 20’s and broadcasting my efforts to the world. Classic millennial, always oversharing! There wasn’t a Puberty 1 to begin with, but it does come on the heels of an album that was a relatively big deal. It signals that we’re never quite finished growing up, that the volatility of youth can and does follow us into “adulthood,” especially for artists like Mitski who are constantly probing their personal lives for material.
The first single, Your Best American Girl, is a triumph, and it’s the actual point of this post. The song starts out softly meandering and quickly swells into noisy brilliance. In light of the chorus, I tend to hear the first few lines (“If I could, I’d been your little spoon and kiss your fingers forevermore”) as a little too twee to be genuine. As in, I’ve heard similar sentiments in many a Los Campesinos! song. Maybe I’m being cynical and all blahhhh love is not that great and there’s nothing new under the sun, but I’d argue that Mitski is, too. That line followed by some characteristic doubt and sadness — she’s incredibly smart and self-aware in her songs (and elsewhere: her Twitter is one of my favorites). So when the speaker whispers “you’re the one, you’re all I ever wanted,” it’s the set-up for something more, something that turns those kinds of clichés inside out. And that’s the anthemic chorus:
Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me
But I do, I think do
You’re an all-American boy, I guess I couldn’t help but trying to be your best American girl.
She had to go and bring their mothers into it! That’s what’s so great about Your Best American Girl. It’s about trying and failing to conform to normative ideas about what people should want. It’s about otherness – Mitski is half Japanese and didn’t grow up in the U.S., so her place as a queer Asian woman artist in the oftentimes overwhelmingly white male sphere of indie rock is celebrated and fraught in all kinds of ways. It’s about how confusing and electrifying it can be to hold multiplicities within yourself. “How my mother raised me” is not the American way, which is always suspect, but Mitski decides to take ownership of it despite the challenges.
I refer to the speaker of this song as Mitski, because she has stated that it’s autobiographical. In her own words, from an interview on NPR, “It came from wanting so badly to just fit into this very American person’s life, and simply not being able to. Just fundamentally being from a different place and feeling like I would just get in the way of their progression in their life. Because I could just never get to where they’re naturally going.”
And then Robin Hilton goes “sounds like you’ve had this real tug of war in your life, and in the making of this record and this song, between who you are and who you think you should be. Or how you think everyone wants you to be.” And I was like YES! And then Bob Boilen just recites the rest of the lyrics in awe and Mitski goes “Yup. Thooose are the words.”
The brilliance of Your Best American Girl comes from how it tells this deep story through just a few powerful lines. It lets the listener do the interpretative work. As a child of Asian immigrants myself, I’m blown away and emotionally invested by just the mention of mothers – it dramatically expands the song into territory that I didn’t expect it to reach when it started. With “I do, I think I do,” there’s the tentative acceptance of her family’s history, complexity, and differences. There’s the rebellion and assertion of agency – two of the things I love most about Mitski’s music – combined with a heart laid bare and a defeated: “I think I’ll regret this.”
The official video, directed by Zia Anger and released on April 13th, is equally arresting. Basically, Mitski locks eyes with a dude across the set of a music video and falls in love. He winks (ew). She’s smiling and waving, making herself available. The man (listed in the credits as “Bro”) is then approached by a Lana Del Rey look-alike (“Babe”), and Mitski’s like “oh no,” but she can’t stop waving even as the two start getting involved and love comes crashing down. Her hand seems to be moving of her own accord, stuck in the habit of waving, desperately trying to get this shiny guy’s attention. When you’re told you should want something over and over, you start to believe it yourself. Suddenly she turns to her hand and looks at it as if into a mirror. She sees herself. And then she makes out with her own hand with abandon. It’s a passionate embrace that’s haunting and beautifully choreographed. The couple across the room are also making out, but it honestly looks way less meaningful than what’s going on with Mitski and herself. Finally, Mitski breaks away just as things are getting even more heated with the couple. She looks at them dismissively, flashes a knowing smile at the camera, and then it’s all about her and the sparkly dress and the guitar. She’s taking over as the true protagonist of this story, asserting her otherness, and exposing the staged cheapness of the other couple’s union all at once. They have their trendy aesthetics — fringe, twinkling lights, bubbles, and lollipops — but Mitski breaks into a victorious smile while playing her guitar and singing “I do, I finally do.” The couple wraps themselves in an American flag as Mitski lightly twirls away, propelled by her own music. She walks away without a second glance, and I’m compelled to do the same – stride away from everyone who’s helped me build a wall between my Americanness and the rest of me, while praising the way Mitski turned it into art first.
Puberty 2 is out June 17 on Dead Oceans. She’s also going on tour this summer – be sure to catch her at Brighton Music Hall on June 22nd. I’ll be there!
Hey everyone! WMFO is pleased to announce its first ever DESIGN CONTEST! The rules (and prizes, including two tickets to Deerhunter at the Royale on December 10th) are as follows:
You can submit as many designs as you want, as long as they’re in by the deadline of November 20th at 11:59pm! Please email those designs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your design MUST feature “WMFO” and can optionally also feature 91.5fm or wmfo.org. We prefer front-only designs, but if you want to do a back too, that’s a-okay! The image size should be large enough that we can put it on a tshirt and it won’t be distorted; ideally it should be an Illustrator file, but we accept all other kinds of files as long as they’re big and clear.
The winner’s design will be used on a large run of tshirts and potentially other station promotional material, and they will receive:
The runner up’s design will be used on a limited run of tshirts, and they will receive:
Winners will be chosen by the WMFO Executive Board and notified by Thanksgiving Day.
By submitting to this contest, you are giving us the rights to use your artwork on tshirts and potentially other promotional material for the station – if your design is not chosen, you retain all rights and ownership. If your design IS chosen, we will notify you of what exactly we will be producing with it.
I figured at least one post from me this summer was in order. Anyway, I’ve been really busy but not busy enough to listen to Ghost BC. This band has been around for a bit but I’ve only recently gotten around to taking the time to listen to them. I have to admit, I love their gimmick. They are fronted by a man in skeletal face paint and wearing a pope hat and his name is Papa Emeritus III, they’ve apparently burned through two others. He is fronting a band of “nameless ghouls” and they are just that nameless. There is a recent interview in Guitar world where the interview is with one of the two guitar players. You can read that here – INTERVIEW WITH NAMELESS GHOUL. Even more interesting is while the music is about Satan, its more from a theological standpoint and takes a different approach as opposed to Slayer or Venom or just about every Black Metal band on earth… What is more interesting is the sound/music this band puts out. Their imagery is one thing, their music is entirely different. There is a very retro sound from this band and not because of the guitar, the vocals are what is different. Unlike most metal bands, the vocals are clear and is some parts can be aggressive but all in all its something entirely different. I’ll leave you with their video and if you are interested, they play Boston in September. BTW points for the Walter White mask in the video. That is all for now.
Hi We are in the middle of summer and the weds nights are cool with great line ups coming this Summer and Fall….Aug 5 The Wait…8/17 FireKing [checkout their great c d “Doulble Trouble”] 8/19 Jennifer Greer Dignazio [ Her cd “HEY TIDE”]…8/26 Noah Maltzborger…9/2 Madam Bruja….9/16 Courtney Swain …9/23 Drunken Logic ….9/30…The Guiloteenages… 10/7 Emily Grogen Band…10/28 Sarah Blacker..please join us at 9 pm weds and check out our facebook page also and Keep rocking !
After a great benifit for the Wounded Wariors at the spotlight july 17 w/ gary shane..corolla deville…flying a’s…and pop gun THE BRIGANDS with be at sally o’brian’s with TRICK WALLACE TRIO and DOUG MAC DONALD BAND ….music starts around 8 pm
Hi all We are in the middle of summer and what better way to enjoy it with some great music .Here’s what we have for you. on july 29 The Bikes…aug 5 …The Wait….8/12 …FireKing [check out their new c d “Double Trouble” It’s on fire !….8/19 Jennifer Greeg Dignazio [ new cd “HEY Tide”]…..8/26 Noah Maltzberger….sept 2 Madam Bruja….9/16 Courtney Swain….oct 7 Emily Grogan band ….remember to tune in weds nights at 9 pm at 91.5 fm and web for great local music ! Have a great Summer .
We just had a great show last sat may 9 with a ripping live set from CAGED HEAT and great interview and live set from BERTAND LAURANCE With great blues guitar work check out up coming guest on the show starting with may 16 THE BLACK CHEERS……MAY 23 NICHOLE ORANGE’S band SPEARMINT SEA ….MAY 30 The return for the band THE FORZ.. and their great retro rock….june 13 BROKEN STEREO….JUNE 20 BOSTON’S LONG TIME RAVES’S DREAM CHILD……JULY 11 FIVE OF EYES….AUG 1 and portland’s own all female band TIGER BOMB….ALOT MORE COMING ON “A CRASH COURSE FOR THE RAVERS’ show ! please check out and join our facebook page
yes the Brigands who been rocking boston for the last 30 years will be at the “Tavern at the end of the world” charlestown on friday may 22 with “The Black Souls” that’s kim and cam Arkland’s new band [formerly port charles quintet/prime movers/voodoo dolls ]
Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Alaina Moore, of the indie-pop band Tennis. She, her husband Patrick Riley, and drummer James Barone released their third full-length album in September.
“Ritual In Repeat” is available now, and Tennis will be performing on May 17th at the Great Scott in Allston, MA.
WMFO: How has your process changed now that you’re onto your third full-length album?
Alaina Moore: Weirdly as we wrote our second record, we didn’t experience any kind of sophomore slump—it came super naturally. It was a fantastic experience, we had no problem. People asked about the sophomore slump afterwards and then it was in my head…
When we wrote our third record I had the sophomore slump, once I knew it existed. Anyway, I had basically the worst time ever writing Ritual in Repeat, nothing sounded right, nothing sounded like me, it felt forced. It was such a weird experience, but finally I came across (through the recommendation of a friend) a book called Daily Rituals which delineates the day to day routine of life, and explains the processes of best writers, artists, actors, philosophers…
How did that help you?
Well, everyone suffers self-doubt and lack of inspiration—grinding it out through the routine is what numbed our minds to get the work done. We had a really strict daily writing routine that changed a lot—read for an hour, write for an hour, play guitar for an hour, play piano for an hour, write some more… All of a sudden all of the songs just started being finished, after 8 months of getting nothing done.
The album is called Ritual in Repeat because that’s what we found, sort of discovering an artist’s daily ritual, repeating it, making the process feel comforting—it began to have a sort of spiritual significance.
Can you tell me a little bit about where you draw your inspiration?
It changes all the time—it’s never the same. Sometimes it’s a book I’ve read, sometimes a new or old album. Sometimes when we’re on tour I start to realize that I want to write a different sort of song, something more rewarding—then we go home and do that. It always evolves, as we do as human beings.
I don’t want to keep writing the way that we were on our first record. What has stayed consistent is newness and change, we go sailing again, and tour is a constant change, it’s helped us keep working.
It’s really wonderful how you describe everything as “we.” How do you and Patrick like to work together? What’s it like working together as husband and wife?
It’s’ a very different sort of “we.” It’s interesting because we feel completely connected, I don’t’ even notice when we say we, we’ve been doing this since the day we met. We do work really hard to maintain autonomy in our writing—we write separately and then once we have our personal ideas on our own we come together and finish it. We are both still pursuing personal things—our tastes have a lot of overlap but also have a lot of disconnect so we work a lot to keep our own ideas. Like any band or any relationship there’s a lot of compromise. We respect that part of each other.
I’m a huge Black Keys fan, so I know that your second album was produced by Patrick Carney, as was Ritual In Repeat. Can you tell me what it was like to work with him?
The first time was an incredible learning curve. I felt bad for him actually, he had to teach us all of these things and there were all of these draining lessons. The second time around we had this report and this trust, we all feel like “Young and Old” is such a great record, so we had that to build off of.
You need so much trust when a producer wants you to do something that is out of your comfort zone, you don’t want to do it. But we have this history that we’re really proud of so we were able to push ourselves with him.
He just knows what it’s like to be a self-made working band, though I don’t want to enshroud that with romanticism… We share that, we aren’t from a cool place, we’re from Colorado and they’re [The Black Keys] from Ohio, we’re not from Brooklyn or something, our families weren’t in bands or anything… We know what it’s like to be poor and confused and mistrusting of major labels and big contracts. This shared history is one of the things that makes things work in the studio. We go to him a lot just for advice or just to complain.
Its funny how it started, we were so ignorant… We just emailed him, we were pretty naïve, just being like, “Hey dude, want to work on our album?” At the same time I’m like, now I would have been way too scared to reach out. It was kind of great how ignorant we were, we weren’t afraid to just ask.
Best advice I could give to anyone: If you want something, just ask. The worst thing that can happen is if they say no. So many wonderful things wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been so ignorant and just asked anyway.
I am coming from a radio station; we play an enormous range of different stuff. I’m always looking for new music to play! What bands do you guys listen to?
We work really hard to listen to very obscure music, the word obscure is super relative, but we try to listen to off the beaten path stuff, just because what you listen to it influences your music so much. Sometimes I’ll be writing something and think it’s so genius and then Patrick will come in and be like, “This is a Katy Perry song.”
If you’re trying to write something original or new you have to dig really deep—you can’t make something out of nothing, art and music is a conversation. We try to listen to really niche things because we want to bring things that are less explored territory, to bring new stuff to the forefront.
After all of this work and change, where do you see your music going?
I think that for our next album I think we’re starting to realize how really important and integral the live element of being a band is to being successful these days—you have to tour a lot more than you used to in order to succeed, to keep afloat. Normally, I would write thinking of me in my room writing a song to record, but now it is to writing to play it all over the world. I have to write something that’s more engaging, more of a narrative, and more performative.
The next thing is a really long sailing trip—after writing this next record it’s time to recalibrate and go back to that really reflective place. We want to re-center and find that place again and see what we have after that.
We’re going to go away for awhile, go back to sea, ready for the next stage of our career.
Fans that came to see Rx Bandits on Wednesday, April 8th at the Sinclair in Cambridge were treated to an excellent performance from beginning to end as we saw a strong showing from every act.
Cayetana was the first opener, and they brought an easygoing stage presence with them. The frontwoman commented that the first show that she had ever attended was to see “The Pharmaceutical Bandits” (Rx Bandits’ former moniker). The three-piece, all-female outfit from Philadelphia played straightforward hard rock with lots of energy, the perfect first opener and excellent beginning to the show.
The next band was A Great Big Pile of Leaves, and the crowd reception to the indie rock group was so positive that one got the impression that many concertgoers were there to see them instead of the headliner. This made for a very strong set from the Brooklyn band. A lot of their set consisted of their most recent release from Topshelf Records, “You’re Always On My Mind.” The crowd was screaming the words along with the band for their last few tracks, which only set the scene for a killer set from Rx Bandits.
The indie-prog reggae-rockers (along every genre in between) opened with “Ruby Cumulous”, the first full-length track off their most recent album “Gemini, Her Majesty”. They played a few songs from this album, getting the 500-strong crowd moving and dancing all the way. There were some moshers in the front, but the mostly young, low-30s crowd danced harmoniously, enjoying the music.
The highlights of the night from Rx Bandits included excellent renditions of “Apparition” (reggae chops combined with a hooky chorus), “Wide Open” (hard-hitting), and “…And The Battle Begun” (fast-paced and complicated). The real treat of the set was when frontman Matt Embree slowed it down and played a cover of Bill Withers’ famous track, “Ain’t No Sunshine” in his own style.
Overall, the show was worth the price of admission and all three bands come recommended.