Super psyched

A$AP Ferg’s newest album Always Strive and Prosper is an improvement on his debut, Trap Lord , it’s catchier, more personal and much weirder. I fully recommend listening to the entire album.

But more important than it being a quality album, it introduces a new character to the pantheon of hip-hop uncles–a topic near and dear to my heart.

On the track, “Psycho” we’re introduced to Darold Ferguson Jr.’s uncle Psycho. The very next song delves a little further into Uncle Psycho, but the song named for him pretty firmly establishes his character.

He is a fit man with braids, who smells of liquor, emulates ODB, smokes crack, brandishes weapons, is in and out of mental institutions, has a signature dance and scraps for money in a public park. He also sometimes sleeps in that same park, and it’s also where he brings his two children, one of whom was born as an attempt at emotional blackmail, for recreation.

Literally, nothing said about Ferg’s uncle sounds remotely positive, but the entire description is delivered with affection, and by the end of the song the blatantly obvious reveal that maybe Uncle Psycho wasn’t a particularly positive role model for A$AP Ferg still packs an emotional wallop.

It’s an awesome song, but an even better hip-hop uncle.

Trigger warning: Songs about horses

The delightfully snide Seattle band Tacocat just put out a new album, Lost Time. It’s a pretty good collection of songs, but maybe not quite as good as their last album,  NVM.

One super silly tune off of their new release stood out to me in particular: “Horse Grrls” an ode to females who cherish horses above all else. Everything about the song is delightful, the galloping beat, the drum-stick countdowns that presage the speedy bits and the on the nose descriptions of a certain adolescent female archetype.

This celebration of the people who celebrate horses inspired me to throw together a playlist of my favorite songs about, or ostensibly about, horses. Unfortunately, there weren’t really all that many horse songs I would willingly endorse, so I had to get creative.

By using band names, lyrical content, thinking of songs that mention horse racing and remembering the Mr. Ed theme song was sampled once, I was able to come up with a decent collection of vaguely horse-related songs.






Don’t be Frightened by the length. Grab the deluxe edition.

Frightened Rabbit’s latest offering is a collection of brooding, generally pretty songs acutely aware that decay is an inevitable conclusion and atrophy is the natural order of things.

This could easily turn into a slog, but Painting of a Panic Attack is a fine album and sometimes even a fun one. There’s a peace to the universal nature of the bleakness that permeates the record and somehow makes songs about existing in the face of inescapable decline seem triumphant.

The idea of resigning one’s self to disappointment and eventual demise, but realizing the intervening years still have to believed and approaching them with something resembling optimism is a theme in just about every song on the album.

And when that optimism is explicitly expressed, it feels particularly earned because everything else is so dire.

This is why I would recommend the deluxe edition, which includes 3 extra songs and vastly upgrades the closing track.

“Die Like a Rich Boy” is a class conscious spin on “Thantatopsis” and honestly a bit boring.

“Lick of Paint” which closes out the deluxe version is an earnest seesaw folk song with some really lovely harmonizing. It concerns the patchwork, ultimately cosmetic  improvements that go into refurbishing self and relationships without making fundamental change.

It’s also much catchier, and on an album that can sometimes be a bit strapped for hooks, is very welcome.

The extension makes structural sense, as well. The lively “Break” becomes a halfway-point and a respite from gentle, dour noises, and “Lump Street” provides enough of a jolt to carry the next three tracks straight through to the better closing song.



Still, even the standard version is a solid collection of glum tunes, acerbic observation and tales of questionable sobriety that I’d recommend.

Of course that means in other words, it’s a Frightened Rabbit album, but it does have some distinguishing features.

Painting of a Panic Attack finds the Scottish indie rockers in gentle, restrained form.

Not that Midnight Organ Fight was a stomping guitar album, but this  album is particularly docile. Even the songs that prominently feature guitar don’t exactly rock. Instead, spacey shimmers generally supply a sense of texture.

The sense of distance is underscored at points by John Carpenter-esque icy synths that show up throughout the album– to particularly strong effect on the standout”Lump Street”.

Aaron Dessner of The National who handled production also provides some sonic flourish. The cresting guitar-strumming, piano-twinkling intro to the excellent “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” is unmistakably out of The National’s playbook. Painting… sounds rich and fully realized throughout which helps keep things interesting.

Overall, I didn’t love Painting of a Panic Attack, but I absolutely love some tracks on it, and even when it isn’t great  its attempts to grapple with some weighty topics are still admirable. Definitely worth a listen.



My favorite Pavement song is 2/3 of a song

Pavement are a band I’ve never really been able to get into. I appreciate that they’re sort of a quintessential indie rock band–basically a slacker version of The Replacements: sloppy, fun live performances, an implosion right before they should’ve been huge and lots of disdain for their more self-serious peers.

I even appreciate that Stephen Malkmus is an excellent musician. He’s maybe just a half-tier below Jay Mascis on the indie rock guitar god totem pole.

Still, it’s never really clicked, but there is an exception. I absolutely adore most of the song “Shady Lane/ J vs S”. Specifically, I love the “Shady Lane” portion.

I’m on board as soon as the song gets to the hyper-specific, very funny second verse. “Redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash/ this emery board is giving me a rash.” Those are some  of my all-time favorite acerbic lyrics, and one of the more creative ways I’ve heard a redneck described in song.

The rest of the song is just a shaggy, plodding joy that always makes me inadvertently nod my head. It’s catchy, and while the lyrics never really soar to the heights of the second verse, it does include awesome somewhat-obtuse but memorable phrases ( You’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of  the sequel to your life).

Unfortunately, what could have been a tight two-minute musical joy has to unwind with “J vs. S” a zonked out minute-long guitar outro that sort of wrecks things.

Still, the part of the song with lyrics are among my favorite 160 seconds of music.