Review: Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community Center

Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community CenterIt’s not an unlikely collaboration: apart from Conor Oberst popping up in a lot of places lately, and Phoebe Bridgers being hot property in the past year, the two actually worked together in one song on her acclaimed debut Stranger in the Alps. Now, under the name Better Oblivion Community Center, the two come together for a record that comes together comfortably and effortlessly, both in sound and in theme. The concept – the aforementioned community center – doesn’t weigh in heavily, at least not as much as why someone would go there, and what one would do once inside: get lost in his thoughts and try, really try, to find common ground with anyone else. The songs on the record can be uppity – again, unsurprising – but there’s an undercurrent of fatalism running through, of being ultimately alone despite all this, and the seemingly futile effort to find someone to share the burden with. And yet it is an uppity record: tight, flows nicely. Is this the ideal scenario? Is Conor and Phoebe coming together the somewhat utopian end result? I don’t know. I’m wallowing, and this feels really nice. [NB]4/5

Review: boygenius by boygenius

boygenius by boygeniusIndividually Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus have different styles and approaches, and yet they’ve been lumped together – perhaps because it’s easy to do so, and also because, well, they’re females with guitars. Easy, yes? Them coming together as boygenius – and releasing an EP of the same name, accompanying a tour – both pokes at that notion, and disrupts it. On paper, the collaboration both makes sense on paper and raises curiosity; while listening, it all comes together. It’s interesting how none of the three lose their individual approaches even if coming together in song, although on the six-track EP some tracks are clearly more lead by one – “Bite the Hand” has Lucy’s guitar work all over, while “Me & My Dog” has Phoebe’s intimacy. Julien’s even more intimate tendencies act as a force pushing and pulling through all the tracks. And yet none of the tracks have a feel of too many cooks in the kitchen. boygenius is clearly one entity, and yet it flies in the face of easy categorization. How much more if we get a full album? [NB]4/5

earthings! 2017: My ten favorites of the year

Here’s more proof that I am starting to fall by the wayside, at least when it comes to listening to the songs I’m apparently supposed to listen to and like, here’s a relatively pop-centric list of my ten favorite songs for 2017. I attribute it to the fact that I may have listened more to my K-pop library this year (it does have some therapeutic claims) and that things seem to blend with each other more this year than in previous years. In a way, it’s a good thing: finally, some parity between the slickly produced and the more down-to-earth ones. But some will say this is me selling out. Nah, nobody is saying that. Nobody cares about this thing, yes? But we have to put it out, like everybody else, so here, in alphabetical order, are my ten favorite songs of the year. [NB]

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Review: Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers

Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe BridgersWell, this one is quite haunting. But then that does not feel like the right adjective for Phoebe Bridgers’ debut full-length. After a bunch of singles she returns with a record that shows off her best without really trying so hard. Every song on Stranger in the Alps slowly builds – starting, and rooting itself in, a plaintive guitar or some piano, and adding layers so deftly you don’t even notice it. It’s the sort of album that drowns you while you stare ahead, willingly, without resistance. And then the cycle starts again with the next song, and it goes on until it ends, as softly as it began… and you want more. I would call it “dream folk” – it is dreamy, but not entirely atmospheric – but then that also does the record a disservice. But maybe it does. The longing – and lack of resolution – in the songs do feel like a dream, one we want to stay in, but can’t. What a record. [NB]5/5