Breeder’s Digest: Fever Dolls, Teenage Fanclub, Sufjan Stevens

New artists you discovered recently?

This relatively new-ish band called Fever Dolls, which, if I remember correctly, is said to be an indie band that combines Saturday Night Fever and the punk rock theatrics of the New York Dolls. I won’t say I became an instant fan of theirs, but I like some of their songs, especially “Mrs. Carver” and “From Dusk to Dawn.” Their music videos are ow-kay, but sometimes I prefer listening to the music alone while looking at the cover art, not getting distracted or affected by the visuals—like, just listening to a song, taking it as it is and trying to understand what it’s trying to say.

I’m also currently re-discovering Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque (1991) and Suftjan Stevens’ Illinois (2005), alternately known as Sufjan Stevens Invites You To: Come On Feel the Illinoise. Re-discovering because I already knew and listened to these albums before. But I was not able to get into them because I probably listened to them only once or twice, or in the case of Illinois, maybe I didn’t even listen to it from end to end. And the truth is, maybe I haven’t even yet. Either I don’t have the time or I already fell asleep even before the third song ends. Like when I played it the other night. And the fact that Illinois is just a densely layered albums that requires repeated repeated listening, makes this task even more challenging. It’s 73 minutes long for goodness’ sake. But I think it’s a great album. It’s so great I haven’t even finished discovering how great it is yet.

Bandwagonesque, on the other hand, feels a lot shorter than its 42 minutes running time. Well, it’s 30 minutes shorter than Chicago and that’s why. I already listened to it more than a few times and it’s easy for me to say that this is one of my favorite power-pop album ever, alongside Pinkerton, Regretfully Yours, Headtrip In Every Key, and Fountain of Wayne’s self-titled debut. Their melodies remind me of the Beach Boys, and their guitars are grungier than Fountains of Wayne’s.

My favorite tracks are “The Concept“, a.k.a. The Oh Yeah Song (She wears denim wherever she goes/Says she’s gonna get some records by the status quo/Oh yeah, oh yeah), and “Alcoholiday,” which never fails to remind me of this meme. That’s mainly because of the lines: Went to bed but I’m not ready/Baby, I’ve been fucked already. But it’s a sad song actually, and seems like it’s about being in a relationship or a situation where things aren’t working out anymore.

I also tried listening to Charli XCX’s Charli, but I couldn’t get past the first track, couldn’t get past the album cover. Maybe dance-pop isn’t just for me. Maybe some nights I’m in a dance-y mood, I’ll put it on again. Maybe next time, I’ll play the singles first.

And then, there’s The Esthers, a band that I probably would not come across if not for Jolens. I won’t say I really like their songs (I’d go with “September” if I have to pick a favorite) but I absolutely love what they stand for or what they represent. For me, them doing their stuff, totally D.I.Y., un-produced, unfiltered, and the way they answered those questions from Twitter, is probably the most unpretentious most honest thing I’ve ever seen. And it made me cringe a little bit at those Q&A portion in those Alternatrip videos where bands try to speak with some accent, like, man, we don’t understand what you’re saying. Or if you can’t express it better, maybe you just have to say it in Tagalog, man? Like, y’know?

Any old stuff you listened to recently?

Last night, I listened to Songs of Leonard Cohen (1970) and Nick Drake’s Pink Moon (1972). Again. It’s been a while since I put on Neil Young’s Comes A Time (1978). I like this album; it’s more country folk than folk rock. And it’s my fifth favorite Neil Young album after On the Beach, After the Gold Rush, Zuma, and Rust Never Sleeps. It also has “Four Strong Winds,” a song about long cold Canadian winters and a relationship that won’t heat up anymore.

A while back, I also discovered Vashti Bunyan’s classic debut, Just Another Diamond Day (1970). It’s soft evening music, folksy, gentle, like if you’re English and you’re living in a farm, and life’s a breeze, you’re just milking cows. I don’t know but maybe “Lily Pond” is the song where the anonymous nursery rhyme songwriters stole the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” tune from. I also tried to get into Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and instead, I ended up putting Highway 61 Revisited (1965) back into my playlist. Highway 61, to me, just sounds better than Kirten Dunst’s Bring It On. Maybe it’s the backing band that spells the difference. Dylan’s singing voice sounds better to me in a full band setup. Also, are just, pure gold “Desolation Row” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”

Songs or albums you last listened to?

See above for the albums. For songs, well, last night, I also played this Silkworm playlist and it that was playing when I went to bed. It has songs from their albums Blueblood, Lifestyle and Italian Platinum. “Eff” was the first song. I forgot what song was next because I already drifted off.

Why these songs/albums?

For some strange reason, I felt sad after eating spaghetti. And Illinois wasn’t doing it for me. So, I put on Leonard Cohen, then added Pink Moon, added some Kewpie sesame dressing then shuffled the whole thing. No, I ate and had few laughs with friends from work, but then I felt sad after I went back to my room. Maybe because I’m used to just being with myself. And the spaghetti gave some sort of a contrast to the usual feeling of being alone and away from home. Not that those Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake songs lightens up the mood. In fact, they’re probably even darker, heavier. Maybe that’s why they worked.

As for Silkworm, well, they’re this Pavement-adjacent band who were active from the ’90s to early ’00s. Their albums aren’t as solid as Pavement’s but they have more than a few good songs in them. And they have some good lyrics too, which I like. Here’s some of them: Did you ever have a friend/Who did much better than you had planned?/Returning to work, back out on the doze/At a factory job making garden hose (from “The Old Guy”); The affair was good, but it wasn’t worth the money/Don’t you cry, I had a lot now (from “That’s Entertainment”); Soul, soul, who stole the soul? A blushing kid/But you’re never too old/I once loved a girl, met her at a dance/Presented her proudly with the Flowers of romance (from “Eff”).

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