A Quick Personal Note: if you’ve been keeping up these past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed some issues with the episodes lately. While the artists have been universally fantastic (and, I think, the discourse has mostly kept up), our audio quality has varied wildly, we’ve been putting up episodes late, and I’ve been neglecting summation duties. It sucks, and we’re deeply sorry to our regular listeners for that. Life has been pretty chaotic lately, with major shifts in jobs and living situations (all good!), and in the midst of all of that it’s been difficult to keep up the level of production quality we aim for. This episode, on Max-Favorite One Album Wonder Life Without Buildings, is a step in the right direction, but the audio quality on Andrew’s track is still a bit rough and, due to an un-undoable editing mistake, there’s like a minute cut out of the beginning (nothing important happened in it, but it’s an awkward jump). I still think it’s a good episode in spite of that, and for what it’s worth things are finally settling down. Thanks for sticking with us, and I hope you enjoy the episode.
Summer’s back, and with summer comes rerun season, which sucks, but also means it’s time for our annual “If I Haven’t Heard It, It’s New to Me!” month! Which, yes, is starting in late June and will end mid-July. But hell, the Summer Solstice was a couple of days ago, so let’s just ignore the Gregorian calendar and enjoy ourselves for once.
When was the last time you celebrated The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill? It’s been two decades since Ms. Lauryn Hill released her first and, as of today, only solo studio album, and outside of some occasional appearances and a rich history of misused samples (including Drake’s execrable new single “Nice for What”), it’s rarely something that enters contemporary music discussion. It feels like one of those albums you’re more likely to find on Greatest Albums of All Time lists than in anyone’s discman, to which we loudly exclaim: fuck that.
20 years on, as Lauryn Hill gears up for an extensive tour, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill remains one of the most vital, complex, and unique debuts in music history, a dense document of faith, heartache, and motherhood with a fire and wisdom that belie the age of the woman writing it (she was 23 at the time). It set the tone for all pop and R&B music for decades to come while still sounding entirely original, even today. It’s really great, is what we’re saying, even if it isn’t quite the wall-to-wall masterpiece we might remember it being.
So yes, we talk about our issues with the album, and the difficulties of returning to an album like this after so many years of cultural baggage. But we also talk about how effortlessly it shrugs off that weight, how startlingly complete this first album feels, and how dang charming Lauryn Hill was and remains. And yeah, absolutely we talk about Sister Act 2. How could we not?
Also: Shorty for Mayor, dead old white men, and another inexplicable jab at New Jersey.
Man, the past was weird, huh? When frosted tips were cool and we all thought George W. Bush was the worst we’d ever get? Such innocent, naive times. Well, at Desert Island Discourse, one of our many mission statements is to reveal the truths of the past in the harsh light of day, and it’s with that intent that we’re introducing a new segment for the show: Nostalgia Check. In these episodes, Andrew and Max will be revisiting the CD wallets of their tween years to see how they hold up, one album at a time. This week, we’re covering Smash by The Offspring and Give Up by The Postal Service.
The bands couldn’t be more different; The Offspring were vanguards of the pop-punk boom of the mid-90’s, whilst The Postal Service’s lone album is responsible for ushering in the soft boy era of the early-oughts, leaving a million Garden State‘s in its wake. But they both speak to the core of this series, in that they’re both perfectly designed to appeal to the young and angsty. Whether you’re the kind of angry, bullied skater kid listening to “Come Out and Play” on a loop or a sad ball of angst with Ben Gibbard lyrics scrawled in their journal, there is something in these albums that will speak to you loud and clear.
But it’s 2018 now, your hosts are pushing 30, and we’ve both long since repressed the feelings that made these albums so important to us now. Can we still find the love our 12 year old selves expressed so fervently? Or will we cover our eyes in shame? Find out in our inaugural episode of Nostalgia Check!
Also: Seth Green Classics, the genealogy of the Crazy Taxi soundtrack, and more weirdly dated references than you can shake a devil stick at.
In spite of what our last (and next) episode might lead you to believe, Canada is capable of producing good music. In fact, in the early oughts, fully 98% of all indie rock was imported from the Great White North, in strict defiance of America’s foreign policy at the time. And to prove it, this week we’re taking on one of Montréal’s finest one-album wonders, The Unicorns.
Their death-obsessed first (and only) album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?, is still an utterly unique artifact in music, filled with songs that combine the sheer hook-tossing ADD of Guided by Voices with the proggier impulses of Fiery Furnaces. Their compositions often completely eschew the verses and choruses that have long been the cornerstones of pop music, instead drifting thematically through different catchy passages until you end up somewhere far away from where you started, confused and dazzled. The partnership of Nick Diamonds (née Nick Thornburn), Alden Ginger (née Alden Penner), and later J’aime Tambeur (née Jamie Thompson) was one of the most unique and mind-blowing in indie music.
Unfortunately, their fatalistic songs and album title proved prescient—the band broke up acrimoniously two years later, beaten down by the rigors of touring and deteriorating interpersonal relationships. They put out one more EP before cracking up, but 2014 was terrible and we all prefer to ignore it. As of 2018, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? remains the sole defining document of this one-of-a-kind musical relationship (we’re going to pretend their first two demos don’t exist either).
But their legacy lives on, and while The Unicorns remain curiously underrated among the other alumni of the Montréal Gold Rush of ’04, those who believe, who truly believe, continue to sing their praises. And on this island, we’re nothing if not believers.
Also: cozy coffins, bad Ian Malcolm impression, and how to literally emasculate the masculine.