I need to switch gears here for a moment, if you’ll indulge me.
Notwithstanding my day job, which has nothing to do with anything: in my other life I’m a musician, though I haven’t been doing a whole hell of a lot of that these days. I’m way closer to 40 than I care to admit, I’m tired, I have a baby, I live in an apartment with very thin walls, etc. I still write and record every once in a while, but I’m certainly not doing it with the gusto that I once did.
Indeed, my relationship with music – not just how I write it, but how I listen to it and consume it – has evolved considerably over the years. I didn’t know that then, necessarily, but I can certainly see it now. My parents were classical musicians, so I grew up mostly listening to classical music and whatever current pop music I felt they’d permit. (It’s no wonder that Paul was my favorite Beatle; out of all of them, he was the most classically melodic.) When I was 11 and started going a sleepaway performing arts camp, I was introduced to classic rock and – specifically – prog rock; a few years later, my stepbrother introduced me to what was then known as “college music”, or what would soon be seen on 120 Minutes…
I could continue retracing my history of musical influences, but the ultimate point I’m arriving at is that I no longer care where the music I like comes from, and that I no longer care if the music I like is considered “cool.” I haven’t been cool for quite some time now, and I’m no longer interested in impressing anyone with my eclectic musical taste, because nobody cares. And frankly, I’m not nearly as fluent in what’s currently happening as I would be if I did still care. Pitchfork used to be the be-all, end-all in terms of what to listen to, but I find that I really don’t care for most of the stuff they give great scores to, and I also find that they tend to give middling scores to the stuff I genuinely love (like this 6.6 for one of my all-time favorite albums).
I’m bringing this up because yesterday was a pretty rough day for me, emotionally at any rate, and on my way home from work I found myself listening to the absolutely epic first song “Argentina (Parts I, II and III)” on the new Tokyo Police Club album over and over and over again, and it was glorious and beautiful and heartbreaking and uplifting all at once.
Tokyo Police Club is a band that I’ve had a particular fondness for, for quite some time now. I can’t quite recall where I’d first heard them, but in any event I eventually heard “Nature of the Experiment” off of their first album and it absolutely slayed me. It was young and dance-y, to be sure, but there was also something very subtly melancholic about it; those open guitar lines in the verses feel wistful to me, and yet by the time the coda arrives the energy of the song is positively euphoric. Notice, also, that there’s absolutely no wasted space – it’s a 2-minute song that leaves just as quickly as it arrives, with every second meaning something.
The new album “Forcefield” is a long time coming; their previous album “Champ” came out 4 years ago, which was somewhat underwhelming when compared to the great “Elephant Shell” in ’08 – which itself was somewhat underwhelming when compared to 06’s “A Lesson in Crime” and 07’s “Smith” EP. Upon first listen, this new album feels very slick and produced, and very precisely calibrated and engineered to deliver the goods. The second song, “Hot Tonight”, sounds like it’s designed to be a classic Summer Jam – it’s a shame, then, that the album was released on a very cold day in March.
The charm in a song like “Nature of the Experiment” – to me, at any rate – is that it feels raw and sincere, and also sounds like it was recorded live, in one or two takes. This new album – while still very listenable and enjoyable – sounds a bit more manufactured.
“Argentina” is an absolute knock-out, and might be my favorite thing they’ve ever recorded. It’s nearly 9 minutes long and there’s still not one second wasted, every note feeling vital and necessary. And while I’m not necessarily enthused about how slick the rest of the album sounds, I adore the production aesthetic here.
And even though I’m not necessarily a lyrics-first listener, there’s something about certain lines in this song that hit me square in the face. I am suddenly reminded of myself at a much younger age, feeling unsure of myself (“How many kinds of people do you think there really are for me?“); people I haven’t thought of in years, of people I might have wronged and that I wish I’d treated better (“‘Cause if I’d had known that you were only in for the weekend / ’cause if I had only known what you were thinking I would’ve been so so so so much nicer“), of people whose smiles I haven’t seen in far too long (“and when you smile with all your teeth / yeah, I’m done“), of doomed crushes and unrequited love (“I don’t want to want you like I want you“)…
These guys are far too young to make me feel this goddamned old and wistful and regretful and everything else. And yet I’m eternally grateful that I’m not yet cynical enough to stop getting affected by a truly great pop song.
Below is a Spotify playlist entitled “Many Feels Per Minute”, which is specifically made up of songs in major keys and fast tempos that also make me feel pleasantly wistful. That’s a tricky thing to pull off, and maybe this list is too long for its own good. But in any event, I got punched in the face by a song yesterday, and now I’m sharing it with you.