Weekly listens from Fish.

chad vangaalen

diaper island

Wait, did Chad VanGaalen just pull us in with pretty Beach Boys guitar and then say, “Maybe if I shave my PUSSY then you’ll love me”?!? Man, what part of my body can I even stuff that concept into?

The pretty little song at the end of the album is reflective of more rooted concerns by CVG this time out, or at least the illusion of them. Rather than plucking tiny invisible people from his bloodstream or revolting against giant vampire mechanisms, he seems to be singing right at to a person named Sara (though as far as I can tell it’s possible she’s actually the sun). More directly, VanGaalen is lipping off shitty cops for their liberal notions of doling out violence, perhaps banding with fellow Canadian Geoff Berner in authority-abuse concerns. Or is he now? The protracted calls for “freeeeedom” and “flowers blowing in the wind,” as well as an admission of a stolen bike actually make this a pretty hilariously ’80s punk song, a la SNFU, where there is no hero or villain.  

Terrestrial themes aside, VanGaalen has made a very curious sonic choice throughout Diaper Island by burying his voice at the back of the barge, echoing secondary beneath a very choppy and deliberately heavy guitar passed somewhere down the tree from Neil Young’s. I believe the song “Blond Hash” is not a metaphor, and let’s just say it could pass an obvious test.

Really weird things start happening when you listen to this with good headphones – strange bubblings and frozen orchestras, brief dance beats, dripping modulations – then back to a happy plucking. The album rarely slows down. For no reason I can explain, I feel there’s a level of parody here, as if this is VanGaalen’s answer to eye-socket hollowness of sanitary indie music. That’s an unimportant swing in the dark, though.

I honestly like the album a lot, though it’s hard to explain why. The word “deliberate” comes to mind again. By pulling back into the night, he makes us lean in, yet not once to yell “BOO!” in a sudden gorilla costume.

4 out of 5 Stars

raphael saadiq
Stone rollin’

Carrying a torch of R&B/soul since his more dancey Tony! Toni! Tone! days, Rapael Saadiq has such a meticulous understanding of his conventions I can’t imagine he’ll ever make a farty record. You can argue this thing ain’t FRESH in many senses of the word, but someone has to haunt the castle walls. It may as well be one fuck of a tightly wound ghost.

“Just Don’t” — which sounds like “disco” and “Nabisco” —  is almost unfairly genuine, especially as it slowwwwly fades into a beautiful organ breakdown. “Day Dreams” is so snappy it makes me want to max out my credit card, just to play along. Other artists might visit this water, but they’d always try and stay above the surface, keep the song about themselves, with session affectations. Saadiq, meanwhile, breathes it in till he’s drowned. The sprawling genres are more important than his needs, even when he throws in a little tart rapping on “Good Man.” Saadiq may just be a robot keeping the memory of humans alive, but it’s a livin’.

4 out of 5 Stars


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