Mac DeMarco – The Way You’d Love Her (2015)
A song like a very wobbly garden. Or like a melting bouquet, an ice-cream cone, a warped record by lonely Teenage Fanclub. DeMarco’s abandoned the Montreal sound for a Brighton beach breeze: he’s sailing or sallying, moony-eyed, askin’ for a girl or a guitar solo to take a risk on him. This is, I would say, a ditty. Slap it on a flexi disc and send it in the mail.
Regina Spektor – That Time (2006)
Overheard on the P.A. before Tig Notaro's riotous Tuesday night show in Montreal. A faintly familiar song – ragged, noisy, with just enough swish to its scamper."Who is this?" I ask myself. The Moldy Peaches? Liz Phair? A new basement superstar like Frankie Cosmos? But no, Googling later – an old tune by Spektor, old but not that old, old but not before she was famous. That Time is self-consciously lo-fi, all overdriven guitar and unmastered drums. It is"Lower East Side" in deliberate, blinking scare-quotes, but by the end of the track the scare-quotes get genuinely scary:"Remember that time when you ODed?" she whispers."Remember that other time when you ODed?" Some songs of past place, past sound, turn out to be stories of fates narrowly missed.
Frantz Casseus – Suite No. 1: Mascaron (1954)
On a shaky flight from Montreal to Toronto, as vexatious airline attendants drive me near to shrieking, I slip on some headphones and a recording of Casseus’s Haitian Dances. Unaccompanied classical guitar, like an unembellished landscape: just fields and roads, wood groves, the occasional lake. Sometimes a song can cleave a space for you – a clearing in the forest, a room in the air. Close all your tabs, stash away the seat’s table tray; quit your dumb stressing and listen.
A$AP Rocky - L$D (2015)
Rocky’s new single is the union of two pretty pieces. The first has that shimmery beauty I associate less with acid and more with starlight. Maybe the rapper found starlight in his lysergide; maybe he found starlight in the eyes of whichever sweetheart provoked this parenthesis. The second part, caught in the middle, is less loose, more ordered. Instead of glittery nightfall, there’s the sound of well-managed daylight. Assuming Rocky’s still on acid, he’s coping well. He’s back to bragging about holidays, raiments and companions. If Kanye West’s trying to discover hip-hop’s next sound and Kendrick Lamar’s trying to safeguard its soul, Rocky’s content to help it just feel some feels. He’s lost in the lace curtains, draping fabric over his face, waiting for a lover to text him back.
Sean Michaels received the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Us Conductors. He is the editor of the music blog Said the Gramophone.