Pazz & Jop Comments: Ladies First

For these lists, I always gravitate toward music that says something about the year, whether it’s the world at large or simply my little place in it. Low’s Ones and Sixes helped me make sense of a chaotic 2015 that involved moving and the selling and buying of houses with two young kids in tow. A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service was the perfect antidote to a divisive election season in 2016. (If there’s one thing my friends and I can all agree on, it’s A Tribe Called Quest.) Julien Baker’s Turn Out the Lights was my window into one woman’s brutally/beautifully honest attempt at trying to figure it all out when you’re in your twenties. This year, Merrill Garbus’s work as Tune-Yards felt necessary and funky and brave, like both a response to, and soundtrack for, the kind of digital world we now can’t escape. And my kids loved singing along to “Heart Attack.”

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[Until this year] Pazz & Jop has awarded its Album of the Year designation to just two female artists, one of them being the woman who also happened to make my favorite record of 2018. Is this a fault specific to P&J? And maybe a fault specific to me, as one of its voters? (I’m a white guy about to turn forty, I should mention.) P&J is made up of hundreds of critics; it’s only as pure as its critics. (Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird: “A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men” — men! — “who make it up.”) Pitchfork’s track record in giving female artists Album of the Year honors over the same time period is about the same (members of Arcade Fire in 2004; brother-sister duo the Knife in 2006; Solange in 2016; Mitski in 2018), while the Grammys — whose outgoing president last year told women to “step up” if they want more opportunities in the music business — actually fare much better in this category (Lauryn Hill, Norah Jones, Dixie Chicks, Alison Krauss, Taylor Swift, Adele), as long as we don’t think too much about gender and race at the same time. So what to even make of a “best of” list anymore? What did I miss? What did I not hear? Did holding something up mean I was pushing something else down?
— Michael Pollock

The underdog but undeniable standout project from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music’s summer rollout plan was this eye-opening project that proves Teyana Taylor has tons more to offer as a musician. Even after Pusha T declared Daytona the rap album of the year, he said Taylor’s K.T.S.E. was the best G.O.O.D. project in 2018.
— Jeff Benjamin

Taylor Swift, “Delicate”: When the fireworks of “Look What You Made Me Do,” “…Ready for It?,” and “End Game” fizzled, it was this low-key musing that gave her reputation its necessary jolt. A comforting companion on a rainy night that proves the depths of Swift’s palette are much more interesting than its flash.
— Trevor Anderson

Rosalía: Illuminating a 13th-century manuscript with beats and brains and root-chakra energy, this enrapturing 21st-century encounter with flamenco made my ears feel new the way nothing else did this year.
— Ann Powers

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Australian trio Camp Cope grab a fistful of garage punk, a fistful of bubblegum pop, and a fistful of folk and braid those strands together into a gloriously fun and endlessly catchy style. The second record from singer-guitarist Georgia McDonald, bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, and drummer Sarah Thompson, How to Socialise & Make Friends is a jolt of energy, with sing-along anthems brimming with righteous anger, feminist critiques, and introspective determination.
— Eric Swedlund

Neko Case, Hell-OnAlmost too sprawling and impassioned for its own good, but a grand-scale reminder of Case’s skills as a vocalist, songwriter, and producer.
— Mark Deming

Conscious hip-hop (do people still say that?) with neo-soul touches. Compared to the other two woman-fronted hip-hop records on my list, this is less pop but more “musical” than Tierra Whack, and more immediate but arguably less interesting than the Jean Grae & Chris Quelle record. However, Noname can rap, and some of her verses were the most memorable things I heard in 2018. 

“Fucked the rapper homie, now his ass is making better music/My pussy teaches ninth-grade English/My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism/In conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus/Y’all still thought a bitch couldn’t rap, huh?”

“But I love you even though we’re not meant to be, I still love you/I hope you find everything that you want, and she loves you/Everything is everything just know that I love you.”

“And yes and yes, I’m problematic too.”

Musically, the tracks run the gamut from straight funk to string ballads to Caribbean faux-calypso groove, and if Noname’s not necessarily a virtuoso MC, she gets her point across with no strain. One to watch.
— Dominique Leone

Mitski, Be the CowboyEverything has gone to hell. The country, the relationship, the hope. It’s all just gone bad, and all we have is the memory, and the hope that it all gets better. Never has being sad sounded so lush and lovely.
— Jaime-Paul Falcon

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Tracey Thorn, alternative rock’s big sister in the Nineties, became a mother, yet the men who run it can’t deal with a mom who still loves to dance to the “same old shit” she calls it.
— Alfred Soto

“There is no resolution,” Robyn sings on Honey, dismantling the notion that her long-awaited full-length return will deliver answers that are easy to swallow. Still, Robyn makes the world go down smooth. In making Honey, the Swedish icon abandons many traditional structures while submerging in her club-kid roots, resurfacing through the filter of her life, loves, and losses. Robyn is still sexy without commercializing female sexuality, and still demonstrates her minimal-beat, major-chord-chorus dance pop that has been so influential on artists like Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen, Troye Sivan, and more. Simultaneously happy and sad and something beyond, Honey holds truths both banal and complex — and makes them float.
— Katie Moulton

Tierra WhackWhen was the last time a brand-new artist made an opening statement this weird and lovable? We need her.
— Alex Frank

Soccer Mommy, “Your Dog”: In no uncertain terms, Sophie Allison turns the tables on Iggy Pop by kicking off the leash, pronouncing her independence, and biting the hand that presumably feeds her.
— Roy Trakin

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Kali Uchis , Isolation: As she shifts genres as effortlessly as she changes language, her obvious genius captures a mood that exists only at the yawning edges of a twilit Miami shoreline. And however real the power and sex at its core, they exist for you because she dreamt them up. She wants you to know that.
— Nick Farruggia

The Beths, Future Me Hates MePunkish pop-rock with a Nineties sheen that nonetheless totally inhabits the current moment, via sharp-as-nails songwriting and self-deprecating humor that rides an amped-up guitar-pop wave like nobody’s business.
— Dave Heaton

Lucy DacusThoroughly compelling, Historian is filled with excellent songwriting that is expertly supported by the music arrangement and production. The album also serves as a representative for her Boygenius project and her collaborators (Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker) and this whole generation of phenomenal singer-songwriters.
— Mike Berick

Pistol Annies, Interstate GospelIf a lot of modern country music is regurgitated Eagles, maybe we should start thinking of Miranda Lambert’s projects as the Stones revivified. Only since she’s not Mick, she’s not an asshole. Or at least not as much of an asshole.
— Rod Taylor

If only Boygenius was an album. If it was a full-length LP, it would be my album of the year. But it’s just a wee bit too short at six songs, its only flaw. But I’ll forgive Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus for keeping things short and sweet — they’re busy, and in high demand. And their collaborative album might just be their greatest work of all. These three women just get each other. They’ve had such parallel experiences, and their sisterly bond shines through the EP’s all-too-short 22 minutes.
— Ellen Johnson

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No album has so confidently and concisely chronicled the chaotic life of a twentysomething pop star — from a tragic bombing outside of a tour stop to a whirlwind romance and spontaneous engagement — more so than Ariana Grande’s Sweetener. And though such situations are entirely unique to Grande, she still emerged this year as one of music’s most relatable personalities. Her consistent presence on Instagram and Twitter aside, there was only one format on which her story could be perfectly packaged: the album. Despite debate over the format’s future, Grande, knowingly or not, became the poster child for its importance. (Even if she did claim on Twitter that she doesn’t want to conform to a routine or formula anymore). Sweetener gave fans the most intimate look at Grande’s life yet, one that even a selfie couldn’t capture, because it was a direct line into her heart and mind. It’s as if she tore a page straight from her diary with of-the-moment interlude “Pete Davidson,” and on closer “Get Well Soon” she gifted listeners with a swelling instructional ballad on self-care told from firsthand experience. And even though so much of Grande’s life has drastically changed in the five months since the album’s release, with some moments, like the untimely death of her friend and ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, being more bitter than others, that’s exactly what makes this album so special. Its sweetness will forever be preserved.
— Lyndsey Havens

Although you can find lots of bemused critical commentary about the fact that Cardi B’s pop crossover success was largely driven by cameo appearances on a cable television series, there has been less journalistic punditry on how big a push scripted TV dramas like Star and Insecure continue to give new singles and original soundtrack albums.

The musical protagonists in Lee Daniels properties like Empire and Star might chew the scenery more than many would like, but these extra shenanigans don’t stop them from putting out some mighty fine singles. Making songs available right after viewing seems to have replaced radio rotation as the most effective way to “break” new recordings. With both Star and Issa Rae’s Insecure having successfully wrapped their third seasons, it seems imprudent not to critically address how such female-centered and music-driven shows (created and/or directed by black talent) came to enjoy repeated commercial success. It is, after all, an intriguing phenomenon.

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I suspect the teen-to–late-twenties demographic is slowly shifting established paradigms for nighttime soap operas, daytime talk shows, and reality TV. That’s why, for me, 2018 begged the musical question: “What will post-ratched pop culture look and sound like?”

This query pivots around the fact that (contrary to the online Urban Dictionary) the terms “ratched” and “wretched” aren’t really synonyms. Neither term glibly equates poverty with stupidity, or having money with intelligence. But being genuinely ratched can also be a cynical, deliberate pose, whereas being genuinely wretched cannot. Class determines the state of being wretched in ways it can neither define nor determine the fluid, deceptive role of being ratched.

Entertainers like Wendy Williams and Cardi B — despite a vast difference in their ages and backgrounds — deliberately adopted media personalities that straddle the line between being “low-class” and being streetwise. This shrewdly includes making an audience want to behave (vicariously) like them.

When performing, Cardi B currently does this better than Williams (or Nicki Minaj, or Remy Ma, or almost all her musical competition) because the emotionally complex, contemplative candor of songs like “Be Careful” steers slyly away from where the old ratched formulas of diss and shady brags have gotten stale. In her melodic and lyrical choices, Cardi B attempts a significant shift in the way the ratched meme presents and interprets itself.

Years of Jerry Springer Showstyle cat fights on various networks, plus Bravo’s Grand Guignol Housewives franchise, have addicted Americans to consuming embarrassment theater in great quantity. There is nothing morally elevated about it. Instead, the performers and themes of embarrassment theater too often earn fans by making audiences feel superior to who and what entertains them.

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Accordingly, rap stars, actors, and talk show hosts alike have become masters of snarky condescension and schadenfreude. But every major pop trend eventually starts to wane, including the unwholesome celebration of embarrassing or scandalous behavior.

2018’s ill-advised attempt to turn one of Dr. Phil’s attitudinal teen guests into a rapper named Bhad Bhabie proves it takes more than televising a laughably undercivilized demeanor to attract enough attention to launch a recording career. Appealing to people’s voyeuristic curiosity alone won’t work.

I wish Bhad Bhabie well, but even she should be wary of anyone trying to run a Kesha con on her by marketing a borderline personality disorder as comedy or as ratched wigger chic.

If Cardi B’s best tunes are any indication, she presages a new type of ratched pop star who is not content to make bank off of burlesquing herself or some train wreck of a life. Hopefully those fans looking to feel better about themselves by laughing at the ratched will develop better taste once they find a shrewd court jester has replaced the geek in the carnival.

Perhaps the popularity of embarrassment theater developed as a counterbalance to the increasingly fascist tone of politically correct rhetoric. Sneering at the whole human race became acceptable as soon as scapegoating specific individuals or groups was not. But that trend has touched the bottom of the pool and is already heading back up to the light and air. The world of music and topics to sing or rap about is wide. And if the ratched take advantage of all the opportunities this world can offer, they will transcend — not just take over — the pop chart.
— Carol Cooper



With Global Welcome Ambassador Taylor Swift high above, looking down on us from one of two Tribeca lofts, it’s easy to lose faith in the New York music scene, or any residual edginess lingering therein. But the Brooklyn Rock Lottery is here to prove, once again, that this city is still home to the real deal, creatively speaking. Today, members of 25 hand-picked bands including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Au Revoir Simone, Crocodiles, Parquet Courts, and St. Lucia will take the challenge. They’ll be divvied up, via a random lottery, into five groups, given 12 hours to write and rehearse five new songs (limited to one cover), and will perform their handiwork for you, the live audience, later tonight. Come hear your local acts test their chops after a hard day’s work — all proceeds go toward the Harmony Program, which provides after-school music education to NYC’s underserved communities.

Sat., Dec. 6, 9 p.m., 2014


The Gifts That The Other Holiday Gift Guides Forgot

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… Slim Whitman’s Yodeling Country Songs. In an attempt to help avoid gift-giving mishegas this season, we’ve taken the stress out of speculating what your favorite mosher might hope to find under his blackened hull of a Christmas tree. (Or what your sweet niece in Peoria might omgwant! since it’ll be hard to top last year’s gift of Britney Spears Curious eau de something. Carry on, wayward sons (and daughters), there WILL be peace when you are done. Done shopping, that is.

See also: The Hater’s Holiday Gift Guide

If you don’t feel the need to fund Gene Simmons’ and Paul Stanley’s lavish lifestyles this season by purchasing a “glass demon bust ornament” for your tree (trust me: you don’t), spend your kissmas kash with at the All New Ace Marketplace. Ex-KISS axe man Mr. Frehley offers up a guitar strap — black with silver lightning bolts — so the rockstar wanna-be in your life can be Space Ace in front of the mirror every day! Yes, it’s signed, and as KISS fans know, Ace’s autograph always features his iconic doodle of an ace playing card (duh). Custom made by Jodi Head in New York City, the strap–“just like Ace’s”–is 42 inches long. Wait, just like Ace’s what?! For $300, you can own a piece of KISStory unsoiled by Simmons.

Sweet dreams are NOT made of this Marilyn Manson lithograph. Of his watercolor “Crop Failure,” Manson explains: “This appeared in Rolling Stone with my essay about Columbine and is sort of a caricature of [Eric] Harris and [Dylan] Klebold taken from their high school photographs… It was definitely part of my reaction for being blamed for something like Columbine. I thought the title ‘Crop Failure’ was appropriate for several reasons. Columbine, some people might know, is a flower. And, obviously, [‘Crop’ represents] raising up your children and harvesting them properly. Something did go wrong here, and I think the farmers should be blamed, not the entertainers.” Lay down $1,800 for an exhibit-quality reproduction in a limited edition of 25, signed and numbered by the former Brian Warner himself.

Up next: Taylor Swift and Yanni

When you think blackout, you think: Yanni to the rescue! Yes, apparently the hirsute hottie wants to be your guiding light. To avoid being “caught in the dark,” the New Age chart-topper is offering you a way out for only $6.99. His laser-engraved, 1.5-inch-long super bright white LED is also a key ring! Bonus: four button cell batteries are included. Double bonus: No Yanni music is included!

The words “stocking stuffer” and “Taylor Swift” in the same sentence will likely titillate some baser-thinking music lovers. But the sweet Swift is offering, all new for the holiday season, a package with four RED (her fourth and latest album) doodads including a red RED rubber bracelet, plus a grey RED one, along with a guitar pick pack, an iPhone sound amplifier, and a spiral notebook with artwork from the album. Cute rockstar ex-boyfriend not included. And if you’re still not sold, it’s all on SALE! Regularly it’s $23 shekels, but now it’s a mere $6.99! (According to Forbes, Ms. Swift earned $55 million this year, so she doesn’t need your extra $15.50.)

There are so many great gifts for the Lemmy lover in your life. Of course, Motorhead and booze go together like cirrhosis and Early Times. For your pals overseas (currently only shipping there, apparently), Motorhead is offering — quelle surprise — alcohol! There’s “Sacrifice” Shiraz, which is “first bag-in-box wine” designed especially for Swedes, who apparently are the world’s largest consumer of boxed wine. Hmmm. The box looks like a Motorhead amp, making it a must-have even if you need to go to Sweden to obtain it, and allegedly it tastes better when wearing the Ace of Spades sweater made of jacquard woven 100 percent cotton in sizes up to XXL for even the “biggest” of Motorhead fans. At $90 bucks in eye-popping black and white, it’s not as cool as having Lemmy under your tree, but it’s a close second.

See also: Why the Hell Did Bad Religion Make a Christmas Album?

For the hipster who has everything — except a Bob Dylan harmonica — that’s a problem easily solved, but only if you feel like dropping $5,000 for a mouth organ. Albeit one that’s a Marine Band harp in the key of C, individually signed, and comes in a carved inlaid ebony box. Didn’t Spinal Tap say C “was the saddest of all keys”? No, oh well. This is still pretty decadent, and only 100 of these single key harmonicas exist worldwide. If the lucky recipient doesn’t know which of Dylan’s songs to play first on the new gift, well, there’s a list of harp keys to Dylan songs online here, and personal picks include “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Tangled Up in Blue,” and we’re sure Dylan wouldn’t mind if the harp was used to play the bagpipe parts on AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top.”)

Where were YOU in January 1971? Well, if you’re old enough, and a hoarder, you may have this January 16-22 issue of TV Guide in your, er, “collection.” If not, don’t spend three months looking in your basement — buy a copy for $25. (It was 15 cents back in the day!) For the Johnny Cash lover who has everything, this TV Guide, with an archetypal photo of June Carter and Johnny Cash, promises it’s in “good,” if used condition with “typical wear.” As if anything about the Man in Black is typical.

There’s one in every family: A Phish lover. The hapless purchaser may not know what a black and red checked hoodie has to do with a band that sings “Free” and “Heavy Things,” but hey, it’s a “super soft hoodie” with a kangaroo front pocket perfect for stashing whatever it is one stashes at a Phish concert. The band logo is on the hood, plus a custom Phish Kindling patch is sewn onto the breast. (If you’re not a Phish fan, it merely looks like a company logo — say, that little polo player. But Phish phans get it — and of course, they know it’s low-impact yarn dyed, and will keep them cozy for every show they go to this December 28-31 at Madison Square Garden.

Gabba Gabba Hey, This Is Delicious! From the kitchen of Marky Ramone — no, not full of roaches, bathtubs, and other NYC staples — comes a truly delicious addition to even your mushy spaghetti. Marky Ramone’s Brooklyn’s Own Marinara Pasta Sauce is a mere 88 dollars a case. And with those 12 jars, shipping is included AND 10 percent benefits Autism Speaks. Yes, the proverbial “win-win.” Apparently, The recipe was passed down by his grandfather, once a chef at Manhattan’s 21 Club, and modern-day famed French chef Boulud is a fan, offering a 21 dollar Spaghetti Alla Chitarra pasta using Marky’s own “drum-punk” sauce as its base! If you’re a NYC denizen, you can track down Marky Ramone’s Cruisin’ Kitchen food truck to buy, or merely order online.

20 years ago, musical gift/swag from Seattle might include SubPop T-shirt or Bikini Kill’s Pussy Whipped album. Circa 2013 holiday season, Seattle gives us Macklemore and Lewis, and their socks. Yes, nominated for seven 2014 Grammy awards, and you can own their socks. Well, not the ones they’ve actually worn, but a three-pack of fancy foot coverings, one pair in a lovely shade of baby blue, for a mere $20. Merely lift your pant leg to proclaim your allegiance to the pair, whose “Same Love” became perhaps the first top 15 song in the U.S. to promote and celebrate same-sex marriage, which in our book, makes it more than acceptable to sport socks that proclaim you as a member of the “shark face gang.”

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No disrespect to Griz, the rising DJ who supplements his bass-heavy sets with 
surprise riffs on his alto saxophone, but dubstep-meets-blank ceased being an 
interesting sales pitch shortly after Taylor Swift penciled in country with her pop-oriented “I Knew You Were Trouble.” 
Fortunately, A Tribe Called Red play club sounds that stretch well beyond festival-ready dubstep, and they’ve been mixing those sounds with more traditional First Nations chants and drums since Swift was singing about sparks flying and speaking now. The Ottawa trio refers to this sound by the portmanteau “powow-step,” and their “Electric Pow Wow Mini Mix” will be perfect for both pre-gaming this show and convincing your friends that they should come, too.

Thu., Nov. 14, 10 p.m., 2013


Ed Sheeran

When he’s not touring with pop-country giant Taylor Swift, writing songs for One Direction, or singing with Elton John at the Grammys, Ed Sheeran is building his name as an earnest and sweet singer-songwriter on his own. Of course, it isn’t like all those other things didn’t aid him in selling out one of his MSG solo dates in three minutes, but much credit to Sheeran is due when it comes to the sheer volume of talent he displayed on his debut album + and the single “The A Team,” the one Elton John helped him perform.

Tue., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 1, 8 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 7, 8 p.m., 2013



When the nominations for this year’s CMA Awards were announced, two artists led the field with six nominations apiece: The first (duh) was Taylor Swift, and the second was Kacey Musgraves, the 25-year-old Texan who has written hits for artists like Miranda Lambert and, in March, released her own Nashville debut, Same Trailer Different Park. Perhaps the best country LP of the year—and certainly the most promising debut in recent memory—the record’s two biggest tunes (“Merry Go ’Round” and “Blowin’ Smoke”) tackle small-town ennui, sung from the perspective of residents who just can’t escape, and the third (“Follow Your Arrow”) lists narrow-minded criticisms (“If you save yourself for marriage/You’re a bore/If you don’t save yourself for marriage/You’re a whore-able person”) before instructing listeners to live however we want.

Thu., Sept. 19, 9 p.m., 2013



We’ll be the first to admit that Kenny Chesney’s latest album, Life on a Rock, was not his best, a 45-minute island getaway where anything resembling substance was left at check-in. But no one except Taylor Swift puts on a better arena show, one with a setlist of hits that favors the greatest over the latest. Not that the latest are all bad: 2010’s Hemingway’s Whiskey remains the best album of his 20-plus year career, and its “Somewhere With You” the best single. Come for Kenny, but don’t tailgate for too long: This tour’s openers are his best ever, with Eric Church rocking as hard as anyone in any genre, Eli Young Band repping Texas across the country, and Kacey Musgrave bringing her tales of Middle America ennui to a football stadium bigger than many of the towns she sings about.

Sat., Aug. 10, 5 p.m., 2013


Taylor Swift: I’m Not Clingy, Insane, And Desperate!

The singer of hurt feelings–sort of the mini-me of Adele–is not in on the jokes about her love life.

For one thing, she tells Vanity Fair that a lot of her alleged romances that are discussed in the tabs are guys she simply said hello to. They’ve made her a fictional character!

Secondly, “For a female to write about her feelings and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her, I think that’s taking something that potentially should be celebrated–a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way–that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.”

True–but it would be nice if she occasionally shared some positive feelings.



Like most overnight sensations, Ed Sheeran spent years working on his craft. In 2009, after reading that his fellow British songwriter James (not Jim) Morrison once played 200 gigs in a year, the 18-year-old played 312. By the time he met One Direction’s Harry Styles three years later, Sheeran was able to give him 40 tunes for possible inclusion on the group’s debut album. After the chart-topping success of his debut +, he’ll spend the rest of the year opening for Taylor Swift, cutting down the number of gigs but increasing the number of spectators. Catch him tonight all by his lonesome.

Wed., Jan. 30, 7 p.m., 2013


Fuck A Critic: What’s A Dog Think of New Releases From Meek Mill, Taylor Swift, Aerosmith, and More?

That’s Francie, above. The greatest pug in the history of pugs. She’s 9. And she loves music. Lives for it. She especially likes electronic music, with all the bleeps and bloops, the thwooooooshhhhes and zhhhrrmmmm and so forth. Anything Warp Records, she’s all over that shit like it’s a bowl full of Beggin’ Strips. But she’s into a pretty wide variety of stuff. Her whole life, she’s loyally sat beside me as I’ve worked at my computer, listening along with me to a ton of music of all types. Which makes her pretty qualified to offer her take on a batch of new tunes. And quite honestly, who gives a fuck about po-faced, self-absorbed music critics and their boring, pointless 2,000-word reviews? I played Francie a few songs, and these were her real, honest-to-God reactions.

See Also:
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Last night: Meek Mill Previews Dreams & Nightmares

Paul Banks, “The Base”

Lifts head from dog bed, tilts head to right at electronic noises whirring through speakers at :06. Looks around room. Licks at front left paw for a few seconds. Puts head back down in blanket when Paul Banks starts singing at :21. Ears down. Inhales deeply. Eyes closed by 1:21. Perceptible snoring at 2:31.

Meek Mill, “Dreams and Nightmares”

Ears perk up immediately at tinkling piano intro, tilts head to left at :09 when Meek says “You ready?” and barks sharply at the “Uh…uh” that follows at :12. Looks around, runs in a circle, stops and stares at speakers as strings join in. Tilts head to right, then immediately left, when bass comes in at 1:39 and Meek raps “Hold on wait a minute, y’all thought I was finished? When I bought an Astin Martin y’all thought it was rented?” Growls, tail wagging, looks distressed, two more sharp barks. Looks around, scurries across room, jumps into dog bed, jumps out of bed and runs back to speakers. Starts panting, spins around in circle. Stares at speaker. Barks again at final “whoop!” at 3:38. Through all of it, never once says “Rap is often about contradiction, of wanting to stay humble and true while still stunting.” Everyone wins.

Aerosmith, “Something”

Cocks head to right at opening Hammond organ, then left when big drum beat comes in at :07. Sits down, looks around room. Stares straight ahead at speakers, ears down. No reaction when Joe Perry begins to sing. Blinks a few times. Lets out a huge yawn. Looks up at me for duration of song, doesn’t move.

Bat for Lashes, “All Your Gold”

Tilts head quickly left and right at percussive intro, lets out low growl. Stares intently at speakers as Natasha Khan begins to croon at :16. Slowly sits, still staring at speakers. Growls slightly and snorts at 1:08, tiny bit of dog snot flies out of nose. Licks lips a few times. Cocks head to left at squiggly synth noises at 1:44. Looks around, licks lips again. Gets up at 3:02, runs over to water bowl and takes long drink.

Kid Rock, “Detroit, Michigan”

No reaction to acoustic guitar noodling or drums of opening. Walks away from speakers, sniffing floor. Looks up at me, slowly walks over to wooden gate at top of stairs. Plops down against baseboard, back legs sticking out straight ahead at 1:24 when Kid Rock sings “In New Orleans the party never stops.” Ears down, stares through bars of gate and down stairs with sad expression.

Christina Aguilera, “Blank Page”

Shakes head a couple of times at delicate piano intro, looks up at me and snorts, a little more dog snot flying. Licks lips once. Stares straight ahead. Walks across room slowly. Sniffs at blanket in dog bed. Gets into dog bed, lays down, and stares ahead for rest of song.

Taylor Swift, “Red”

No reaction to banjo-y opening. Chews at front left paw. Looks up briefly at :39 when big guitar chord introduces chorus. Goes back to chewing paw. Looks up again when electronic-tinged “Reh-eh-eh-redddd” vocals come in at :56. Looks over at me. Shakes head vigorously, as if attempting to dislodge something from her ears. Looks at speakers again. Looks around room. Runs over to plush dog ball, stares at it for a moment, grabs it between her teeth and runs over to speakers. Drops ball next to speakers a few seconds into guitar solo at 2:28. Looks around. Continues to shake head sporadically until end of song.

There you have it. The week’s big winners: Meek Mill and Bat For Lashes! The rest, not so much. But we don’t profess to know what really goes on in the mind of a pug, so feel free to draw your own conclusions!

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