You could think of this as a companion piece to my previous article. Or, you could think of this as the natural 50th anniversary playlist to Woodstock. Either way, twang is in season. These ten songs use it perfectly, and I’m answering any questions you may have about them.
Preoccupied - Mac DeMarco
Are those real birds?
Yes. Probably. They’re relaxing. Plus, it fits with the extremely laid-back tone of not just the song, but of the album, which I interpret as more of an indicator of where Mac is in his career than just a lazy croon-fest.
Why did Pitchfork say that he sounds “preoccupied” while he’s singing and give it a 6.7/10?
A friend of mine posited a theory. It claims that this album is Mac DeMarco’s test to see who likes him for his most authentic self, present in this album, and who likes him for the indie softboy hype. Pitchfork just doesn’t get it.
Kingston - Faye Webster
Nico, why did you put a country song about Sean Kingston on your playlist?
This music belongs to an emerging genre of music which I can only categorize as twang-pop. And it’s not about Sean Kingston, although you could certainly interpret it that way. The title comes from a suburb near Webster’s hometown of Atlanta.
What is twang, anyways?
Technically, it’s the sound made by a string instrument as the pitch is bent without ending the tone. Typical in country music, it’s currently very popular in indie music because of its versatility in exploring tonal ambiguity in a song, both thematically and sonically.
Spiritually, it’s a state of being, man. To be in twang is to be changing, without a clear view of where you’re going. Can’t we all relate to that?
Hard on Love - Allah-Las
That chorus really gives off "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" energy.
Yeah, it's that melancholy floaty-ness that the Beatles really nailed in the middle of their career. The Beatles, it should be noted, were masters of twang.
Where did the name Allah-Las come from?
Story time: the band met while they were all working at Amoeba music. Their name comes from Allah and the implication of orientalism, and the "las" comes from the kitschy art-deco movement. They almost called themselves the Holy Barbarians.
Song of the Highest Tower - Cut Worms
“The cut worm forgives the plow.” - William Blake
By all things enslaved
I’ve wasted my days.
Ah! Let the moment come
When hearts love as one.
-Arthur Rimbaud, "Song of the Highest Tower"
All the feeling that has gone
All the sense that has left
Taken leave and gone abroad
Other worlds as you slept
-Cut Worms, "Song of the Highest Tower"
It's art, ok!
Redeemer - Karen O and Danger Mouse
Karen O sounds familiar.
She was the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose song "Heads Will Roll" was in the Project X soundtrack. She’s also had a number of singles, including a cover of Led Zeppelin’s "Immigrant Song" that was the opening credits song for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie.
Why did they use the twang?
While Karen O’s vocal performance and lyrics don’t suggest a sort of emotional limbo, producer Danger Mouse uses the twang to evoke that Clint Eastwood-y archetype, subverted. Karen O is on the hunt, and plans to spare no mercy. To those who wronged her and other women alike, she’s coming for you.
Something to Believe - Weyes Blood
How do you pronounce that?
Wise Blood. After Flannery O’Connor’s first novel.
She sounds like Karen Carpenter.
She does, but her songs touch on facets of life completely foreign to the 1970s. As she says in another one of her songs, “It’s a wild time to be alive.” She’s very much referring to the loneliness and confusion of the late 2010s.
Sounds like you’re a fan.
You could say that. Titanic Rising is my favorite album of the year so far, and songs like "Andromeda," "Everyday," and "Picture Me Better" just hit hard. It’s a fantastic record that I highly recommend. Not to mention her impeccable use of twang.
If You Don’t Know Now, You Never Will - Drugdealer
Why does this sound like dollar-store "Hey Jude"?
Drugdealer, f.k.a. Salvia Plath, uses the late 60s, early 70s sound to evoke a very laid-back mood, one that sounds more like a dream than it does our sometimes crushing reality. Which is another important use of twang. And this song ends in a cacophony of twang.
It ends with the sound of rain. That’s not very “summer” of you.
Remember, twang is not the destination. It isn’t summer, or winter, or 2019, even. It’s the time between them, the time in which we change as people. Twang is the motion of the finger across the guitar, not the tone itself. Twang is change.
What’s more summer than that?