Hey! Sup! Welcome to Sup Girl, where members of the Girls Rock! Rochester staff talk about music they’re obsessed with, or just thinking about, or just obsessively thinking about. In this inaugural post, our Gear Coordinator Matt Werts talks about a few veteran geniuses–Kim Deal, Juana Molina, and The Pastels–and some of their stellar recent work. Read along and turn your volume ALL THE WAY UP or to whatever volume is comfortable for you and/or your office-mates.
I could go on and on and on about Kim Deal–how she is unassuming and brilliant; how her work from the Pixies through The Breeders through her Solo Single Series is of such consistently high quality; how her voice is smoky and bright, and how she writes in a way that’s familiar and distinct, creating rock music in her own appealing dialect. The most recent of her solo 45s–“The Root” b/w “Range on Castle”–is technically a collaboration (with Morgan Nagler of the band Whispertown, the first collabo in the series) and fits comfortably into her mostly underrated discography, sounding minimal and vaguely surfy, direct and poetic. And the video for the “The Root” is so simple, nobody had thought of it before. Deal bops up and down and sings into one of those back-up cameras on a new car, and talks about being “happy for you/but I feel like crying…happy for you/from the stem/but not from the root”. It’s like she sighed and left a party early, and when asked about it later, offered this song by way of explanation. “Range on Castle” is maybe even better, a song about hanging out at a shooting range that sounds like it could have been a White Album or All Things Must Pass outtake. The record–limited to 1000 copies but available on iTunes and Spotify and everything else–is yet another example of Deal being both your chill slightly older friend and a visionary.
Juana Molina released her latest album, Wed 21, towards the end of last year, and it’s incredible–folky and electronic, soothing and strange, kind of like Astrud Gilberto and Devo and Miho Hatori and ’90s mathy guitar stuff from Louisville or DC all at once. I listened to it on repeat for a while and ended up going down a real YouTube rabbit hole with her work, and this 20-minute documentary about her, from 2004, stood out (though I would also recommend the “B-sides and Rarities” short and her performance on KCRW from 2006). She starts by telling the story of how she accidentally insulted a giant tree in her backyard, causing it to wither, and then how she finally apologized, allowing it to grow strong again. From there, she writes songs in a breezy living room filled with keyboards, and talks about her career switch from famous Argentinean television actress to determined, exploratory musician. She also does an impression of a boring dog, gardens with her husband, makes yerba mate tea, theorizes that Morrissey’s singing may have been inspired by birds, hangs out on a speedboat. She’s charming and the songs are beautiful, and you come away wanting to hang out with her, or play in her live band if she’ll have you. But I’m struck by the trajectory of her life, and the idea that you can be one thing for a long time and then become some total other thing, that there are other possibilities. You can work for the State Department for 20 years and then buy a plot of land in the country and start a goat farm. You can be an archivist at a large metropolitan library and then open a restaurant. You can be a beloved comedian/actress and then hook up synthesizers and a guitar to a mixer and some loop pedals, and sing into the night sky. You may have dissed the trees in some way, but you can always say you’re sorry.
I like The Pastels for what I guess are complicated reasons, partly for the music and partly for non-music intangibles or something. I can’t say I like all of their songs, but it’s like even when they’re not great, they’re still great, and when they actually are great, you can’t beat them. They’re one of those bands that can be a little off-key, ragged, and gentle but they’re defiantly off-key, ragged, and gentle, in the same way that Beat Happening seemed defiantly amateur and non-aggro, or the way Galaxie 500 seemed defiantly slow and clean, or the way Lou Reed was defiantly Lou Reed. They’re punks, but jangly and dreamy, if that makes sense. I guess just listen to “Check My Heart”, the big snare sound and swirling vocals from Katrina Mitchell (side note: check her band Melody Dog’s cover of “Don’t Worry Baby”) and Stephen McRobbie, a song that you could connect to The Vaselines or even further back to “Sugar Sugar”, a song that’s pretty undeniable. Also, the video is kind of Urban Outfitters-y, or like a hip Crystal Light commercial, or like those McDonald’s ads where they try to make fish filets seem really cool, but I mean I would definitely go to whatever dance party is happening here.
Lastly, let’s just consider a couple things: Beyonce on the cover of Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ issue, and the all-female roster of Nirvana guest singers at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony (l to r: Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, St. Vincent, Lorde). And let’s maybe consider Kurt Cobain’s quote from 20 years ago: “The future of rock belongs to women”.