There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. As is tradition, we’ll be highlighting a few albums and tracks that struck our fancy over the past few weeks. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Christian Lee Hutson – Beginners
I’m a simple man. If a musician is in any way, shape, or form tied to Phoebe Bridgers, I’ll listen. It’s just a way of life. When Phoebe posted Christian Lee Hutson’s fantastic debut record Beginners on her social media and listed herself as the record’s producer, I immediately grabbed some headphones and got prepared to once again become lost in something great. I was not disappointed, as Beginners is a gentle, folky, impressive singer-songwriter debut from a musician that I hope will become a staple in the above scenes.
As a piece of historical context for those who may not be familiar with Hutson, he and Bridgers have collaborated before through the latter’s work in boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center, with Hutson cowriting songs for each of these groups’ debut record. Now that his own writing and performing is on full display in Beginners, it’s clear just how much he brought to the table for both of the above acts. These songs are measured, lovely, and a brilliant mix of early Vampire Weekend (“Talk”), Simon & Garfunkel (“Atheist”), and lush, modern takes on quietly anthemic folk (“Lose This Number”). It’s a uniformly beautiful experience, with Hutson channeling the brutal honesty of the likes of Sufjan Stevens in Carrie & Lowell without ever falling into abject despair. There’s plenty of rays of hope dipping into the dark rooms of Beginners, keeping listeners engaged with emotional and Sonic range that’s a joy to interact with.
Up there with Honey Harper’s stunning cosmic country debut, Christian Lee Hutson hits a home run right out the gate with Beginners. I cannot wait to see where he takes his music next. But if he continues to occupy this lane, I will be more than satisfied. A fantastic opening statement by an artist that I hope sticks around, and grows, for a long time.
Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated: Side B
I meant to write about Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated (2019) when it came out, but I never got around to it. The short version is: it’s a decent pop record with a few standout tracks (“Now That I’ve Found You”, “Too Much”), but it’s also incredibly uneven and, at fifteen tracks – only about a dozen of which feel fully formed – it well outstays its welcome (especially when lead single “Party for One” and opener “Julien” are among its weaker offerings). Since then, well, I just sort of forgot about it, which made it an even bigger surprise when Side B dropped last week.
Dedication: Side B continues Jepsen’s record of outstanding secondary material. In fact, the album is a much stronger record than the original Dedicated, which makes it baffling why so much of it didn’t end up on the album to begin with. Opener “This Love isn’t Crazy” instantly joins the ranks of Jepsen’s best material, bolstered by an uplifting chorus that oddly brings to mind Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The video for said track, sees Jepsen and producer Jack Antonoff (of Bleachers) dancing around the studio and raving about how great the song is; which, again, leads one to ask: WHY WASN’T IT ON THE ALBUM THEN?!?! Unless it was held back deliberately to promote the Side B version – in which case, well played – there’s no reason why songs like “This Love Isn’t Crazy” shouldn’t be considered A-side material. That Emotion was already brimming with prime material justified its equally outstanding overflow, but Dedicated definitely could have used some extra punch.
Other Side B highlights include the upbeat “Stay Away” and “This is What they Say”, the triumphant “Solo” and, especially, the sultry, bass heavy “Summer Love”, which adds some genuine sensuality to the Dedicated suite’s otherwise rather neutered and nonthreatening sexuality, with Jepsen sounding at times like a sultry Mel C. At times the record “B-side identity creeps through. There’s a lot of obvious Taylor Swift cast-offs, of which “Comeback” (featuring Bleachers) is the biggest offender, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Antonoff’s extensive collaborations with Swift. The track sounds almost identical to Swift’s “Getaway Car”, which (surprise!) was co-written by Antonoff and extensively imitated across her most recent record, on which (surprise!) Antonoff was Swift’s main collaborator. “Felt this Way” also suffers from being a variation on the same ideas as “Stay Away” of which the latter is by far the superior rendition, although the gratingly repetitive “Let’s Sort the Whole Thing Out” and ill-fitting closer “Now I Don’t Hate California After All” are the only true duds.
Overall, however, Side B is a remarkably consistent record, and there’s likely an outstanding album to be made from combing the best of it and what the original Dedicated have on offer. Nevertheless, it might have been a stronger statement if she’d just gone ahead and knocked it out of the park first try, but Side B is a welcome consolation nonetheless.