R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner: Make It Be

Lo-fi legend and power pop genius collaborate on a one-of-a-kind LP that tickles the brain as often as it tickles the funny bone.

R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner

Make It Be

Label: Bar/None
US Release Date: 2017-03-10
UK Release Date: 2017-03-10

Strange bedfellows can make great music together, as evidenced by this collaboration between R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner, Make It Be. Moore’s impulse-driven lo-fi aesthetic serves as the perfect counterpart to Falkner’s thoughtful, refined power pop. It’s not so much a second coming of Lennon and McCartney as it is the marriage of Let It Be’s rougher, tougher tendencies and Magical Mystery Tour’s mind-bending melodies all swaddled in unforgettable hooks that dig in deep and fast.

The opening “I H8 Ppl” exemplifies the melding of these concerns. Fuzzy, buzzy guitars rest on a foundation of steady rocking beats that get the feet moving as much as they get the blood rushing. It’s dance music for loners; disco sounds for the self-loathing (or self-loving) set, the perfect way to pass the better part of four minutes. As with the best material from either the lo-fi or power pop worlds, what shines brightest isn’t the aesthetics, it’s the writing. The former doesn’t hurt, however.

“I Love Us, We Love Me” builds and bursts with a brilliance that at times recalls Big Star’s “For You”, though this track is tinged with a wicked sense of humor that serves as a lovely counterpart to the musical beauty of the thing. There’s beauty to be found in the instrumental interludes “Gower (Theme From a Scene)” and “Guitar Interplé”, humor to be found in the panicked, punk-ish “Stamps” and a humor-laden vignettes that summon happy memories of Robert Calvert as his most irreverent and wise (“Strictly Prohibited”, “Falkner Walk”).

In between, there’s the triumphant and Who-ish “Horror Show”, one of those smart, quirky songs that would not have been out of place on the Nuggets compilation or in the hearts of kids who clamored to the front of the stage during the golden era of psychedelia. A cover of the old New Orleans number “Don’t You Just Know It” imagines NRBQ leading a parade down Psilocybin Street in the warmth of the orange sunshine. “If You See Kay/Run For Your Lives!” calls to mind an American version of XTC and/or its secret self the Dukes of Stratosphear.

None of those comparisons is intended to detract from the vision that Moore and Falkner demonstrate here, one that draws from the rich history of rock and pop while moving us all into some territories that others have perhaps considered marching into before thinking the ground too rugged and foreboding. That’s the difference, once supposes, between the merely brilliant and those who are brilliant and brave. Moore and Falkner, of course, land firmly in the latter category.

Witness the shift from the aforementioned “If You See Kay/Run For Your Lives” into the gorgeous, meditative “Guitar Interplay Dos” then into a dark, dreamlike place conjured into being by Giorgio Moroder during a bout of the strange (“That’s Fine, What Time?”). These twists and turns may not make sense to those listening from the outside but are a warm embrace to the outsider, one keen on blurring the lines between what can be executed and what can be imagined.

That’s the line that Make It Be proudly walks. It is not, however, an off-putting experience but instead one that opens its umbrella wide for all who wish to come inside and enjoy the long, strange and thoroughly beautiful trip this record is. That something this smart and beautiful could come from a seemingly unlikely pairing is further evidence that maybe these collaborations should happen more often, that turns of the unexpected can heighten our musical consciousness and enrich our musical experiences.

Put more simply: Make It Be is a fine, fine record that deserves to be heard now and well into the distant future.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.