Wish and Want and Luck

On what we want more of and wishing for way more than luck

Wish and Want and Luck
Yoga can be very dangerous

About ten years ago, I interviewed for an editorial position at a venerable culture magazine that was preparing to relaunch after an acquisition that was supposed to stanch some ugly financial bleeding. I was interested in the gig despite what sounded like low pay and a high risk of relocation, but I'm pretty sure I screwed myself out of it when I started rambling about cultural criticism's place in the post-digital distribution era — specifically the consumer's reduced need for gatekeepers, or even analysis/broader context, in a landscape where the model was rapidly shifting from per-title paid ownership to pay-as-you-go subscription fees.

They were thoughts I should have kept to myself — not necessarily because they might have cost me a job, but because I was still really struggling to articulate my feelings about the critic's role going forward. I kept struggling, too — whether it was at Popdose, this place, or any other place I've written about music/etc. over the last decade or so, I've felt like reviews needed to change in order to accommodate the consumer's wildly expanded access to the stuff that's being reviewed.

Those feelings are, to a large extent, the reason I haven't really been reviewing stuff here. I'm trying to give you a loose feel for what you can expect in terms of sound/style/etc., but the main thing I'm trying to convey is how it makes me feel. This is my site, which makes my feelings the most important thing on Earth, but also, I think that gets closer to the heart of what music criticism in particular ought to be now. You don't need a writer to tell you what something is, but if they can start an emotional dialogue using genre signposts as a guide, then maybe you'll be moved to do the hard work of streaming it for yourself.

The thing is, writing about pop culture in this way isn't easy. I feel like I'm always straining for the right words to distill my emotional response to things, and much of the time, you might as well try and lasso the wind. It's fuzzy stuff. Dancing about architecture. You get the idea.

Anyway, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff while listening to I Wish You Way More Than Luck, the new album from Lo Moon — specifically focusing on the way a record can provoke an emotional response that's rooted in the way the music evokes other music. Like I said, this shit gets messy; context counts for a whole lot when you're ingesting a piece of art, to the extent that the way you feel about a song might have more to do with the songs it reminds you of than the song itself. I've had this album on repeat most of the day, and I think that's where I am with it.

When I listen to I Wish You Way More Than Luck, I hear bits of So-era Peter Gabriel's Fairlight soul. I catch glimmers of the haunted grandeur of the Call's Reconciled and Into the Woods albums. Sometimes I feel like I might be listening to an alternate version of the 1975, only with a less manic frontman. It all blends together to create a sound that reminds me of sounds that make me happy for various reasons, which is probably the point — but it also got me thinking about what we really want when we say we want another album or a reunion tour or a sequel or what have you from a retired band/franchise/author we love, or why we're drawn to expanded reissues that promise to give us more of the stuff we already fell in love with.

There are always exceptions, but I think those follow-ups are invariably disappointing on some level, simply because what we're always begging for isn't really more of the thing we say we want, but in fact more of the feeling the thing gave us when we fell in love with it. This is why tribute bands are so popular, and why artists start seeing crowds head for the concession stands if they dare to play new material at a concert after they hit a certain point in their career. Who they are now becomes less important than how they made us feel then, and no reunion tour or belated follow-up album or sequel is going to deliver the endorphin rush we're looking for; that only comes from lucking into a piece of art that reaches us at the right time and right place.

I think that's why albums like I Wish You Way More Than Luck are so sneakily successful — they approximate that rush by showing us something we know and love from a different angle. It might seem like I'm dismissing it like some kind of cheap magic act, but I'm not; I genuinely think it's fairly uncommon to come across an artist that wears its influences in such comfortably obvious fashion. Lo Moon aren't doing a single thing that hasn't been done before, but their music is neither pastiche nor homage — it strikes me as a genuine distillation of influences that's confident enough to stand on the shoulders of giants without wobbling.

Long story short, I think this is a very fine album, and I appreciate the way it transported me, a few seconds at a time, to a strange little pocket dimension where I kind of almost felt like I was hearing stuff I enjoyed for the first time all over again, and prompted me to think about what those feelings were rooted in. Once you reach a certain age, I'm not sure it's possible to keep yourself from chasing that dragon, but it helps to understand what you're really looking for.