Reviews – Taylor Swift, that dog., Harry’s Shampoo

Taylor Swift/Folklore (2020)

Several years ago I gave 1989 a spin to see what all the fuss was about, and as far as pop albums from country stars go, it didn’t speak my language. It was no Bangerz. Four albums later, Tay is back with another critically-praised album, and this time it does speak my language.

Folklore, recorded in quarantine during the start of our pandemic, is hard to classify, although, with its lack of pop gloss, it does fit neatly under the indie rock umbrella. Clocking in at over an hour, Folklore is a folky set of character studies in somewhat of a folk rock style with elements of PBR&B, country, and pop. I won’t bother going into depth about any of these lyrics, but they are original and refreshing, lacking the usual cliches. There are no “whiskey rivers,” “southbound trains,” or songs rattling off the names of various southern cities, to be found.

Although this slow-burning candle of an album has Swift working outside of her usual genres, the songwriting here – featuring her trademark rapid-fire lyricism, is classic TSwift, with stories of love, money, and whatever else she was dreaming up. If the production were stripped back just a tad more this could be described as her Nebraska.

At times this album reminds me Gran Turismo by the Cardigans minus the more wildly electronic Radiohead noises, but that’s probably because the second song is called “Cardigan” and I’m very suggestible. But it is a deliciously down-tempo set of songs that make me think of a very early morning walk in the fall before anyone else gets up. I would say the same thing about my favorite Beck album, Sea Change.

And I gave both Gran Turismo and Sea Change an A+. Nice work, T. A+

that dog./Retreat from the Sun (1997)

I pretty much only remembered about the existence of this band because Rachel Haden has been posting “bass and vocals” covers of various songs on Facebook these days.

According to reviewers at the time, that dog. could be described as a very “connected” band of insiders (relatives of Lenny Waronker and Charlie Haden) whose music could be described as a more polished, radio-ready version of Liz Phair. Now please excuse me while I go listen to some of my favorite Lenny Kravitz, Whitney Houston, Nancy Sinatra, and Hank Williams III, Wilson Philips, Miley Cyrus, and Janet Jackson albums.

And it wouldn’t be right to write off the best album from a band with some pretty unique things going for them.

I never owned this album, but I heard it a lot on other peoples’ car and home stereos during a brief period in my late teens. I associate it with a particular time in my life, but that time was now so long ago that I can evaluate it with a fresh set of ears. By the way, I did own Return of the Rentals and Petra Haden Sings The Who Sell Out, both of which feature the magic of Haden Triplet harmonies (or at least Petra Haden harmonies). And I’ve never been crazy about the Decembrists.

Unlike the Rentals, in which those signature harmonies are part of a sonic picture centered around original Weezer bassist Matt Sharp singing in a soft baritone over simple three or four chord songs loaded with synthesizers, that dog. is anchored by the faster-paced and more sophisticated songwriting and pleasant vocal delivery of Anna Waronker.

I believe the sound of the record would be difficult to approximate on stage with just the four piece band, because it is based on layered guitar parts that sort of clash and fight with each other, creating a pleasing dissonance, joined by violin, piano and/or synthesizer, and those harmonies. Why is it that whether it’s the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, the Jacksons, the Bee Gees, or in this case the Haden Triplets, there is something truly special about relatives harmonizing together?

Lyrically, it would be easy to write this off as “silly songs about boys and crushes and stuff,” but Waronker along with Petra and Rachel Haden (the third Haden triplet, Tanya, who is married to Jack Black, was not in the band but apparently plays cello on the record) combine them with chord progressions and melodies that just press all the right buttons and a line like “every time I try, I cry” resonates. I just picked that one out at random, but every line on the album is like that. The single, “Never Say Never,” is particularly infectious and heartfelt in a way that is hard to describe. Right up there with “Iesha” by ABC. Coming from me that is a giant compliment.

Time isn’t always kind to ’90s music. But honest, creative music with a touch of something special always prevails. A+

Harry’s Two-In-One Men’s Shampoo

Let’s not beat around the bush. It would be difficult to write a review of Harry’s Two-In-One Shampoo without mentioning candy canes.

In any event, we have a pandemic going on, I like to place drive-up orders at Target, and Target doesn’t carry my usual brand of shampoo (Got2B PhenoMENal), so I figured I’d tried Harry’s, which is about the same price.

It smells like candy canes. And I mean it really smells like candy canes.

Don’t worry. I will get to describing whether or not it weighs my hair down, makes it shiny, or makes it softer later, but first it is important to consider a few questions.

Do you like candy canes?

Do you like the smell of candy canes?

Do you like having a signature smell?

Do you want your signature smell to be candy canes?

Do you want your signature smell to come from your hair?

Is whether or not your shampoo smells like candy canes more important than other qualities the shampoo may have or not have?

Do you want to be described as “That person whose hair smells like candy canes?”

If you answered “yes” to most or all of those questions, Harry’s may be for you.

Aside from smelling like candy canes, let’s see what else I could say about Harry’s. It lathers less than the average shampoo. There is a warning that you need to wash your eyes immediately if you get this shampoo in your eyes. It doesn’t really thicken, soften, or add a luxurious shine to hair. Then again, it doesn’t dry out hair or make it dull or frizzy either. It isn’t awful. It isn’t good either.

My wife tried it out and mentioned that it made the tub slippery.

It is also worth noting that, due to the fact that I haven’t had a haircut since January or February, my hair is much longer than normal, so I may notice things about a shampoo that I normally wouldn’t be concerned about. Some clippers should be coming in the mail from Amazon any day now. Until then, when I inhale my bangs I will be looking for Santa’s sleigh. C

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