Desert Sessions: Songs for Personal and Public Apocalypse Survival

A soundtrack for end times (kidding!).

While the Bitchfork readership is measly in quantity, it is international (or all of you use VPNs or a combo of both). Usually it is the music that brings us together, but today, please join me as we socially distance ourselves.

Before the virus, I’ve contemplated a self-imposed social distancing. The idea came from a plane ride and some fungi. For a long-enough-to-be-annoying-frame-of-time, I have felt like I was standing at the edge of the world. The Earth and all its contents at my back, looking out at infinite– overwhelmingly lonely and in awe of the how, despite being filled with stars and planets, space is so stark.

The fact a virus that requires distancing ourselves from humans is an ironic and somewhat cathartic event to (maybe?) wrap up these last few weeks. However, just as I am in awe of the starkness of the universe, I am equally thankful for the solitude.

The Desert Sessions Vol. 11 & 12 is the perfect soundtrack for everything I am seeing and feeling at this time. It offers an apocalyptic feel without much of the seriousness but much of the absurdness and loneliness mixed with elements of survival.


From Wiki:

The Desert Sessions are a musical collective series, founded by Josh Homme in 1997. Artists such as Brant BjorkPJ HarveyJeordie White (a.k.a. Twiggy Ramirez)Dave CatchingNick OliveriMark LaneganJohn McBainBen ShepherdJosh FreeseChris GossAlain JohannesTroy Van LeeuwenDean Ween, and many others from the Palm Desert Scene have contributed as songwriters and musicians.

I am a big/huge/large/massive/fluffy fan of Josh Homme’s talents, work, and collaborative efforts. Like members of The Mars Volta as well as Mike Patton, I don’t know how the dude sleeps: Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles of Death Metal, KYUSS, Iggy Pop; and extensive work with Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys.

Example 1:

It’s not often you see a very large, ginger man with such moves. Also, please never tell me masculinity and flamboyance are an oxymoron or mutually exclusive (and have you seen him roller skate?).

Josh Homme has been doing wonderful things for decades. He began the Desert Sessions in 1997. Since that time, he has produced 12 volumes, the latest being Vol. 11: Arriverderci Despair and  Volume 12: Tightwads & Nitwits & Critics & Heels. These volumes features greats like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Les Claypool of Primus, Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, Jakes Shears of Scissor Sisters, Matt Berry of everything, Matt Sweeney, Carla Azar of Autolux and Jack White, and Mike Kerr of Royal Blood (all seen in the featured photo of this post).

Here are some of my favorites from the latest volumes.

 “Noses in Roses, Forever”

Say, I’m not a toy that you can play with, dear,
Though the sound is appealing,
You’re just a fly buzzing in my ear,
As I’m dancing on the ceilin’.

Josh Homme sings lead vocals on a song about making peace (for the most part). It’s also kind of a “fuck you,” song. For a sweet title, it is a heavy track (mah fave).

“Something You Can’t See”

It’s all I’ve ever done, I’m better alone,
If I could trade my fear,
Or make it disappear,
Would I be standing here a silent alarm.

Jake Shears, from the Scissor Sisters, sings on this wistful track about a love that I’m not sure is real or if he’s trying to escape it because it’s unrequited. It’s a really sweet song.


“If You Run”

Hang tight, she running through the moonlight,
Waiting on her charms,
Deep scars fading in the stars,
Fading in each other’s arms,
He took her down to his hiding place,
All he’s bringing back is dust on his face.

This song touches me very deeply. Vocalist Libby Grace, who has had no other major songs or records, brings a haunting sound to the song. This one took some time to grow on me, but it is definitely one of my favorites on the album.

“Chic Tweetz”

I sent you chic tweets,
Unanswered for weeks,
I want to take peeks in those cheeks.

There are few things I love more than funny things. Or naughty things. This song is both funny and naughty. It features a cameo by another one of my performers and talents, Matt Berry.

The newest volumes of Desert Sessions has a bit of an apocalyptic feel to me– as did the other sessions. I find Vols. 11 & 12 to be a little more surrealistic and absurd– kind of like a more humorous and less brutish version of Mad Max, which, who knows…maybe we are heading for. However, I am predicting a boring dystopia.

Author: Keelin Billue

Chicago-based writer by way of Alabama, New Orleans, and Nashville. Writes primarily about music, sports (sort of), and the topics that piss people off at work and family holidays.

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