Quick Reviews

It’s September, or some damn month.  The year is nearly over and my thoughts are turning to “What’s going to be on my Top Ten list in December?”  I’ve bought a good deal of music and I’ve got plenty to choose from.  There’s still some stuff coming and some stuff I haven’t gotten to yet for one reason or another.  Thought it would be fun to do a list of the stuff I’ve bought (or been given) this year with a quick review of each one.  So…that.

Presented in no particular order. Here’s the stuff I’ve bought.  For those new to the blog (hi!) I’m into a little bit of everything (except rap and pop-country), so you might find something to love here among the stuff that you hate.

  • Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
    Pretty good.  It sounds like them.  I wanted to be more excited about it than I am.  I haven’t really listened to it since the week I got it.
  • Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
    More like Suf-YAWN Stevens.  The songs aren’t bad, when you’re awake for them.  Y’know, as a guy who’s made a lot of records, I’ve always wanted to do something really minimalistic–maybe just guitar, vocal, and a piano.  Then I hear records like this one and think, “Yeah…I’m going to want to put in a bass and a drum kit and some distortion and just goddamn anything to make it interesting or at least listenable.”  Harsh, I know…but the harder I try with Sufjan, the more I realize it begins AND ENDS for me with “Illinoise.” Sorry if you like this one–I’m just talking about me.
  • Pokey LaFarge – Something in the Water
    Enjoyed the hell out of it.  Pokey is an anachronism.  He doesn’t belong in 2015.  And I love that.  Put on your seersucker suit and give this a spin.
  • Brian Wilson – No Pier Pressure
    A lot better than it should be.  People have criticized the production–particularly the admittedly out of place hip-hoppy drum machines–but Wilson’s always been known for using instrumentation you wouldn’t expect.  Don’t forget that people hated “Pet Sounds” when it first came out.  This one isn’t “Pet Sounds,” but I think it turned out nice.
  • Refused – Freedom
    Excellent, and nice to have them back.  Even though they promised they wouldn’t be.  I was listening to this again on the drive home from work yesterday, screaming along the whole way home.  This is one of those acts that, even though I’m not an atheist, can still get me singing along with lines like, “When we needed guilt, we thought of guilt.  When we needed God, we thought of God.”
  • Motörhead – (XXXX) Black Magic
    Excellent.  If this turns out to be their swan song, it’s a great one.
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – E-Mo-Tion
    Yes, I bought it.  The single’s the best thing on it.  But it’s still fun.
  • Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
    Overwhelmingly long.  Would’ve benefitted from being a single-disc.  Also the drum-sound SUCKS and they need to keep Steve Harris out of the control room…but nonetheless, it’s a Maiden album.  There’s a lot to enjoy.  I particularly like “The Red and the Black” as an epic.  I don’t think it’s the best thing since “Seventh Son” or whatever, but it’s a good record.  I need to listen to it a little more.  The Motorhead show interrupted my enjoyment of this one and it needs to grow on me a little, still.  I’ve only made it all the way through twice so far.
  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
    I hate to say this, because I loved the debut record so much…  But the phrase “Sophomore Slump” comes to mind.  I listened to it three times and just have absolutely no desire to hear it again.  People have been raving about it (most notably Patterson Hood from the Drive-By Truckers), but I just don’t know where the hooks are supposed to be on this one.  There’s not a single.  (That’s why you haven’t heard one, as compared to “Hold On” being everywhere a few years ago.)  It’s a miss.  I think people are only raving about it because they feel like they’re supposed to either do that or hand in their fedoras for disposal.  Hoping the third record is incredible, as so often happens in these situations.
  • Jason Isbell – Sea Songs EP
    There’s a good chance you didn’t know this one happened.  A download-only release of two songs Jason did with his wife Amanda Shires.  It’s just the two of them doing covers of Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” and Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer,” but I enjoyed both.  Especially the latter, which works really well knowing the two of them are in love.  And now have a little baby girl!
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
    You probably DO know about this one.  It was #1 in Rock, Folk, Indie, and Country in the first week of release.  #3 overall.  Deserves the acclaim.  I like the predecessor “Southeastern” more (but I’ve also lived with it longer), however this is a great album with plenty to dig into and it immediately feels like an old friend.  (Although I must say that I feel like the opening track is the weakest one on the record…which is a little puzzling.)
  • Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind
    Mumford plugged in and a lot of people doubted it.  They were wrong.  This is a great album.  The lyrics are excellent and the music washes over you wonderfully.  This is how a rock record should work.  Not long ago, I was in a Barnes & Noble and they put it on.  I stayed until it was over, and I don’t know why…I even had it on my phone and could’ve listened to it immediately in the car if I’d left!  I guess that’s just how good it is…
  • My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
    I got to this one late.  Only picked it up about a week ago.  Sorry I waited so long.  It’s really good.  I was apprehensive about it, as I did not like MMJ’s previous release.  (I’m the guy who came in on departure-piece “Evil Urges” and don’t have much to say about the rest of the catalogue.)  But this one struck a chord with me.  Especially the first track has been stuck in my head all week.
  • Godspeed You ! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
    GY!BE always sounds like them.  This does too.  So I’m happy with it.
  • Bunnygrunt – Vol. 4
    St. Louis’ own…  Bob Reuter (RIP) even plays and sings on this one a little.  Bought it this past week and spun it immediately.  What a fun, catchy, poppy record!  Highly recommend it.  I don’t know if you’ll find it in a lot of stores–and for some reason Vintage Vinyl has it in the “local” section even though they’re on a national label (LAME, Vintage!)…but it’s worth seeking out.
  • Leonard Cohen – Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour
    Enjoyable, but that’s about it.  It’s not a full-on album.  It’s stuff recorded during sound-checks, which does include some new material…but the nature of it gives it a dismissable feel…which is kind of a shame.  Should be better than it is.
  • Best Coast – California Nights
    I need to absorb this one more.  I like it, I think…but I keep getting drawn away from it into other new records or concerts I’m going to or whatever.  Not their fault.  I just keep forgetting to listen to it.  But the times I have, I have liked it.
  • The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
    If you need a reason to listen to this other than “it’s a folk-rock record about pro-wrestling,” then I’m not sure if we’re friends.
  • Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
    Really like it.  Fun, punky, angry, and kinda glittery.  Been meaning to investigate them further for years, and this was a great jumping-on point.
  • Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
    I talked about this one in depth in one post or another.  It’s going to be my record of the year, unless something else blows it away–and that might be impossible since that means even JASON ISBELL isn’t going to do it!  It’s a visceral, but lush, sweeping, elegant love letter to “Father John’s” wife.  (Father John, incidentally, is AKA Joshua Tillman from Fleet Foxes.)  It’s beautiful and breathtaking, but the lyrics often get ugly and profane.  Just like being in love. It’s a deeply personal record that should speak to everybody.
  • Wilco – Star Wars
    It was nice to get it for free.  But…look…I’m tired of Wilco.  Ever since getting their own label (which admittedly is only two-albums worth of time) they’ve gotten even weirder than they were, and I’m just exhausted thinking about them.  I really disliked “The Whole Love” and that’s coloring my impressions of this one…  It’s not bad.  It’s just that I’m not the guy it was released for at this point.  Maybe in a couple of years I’ll get back to it and realize what I’m missing out on…it feels like that’s what’s going on here.  Because up until “The Whole Love” I really loved Wilco–Tweedy’s just stretched it thin in the last couple of years, in my opinion.
  • Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
    Lamb of God is the one “cookie monster vocal” metal band I really like.  Good riffs and songs, so I can see past the death-growl.  This is a good one.
  • Craig Finn – Faith in the Future
    Came out yesterday and I already love it.  It’s definitely on the other end of the spectrum from Lamb of God, ha ha…  Craig writes folky-rock songs with a dark-edge to the lyrics.  The first song on the record is about trying to get out of a religious cult.  The last song is called “I Was Doing Fine (Then a Few People Died).” He’s got a “love it or hate it voice” (which I love), but his lyrics can’t be beat–so the sing-talking is almost a must.  (If you’re struggling to place his name, by the way, you might also know him as the lead singer of The Hold Steady–one of my favorite indie bands.)
  • Ben Folds – So There
    Bought it yesterday, too…and haven’t really listened yet.  Had it on the background while cooking last night and it sounds like Ben Folds, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.  Further review pending.
  • Beach House – Cherry Depression
    Really lush-sounding record.  Not overly catchy, but it wasn’t designed to be.  A good “I’ll listen to it while I read” record.

I feel like I’m missing one or two…but this is already a whole lot longer than I thought it would be, so I’m not going to go digging.  Nevertheless, here’s a list of the stuff I either haven’t picked up yet or that isn’t out.  Still hoping to get to these before the end of the year…

  • Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.
  • Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People
  • Anthrax? – I think they’re still supposed to have one this year.
  • Slayer – Repentless – Forgot it was coming out this week!
  • Brent Best – Your Dog, Champ
  • Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before the Sun – Although this one breaks from the narrative of the records so far, I’m looking forward to it.
  • Neil Young (and Promise of the Real) – The Monsanto Years
  • Prince – HITNRUN: Phase One
  • The Libertines – Anthems of Doomed Youth
  • Metric – Pagans in Vegas
  • Kurt Vile – b’lieve I’m goin down…

That’s it.  It wasn’t as quick as I’d hoped, but hope you enjoyed it.

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