New Music Monday – August 22, 2016

Your earholes look lonely. Why don’t you fill them with some of these pieces of music and then rub your eyeholes on the words that I’ve written about them?

Lydia Loveless – Real
Lydia Loveless is a left-field “alt-country” artists who, despite this being her fourth album, I have never heard of. She relies on the over-emphasized drawl employed by so many “outlaw country” artists, which seems a little bit put-on in most cases. A little further digging to hear her speaking voice confirms this. All that being said, I get the impression that her work could be up my alley if it were presented in an unvarnished and straightforward manner. “Longer”, her new album’s first single is not that. It has a pop polish that seems to be begging for mainstream appeal. The clever songwriting turns (of which there are a few in this tune) and any authenticity that her vocal performance may have had are both positively buried by overzealous and production work. It’s a shame, but this introduction has led me to looking into some of her earlier releases, which are a bit more palatable to me. I’m not interested in this new record based on this, and would rather listen to her band covering Echo and the Bunnymen.

Edit: This (very recently released) video from the new record is much more to my taste: https://youtu.be/eraIC6hoYrw

Dolly Parton – Pure and Simple
Guys, I’m not going to slag Dolly Parton. She’s a treasure. I’ll slag whoever designed this album cover, because this looks like a K-Tel release. Dolly’s voice still sounds great, although I’m letting my feelings about cheesy “sincerely spoken” little lines slide a little bit.

Look, this is dorky music for old people, but it’s Dolly fucking Parton and we will give her a pass.

Ed Harcourt – Furnaces
When I was working at a record store in the very-early 2000s, I remember finding Ed Harcourt’s first album in a pile of promotional discs. Upon listening to it, I was reasonably interested – particularly given that it hewed fairly closely to what I was listening to at the time. It landed in the territory of a more indie-edged take on early Radiohead or a Coldplay that wasn’t unlistenable, so I gave the album a few spins. I lost track of Harcourt immediately after, but he’s apparently been working consistently ever since, Furnaces being his eighth release. His work hasn’t changed drastically, if anything seeming slightly more rough-edged on this album. It remains rather intricately arranged piano-centred pop music, and he’s still better than the best that Coldplay can offer. I’m not compelled to seek out the album’s remaining tracks based on this single, but I feel like this is actually quite competent work.

Lisa Hannigan – At Swim
I think that from now on whenever I’m trying to explain to somebody what I mean when I say “You know that voice that every singer uses in soft songs these days?”, I’m just going to pull up this Lisa Hannigan song. This is a quintessential example of the breathy, simultaneously mumbly and hyper-enunciated manner of singing that seems to have been everywhere for the last ten years or more. Not necessarily a slag! I like some artists that sound like this, and I don’t dislike this. The song is actually lovely, and the production is pleasantly stripped-back and dreamy. I’m just saying – if you don’t have any patience for the ubiquitous “whispery voice” affectation, this is going to drive you completely up the wall.

Nels Cline – Lovers
Nels Cline has been Wilco’s lead guitarist ever since Jeff Tweedy kicked out that one fat guy and ruined his life. He’s a pretty spectacular guitar player. From the recent Wilco records that I’ve heard, he’s been responsible for some of the band’s instrumental high-water marks and also responsible for some of their least forgivable forays into jam-band wankery. This album finds Nels and a 22-piece orchestra trotting out some tightly performed jazz numbers, with jazz guitar taking centre stage for much of it. It’s difficult to pass judgment on this, given that it is played so impeccably. I do feel, however, that I was enjoying this track more before the guitar waltzed in and started prancing around like it owned that place.

A whole lot of talent on here that I’ll never listen to again in my life.

Ages and Ages – They Want More
That this exists is perhaps an argument for going back in time and ending The Arcade Fire, The National and Broken Social Scene before they ever had a chance to get started.

Indie music is terrible. Especially when there are 11 people in the band.

Arc Iris – Moon Saloon
I’ll give them this – they’ve come up with an album/song title that makes me want to go to a moon saloon. I’m having a difficult time with this, because it feels kind of interminable and shapeless, but also kind of compelling and… different. I find myself wishing that everything but the chorus were instrumental. This track has me curious as to whether this sound is their consistent aesthetic, or if it’s an outlier. Honestly, points for strangeness on this one.

Edit: I’ve listened to one more track and I can confirm – this band is pretty weird. I might like it. But I’m an asshole, so take that for what it is.

Eddie Levert – Did I Make You Go Ooh
Hahaha. You sure did, Eddie.

Bayside – Pretty Vacant
Remember a few years ago when it seemed like the 90s were back and everybody liked Metz and we were all happy for once? Well it’s a few years later now and the bad 90s are back and they sound like Semisonic mixed with Simple Plan but worse. Their name is Bayside.

Happy Diving – Electric Soul Unity
Wait. Good 90s might be back again. This is very fun and an absolute racket. I’m going to make a note of this and come back to it, but I’m fairly confident that I would have fun seeing this band play a show. An admirable amount of fuzz and spunky delivery!

Pill – Convenience
Wait, no. Now Toronto in the early-2000s is back. But specifically the music from the early 2000s that was throwing back to 80s left-field college rock. I’m probably not smart enough to think that this is good. It sounds like what a bunch of University students from 2002 would argue about at some Toronto bar that doesn’t exist anymore. There’s even a saxophone.

Crystal Castles – Amnesty
…okay, now Toronto in the mid-2000s is back. I’m going to stop now. The way things are going, we’re going to catch up to Toronto in the 2016s and it’ll collapse time and space. This is a Crystal Castles song. They have a new singer, but let’s get real – the real singer of this band is a rack of audio filters. It still sounds like the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, but sad. I’ll bet this sounds great on drugs.

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Author: markmeeks

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