We started off strong with a few fantastic albums in the first 3 1/2 months of the year. Things slowed a bit, with some fine but not great albums, as we moved into summer. So let’s run through some of my favorite albums since April.
Teeth Dreams – The Hold Steady
Beauty & Ruin – Bob Mould
They Want My Soul – Spoon
Brill Busters – The New Pornographers
Each of these albums are exactly what you want from each band. The Hold Steady gives you solid, literate bar rock. Mould again shares the majestic brand of post-punk pop that he’s been cranking out since the early 90s. Spoon offers up a terrific blend of intelligent, indie rock over dancey grooves. And The New Pornographers hit their mark with more epic power pop.
Of these albums, only Spoon’s can challenge for the finest of their career. But in each case, they are well-crafted, “crank it up and enjoy the rock” affairs.
“Spinners” – The Hold Steady
“I Don’t Know You Anymore” – Bob Mould
“Rent I Pay” – Spoon
“Brill Busters” – The New Pornographers
HEAL – Strand of Oaks
An absolute emotional monster of an album. Moments of it are about Indiana native Timothy Showalter’s childhood and the moments when he first discovered music. Others are about lost musical heroes. But the album has its biggest impact in the songs where Showalter lays out the failings in his marriage in great detail. He tells both of his indiscretions and lays out his wife’s infidelities as well. Most of this is done over music that has a strong 1980s vibe. It’s not quite the nostalgia-overload of last year’s brilliant Okkervil River album The Silver Gymnasium. But it’s in the ballpark.
Essential song: “Goshen ’97”
The Voyager – Jenny Lewis
Lewis released this album to enormous praise and press. On my first listen, it didn’t connect with me and I kind of forgot about it. A few weeks later I gave it another shot and fell in love with it. Or at least the first five tracks, which are each stellar and together irresistible. It’s also nice to see a woman doing what men have done for decades: write an album about growing older and the many emotional dilemmas that presents. Of course, men usually do it in their 40s. Lewis, who is still in her 30s, sings of approaching 40 and still being single and childless and the mistakes she’s made along the way that have left her that way. It’s honest, open, and touching.
You can’t write about Lewis without mentioning the Fleetwood Mac, California in the 70s vibe that seems to penetrate most of her music. All of that is very present here, but it sounds fresh and gorgeous rather than recycled and derivative.
Essential song: “Head Underwater”
As I mentioned on last week’s Friday Vid post, I’ve been digging Ryan Adams lately. His 1984 7” collection is fantastic. And this week he released his self-titled full-length album, which fits nicely into the vibe I’ve been digging for awhile. It feels very late 70s, early 80s Springsteen/Petty/Knopfler-ish. Not music I was necessarily listening to back then. But that sound hits me in all the right places now.
Essential songs: “Wolves,” “Gimme Something Good”