The last week of 2008? Surely today's wonderful record industry has saved the best for last!
But no, unless you are a fervent fan of Front 242 reissues and the always charming Richard Simmons--whose new DVD Supersweatin': Party Off The Pounds admittedly sounds captivating--there's really not much new in the way of music product in stores this week. For that matter, there are fewer stores than ever now, too! It's great!
So why not wind the year up with a heady recap of what I, the writer, consider to be the year's most interesting albums?
Oddly enough, because this blog focuses on the week's hottest new releases, I often forego the opportunity to write about records that are actually good!
Therefore, as an added bonus, I've listened to nearly all of these!
Beangrowers: Not In A Million Lovers (Minty Fresh) When it comes to three-piece, female-led combos from Malta, you can't beat the Beangrowers! They've been around for a bit, but their most recent album combines throbbing rock, booming bass, and the fine guitars and vocals of Miss Alison Galea--and the overall effect is of intense, sexually-charged material of the sort the Throwing Muses once attempted, weakly, and a coyness and maturity reflecting a more contemporary combination of, say, the Motels' Martha Davis and Curved Air's Sonja Kristina! Just what the world's been waiting for! Witty song titling--check out "Good Band Bad Name" and "Life's A Bitch Then She Sings In Your Band"--catchy tunes, and an underlying respect for the intelligence of their audience: They'll never fly!
Little Jackie: The Stoop (S-Curve) I would've never expected one of my favorite records of the year to be the work of Imani Coppola, whose previous solo album was not exactly a personal humdinger. But together with multi-instrumentalist Adam Pallin, the pair have created a marvelous, sassy, retro-feeling album loaded with melody and smart-ass wordiness that evokes personality like nothing else I've heard all year. It's quite good!
Darker My Love: 2 (Dangerbird) A great second album by one of America's finest bands, these LA dudes have a knack for evoking many of the best hipster bands--the Byrds, the Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine--but never sounding the slightest bit imitative, which in today's vaporous times is not easy. Additionally, they have been known to cover Can! In short: On the path to greatness!
Momus: Joemus (American Patchwork) His first album in a few years--and a collaboration, at that, with Glasgow "breakcore" musician Joe Howe--Joemus is as creative an effort as any Nick Currie (that's Momus!) has recorded, which means it's spectacular. To the uninitiated, this stuff will appear to be a batch of witty and intelligent songs sonically "played with" to musical effect; to the initiated, it will sound exactly the same way! That's part of its charm! Momus continues to grow more as an artist with each album, there are very few others out there with a fraction of his creativity, and if you haven't heard him, you're missing something very good.
Rosebuds: Life Like (Merge) Hard to precisely spell out the exact appeal of this terrific North Carolina band; the songs are moody and hummable, the melodies just quirky enough to sound fresh, and the overall character--interesting ones being in short supply--is warm, friendly, quite unique. Throw one of these songs on a movie soundtrack and money will be made!
Robert Forster: The Evangelist (Yep Roc) The first solo album from Forster since his friend and Go-Betweens co-founder Grant McLennan died, The Evangelist is a solid and emotional package that evokes the best work of Forster's former band. Containing three songs co-written with McLennan, the disc is mature, compelling, and addictive listening. One of the year's highlights, and a worthy addition to his band's marvelous legacy.
El Goodo: Coyote (Grease) OK, well I feel like I'm cheating since this record isn't officially out for a few weeks, but I've had the advance for two months and have been playing it more than most other new releases, so give me a break. They're Welsh, it's their second album, they obviously copped their name from the Big Star song, and if you ever enjoyed Teenage Fanclub or the Pooh Sticks during their creative peak, you might be inclined to like this, too. Excellent stuff.
Mercury Rev: Snowflake Midnight (Yep Roc) Their best album since Deserter's Songs was released 10 years ago, this shows New York's Mercury Rev continuing to grow--merging electronics and rhythms with atmospheric lyrics and mood in a way that few others have managed halfway as interestingly. They remain underrated; this is a gem.
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular (Columbia) Kudos to this NY duo for breaking through both critically and commercially with a package that--I'm sorry--can't help reminding me of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark whenever I hear it. But that's OK! They've crossed genres and generations with this debut--which appeals to nearly anyone who hears it and is actually up for a
Grammy--and I wish them great success.
Van Morrison: Keep It Simple (Lost Highway) Was reminded of Morrison's greatness at the Hollywood Bowl a few weeks back when he performed Astral Weeks live, but this unassuming disc--his latest of a few dozen--served as an earlier reminder. With tasteful, bluesy backing, Morrison sang about not going to nightclubs anymore, actually used the word "entrainment" in a song title, and best of all, happily sang these self-penned lyrics: "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah/
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah/ Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" Hey, I know exactly how he feels! Bye!