I have friends whose tastes are so mired in the muck of indie rock they don’t hear much outside of it. I even find myself regularly drenched in a swath of bands that won’t last longer than a shower, and this supersaturation always gets me wondering which albums and groups will manage to survive the inevitable whitewash of 95% of all the indie/alterna/emo/postpunk/garage-rock-revival whatever currently circulating and garnering notable critical accolades on tabulators like Metacritic. No matter. What most interests me about my friends’ tastes is the music they’ve inherited from their parents; all have wonderfully diverse loves that constantly surprise and delight me. I love running into Prince-freaks, John Prine devotees, or Buddy Holly boppers. The real pleasantries, though, are those harboring yearnings for little-known bands. How many people still plop The Modern Lovers on their turntable? Who even gives a shit about Rhinoceros anymore? More than I think, probably. Which means even if many bands and records I enjoy now disappear into the ether, small strands will still carry them forth.
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS – Love At the Bottom of the Sea (Merge): Fifteen songs (each running between two and three minutes and collectively under thirty-five) mark Merritt’s funniest and most diverse set of love songs since he compiled sixty-nine of them in ’99 and embarked on his no-synth trilogy. Opens and closes strongly but sags in the middle with the personal humor predictably more appealing than the sadistic: Gonson’s cartoonish voice counterbalances and colors the rather violent “Your Girlfriend’s Face,” though I’ll take “Andrew In Drag” any day of the week because I can imagine Merritt in such a comical predicament. A MINUS
THE SHINS – Port of Morrow (Columbia): “I was born with blood on my hands / And have all the signs of a bleeding heart,” summates James Mercer’s latest album of ten songs coming five years after Wincing the Night Away and two after his Broken Bells venture. Despite how pop-oriented he’s become since ditching the rest of the band, he never wears his heart on his sleeve as baldly as, say, Ben Gibbard, where it’s all hapless boy (not man, boy) pining hopelessly for uptown girl. In Mercer-land, the lovers stay together because both believe the apocalypse is impending. And the apocalypse isn’t a world without each other; it’s actually the end of the world. If it isn’t, expect his next album in 2018 and more Danger Mouse detours along the way. A MINUS