New World Travelers
A busy work schedule makes it hard to write, even harder to find adequate time to listen to music, so no Honorable Mentions and such this time. Later today or maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to scribble some sort of comment on the election, albeit most everything worth saying has been said and the right won’t be budged from their perpetual doom-a-thon. For now, I’ll simply state I’m glad Obama won. There are plenty of criticisms I levy against the guy, but comparing to Romney, well… Ask yourself: what’s it mean when you catch yourself missing Bush?
JENS LEKMAN – I Know What Love Isn’t (Secretly Canadian): Cut for cut, this is the best album I’ve heard all year. That Lekman’s perfectly-paced arrangements can feature schmaltzy strings and hokey horns yet gracefully slip from upbeat to melancholy, roll out one masterful melody after the other, and have humor even at their most poignant without blurring the sentiment with too-easy irony is admirable in so many ways. Not hard to see, though, why this might be marked as a self-pity party; were it not for guilty admissions like “No one’s born an asshole / Takes a lot of hard work / And God knows I’ve worked my ass off / Just to be a jerk,” Lekman could come off like a Ben Gibbard nice guy prettyboy who can’t figure out his self-inflicted misery. So yeah, maybe he is just one more doof in a long line unable to adequately posit what love is, but he’s gunning for definition by negation and does better than most; love fights, it doesn’t quiver, and every one of Lekman’s paramours waffles too much to stake the claim. And for the record, I quite like those schmaltzy strings and hokey horns. Quite a lot, actually. An album with this title would be even hokier had he left them out. A
M. WARD – A Wasteland Companion (Merge): Ward’s seventh studio outing is short enough that the lags don’t last long and the anchoring folk pieces remind me on my way in and out why I put it on—something I don’t say often about folk pieces. His shrugged-off profundities like “Clean Slate” where it’s hard to tell if he’s professing his fickleness or his maturity suit him better than metaphor-laden ‘poetry’ like “Me and My Shadow.” Twelve songs. Eighteen musicians. Eight studios. Thirty-six minutes. And it still sounds like something he laid down in a weekend. For better and worse, not or. B PLUS