Introducing John Congleton
This producer has had an incredible and under-appreciated career. He’s worked with Annie Clark since Actor, helped The Walkmen reach their peak with 2010’s Lisbon, and has worked with artists ranging from The Mountain Goats to Clinic to Jens Lekman to Modest Mouse. And here he’s produced both albums up for review.
CLOUD NOTHINGS – Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark): Dylan Baldi drives his Cleveland outfit into thirty-odd intensity-overdriven minutes, a singular emo shot favoring volume and speed over melodies and riffs, so don’t expect anything as distinguished as “No Future/No Past” or “Stay Useless.” So without tunes we’re 0 for 1. Where Attack On Memory occasionally featured accidental insights on existential crises, these battering ram unballads are clearly about Baldi’s split with a girl; I wouldn’t say I’m any great expert on love, but lines like “You’re not the same as me but I know we share a thing” from opener “Now Hear In” do little to convince me a shredder four years my junior has anything interesting to say about the subject. So without words we’re 0 for 2. Pitchfork loved it more than Attack On Memory. We’re 0 for 3. B PLUS (**)
ST. VINCENT – St. Vincent (Republic): In 2012 I opined that Byrne should’ve taken the backseat to Annie Clark, as the goofy horn-laden arrangements suited her brand of vocal and phrasal quirk better than the aging ex-Talking Heads frontman. Clark has carried the same aesthetic of that duo disc to her self-titled fourth, abandoning the soft, hollow-voiced, clockwork arrangements I so enjoyed on the humble Actor. All said, this has more groove than her previous work, hitting the ground running with “Rattlesnake,” which serves as intro to her nature vs. network scuffles: “Am I the only one in the only world?” she wonders wandering naked in the desert. But the real juice is in single “Digital Witness,” where Clark reinserts the horns (lyrically and musically) to observe that “People turn the TV on / It looks just like a window.” Her apprehension towards interconnectedness is summed up thus: “If I can’t show it if you can’t see me / What’s the point of doing anything?” It’s a strange world where everyone knows they’re always being watched. Smile for the cameras, ladies and gents; St. Vincent knows if you’ve been naughty or nice. A MINUS