Love and Commercials
Been on a pretty good roll with the Record Bulletins. I’d really like to do a large album dump soon, but that would require me updating my log, and that’s always more intimidating and upsetting the further I go without doing it. I find myself still falling behind on albums I should hear, but since I’m not trying to keep breakneck speeds to stay even with the field I don’t mind it as much. Had I continued my habits from last year, it’s quite likely one (or both) of these albums would have been relegated to Honorable Mentions.
HAMILTON LEITHAUSER – Black Hours (Ribbon Music): Really didn’t expect a strong recommendation on this one after the lackluster Heaven and a few uninspired listenings, but the (ex?)Walkmen frontman’s solo debut serves as an accessible entry point for the uninitiated and a distillation of the Brooklyn boozer crew’s aesthetic for established fans. Though as you’d expect, it’s not too distanced from the sound that’s defined him and his (ex?)bandmates’ work for over a decade—it’s lighter, more to the point, more concerned with putting Leithauser’s Nilsson-esque howl front and center than the jingle-jangle guitar. “Alexandra” is high-octane pop, a simple love song polar opposite to “The Rat.” He turns the hokey idea of imitating doo-wop (“I Retired”) and makes it jokey. Even his better ballads (“Bless Your Heart”) don’t get hung up on dry metaphor, opting for obviousness that complements the music’s obviousness. But the crown jewel here is “I Don’t Need Anyone,” a wonderfully contradictory Jens Lekman-like could-be lost track from their pinnacle Lisbon. And that’s kind of the summation of this lone excursion; not enough to be a definitive solo statement, good enough to nestle alongside the best of his (ex?)group’s previous work. A MINUS
OUGHT – More Than Any Other Day (Constellation): Singer/guitarist Tim Beeler’s rag-tag alt-punk band of Quebecois-dwelling college-age Americans and accompanying Aussie just want to revel in delight (or really, ‘your lies’), albeit a peculiar kind: “Today, more than any other day / I am prepared to make a decision between 2% and whole milk,” attached to which is an increasingly galloping rhythm and bizarrely proud consumerist declarations. So it’s the lyrics—and to a lesser extent Beeler’s vocal cracks and the band’s fluctuations between schizo tip-toeing and carnal brutality—that solidify any David Byrne/Talking Heads reference. They retain a playful, nonplussed stance between the physical and the abstract, meta-commentary articulating the frustration of inarticulateness (“Is there something you are trying to express? / And you can’t get on without it”), have a penchant for self-revealing non-sequiturs (“Tell me what the weather’s like / so I don’t have to go outside / And I’ll shut up and spend the week inside my head”). Explicitly political punk it isn’t, but Beeler’s brand of mediating directionless restlessness with soundbites that signify (like genuine excitement at the prospect of grocery shopping) subverts cheap irony for something greater. What is that ‘something greater’? “Something you believe in / but you can’t touch it / and you can’t hold it.” A