Old Curiosity Shopping
Kinda threw this together, mostly to clear out my cache and put aside albums I know I’ll never get around to listening to regardless of how many times I tell myself I will. Was pretty on the fence about Eno & Hyde, a nice album whose vocals finally put me off enough to demote it. Still recommended to you, listener; I just won’t be buying a copy, is all.
BRIAN ENO & KARL HYDE – High Life (Warp): Famed producer and new wave artiste Brian Eno and Underworld frontman Karl Hyde (?) move their way through polyrhythmic Talking Heads could-have-beens, mechanistic instrumentals, and extended semi-spiritual trances. The best and longest track, “Lilac,” starts with a Radiohead beat and expands into a Neu! highway jam with vocals soaring for the skies, even if they’re a bit stilted. Singers they’re not, but like any electronic artists obsessed with repetition, they realize evolution of tune is vital when half your tracks run over eight minutes. If you sat me down in a chair and forced me to listen beginning to end without something for my hands to do, sure, maybe I’d crack. But this works as background music, audial wallpaper, allowing you to drop in for a robotic dance or nasal singalong whenever you like, an electronic hour engineered for our occasional attention in a state of perpetual distraction. (“Lilac”) ***
KOOL & KASS – Coke Boys 5 (bandcamp download): Within one day in Berlin, our heroes (“Kool AD, best rapper in the world. I’m here with Kassa Overall, best rapper in the world”) managed to sample Wu-Tang and Young Thug, dismissively diss Drake (“How come Drake say he started from the bottom, but, um, he really didn’t, though?”) and endlessly trip snippets of Maybach Music self-identification. ***
VIET CONG – Cassette (Mexican Sunset): Canadian collective featuring a few ex-Women members, lo-fi aesthetes careening between Byrds-esque processions and Strawberry Fields-era Beatles, lovers of time signature switcharoos. (“Throw It Away”) **
COURTNEY BARNETT – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (Marathon Artists): Spirited performance by too-clever Australian collecting her first two works. At nearly an hour, I wonder if these didn’t function better as their own pieces. Since when was 30 mins too short for a regular release? **
ALVVAYS – Alvvays (Polyvinyl): Canadian indie pop outfit halfvvay between jingle-jangle guitar and synth vvhitevvash. Lead singer Molly Rankin sings notes but does not inflect, if you can imagine, a tendency in indie circles that makes me vvary. VVearying as such trends can be, they sneak in a fevv vvhoppers; the pulsating “Adult Diwersion,” the pop punch “Next of Kin.” As predicted, they load the first half vvith the good stuff, dump the filler in the rear. (“Adult Diversion”) **
NICOLE ATKINS – Slow Phaser (Oh’Mercy!): Singer/songwriter’s third album, a bit funkier than her last. Gets as close as she ever will to the dancefloor with “Girl You Look Amazing,” postulates what “Cool People” mean to her, even though undoubtedly she partly considers herself in that crowd. Will never be Jenny Lewis, that much is certain. (“Girl You Look Amazing”) *
FUCKED UP – Glass Boys (Matador/Arts & Crafts): Shorter and less melodic than their epic David Comes to Life. And yet as much as I want to like them, Pink Eyes’s vocal styling (I MEAN SCREAMING, YOU FUCK) is too much for me to bear. (“Led By Hand”) *
PHANTOGRAM – Voices (Republic): Novelty NY electronica duo with a few songs that stuck in my head all the way back when: “Mouthful of Diamonds” and “Futuristic Casket” in particular. This follow-up—nearly five years later—fails in further development. Neither Carter nor Barthel have strong enough vocals to distinguish (like comparable electro-pop/rock Future Islands), and their sound is a dime a dozen. But what the fuck do I know? Eyelid Movies didn’t chart, and this peaked at #11. *
PAPERCUTS – Life Among the Savages (Memphis Industries/Easy Sound): Enjoyed their 2011 album, especially for the opener “Do You Really Wanna Know?” Much of that album sounded similar but with less gusto. Same here. Pleasant, but in service of what? *
THE ORWELLS – Disgraceland (Atlantic): Superyoung Chicagoan punk quintet, fairly apolitical, especially given their name. *
ELBOW – The Takeoff and Landing of Everything (Concord): Nice British blokes, their sincerity sappy but smarter than Chris Martin’s, yet I can’t help but snooze through their superballads. (“The Takeoff and Landing of Everything”) *
RAY LAMONTAGNE – Supernova (RCA): Producer Dan Auerbach squirts out a slow, soulful fuzz set. LaMontagne sought him out, for some reason. *
JACK WHITE – Lazaretto (Third Man): For all the fancy tricks White implanted into his beloved vinyl, he would have done better to invest that time crafting tunes that don’t peter out before they begin. First track aside, this is an increasingly patience-grinding affair in which we find White liking women even less than we thought he already did. I’m sure some dip has spent time detailing the diminutive differences of every possible way to experience this record, but I seriously doubt switching RPM is markedly remarkable enough to warrant it. (“Three Women”)
Beck Song Reader (Capitol): Ever wondered if Beck’s 2012 ‘album’ of sheet music was any good? Just listen to his friends. They certainly don’t do him any favors.
ERIC CHURCH – The Outsiders (EMI Nashville): Church is a bit too old to be the protagonist Hinton had in mind, nor does he strike me as a greaser. Maybe there are lyrics in there somewhere, but I never liked Church’s hick rock enough to wade in past my ankles.
COMMON – Nobody’s Smiling (Def Jam): True enough.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE – Supermodel (Columbia): I feel bad for Mark Foster. He wasn’t ready to have a viral hit, probably couldn’t predict his own one-hit-wonderness, and now critics are unfairly thrashing this sophomore ‘slump.’ So no, it never had potential to be a masterpiece, but it’s not the suckfest everyone makes it out to be, and it can’t be, because this band was never good enough to fall from grace in the first place. Their hit wasn’t even good. So what did you expect? The most offensive thing about this album is how boring it is. And still, I could name ten albums receiving critical acclaim that I hate far more than this.
PROTOMARTYR – Under Cover of Official Right (Hardly Art): Murky punk in minor keys, words that are probably there but hard to make out. Like Dead Kennedys only way worse.
REAL ESTATE – Atlas (Domino): True to their name, a terrible investment.
NEIL YOUNG – A Better Home (Third Man): Wherein Young records even more Americana-y tunes inside Jack White’s broom closet with a walkie-talkie and tissue box stringed with rubber bands.