Songs for Songs’ Sake
Lotsa good stuff recently. Always happens that at this time of year I feel overwhelmed by the runoff of late summer releases and the fall schedule, plus the back catalog of stuff I’ve yet to review. Not complaining, though; I have more than enough decent stuff to sort through and have plenty more on the way. 2014 has been a fine, fine year for music.
EX HEX – Rips (Merge): If only all albums were this obvious. Former Helium and ex-Wild Flag guitarist Mary Timony’s trio Ex Hex—named after a solo album she dropped in 2005—deliver a set of twelve clean-cut, pop punk masterpieces, so lean and mean you’d think she’d formed the new Sleater-Kinney (that is, if Sleater-Kinnery weren’t already regrouping). A delectable combination of drummer Laura Harris’s steady rhythms, Betsy Wright’s rumbling bass, and frontwoman Timony’s perfectly-placed guitar streaks, Ex Hex stands alongside last year’s Julie Ruin release or 2011’s Wild Flag as another solid entry in riot grrrl revival: fun, fast-paced, and as plain as the nose on your face. A
TWEEDY – Sukierae (dBpm): Should be no surprise that when Jeff Tweedy mans the helm entirely except for drums (banged out by his 18-year-old son Spencer) that the end product sounds like Wilco-lite. Twenty songs spread over four sides, Tweedy’s talent for tune exerts itself as he mass-produces memorable melodies time and time again, one after the other. And despite irate commenters lashing poor Simon Vozick-Levinson’s Rolling Stone review, I have to say I never pegged Tweedy as much of a wordsmith: “I don’t wanna give in / All is falling / I don’t want to cold out / Trolling / Trolling / Unrolling,” or “So I dance my shoe / Beneath the black balloon,” or “I’ll sing it to you” repeated ad infinitum, hardly the verbal prowess I’d expect from ‘one of America’s most important songwriters.’ Sure, he occasionally has his way with the clever and sweet turn of phrase (“One day I knew I’d be a burden / And you would be my wife”) but you’d do best to let the music inform the lyrics if you’re inclined to give them the time of day. I’m not, and I still like the record all right. A MINUS