Column 332: 2Q’11 CD Reviews – The Favorites; Live Review: Jeremy Messersmith; M.O.T.O., Digital Leather tonight…
Column 332: 2Q 2011 Report: Winners and Sinners
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
All that sweat and pain just so some snide motherf**ker with a set of headphones can boil it down to a few sentences. Was it all worth it? Below, a summary of notable 2Q’11 releases:
Absolutely must buy:
The Rosebuds, Loud Planes Fly Low (Merge) — They used to be known as “the husband-and-wife duo of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp,” but rock has a way of driving people apart, and the couple split in ’09. The result is dense, trippy, atmospheric, lost and found, a reinvention, a triumph, and one of the best rock albums of the year.
Fucked Up, David Comes to Life (Matador) — By taking a step away from hardcore toward hard rock they now have more in common with Thin Lizzy and The Hold Steady than Black Flag and Minor Threat, and we all win for it, thanks to huge, fat guitar lines and — get this — melodies. Don’t worry, ol’ Pink Eyes still sounds like he gargled with broken glass. Essential.
tUnE yArDs, w h o k i l l (4AD) — Night and day is the difference between this and the unlistenable debut Bird-Brains. Our protagonist, Merrill Garbus, has gone from experimental noodling to full-on (indie) dance rock that owes a debt to early Talking Heads and thick, hard, urban beats.
The Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol) — Worthy of the hype, they haven’t sounded this “fresh” since Paul’s Boutique, even though their bouncing style of hip-hop is destined to be classified as “old school” by today’s young gangstas. I’ll reach for this over Big Sean, Jay-Z and Kanye every time, but maybe that just betrays my age. The finest three opening tracks of any album so far this year.
Well Aimed Arrows, Adult Entertainment (unreleased) — Intelligent punk with big-shoulder swing, dissonant male/female harmonies, jangling ringing electric guitars, sing-along choruses and a straight-four beat. Best lyrics of any band going, period. What more do you want? Too bad you can’t buy a copy, yet…
EMA, Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions) — With the opening line of “California,” (Fuck California, you made me boring) Erika M. Anderson positions herself as this generation’s Chan Marshall (the Moon Pix one), Liz Phair (the good one) and PJ Harvey (the one that wants to bathe in milk).
Virgin Islands, Ernie Chambers V. God (The Control Group) — The finest effort of former Omahan Mike Jaworski’s fabled career (The Cops), and the first one that I can and will unequivocally endorse. More rock than punk, his big guitars are tempered with big melodies and thrum-thrum drums. Come back to Omaha, lad.
SBTRKT, self-titled (Young Turks) — Dubstep electronic debut by London DJ Aaron Jerome is a midnight-beat wonderland made for dance floors or runways or headphones. He sets the stage for lush guest vocalists (Sampha, Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagona, Roses Gabor) with a sound that is dreamy and dense infused with sharp bits of bright, bright lights.
The Unthanks, Last (Rough Trade) — Sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank blend gorgeous harmonies around gorgeous British folk and gorgeous acoustic arrangements for an album that is revelatory and triumphant as it is reflective and mournful. Music for the morning after, or the afternoon.
Memphis, Here Comes a City (Arts & Crafts) — From the people who brought you Stars (Torquil Campbell) and Metric (Chris Dumont) comes a collection of finger-snapping happy modern pop songs with lines like “I know, it’s the end of the world today, because we said so,” sung (presumably) with a smile.
Washed Out, Within and Without (Sub Pop) — A reimagining of the best parts of ’80s and ’90s indie dance routines (Depeche Mode, New Order) wrapped in a modern chillwave package that’s better than chillwave. Actually, how ’bout we deep-six that whole chillwave label once and for all?
Pantha Du Prince, XI Versions of Black Noise (Rough Trade) — Interesting takes on his Black Noise, but not as good as the original.
Art Brut, Brilliant! Tragic! (Cooking Vinyl) — A little of these guys goes a long way, but worth it if only for “Bad Comedian” and “Axl Rose.”
Zomby, Dedication (4AD) — Throbbing dubstep masterwork whose bite-size smaller tracks are true highlights.
Cold Cave, Cherish The Light Years (Matador) — Explosive follow-up to the better Lover Comes Close, shattering and sometimes shrill but never boring.
Friendly Fires, Pala (XL) — We used to call this club music. A celebration.
Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (Matador) — Thurston with his blue guitar tries his hand at recreating Beck’s Sea Change, and (for the most part) succeeds.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Belong (Slumberland)
The Rural Alberta Advantage, Departing (Saddle Creek)
The Felice Brothers, Celebration Florida (Fat Possum)
The Twilight Singers, Dynamite Steps (Sub Pop)
Psychedelic Horshit, Laced (FatCat)
Colourmusic, My __ Is Pink (Memphis Industries)
Do Not Pass Go
The Bell, Great Heat (Badman Recording Co.)
Paper Cuts, Fading Parade (Sub Pop)
Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys (Polydor / Fiction)
Micachu & The Shapes, Chopped & Screwed (Rough Trade)
GIVERS, In Light (Glassnote)
* * *
Jeremy Messersmith, who played a set last night at Slowdown Jr. with a 3-piece backing band that included cello and keyboards, is where Matthew Sweet was around the time his third album, Earth, was released in 1989. Despite being signed to a major label, Sweet, a native if Lincoln, NE, was an unknown commodity who was writing some of the best hook-filled pop songs that were heard by virtually no one. Then came 1991’s Girlfriend, and everything changed. Not only was it a commercial breakthrough, it would end up being Sweet’s high-water mark, one of the best pop albums of the ’90s.
Both Sweet and Messersmith are masters of the pop hook. Earth was Sweet’s third album. The Reluctant Graveyard is Messersmith’s third album. There are two striking differences: 1) The Reluctant Graveyard is a better record than Earth, and 2) The music industry that launched Sweet in 1991 no longer exists. Is it even possible in this day when artists simply give away their music online for Messersmith to break through to that Girlfriend level? I guess it all depends on how good Messersmith’s next album is.
This is a meandering way of saying that Messersmith deserves that level of national attention based not only on his previous records but especially on last night’s performance. Though entertaining as a solo acoustic artist using a series of digital looping pedals (as he did last time he played at Slowdown), it doesn’t compare to what we saw and heard last night with his amazing band. His songs were “filled out” to a level even better than heard on Messersmith’s painstakingly detailed recordings.
No one these days sings quite like him (his voice is high and sweet and clear), or writes pop songs that are so, well, perfect. Perfect little pop songs. Is there still a market for such things? If so, Messersmith is sitting on a goldmine.
* * *
Tonight at The Brother’s Lounge it’s the return of Masters of the Obvious, more frequently referred to as M.O.T.O. I’m told Mr. Caporino will be backed tonight by a certain local punk rocker whose last performance involved a mele at O’Leaver’s. Playing right before M.O.T.O., our very own Digital Leather. Also on the bill are Worried Mothers and Prairies. All for a right price of just $5. Show starts at 9 p.m.
It’s not the only show happening tonight. The Photo Atlas returns to O’Leaver’s with Little Brazil and The Noise FM. $5, 9:30.
Also tonight, Bazooka Shootout plays at The Waiting Room with Capgun Coup and Kyle Harvey. $7, 9 p.m.
Too bad we can’t be in three places at one time, eh?
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.