Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Breeders - All Nerve

The Breeders are not a band burdened by the idea of a legacy. All Nerve comes ten years after the middling Mountain Battles and is just the band's fifth album in 28 years. It also makes this lineup - the same that recorded 1993's Last Splash - the first to record more than one album (although, including The Amps, everyone involved has appeared in at least one other iteration). Last Splash was commercially successful in large part due to a confluence of factors such as how "Cannonball" fit in perfectly with MTV's alt-rock agenda at the time and British label 4AD doubling down on its decision to sign American artists, but it endures because of Kim Deal's songwriting and the band's musicianship. 25 years later, there's still so much to unpack in "Cannonball", not to mention the sublime power-pop of "Divine Hammer", the batshit dirge "Mad Lucas" and the alternately boiling and simmering "Roi" and its brief reprise, the latter ingeniously placed at the end of the album after a cover of Ed's Redeeming Qualities' country & western song "Drivin' on 9". But for all that, All Nerve is no attempt to replicate past glory.

Free from expectations and historical context, All Nerve is free to take its time. Opening track "Nervous Mary" uses the same slow-fast structure as Last Splash's opener "New Year", and could have been recorded the day after that album's last session, but the album soon carves out its own identity and indulges in slower tempos more than any other Breeders album, never more so than "Dawn: Making An Effort", which creates a wall of noise out of delayed guitar and cymbal splashes. Josephine Wiggs' bass is prominent without being overbearing, and supplies an intangible, nervous energy, but her standout performance is on "MetaGoth", which puts her in front of the mic and pairs her on guitar with Kelley Deal. Co-written by Wiggs and Kim Deal, it recalls Deal's Pixies contribution "Into the White" in tone, but transplanted into darker, plodding Breeders territory and replete with ominous guitar figures. Wiggs' untarnished English accent and deadpan delivery only amplify the effect. A cover of Krautrockers Amon Düül II's  "Archangel's Thunderbird" keeps the album's back half from slipping from languid to sonorous, and is perhaps the highlight for Jim MacPherson, whose raw, spirited drumming has truly been missed. In fact the interplay between these four musicians has been missed, and it's easy to point to them collectively as the proximate cause for All Nerve being the most vital Breeders album in 25 years.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!

A Parquet Courts album produced by Danger Mouse is a no-brainer on paper - the pairing of a band not content to release the same album twice and a producer who's a popular choice for artists looking to switch up their sound. The good news is that Wide Awake! is a triumph in practice. The album revels in previously untapped influences that the band leans into to the point where if, say, "Violence" was the first Parquet Courts song you ever heard, you might well assume that these four white guys were always this indebted to black artists of the past. That one is a rumination on numbness to violence as an unfortunate but necessary response to its prevalence in present day America. Andrew Savage sounds like James Murphy after 12 cups of coffee, while musically it recalls Funkadelic, both in its specifics (especially the pitch-shifted monologue in the final stretch) and the way it makes an inherently bitter pill palatable. Unfortunately the Talking Heads pastiche title track is a bridge too far, which is odd considering how well they sell the almost Jackson 5 bounce of "Tenderness". The idea of weighty themes appealingly packaged is not new to Parquet Courts, but with their most eclectic set of tunes and broadest emotional palette, Wake Up! is the band's most engaging album.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Happy Birthday to the Following Albums (5)

The following albums all have significant birthdays this year.

Happy 5th Birthday, Arcade Fire's Reflektor!

Happy 10th Birthday, The Roots' Rising Down!

Happy 20th Birthday, Mansun's Six!

Happy 25th Birthday, Nirvana's In Utero!

Happy 30th Birthday, The Church's Starfish!

Happy 40th Birthday, Wire's Chairs Missing!

Happy 50th Birthday, The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Axis: Bold As Love!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Top 30 Albums of 2017

30. METZ - Strange Peace

29. No Joy - Creep EP

28. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Sketches of Brunswick East

27. Nathan Oliver - Head in the Sand EP

26. Guided By Voices - August By Cake

25. Beck - Colors

24. David Bowie - No Plan EP

23. Xiu Xiu - Forget

22. J. Zunz - Silente

21. Boris - Dear

20. St. Vincent - Masseduction

19. Iron &Wine - Beast Epic

18. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn - Echo in the Valley

17. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Flying Microtonal Banana

16. Queens of the Stone Age - Villains

15. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Gumboot Soup

14. Guided By Voices - How Do You Spell Heaven

13. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

12. Total Control - Laughing At the System EP

11. Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm

10. Benjamin Booker - Witness

9. Pond - The Weather

8. Spoon - Hot Thoughts

7. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Murder of the Universe

6. Mogwai - Every Country's Sun

5. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

4. Torres - Three Futures

3. Slowdive - Slowdive

                                    2. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 3 (I know it was fucking released 24 December 2016)

1. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

Sex, War & Robots