Two sentence reviews of reasonably new albums I listened to in September:
Various Artists — Wisco: A Wisconsin Tribute to Wilco’s Summerteeth: I love this. I mean it — I love this. Masterminded by Muzzle of Bees’ Ryan Matteson, this is a track-by-track covering of Wilco’s Summerteeth (aka my favorite Wilco album) by local Wisconsin bands, and it’s phenomenal. Some of the covers veer away from Wilco, some veer toward it (The Selfish Gene’s cover of “A Shot In The Arm” is startling and stunning in its channeling of the original), but they’re all serviceable except where they’re great; a brilliant idea, superbly executed, and available for free (but do donate to the Wisconsin Humane Society as thanks, if you like it).
The Old Ceremony — Tender Age: Django Haskins, king of writing super-creepy songs that sound catchy, cheerful and uplifting until you actually listen to the lyrics and then have to wonder if he’s brilliant, mentally disturbed, or brilliant and mentally disturbed. This album is fucking fantastic, for what it’s worth, creeptastic lyrics and all; it has horns, and I didn’t realize that what the Old Ceremony’s thickly swirling pop noir sound wanted for was horns, but apparently it did. (Django is not actually mentally disturbed, to the best of my knowledge.)
Ben Folds & Nick Hornby — Lonely Avenue: eh, it’s not mindblowing, but it’s pretty clever and some of it’s super catchy. Lead single “Levi Johnston’s Blues” is the high mark (and it’s a really high mark, that chorus is the definition of ear worm), and the album’s worth picking up if you’re either a Ben Folds or Nick Hornby completist; it sounds like the album you’d expect them to make, really, clever words and heavily rhythmic piano and drums, and it’s not bad, it’s just not above and beyond anything else they’ve both done separately.
The Fox Hunt — Long Way To Go: clever, superbly well played traditional bluegrass with funny, irreverant and untraditional subject material. One of the best roots albums released this year, and consequently one of those still flying way, way, way under the radar, this is an absolutely flawless album, and if you like banjos and mandolins, you should buy it.
Liam Dailey & the Glass Jars — Not Waving But Drowning: gothic Americana run through a low-fi garage rock filter, I found the discordancy and drive of this to be the most interesting part of the whole thing; the way the vocals don’t quite match up with the drummer, and the guitar lines don’t quite match up with the vocals, and so on and so forth, particularly on the faster rockier tracks but even in the slower, more traditional stuff. It’s all a step off, a little ragged, and it was surprisingly compelling in its off-balance feel.
Film School — Fission: your life needs more Erasure-New Order-Beach House-Wye Oak-esque modern New Wave/electronica complete with the creepiest, dreamiest vocals yet this year, right? Of course it does. Go buy this album; it was the perfect pick-me-up on two different super-grouchy afternoons at work, and you’ll find it impossible to stay pissed off after the first track. Triangle residents, they’re at the 506 tonight, with Millionyoung opening. 9:30, $8. Download lead single “Heart Full of Pentagons” here (right-click-save, etc).
Mike Kelly — Wake The Dead: this is a strong but not extraordinary album in the vein of Hayes Carll or Ryan Bingham, made by a dude who’s clearly talented; it’s good enough, but I’m not going to lie, I’d go to Ryan or Hayes before I’d go to this, if I was in the mood for Texas country. Although I have to admit, the chorus of “All I Wanna Do Is You” made me laugh out loud at work: because lately, baby, all I want to do is you. Hey, at least Kelly’s honest!
Kelly Kneiser — Self-titled EP: two years ago, Glossary released the stunning Better Angels Of Our Nature for free; last year, frontman Joey Kneiser released a stunning solo album for free via Glossary’s website; and this year, Glossary vocalist Kelly Kneiser has gotten into the act, grabbing songs from her favorite songwriters (mostly Murfreesboro residents or ex-residents) and dropping a solo EP of her own. Kelly’s voice is one of my favorite things about Glossary, and this EP shows it off to great effect; it’s full of shiny, edgey roots-pop, the kind of heartwrenching songs that Kelly does best, and, hey, guess what? Because Glossary understands how to build a fanbase and get heard (give things away for free, and be awesome), it’s free, too.