Two sentence reviews of reasonably new albums I listened to in October.
The Old 97s — The Grand Theatre Vol. 1: bright twang in the music from Satellite Rides, dark subject material from Drag It Up, now with more Dylan. Where Blame It On Gravity grabbed me right away, I think this is one that’s going to take some listening, and some thinking. Additional sentence from my dear friend Rocket: “I think Champaign, Illinois literally is Desolation Row.” BLOWS YOUR MIND, RIGHT?
Nellie McKay — Home Sweet Mobile Home: there’s something oddly creepy about this album, a minor key shift and slither of horns and distorted guitar that raised the hairs on my arms the first time I listened to it, but somehow it all works underneath McKay’s sultry, slinky vocals. It’s a solid album start to finish, not outstanding but enjoyable, but the real gems are the Dixieland swing of “Dispossessed” and the Latin-flavored horns of “Bodega!”; I always like McKay better uptempo than downtempo.
Thea Gilmore — Murphy’s Heart: this sounds so much like the dark, shuddering, slinky blues-country of Thea’s 2001 album Rules for Jokers, which is otherwise known as one of my top five favorite albums of all time and space. I’ve loved things that Thea’s done in between that and this, but not as much as I love this one. Wow.
Moondoggies — Tidelands: file under “what happens when Band of Horses’ songwriting meets the Drive-By Truckers’ guitars”. I bet these guys are amazing wall-of-sound brain-melting live.
The Extra Lens — Undercard: It’s like lo-fi-era Mountain Goats songwriting meets hi-er-fi-era Mountain Goats production, and it is John Darnielle & Franklin Bruno, so it is good.
The Thermals — Personal Life: straight up super catchy indie guitar pop; listening to this album makes me really sad that I missed their show at Kings on 10/16, but on the other hand, if I’d gone to that show, I probably would have fallen over dead with exhaustion on the Monday after, so maybe it’s best that I didn’t. Damn, I bet they’re great live, though.
Various Artists — Subterranean Homesick Blues: A Tribute to Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home: think Dylan-goes-electric run through the Brooklyn indie rock fuzzy guitars filter. Interesting, with some killer tracks, but by far not the best tribute album of the year.
American War — Rhetoric: twangy folk with a punk-driven aesthetic undertone to it; thoughtful and catchy in an unusual way that I can’t quite pin down. Recommended if you like Blitzen Trapper, Hoots & Hellmouth, Two Cow’s more acoustic stuff, and it’s available for free or donation here if it sounds like your speed.
This was going to be the final installment of Two Sentence Reviews for 2010, but I still have about 10 other new albums to listen to, plus a half-finished “Two Sentence Reviews of EPs That I Somehow Always Feel Guilty About Comparing To Full-Lengths” post banging around in my WordPress drafts. So one more, in November, and then on December 1, I shall sit down and commence listening to my 2010 playlist in alphabetical order for the purposes of making a top 25 list.
All that means is that somewhere around ‘M’ I will probably swear off new music forever and decide that in 2011, all I am listening to is old Rolling Stones albums. A resolution that will last until the second Tuesday in January.