From the last 18 months, a bunch of record reviews I didn’t finish writing. You, too, can wonder where they were going! You can try to figure out why I was so bad at blogging last year! You can hope that I am better at this shit next year!
First up, some two sentence reviews from summer 2014:
Stone Jack Jones — Ancestor: the cover of this record is a foggy, moody, black and white shot of, I assume, Jones, in the distance, walking in a field by himself; sometimes people pick out album art that’s perfectly tuned to describe the album even before you listen to a single track. Ancestor is minor key and almost out of tune; his vocals are almost a flat drone, with just enough power and well-placed harmonies to keep them atmospheric and deliciously creepy instead of just creepy. It’s a sonically poignant and pointed record, more focused on the feel of the whole thing than the individual songs, and Ancestor pulls that off extremely well.
Lake Street Dive — Bad Self Portraits: it’s funny; about ten days before this dropped and the music writing world lost their collective fucking minds over it (deserved, but more on that in a minute), I was curled up on Trav’s couch and he was playing me the video where Lake Street Dive covers “I Want You Back” on a Boston sidewalk — the bassist’s brother graduated from college with him. Anyway, it was just proof that Travis is way more plugged in than he thinks, because he introduced me to these guys before the whole internet tried to. (He wants you to know that he saw them play the 7th Street Entry in 2006. Indie cred!) This is a great record, too, just like everybody says — it’s modern torch songs with punk rock drums and tongue-in-cheek self-awareness. The title track is completely my theme song.
John Howie Jr & The Rosewood Bluff — Everything Except Goodbye: so, you know, John Howie Jr, he’s been making fucking excellent country records that don’t get national notice for, oh, like, twenty years now. This is another one, with his post-Two Dollar Pistols band, and it is, again, a fucking excellent country record that not enough people will hear. The Rosewood Bluff are the cream of the Triangle crop in terms of backing bands, and this twangs and smokes all over with John’s voice aching through the broken hearted songs of love and loss and more loss and then some drinking.
Dave Hause — Devour: okay, this came out last year, hence “reasonably” new, but, my God, it’s good. Dave’s mournful howl over churning drums and loads of guitars, Devour is far less stripped down than Hause’s debut solo Resolutions, but it’s equally as devastating. It’s filled with phrases like I promise and words like better and feelings like regret and hope and heartbreak. I really can’t get over how true my mantra that everything needs more Dave Hause is, but listening to this album just makes me centered, and calm. I might not feel better, but I feel less like spinning out into the universe out of control. I don’t know if that actually tells you anything about Devour, but it’s loud and fierce and it fights against giving up with everything’s it’s got. So maybe it does.
Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien: I’m not sure how I feel about this record, even after a couple of times through; it has the same kind of big feeling that Gee was good at with My Chem, but it’s way less … cinematic in its bigness? The guitar sounds are rougher and less melodic, the vocals are hidden behind the soundscape a little more, and overall, I think it’s a pretty good album, but I’m not sure that I like it, necessarily. I didn’t need Gerard Way to make me the next My Chemical Romance record, but I’m also not sure this is the record I did need from him. On the other hand, “Brother” is one of my favorite songs of 2014. So what do I know?
Noah Gundersen – Ledges: start to finish gorgeous heartbreaking alt folk. One of the best records of 2014.
And now, my thoughts on the Gaslight Anthem’s Get Hurt:
“This is either a supreme Jersey punk record about heartbreak, or a really supreme Jersey punk concept record about vampires. I haven’t decided which one yet.”
That’s what I said to Trav back over the summer, the night I got my review copy of Get Hurt, and I only sort of meant it: it is, obviously, a supreme Jersey punk record about heartbreak, not vampires, but seriously, before I get into this review, go listen to it and think about vampires and you will find them all over this album. I’ve improved your listening to this spectacular record 1000% elephants with this. I promise.
Now that you’re not thinking about vampires any more, think about the Gaslight Anthem’s Get Hurt, their 5th studio album, the “different” record, according to lead singer Brian Fallon. Gaslight, and Brian, are, obviously, one of my favorite topics — one of my favorite bands, one of my favorite songwriters, and I am usually quick to jump on writing about their new stuff. This one, though, was in fact different for me. I listened to Get Hurt endlessly over the summer after its release, mostly late at night, mostly on headphones, mostly in the dark. And I didn’t write about it because some weird different part of my brain said that if I didn’t write about it, it only belonged to me. If I didn’t write about it, I didn’t have to share it with anyone else.
A single paragraph about Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material, which I really, really loved:
I suppose that someone with no taste could level the accusation at Kacey Musgraves’ sophomore album that it’s simply more of the same tongue in cheek mind your own business observational country songwriting that made Same Trailer, Different Park so much fun, and sure, maybe that’s the case. “Biscuits” definitely has that flavor, but so what? That’s what Musgraves does well, and if that’s all she wanted to do, I’d still be buying her records and enjoying the hell out of them. But after a couple of listens, Pageant Material is a lot more than that, as well. It’s still tongue in cheek observational country songwriting, but there’s even more depth, and thus bite, to it, although it bites in some different directions than Trailer did.
2016: let’s actually finish things.