Here it is. Part deux. Big year. This is the part of the list where it gets real. Do people still say that? Well, they do here. Or, as I’d say in a work e-mail, “Please see below:”
Craig Finn – Faith In The Future
The studio sent a car to collect me
When the driver dropped me off at the lot
He said he’d never forget me
The publicist picked up lunch again
I had Pabst and some pemmican.”
You can’t really write an review of a Craig Finn album without quoting some lyrics. It’s like talking about Shakespeare without doing the same. It’s the whole point. Don’t get me wrong. The band backing Finn on his second solo outing is solid as well. But the lyrics to his songs are always the exciting part. By the time you get to “Sandra from Scranton,” you know you’re in the middle of a great album. Still more to dig through with this one. Looking forward to repeat listens.
Guy Garvey – Courting The Squall
I never saw a Guy Garvey solo album coming. I’m not sure why. I thought the last Elbow album was sort of a return to form, albeit a quieter one. But Garvey changes it up a bit on his first solo effort. The only way I can think to describe it is the well-worn descriptor, eclectic. From the moment “Angela’s Eyes” hits the speakers, this is something different. It’s Garvey doing what’s in his head and not through the democracy of his band, Elbow. The second real gut punch of a song for me is “Belly of the Whale.” It sounds to me like a tale of house ownership gone wrong. I’m not sure why it connects but it does. And I’m not a homeowner. A solid first step as a solo artist.
El Vy – Return to the Moon
Matt Berninger is the consummate hipster. Look at those glasses, hair and white jeans. His other band, the National, cosied up to the President back in the day and now he’s gone off and made another album with some guy who I don’t know and am too lazy to look up. (Berninger, that is. Not Obama.)
While not as solid as the Britt Daniel side project, Divine Fits, this album leaves the same sort of taste on the palate. It’s the sound of the frontman of a lauded band whose sound has grown sameish reaching out to find a new muse. He finds it here. Just his description of his green collared shirt sounds like nothing the National would have ever put to tape. It suits the hipster vibe well. I assume they wear a lot of shirts like that.
Tame Impala – Currents
Where to begin with this one? It was so hyped that just about everything that can be said about it has been said. I’ve seen it described as the same magnitude of stylistic change that U2 made between Rattle and Hum and Achtung Baby. While that may be overstating it a bit, it kind of works.
But the thing is, the album cover looks exactly like how the album sounds. Like the cover? You might just like the record. Oh, and if you want to see a bit live, have a look at this link
. “Let it Happen” is probably the song of the year for me. Just writing it in this post ensures that I’ll have it in my head for the rest of the day.
Metric – Pagans In Vegas
Oh, Emily Haines and Co., you are my guilty pleasure. A synth-pop band fronted by a female singer. You don’t get any less macho. But I love this album. I haven’t given much thought as to why but something tells me it’s sound profile lies somewhere in the same range as a long-time 80’s favorite, XTC. It sounds nothing like that band though, save for a synth or two. The band deliver a earworm of a single in the form of “The Shade.” (Oops, “Let it Happen.” You’ve been replaced.) It’s a crime that this tune doesn’t sit along the current day offerings on pop radio.
There’s one other thing about this album. I might not have listened to it quite as much without my 8-year-old daughter proclaiming them “her favorite band” from the back seat. Kid’s got taste.
Blur – The Magic Whip
Blur’s back together. They recorded this one in Hong Kong. Damon Albarn could touch dog poop and it would turn to gold. This one serves as an excellent warm-up to the supposed new Gorillaz record next year. Bring. It. On.
Josh Rouse – The Embers Of Time
I listen to this album late at night, usually after my wife has gone to bed. It’s nice to hear the musings of another dad who travels too much, worries about day-to-day family stuff and sees the passage of time as something that goes by at jaw-dropping velocity. It also helps that when I met him at Alexandria, VA’s Birchmere a couple of years ago, he signed albums for my girls and was just as quiet, reserved and polite as he sounds on his records. A long time underdog of the Alt-Country scene, Rouse turns in a great latter day record. A close cousin of 1972 with some warmer undertones.
Honorable Mentions (Albums I Haven’t Gotten To Yet):
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
Calexico – Edge of the Sun