At a few points throughout the year — often at the beginning of spring and fall — record labels release more records than the pages of this here magazine will allow us to cover as deeply as we’d like, so rather than ignoring them altogether, we’re going to try something new here: capsule reviews!
Thurston Moore Trees Outside the Academy
No matter how many people swear up and down that the last few Sonic Youth records have been good, I’ve found everything they’ve done since Washing Machine to be boring, uninspired and oddly formulaic. Not so with Thurston Moore’s new solo offering, which finds the noise-rock veteran scaling things back a bit, donning his finest singer-songwriter cap, but never at the expense of interesting song structures. It features some of his finest guitar work as well, not to mention a ton of impeccable string arrangements. Here’s to aging gracefully.
The Good Life Help Wanted Nights
Long since left behind by friend, labelmate and occasional collaborator Conor Oberst, Cursive and the Good Life’s Tim Kasher sounds as sad and rundown as ever, and he’s broken out of a recent slump (Did you hear that last Cursive record? No? Neither did anyone else, because it was terrible) with Help Wanted Nights, a tasteful, telling collection of songs by a guy whose most notable quality is his ability to laugh at his own shortcomings and struggles, both in his life and his music.
Les Savy Fav Let’s Stay Friends
I’ve been complaining for years that Les Savy Fav have become a novelty band now that all anyone ever says about them is, “Wow, have you seen them live? Tim Harrington is crazy! He dressed like a pirate!” or “He was wearing a speedo!!!” It’s taken attention away from their incredibly complex yet somehow still wonderfully hooky brand of post-punk, which has always seemed as influenced by the Talking Heads as it is by bands like Lungfish. Let’s Stay Friends is chock full of outstanding songs you won’t really be paying attention to next time you see them live.
Animal Collective Strawberry Jam
The Animal Collective falls squarely into the category of bands that, logically, shouldn’t be as popular as they are. With all the swirling noises and disconcerting quiet, they’ve never exactly been a band that’s easy to listen to, but with Strawberry Jam, they’ve embraced a slightly more pop-oriented sound that longtime fans might find off-putting. The vocal melodies are decidedly bouncier than usual, and the accompaniment is far more playful.
Pinback Autumn of the Seraphs
If I were listen to all the Pinback records I have on my computer, plus all the recordings I have by the band’s frontman, Rob Crow, it would take me about six hours. I would never do this, of course, because the deep, dark secret of Pinback is that they’ve been releasing the exact same record for over ten years. It’s a pleasant record, mind you, full of soothing vocal melodies and the most melodic basslines you’ve ever heard, but when it comes down to it, you really only need one Pinback record. Allow me to recommend Blue Screen Life.