Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes
The first solo album by the Hold Steady frontman isn't without its problems: there are some tracks that merely sound like a punchless Hold Steady—you can hear the musicians holding back at times, because if they didn't, there'd sort of be no point. But then there are the tracks—"New Friend Jesus," "Terrified Eyes,"—where Finn allows things to drift off into country territory, and the album slowly but surely begins to justify its existence, coming as it does, at a time when the Hold Steady seems unsure of what to do next. Clear Heart Full Eyes offers a strong suggestion.
John K. Samson – Provincial
John K. Samson, known primarily as the leader of The Weakerthans, doesn't get a lot of play in the music press, especially here in the city. But the people who like him really like him, and it's not hard to see why: On his new solo album, Provincial, he does exactly what he's always done, crafting instantly memorable songs about places that would otherwise be easily forgotten.
The Return of Ben Kweller
I will forever have a soft spot for Ben Kweller, because we once lived in the same neighborhood, and he wrote a song about a street I spent almost all my time on. But also because he's as underrated a purveyor as I can name of that particular strain of indie-leaning rock/pop music I generally associate with people like Evan Dando. He's got a new album, Go Fly a Kite, coming out on February 12th, and it comes with a really great promo video featuring Kweller along with Jason Schwartzman and Shaun White. Below, the beginning and end of every song on the album
Robert Christgau's Defense of Dad-Rock
In the Dean's January 13th piece on the music of 2011, he writes, "As far as I'm concerned that anti-dad mindset renders Pitchfork even less authoritative than Rolling Stone, which at least makes a pass at keeping up," Being a dad myself, and a fan of things people often accuse dads of liking, this pleases me. The song above is by Wussy, a total dad-rock band that I like quite a bit. Do pay them some mind.
The Dirty Three – "Rising Below"
On February 28th, Australian post-rock outfit the Dirty Three will release Toward the Low Sun, their first new album in seven years. We got our first taste of it last week, with the excellent "Rising Below," and hooboy, is it ever pretty. Guitar, drums and violin, as ever.
Lee Ranaldo – "Off the Wall"
The first single from Lee Ranaldo's forthcoming solo album, Between the Times & the Tides, is an eye-opening slice of upbeat guitar-pop that should make an awful lot of young Brooklyn bands feel really crappy about themselves.
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
This would be one of those records Mr. Christgau was talking about, I think: it's perfectly crafted, smart and full of hooks, but it'll probably be ignored by lots of youngs. Perhaps it will help that Bon Iver's Justin Vernon produced it and offers backing vocals? Whatever it takes, I guess.
Palace Reissues Are Coming!
Five of Will Oldham's best albums will get the reissue treatment by Domino on 2/27: Days in the Wake, Hope, Lost Blues and Other Songs, There is No One What Will Take Care of You and Viva Last Blues, which is good, because the original vinyl pressings don't sound great. But also bad, because now I'm gonna have a bunch of doubles.
The Promise of a New Musical Year
Yes, I know we're already in the second half of January, and it's extremely likely you've already ditched whatever New Year's resolution you so earnestly made a few weeks back, but as far as your musical endeavors are concerned, well, the industry is just now getting back into the swing of things, and so it's the perfect time to re-commit yourself. Vow to stay on top of new releases, and not just the one or two everyone else is talking about each week. (And then start one of those Spotify playlists where you keep track of all your favorite songs from the year—mine is already going.)
Interscope's Decision, in Light of Her Performance on SNL, to Shelve the Lana Del Rey Album Indefinitely and Pretend This Whole Thing Was Just a Really Long Nightmare Oh, that didn't happen, did it? Fuck.