Friday, May 08, 2009

Frequent Spins (2009.3)

Art Brut - Art Brut vs. Satan
On "The Replacements," Art Brut's plea for musical sincerity, singer Eddie Argos complains, "So many bands are just putting you on. Why can't they just be the same as their songs?" This particular song, of course, is also a tribute to the band of the same name, and when he proclaims, "I can't believe I've only just discovered The Replacements," I can easily identify with the sentiment. Genuineness is pretty much what this band is about...straightforward indie rock powered by heavy bass lines and Argos' simple but occasionally clever musings about everyday urban life. In addition to The Replacements, Art Brut's third album also pays tribute to comic books, chocolate milkshakes, public transportation, Brian Eno, Zyrtec and the musical influences of one's parents. It doesn't break any new ground, but is just as fun to listen to as 2007's It's a Bit Complicated, particularly as Argos admits, "I fought the floor and the floor won" on the record's excellent closer, "Mysterious Bruises."

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
I'm pretty sure I've written before that I'm yet to be overly impressed with any of Ms. Case's solo output, but I love the twangy element that her voice has added to the power-pop sound of The New Pornographers. Well, this environmentally influenced collection of songs may finally be the album that begins to live up to her potential, in my book. Earthy highlights include "This Tornado Loves You," "People Got a Lotta Nerve" and "Magpie to the Morning."

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
Simply put, this is the best album of the year, so far, although from what I understand, not all of this band's loyalists agree. Unfortunately, rating it so highly is just as much an indication that, to date, this is the worst year in music in recent memory, as it is a declaration of the greatness of this album. But, this is a great indie prog-rock opera masterpiece, one that has me motivated to witness its live performance, and the best record in this Portland, Oregon band's relatively small catalog.

The Hold Steady - A Positive Rage
The first time I saw The Hold Steady live, singer Craig Finn introduced the final encore with a speech about how much the band truly loves what they do and appreciates the support that they receive from their fans each night while on tour. It's certainly hard to capture by writing about how truly genuine his words sounded and how it punctuated a great show and really made my evening. If you've ever seen the band live, you've witnessed how much energy and enthusiasm they bring to their live shows, and you probably understand what I'm talking about. A similar speech is captured on live album A Positive Rage, and Finn also admits that it's something he does just about every night. It still sounds sincere, though, and this album—a recording of their Halloween 2008 show at the Metro in Chicago—is an excellent representation of their live act, one that you need to witness for yourself.

Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies
Justin's dad releases an album this week called Townes. But, of course, the album is not named after his son, but rather after the artist whom his son is named after, Townes Van Zant. But, while dad's recent material has been a far cry from his late 90s output, son's second full-length may be proof that genius doesn't necessarily skip a generation. Of course, that might be a little premature, but songs like the album opening title track, "What I Mean to You" and a sweet but fragile cover of The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait," show that he may be ready to follow in his father's footsteps. As good as those songs are, though, "Mama's Eyes" is the real evidence that he may share Steve's knack for effectively mining the subject matter of his own life for material.

Say Hi - Oohs & Aahs
This one is not as strong all the way through as last year's The Wishes and the Glitch, but has a few moments that really rival the quality of that album's top 20 material. The real gem here is "Maurine," a plaintive mid-tempo ode to love lost or never realized, on which singer Eric Elbogen wishes the object of his affection well while expressing sad regret with understated lyrics such as "I guess I should've a lot of things...huh."

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