Sunday, February 08, 2009

Frequent Spins (2009.1)

In my first Frequent Spins entry of the new year are four very good January releases, all of which predictably lived up to their eagerly anticipated status in my book.

A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
Newman's second solo effort comes five years removed from his first. Of course, that's not to say he hasn't been keeping busy in the meantime with his main gig, The New Pornographers. This one doesn't stray too far from the Vancouver supergroup's familiar indie power pop territory. Even still, it measures up well to that previous output. After all, Newman without The New Pornographers is simply trading the downside of Neko Case's absence for the upside of the lack of Dan Bejar's presence. This album also earns bonus points by making me recall some of my favorites, albeit unintentionally. In the refrain of "The Heartbreak Rides", he may be singing "Yo-ho", but I can't help but hear "E-L-O"; and "The Palace at 4AM" got me to wondering when Jay Bennett & Edward Burch are planning to release the proper followup to Bennett's best post-Wilco work.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Bird seems to have a penchant for creating albums in which the whole is equal to greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy, or some made up derivation of it, would also be an appropriate name for one of his songs, given his inclination towards non-sensical lyrical content. My point is that there rarely is that one song that just blows you away. In fact, it's often difficult to choose from numerous very good, but not great, songs for inclusion on year-end compilations. His latest seems to continue that trend of consistency. It will take a few more listens for me to decide where it fits in with his recent work, but my guess is that they'll all reside in approximately the same neighborhood.

Antony and The Johnsons - The Crying Light
When I saw Antony live a few years ago, I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't a 6'5" transgendered male with pale white skin who was moderately effeminate but, most of all, extremely charismatic. Well, some of those characteristics I was well aware of, but I suppose it was his stature and confidence that surprised me a little. The Crying Light is a strong followup to the magnificent I Am a Bird Now, which addresses more conventional subject matter (i.e. doesn't touch upon his feelings of being a woman trapped in a man's body) than its predecessor, but continues his knack for crafting songs that are beautifully melancholic.

Mark Olson & Gary Louris - Ready for the Flood
It's hard to believe that Olson and Louris haven't recorded an album together since 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass, although they did tour together as a duo a few years ago. When Olson left alt-country pioneers The Jayhawks almost 15 years ago, I thought they would never be the same. I was right, but not in the way that I thought. The band's sound would change from the splendid country-rock of Green Grass and its predecessor, Hollywood Town Hall, but Louris would prove to be a more than capable frontman on their subsequent releases. This album is hardly a return to the glory days, but it's still a little better than each of their recent solo albums, both of which were respectable efforts.

1 comment:

  1. I have also been listening to that A.C. Newman album a lot. Its pretty good, but I still like his first one better. Maybe this one will need to grow on me....