Friday, June 26, 2009

Frequent Spins (2009.4)

The Boy Least Likely To - The Law of the Playground
I've been fascinated by the term "twee pop" ever since a friend and former co-worker described this particular indie rock sub-genre to me several years ago. I'm still not 100% sure about what music qualifies for this description, but if this isn't twee, then I don't know what twee is. As their name implies, this band's songs mostly revolve around a young man with a poor self image. I'll admit that the subject matter can be a bit much to take at times—and it remains to be seen how much staying power this album will have—but excellent songs like "The Boy with Two Hearts," "I Keep Myself to Myself" and "A Fairytale Ending" manage to keep me coming back for more.

Buddy and Julie Miller - Written in Chalk
This is actually only the second album the alt-country husband-and-wife team have released as a duo, although they both have fairly extensive resumes as solo artists and in support of other artists. In fact, there is quite the supporting cast here, including Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Robert Plant. An intimate and heartfelt affair throughout, the major highlight turns out to be a duet with Buddy and Emmylou, the Leon Payne-penned George Jones classic "The Selfishness of Man," which closes the record out perfectly.

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
The etymology of the word maudlin is that it's derived from the name of Mary Magdalene, based on her portrayal as a weeping penitent. Camera Obscura's latest effort, however, isn't as sad as the use of that word in its title would seem to indicate. In fact, sweet melancholy is one apt description that I've read, and that sentiment is expressed in the lyrics, "My maudlin career has come to an end — I don't want to be sad again," on the title track. On album closer and standout track, "Honey in the Sun," the upbeat nature of the song effectively masks its bittersweet lyrics, but it still serves to leave the listener with the sense that optimism reigns.

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Outer South
Conor Oberst wants to be Bob Dylan, and it couldn't be more obvious than on choice moments of this album, particularly on the rousingly political "Roosevelt Room." On the other hand, he's an unusually egalitarian bandleader, as evidenced by the fact that his bandmates take songwriting and lead vocal duties on six of Outer South's 16 songs. It's the Oberst-written material that stands out, though, with other highlights including "Nikorette," "Spoiled" and "I Got the Reason #2" on another fine release from the Bright Eyes frontman.

Tinted Windows - Tinted Windows
This unlikely super group—consisting of Taylor Hanson (Hanson), James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick)—delivers 35 minutes of unadulterated pure power pop pleasure. It's not ground-breaking—in fact, it may not even be good—but it's thoroughly enjoyable. I may throw the term "guilty pleasure" around somewhat liberally, but this album simply defines it. If they can keep writing songs like Schlesinger's "Kind of a Girl" and "Dead Serious," Iha's "Back with You," and the Hanson/Schlesinger collaboration "Take Me Back," I know of at least one person who will keep listening.


  1. Good talking with you over the weekend, Charles. Keep the good posts coming.

    Your faithful reader,