Stornoway – Fuel Up

October 30, 2010

Full video with live performances of four of the best tracks from their excellent lp, “Beachcomber’s Windowsill,” at the 4ad Sessions webpage.

Why Shrag aren’t one of the world’s most popular bands is beyond me. “Life! Death! Prizes!,” their second full-length on Where It’s At Is Where You Are Records features the same kind of upbeat tunes as those on their first, self-titled, lp, which was one of my favorites of last year.

Songwriting — Paul Weller-and-the-Jam-style poems about everyday life — is their greatest strength.  And now their line-up features two girls and three guys, just like the B-5s2s once did.

I guess they’re just a little too smart, a little too funny, and maybe a little too British for the American mainstream. Just as well though, since if they got really popular I’d start to feel really guilty about liking them so much.

Abe Vigoda – Crush

October 18, 2010

Earning high returns requires a willingness to take on more risk. Or so the theory went, before the big bank bailouts.

On their new lp “Crush,” however, Abe Vigoda do their part to set things straight again. Here, the band replaces its former “Tropical Punk” with a darker, synth-based alternative that draws inspiration from “Scary Monsters” era Bowie, the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, and other classic contributors to the soundtrack of the 1980s.

Yes, the risks were high; but the payoffs come in even higher, as evidenced by the fact that “Repeating Angel,” one of the album’s best tracks, performed live below, compares favorably, I’d say, to anything on “Songs to Learn and Sing.” And overall the lp stands together with Deerhunter’s “Halcyon Digest” and No Age’s “Everything in Between” as what will surely be remembered as three classic albums of 2010.

Stepping back a bit, the comparison to Bowie may be useful for broader purposes as well. Abe Vigoda have evolved so quickly and so successfully through such a wide variety of styles, the big question, as this Tiny Mix Tapes review points out, is where they’ll be heading next. I can’t wait to see.

Bradford Cox, like John Lennon before him, draws inspiration from the entire history of rock and roll, going all the way back to its earliest days in the 1950s. But whereas Lennon built fairly directly (though quite significantly, of course) on that early history, Cox passes it through the distortionary filter provided by the many decades since.

This line of creativity, which runs through all of his recent work, both with Deerhunter and under the Atlas Sound banner, continues on “Halcyon Digest,” with absolutely no sign yet of diminishing returns. In fact, by elaborating as well on the themes — nostalgia for times past and regret over unfulfilled youthful ambitions — also explored in his recent collaboration with Noah Lennox, “Halcyon Digest” represents perhaps the most compelling expression of this idea to date.

Often overlooked are the other great talents in Deerhunter, the band. Below, guitarist Lockett Pundt provides the vocals for “Desire Lines,” one of the new lp’s best tracks.

Haunting song from the Chapin Sisters’ new lp, “Two.”

To be honest, I was kind of disappointed by the end of Jonathan Franzen’s new book, “Freedom.” Secretly, I had hoped the guy would just stay up in the Minnesota woods, alone, letting his righteous fury grow as tall as the trees.

But of course I get it. Withdrawal in disgust may not be the same as apathy, but nor is it a likely way to solve the world’s — or one’s own — problems either.

Like the Clash and Husker Du, two of the greatest punk bands that they stand right on par with, and like Pavement on their date with IKEA, No Age have chosen to stay and fight.  And thank goodness for that.  “Everything In Between,” their new and best lp, is all about the real world, about hanging around, about fighting the good fight.

 

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