Album Review: MASSEDUCTION by St. Vincent


AlbumMASSEDUCTION
ArtistSt. Vincent
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Favorite Tracks: none
Thoughts: I’m a longtime St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) fan and have written about her on this blog many times, so I was eager to hear her fifth album.  Sadly, it’s a disappointment.  Supposedly this album is her attempt to move to a more pop-oriented sound, so naturally that would be alienating to a long-time fan.  But I don’t think it even succeeds as a pop album as there are no catchy hooks and the grim lyrics sound maudlin over the kitschy sound. St. Vincent’s music may be inaccessible to many, but this is the first time that I find it to be dull.  I can’t help but feel that there’s a message in the cover of the album where St. Vincent is mooning her audience.
Rating: **

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Book Review: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein


Author: Carrie Brownstein
Title:  Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
Narrator: Carrie Brownstein
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2015)
Summary/Review:

I know Carrie Brownstein as a sometimes music critic on NPR’s All Songs Considered (as well as her work on Portlandia – a show I find only moderately funny) so I knew that her memoir of her life and work with the band Sleater-Kinney would be an interesting work.  Brownstein explores the effect of her childhood in which her mother suffered anorexia, her father repressed homosexuality, and Brownstein herself seeks to entertain as way of transforming the sadness around her.  A lot of this books is about identity and the Brownstein analyzes her own   search for identity in raw detail.  The music of Sleater-Kinney is similar in its naked emotion and self-expression and Brownstein details the autobiographical detail that went into that songs.  Sleater-Kinney also had to deal with the typecasting and prejudice of being an all-woman band, when Brownstein wants people to recognize them as simply a great rock band.  Brownstein also relates her own struggles touring with the band that resulted in anxiety and physical illness.  This a very honest and introspective addition to the rock memoir oeuvre.

Rating: ***1/2

Song of the Week: “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski


The song “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski has been out for several months, but I only became acquainted with it a few weeks ago, and then I heard it broken down in this excellent episode of the Song Exploder.

Music Discoveries: The New Pornographers


The New Pornographers are described as a Canadian superband because all the members were assembled by A.C. Newman from various other bands and solo projects.  To be honest, I know nothing of the works of Newman and the other band members outside of The New Pornographers, with the exception of Neko Case who I’ve been a fan of for some time (I even saw her in concert!). Perhaps I should do a future Music Discovery to listen to their music in other bands. When they come together they create a somewhat folky power pop music with jangly sounds and powerful wall of instrumentation.  Reading reviews to prepare for this Music Discovery, I saw them compared with Roxy Music and Electric Light Orchestra (I don’t know these bands well, but what I do know doesn’t seem too similar to The New Pornographers).  The sound of the music reminds me of something I can’t quite place while also being very original.  Lyrically, the songs are very dense in wordcraft and can be open to many interpretations.

AlbumMass Romantic
Release date: November 21, 2000
Favorite tracks: “Mass Romantic,” “Letter from an Occupant,” and “To Wild Homes,”
Lyrics of Note:

Hope grows greener than grass stains – from “Centre for Holy Wars”

Thoughts: I had not previously listened to this album and it wast faster and more chaotic than I’m accustomed to from The New Pornographers. An exciting start to their career.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumElectric Version
Release date:  May 6, 2003
Favorite tracks: “Chump Change,” “July Jones,” and “Miss Teen Wordpower”
Lyrics of Note:

Our words move aimlessly through
Empty city squares
Collecting into mobs and
Angry like their prayers
They breathe the air we
Fought to leave behind
This kind of blank adventure
Happens all the time
Because nobody knows the wreck of the soul
The way you do – from “Miss Teen Wordpower”

Thoughts: The band’s vocal harmonies and instrumentation are tightening.  Lyrically, many of the songs seem to be criticism of the music business and of the United States’ post-September 11th war policies.  Or maybe both at the same time?
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumTwin Cinema
Release date: August 23, 2005
Favorite tracks: “The Bleeding Heart Show.,” “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras,” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno,”
Lyrics of Note:
Thoughts:  These are very tuneful songs with tight harmonies. I love the ‘hey-la’ fadeout on “The Bleeding Heart Show” and the vocal effects/edits on “Falling Through Your Clothes” sound very cool. The band is  branching out into more musically adventurous territory than the previous two albums.
Rating: ****


Album: Challengers
Release date: August 21, 2007
Favorite tracks: “My Rights Versus Yours,” “Challengers,” “Myriad Harbor,” “Unguided,” “Go Places,”  and “Mutiny, I Promise You”
Lyrics of Note:

The new empire in rags
The truth in one free afternoon – from “My Rights Versus Yours”

In every story, every secret told
You are not the first to wake up
To learn your lines before you have the part
You woke up early and you woke up torn
You’re the temporary border
The heat wave humming in the house of cards

You spun chapter into rapture there
Yeah, you were as brave as traffic
You chased the spotlight into her arms
And you forgot that you could fight
But not that you were still the person sleeping
The heat wave humming in the house of cards

A play for the girl, a cross for a hook, sinking into the greasy wonder
Under the sea, walking the floor, over the waves that we lived under

Something’s unguided in the sky tonight
There is something unguided in the sky – from “Unguided”

Thoughts: This is the album I’m most familiar with. It features big bold sounds and provocative lyrics. “Challengers” is the most amazingly constructed song.
Rating: ****


AlbumTogether
Release date:  May 4, 2010
Favorite tracks: “The Crash Years, “My Shepherd,” and “Daughters of Sorrow”
Lyrics of Note:

The ruins were wild
The ruins were wild
Tonight will be an open mic – from “The Crash Years”

Glasswork shards decorate this house
We’re tossing lost arts out windows
The splash and jangle of a secret science defined
You claim some golden age is upon us – from “My Shepherd”

Thoughts: After a decade together, The New Pornographers sound more like a unified band than a collection of individual talents (apropos of the title Together). Ironically, there are a lot of guest musicians on this album, including the horn section from The Dap Kings who had a new sound.  Overall this album feels less energetic than its predecessors.
Rating: ***1/2


Album Brill Bruisers
Release date: August 26, 2014
Favorite tracks: “Brill Bruisers,” “Born With a Sound,” “Dancehall Domine,” and “Spidyr”
Lyrics of Note:

They say we can’t make this stuff up,
But what else could we make? – from “Marching Orders”

I had a sound in my head
But I couldn’t find the words
To get it out
Now I know love is the way
Get it out – from “Born With a Sound’

Thoughts:  I didn’t like that title track at first, but it grew on me and now I love it.  Hearing the song broken down on The Song Exploder helped change my mind. The album feels celebratory.  Singles like “Brill Bruisers” and “Dancehall Domine” feel like they could’ve been on a previous album, but much of the rest of this album sounds like it was recorded in the 1980s with swirling New Wave sounds and electronic tones.  I like that sound a lot.
Rating: ****


So there is my quick journey into the discography of The New Pornographers.  What do you think of this band?

If I keep things together, next Wednesday I will publish my thoughts on the work of Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós.

 

 


Song of the Week: “Yeah, I’m Okay With My Shit Life” by Bethlehem Steel


Don’t read too much into this, but I feel this song speaks to me right about now.

Bethlehem Steel is band All Songs Considered describes as “shrug rock.”  Despite the name, they’re not from Pennsylvania, but based in Brooklyn.  The song is “Yeah, I’m Okay With My Shit Life.”

Enjoy!

Song of the Week: “Astonished Man” by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down


Posting a Thao and the Get Down Stay Down song of the week for the second time this year because their new album A Man Alive just came out and the first single “Astonished Man” is … well astonishing.

Song of the Week: “Hanging from the Earth” by The Pines


Roots rockers from Minneapolis The Pines present the Dylan-esque/Josh Ritter-esque “Hanging from the Earth” off they’re upcoming album Above the Prairie.  More about The Pines from Paste.

Song of the Week: “Nobody Dies” by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down


A new song by Thao and the Get Down Stay Down is always worth the wait and not just because I share an alma mater with the band members. “Nobody Dies” presages their new album A Man Alive, due out on March 12. 

Song of the Week: “If I Was” by Vök


Vök, a indie electro-band from Iceland, provides us with the first Song of the Week of September with “If I Was.”  Ethereal vocals, pulsating rhythms, dreamy lyrics, and a general sense of Icelandicness.  What’s not to love.   Learn more from KEXP.

Song of the Week: “The Scene Between” by The Go! Team


The song I cannot stop listening to this week is “The Scene Between” by the Englihs band The Go! Team featuring a gospel choir, distorted guitars, and oddball samples.  You can watch the trippy video below.

Song of the Week: “Violet Clementine” by Lady Lamb


The second song of the week comes from indie folk rocker Lady Lamb (stage name for Maine’s own Aly Spaltro) with a track off her new album After (stream in entirety here).

This is Lady Lamb’s second appearance on Song of the Week, previously appearing for her track “Rooftop” in January 2013.

Song of the Week: “Pedestrian At Best” by Courtney Barnett


Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett‘s new single “Pedestrian At Best” is filled with witty wordplay and punk rock rage.  Her first full-length album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is due out on March 23.

Song of the Week: “Hot & Cold” by Ex Hex


Ex Hex, the latest band formed by Mary Timony (of Helium and Wild Flag fame, among others) has a terrific new album called Rips. “Hot & Cold” is the first video from the album, but check out the rest of the songs as well.

And while we’re on the topic of Mary Timony, here’s a bonus video of “Honeycomb” by Helium from back in 1995 which was filmed in Jamaica Plain.

Song of the Week: “Beneath the Brine” by The Family Crest


I generally find myself scornful of over-orchestrated prog rock, but even though “Beneath the Brine” by The Family Crest could be described this way, I am smitten with it.  Perhaps because the orchestration is done so well, or perhaps it’s the strong singing voice of the lead vocalist.  His name is Liam McCormick, so we have two things in common.  Either way, this song should be part of a film soundtrack if it isn’t already.

What’s playing in the soundtrack of your life this week?  Let me know in the comments.

Song of the Week: “Possessed” by Eagulls


People who know me well know how I feel about The Eagles.

But this song is by the homophonic band spelled Eagulls from Leeds, England.  The post-punk band’s track “Possessed” is reminiscent of mid-80s Pixies rather than mid-70s klassik rawk, which is a good thing.

 

What are you listening to this week?  Let me know in the comments.

Song of the Week: “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent


I’m a hipster for St. Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark, and thus excited by the release of her recent eponymous album.  “Digital Witness” is one of the most striking tracks off that album with its funky horns (or synths disguised as horns) and get-up-and-dance-at-a-funeral groove.

Take a listen & see.

The video will freak you out.  I think St. Vincent has usurped Bjork for the artist who frightens  me in the best way.

More commentary on this song via Stereogum and Pitchfork.

What are you listening to this week?  Let me know in the comments.

Song of the Week: “Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer” by The Dismemberment Plan


The legendary DC indie/punk band The Dismemberment Plan have reunited after a 10-year separation and have a new album Uncanney Valley. The first track released “Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer” is an upbeat power pop song with sobering lyrics.