Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #11: October

“Rocktober”? More like “You-bought-too-many-damn-albums-again-Eric-Jerry-tober.”

Here we go, in no particular order…

  • Lambchop – OH (ohio)I’m sure there are states less deserving of a Lambchop album associated with them, but you could probably count them on your fingers. I can’t imagine this unsurprisingly excellent collection of mellow and interesting orchestrations supporting wry and wise observational lyrics will get much play in Canton or Lorain. But then again, this band—one of the best and underrated in existence—also did an album called Nixon, who is perhaps the Ohio of U.S. Presidents. You embrace your inspirations from wherever they spring. And as mundane and ridiculous and depressing as this state, this album is just as worthwhile.
  • Lambchop – What Another Man Spills OH (ohio) reminded me how much I love Lambchop. I have their last 5. Why not their 6? And again, it’s awesome. They potentially have the most solid back catalogue eva, although apparently I have 5 more to go in order to make this claim true. Same mellow “countrypolitan” or whatever you call the sound they invented. Some funk experimentation here, which I’ll allow but I’m happy they they no longer indulge.
  • Blitzen Trapper – Furr [Before the show…] I don’t think I like these guys. They seem to combine bad parts of the Beatles and Wilco, which really aren’t that bad, on the great scale of badness. But then there’s this touch of Tom Petty and that Skynard-southern-rock-thing, which tips the scales. And I think there’s a line about a “midget waiting for a midnight train” and “playing air guitar.” “Black River Killer” is further proof to my longheld thesis that indie bands should steer clear of murder ballads. I like the opener, though, and “Furr.” I like parts of half the songs here. Girl Talk could turn this into a wicked 3-song EP. [After the show…] Okay, fine. This is pretty awesome. The album is synergistic to their live performance, which isn’t as normal as it should be. That midget song still stinks, though.
  • Bound Stems – The Family Afloat Competent indie pop from Chicago. I think one of the guys went to my school, so any clear-eyed assessment is mired by a mix of alumni jingoism and envy. But I think some of the lyrics get a little too earnest.
  • Brightblack Morning Light – Motion To Rejoin Bluesy, slow, gospel-y. Kinda hippy-dippy, but to be expected from these tent-dwellers. Won’t set the world on fire, but sets a nice mood.
  • Clem Snide – End Of Love Last (?) album from Eef Barzelay’s great band. It’s good, but not as good as previous albums and the solo stuff he’s put out since. Seems like a good decision he made to move on.
  • Colleen – Les Ondes Silencieuses A few albums I buy a month are devoted to the purely functional purpose of drowning out my college-era neighbors with interesting but unintrusive sounds…I now understand why old people sit on their porches with shotguns. These cello-centered modernist (?) compositions do a nice job. Don’t know too much about this field to have a real opinion, though. Sounds good to me…on my rocking chair…with my shotgun. Damn kids. 
  • Damien Jurado – Caught In The Trees Lyrically, it doesn’t stray too far from Damien’s usual cheery themes of murder, failure, betrayal, shooting betrayers, etc. However, the sound is much more upbeat. With the drums, female vocal help, and some other instruments, he has created my favorite Damien Jurado album, all while doing songs that convey a deep suspicion or about doing songs. A lot of standouts here.  Canon-bound.
  • Department of Eagles – In Ear Park The Grizzly Bear guy does it again. Not as complex as Grizzly Bear, and I think it’s to the album’s benefit.
  • Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords I don’t think this stands so well without reference to the show. That said, if you know the show, it’s pretty great to have “Bowie” or “Inner City Pressure” come up in one’s shuffle as a way to recall the dead-on spoof videos from the show.
  • High Places – High Places More sing-songy fragments. Her drowned-out vocals are nicely complemented by his sharp rhythms. No conventional songs, exactly, to ever really get excited/pumped/moved by. Can’t imagine how you would experience this live. Your hands probably spend most of the time in your pockets. There’s no crowd-surfing at the High Places stage. 
  • Horse Feathers – House With No Home More subtle acoustic thoughtful cello-laden fun. Better than their great first album. For the sensitive Nick Drake-loving types. Who you should all be.
  • Juana Molina – Un Dia Don’t know what she’s doing, where she’s coming from, but I like it. Is this Brazilian? I need to expand my horizons a little more, it seems. Or just move to Brazil. All I know about Brazil is from City of God, so I imagine I’ll end up getting shot by a 5-year-old.
  • Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson This song “Buriefied” I had off a sampler kept catching me. I also don’t know anything about this guy either (it was a month of rolling the dice!), but it sounds like he’s coming out of his skin. It’s unhinged acoustic folksy rock, but some interesting production gives it a strangeness that differentiates it from the million others of its ilk.
  • Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron, Fred Squire – Lost Wisdom  Really great. Julie Dorion’s vocals make this a pretty special album. And there’s a brilliant use of a Bjork refrain, which comes out of nowhere on this otherwise folky gothic acoustic album. This Microphones/Mount Eerie guy’s kinda hit-or-miss, and he really hits one here. It’s a short and moving album. This one’s heading to the canon.
  • Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping Holy mole, what the hell is this? I’m not ready to throw it under the bus. But it’s no surprise to say it’s no Hissing Fauna. Pardon the glib psychoanalysis, but I imagine it must have been a little traumatic to have been so autobiographical about a break-up with your wife that you reunite with a year or so later. Trying to make amends with the same person you’re singing that you want to pay some other girl to hit must have led to complications. No wonder Mr. Barnes would retreat behind a swinging mystical transsexual persona. However exhaustively bizarre, still a standout for inventiveness. A mix of Prince and Fiery Furnaces.
  • Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual Again, what the hell is this? Unhinged lady just scream-skatting hyped dueling guitar rock. I have no idea when I’m supposed to play this. It’s too obnoxious to be appropriate for anything that I do while listening to music. Maybe if I got into coke-binges or knife-fighting, this might be the go-to soundtrack.
  • Portastatic – Bright Ideas Another album from Mac McCaughan’s post-Superchunk band. It’s from 2005. I’m still trying to catch up on all these albums I missed because I though Mac was too busy running Merge to do any more music. But, no. This guy runs a great record label and still puts out the good stuff on his own. This one makes me nostalgic for the Superchunk and some of the songs (“I Wanna Know Girls” especially) ranks with his former band’s best stuff.
  • Ratatat – LP3 Functional guitar/electronica instrumental background music. Part of the “soundtrack” genre. Which again, I know nothing about.
  • Stereolab – Chemical Chords If you’re from Southern Ohio or Central Pennsylvania, or any other part of Real America, then Stereolab is probably way above your Lynard Skynard-loving head. Stalwarts of post-rock from the Continent, they create chill odd lounge-y tunes for Chardonnay swilling at East Coast art openings or for planning terrorist attacks. It’s not much a departure from the last album, but still worthwhile if you’re into this sort of thing.
  • the castanets – City of Refuge Not for everyone, but I’m down with this guy. I would like to write more about this but I am so burnt out from this post. I, too, want to run to a city of refuge. What the heck…you should buy this, though.
  • Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls I listen to this album very early in the morning and it’s been one of my more favorite things this month. They take me back to the early days of Kim and Kelly Deal. By 10am though, my jaded sensibilities take over and I’m bored.

In full disclosure, these were not all the albums I bought this month. I have the new TV on the Radio and Deerhunter just waiting for me to play. But I am so done writing this post. It’s my little birthday gift to myself: a little slack on my self-imposed year-long project. Still feel a little guilty. If only I were so driven about recording albums and starting record labels, I could be like Mac. But no. I blog irregularly. A major reassessment of priorities will take place for 2009.

Eef & Us

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The band I’m in, Lion v. Fish, is opening for Eef Barzelay this Thursday at the Cafe Montmartre just off Capitol Square at 9pm. Eef is the brainfather of Clem Snide, a group that put out a bunch of great indie alt-country soul-tinged records with wry sensibility in the last 10 years. His latest record is as excellent as the Clem Snide material (“The Girls Don’t Care” may be my new songwriting guide). 

It is very exciting for us to be opening for him and his band.

9pm, August 7, 2008 at Cafe Montmartre
127 East Mifflin Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703
Cost : $10adv./$12 dos