Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #6: April-July (Part 4)

I’m so near the halfway point in my documentation of every album I buy this year. Appropriate time as any to rechristen this project the “Year in Albums”, since I’m finding a hard time limiting myself to download purchases. I’m still buying CDs, can you believe?

  • Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea Somewhere along the way, I get it in my head that Cassie Berman was destined to be the Linda McCartney of this band that I like. It may have been an off night or bad sound, but at one show I saw she came across as pretty but also as the band’s tuneless weak link. After one listen of the new album, I know either I was way wrong or she got way better. She is now the absolute highlight. There’s the usual tossed-off witty Berman wordplay (“Romance is the douche of the bourgeoisie/Was the very first thing she imparted to me”; “Things get kind of squirrely when you’re sleeping in the park”; “We could be looking for the same thing, if you’re looking for someone,” etc). But her vocals bring the emotive that nicely contrasts with Dave’s deadpan on “Suffering Jukebox” and others, which actually saves the album from cleverness (a fatal opponent in Silver Jews discography).
  • Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Underground Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “Underground” is like an A-Team episode, but instead of the A-Team stuck in the garage, it’s Stephen Merritt stuck in a half-functioning 70’s-era studio. And the plan that comes together isn’t a souped-up beater with a bunch crap welded to it, but an album of catchy oddball pop songs but made from the beat-up crap you’d find in said studio. It borders unlistenable, but it’s still fun.
  • The Dodos – Visitor I like it, but I have a heard time coming up with anything to say about it. I think because I’m trying the same thing they’re doing, so as their choices are awesome, they’re also self-evident to me. There are great vocals, stripped down instrument-wise to guitar and assorted rhythm toys. A great summer album.
  • Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes What a bunch of softies. I kind of want to get these boys into a gym or arm-wrestle them or something. The interplay of voices is awesome and pretty, but I haven’t ever wanted to listen to old Rollins Band albums until I sat through these guys. It’s great for Grandmas and people actually living in Cincinnatti.
  • Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer My socks are still securely on after listening to this, and I can’t say they were after listening to their first one. But still, I like it. But that “California Dreamer” song is terrible. What the hell are California dreams?
  • Cursive – The Ugly Organ This is an older album and I bought after seeing Cursive live. I don’t know why I stayed away from Cursive for so long. I really liked “Happy Hollow” and I think Tim Kasher’s sadder side-project The Good Life has put out two top notch albums. I kept them from the full embrace they deserved after they got coded “emo” in my head. I have been so brave this month overcoming my wrong impressions. This album is a freaking indictment of the “emo” bs (“I want to entertain/but they want pain” or something like that). Get ready for the full Grity embrace, buddies.
  • Sarabeth Tucek – Sarabeth Tucek I’m a sucker for this longing pretty lady shtick. The Heather Novas and the Cat Powers will get me. Sarabeth is in their league. May have too much of a resemblance to be remembered though. It may take some time to hear some nuances.
  • The Ruby Suns – Sea Lion I love albums like these. Listenable, but strange. Like a Caribbean Yo La Tengo, but way more emphasis on rhythm. Not that this would mean anything to you, but I had a perfect moment with this album driving out of Chicago at dusk into a pink urban sky

Holy mole. I might be done for these past 3 months. I think. Oh wait. Got the new Pinback album. Crap…and The Kills and The Eternals (that’s a funny pair). And Portishead. And for some reason, Jay-Z. And I’m sure some other less noteworthies.

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #5: April-July (Part 3)

I swear to freaking god I will get this multi-part posting done before the end of July. But oh my tribulations continue! Brand new iPod #5 will not be recognized by my aged Mac. Planned obsolescence, my ass. It’s more like obligatory obsolescence. Anyone have a grand so I can get my $200 iPod to work? In 2 words, boowl sheett. This obviously complicates the ongoing project to document every album I buy this year. But continued however daunted I will.

  • The Hold Steady – Stay Positive  Like their live performance, this album gets me despite myself. Maybe it’s just that they’re filling the void left by the Afghan Whigs of making references to Roman Catholic ritual in inappropriate situations. But I don’t embrace it completely. The subject material seems to be pandering to brats, as usual. And then there’s that creepy-ass gravely back-up vocal that pops up unexpected and unwelcomed throughout the album. Who the hell is that and who thought that was a good idea? But these are nitpicks. I bought it, I’ll love it.  BTW…is it just me or is Craig Finn sounding more and more like Will Farrell’s Harry Carey impersonation?
  • My Brightest Diamond – A Thousand Shark’s Teeth  It’s been harder to get into this one, unlike the now canonical Bring Me the Workhorse. I’ll blame myself. It doesn’t assert it self like last one. The songs have their own logic it seems and maybe I need to “learn how to listen” or something. I’ll keep listening, and maybe learning. Shana Worden (my dream aunt) and operatic flourishes are worthy teachers.
  • Spiritualized – Songs In A&E  I was not to jazzed by his live show at Pitchfork, but I do love this album. It’s like a blissed-out Blur or a sad-but-willing-to-please Pink Floyd.
  • King Khan And The Shrines – The Supreme Genius of King Khan and The Shrines  Definitely canon-bound. To be sure, this band need to be experienced live. But this album captures the vibe pretty sufficiently. It has the proper grubby sound that makes the soul-punk-funk thing work. Too often, the tendency is to clean up the sound when you have so many great musicians and instruments. Not here. The thrill is preseved as it comes across as some washed up gem from a raucous 50’s Memphis garage band (Think Reigning Sound with a horn section).
  • Extra Golden – Hera Ma NonoIt sounds nice enough. The songs run a little long with little more purpose than to groove. But it’s nice to have some Kenyan grooves break up the whiney whiteys I am habitually drawn to…Crap, I already wrote about this one. Ah, I’m losing track.
  • Joan As Police Woman – To Survive  I like this a lot. I like it even more than the last one if only because Antony is not moaning all over it. There are also better collaborations, including a great one with Rufus. Even though these are some complex-sounding compositions, it kind of sounds like a throwback to Sade at times, and I never got into Sade. That antiseptic sexy is a lie (sexy is germy). So sometimes listening to this I get that awful feeling I get when I’m trapped listening to “cool rock” radio stations. But it’s only momentary. I forgive her these moments because “To Be Lonely” is about the best ever.
  • The War On Drugs – Wagonwheel Blues I love this one so far and it’s definitely canon-bound. It’s overflowing with great lyrics and catchy times. I hate to think of who they remind me of, because that list will have some real monsters on it (like James or Ryan Adams).
  • Puerto Muerto – I Was A Swallow I want to like this more than I do simply because I like the idea of Puerto Muerto so much. The husband-wife doing gothic themed tunes. But I hate the say it, because I’m sure they heard it a 1,000 times, but the Handsome Family does it better. But where as the Family are more like backwoods gothic, the Muertos sound a little more worldly. Like pirate gothic to the Family’s American gothic. And her vocals are much more powerful. So it’s a mixed bag. And that is a lot like life. You’re welcome!
  • Mahjongg – KontpabI have no idea what I should be listening for here. Fragmented electronica with distorted vocals. It’s got great grooves but not the dancing kind. It’s great background as I make my soups. Maybe if I threw a party I might put this on. Perfect to drink wine and talk about art or whatever you do with wine at parties. I need to get out. Someone invite me to a party, okay? 

I’m not done yet. But the end is near. Like 12 more to go and I will have accounted for every album I bought in the last 3 months. But need to practice the banjo now. The band has a show coming at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago next Saturday. Very exciting. If you come, I’ll put you in the canon.