I remember seeing that tweet from Coeli. “More brunch things should be a thing,” she said almost two months ago. “Imagine listening to music over waffles, bacon, scrambled eggs and coffee with a little sunlight on your face.”
Well, this one’s surprisingly calming. I say that because the album is called There’s A Riot Going On, and considering Yo La Tengo’s capability to sound like that, you’d think that’s the direction they’re going for with this record. Instead we go for something on the other end of the veteran band’s sound. This is essentially a mood record, a bit of a yoga record, even; you put it on when you need to reaffirm something in yourself, and after some sort of routine you’re feeling a little lighter. I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but that quality really is for the best: it’s quite entrancing, the reverb reducing most things to a muffle, while keeping a few elements floating, and the sparse lyrics acting as incantations. Now I’ve thought of it, the title makes sense. Yes, there is a riot going on, so, Yo La Tengo asks, why not stay inside and calm yourself down? Thankfully the record doesn’t just keep you down: the end has an upswing, a gentle call to action. That’s when you feel lighter. That’s when you feel recharged. It all makes sense now. [NB] | 4/5
“Severed”, the single off the Decemberists’ latest record I’ll Be Your Girl, already sounds distinctly different than their past work. Colin Meloy’s weathered yet sturdy voice is still there, but everything else around it – notably the synths – means there’s a bit of whiplash you have to deal with, and it’s one that last for a while. “This is the Decemberists, right? Yes. Really?” Yes. It’s nice to see the group take some sonic risks after arguably settling down on a formula for the past few records, but I’m not sure they did it right this time. It isn’t necessarily a bad decision: there’s merit in merging their homey folk with some driving 80s-era synths. But in their experimentations the Decemberists’ newest set of songs feels formless. It doesn’t know what it wants to do, so it pushes and pulls aimlessly. Were they trying to, ehrm, dumb things down? They have also specialized in intricate, dense albums – but then there’s the eight-minute “Rusalka, Rusalka/The Wild Rushes”, which sounds like your typical Decemberists record, both lyrically and structurally. But then, the damn synths, they rendered that epic a bit, again, formless. [NB] | 3/5
Today is not the last Thursday of the month, but next Thursday is Maundy Thursday, and as I am a bit hungry for the clicks – it is still validation, after all – we’re doing this month’s Local Outsider a week earlier. Don’t worry, everything remains the same: I still crammed this post last night. For some reason it was easier, though. Maybe it’s one of my inspired moments – happening rarely now because I just have too much to write, and no time for what matters most. Somebody save me from this pail. Anyway, the column, one week earlier and nothing more.
“Starcrossed Lovers” by the Fratellis | For reasons long illustrated on this blog, I have been out of the loop with the British bands of my college years, or at least most of them. I know the Fratellis have done stuff since “Chelsea Dagger” but somehow not all of them stay stuck in my head, although the jangly “Seven Nights Seven Days” is an exception. And now, a new single. A new album, even. Perhaps me describing this to the Scottish indie of, again, my college years would prove that I know little. I never really dug deep into their discography. And besides, that intro gives way to something a bit more recognizably Fratellis. But, you know, this is a feel good song. I feel good after this. It’s easy, it’s happy… what else is there to say? [NB]
“Mount Ninja” by Me&Mobi | I was supposed to post this last week, but somehow I forgot – busy schedules, as always. But I listened to half of Agglo, the new album from Swiss-German jazz trio Me&Mobi, and I remember it being more accessible that it was sold as. It might be difficult, I was told, but actually, it isn’t. Am I showing off supposed jazz chops? I can’t play any instrument, and whatever jazz I grew up with is strictly smooth, the stuff purists might scoff at. But this, I immediately got into. It made an impression, the organized cacophony, that I knew how to write the review – but then, I forgot to. But impressions have been made, and now I’ve listened to Agglo in its entirety, and while there are bursts of weirdness some might find off-putting, there is a beauty in the cacophony – the patterns you don’t spot so easily, the permutations you don’t get on the first try. Perhaps you’re bombarded until it makes sense; perhaps you’ll find something to latch on quickly. It’s a swarming, buzzing, neon-lit, almost-noir, past-midnight trip. It’s a bit of escapism. It’s fun. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)