Rarely does an album so clearly of two minds work. The shift in tone is too great, or the styles just don’t mesh well; one way or another it crumbles under the weight of its own cleverness. Somehow Dastardly have managed to make 9 songs that don’t seem to fit together flow seamlessly on The Hollow.
There’s some consistency at the beginning, with the opening title track pulling a dark cloud over the album. The slow shoegaze-y atmosphere sticks around for a couple songs before Dastardly creeps back to some of their old ways. And that is in no way a bad thing. With their last two releases being pretty short, I was hoping some of that sound would find its way into this one.
“Breakdown In New York City” reminds me a lot of the criminally underrated Ballads In Blue from a couple years ago. There are some new wrinkles added, but it could’ve easily been a track rehearsed but not recorded in those sessions. Lead singer Gabe Liebowitz delivers a beautiful and vulnerable vocal performance enhanced by Sarah Morgan’s harmonies.
I’m not generally one for lauding covers, but the horn work on Dastardly’s version of “St. James Infirmary” is fantastic. The soft guitar flourishes with little bits of clarinet woven through sets a very specific mood in my mind. That mood is exactly the same one I get from the absolutely brilliant 1979 Tom Waits Austin City Limits broadcast. Not sure if that’s what they were going for, but it works so well I’m just gonna assume that it was.
The Hollow is deliberate, but never boring. It rewards those who listen to it all at once. The feeling is almost like a mental breakdown-the first few songs hold together pretty well, but the further you go the more things get shaken loose and start flying in every direction. This is certainly how I would recommend experiencing the record.
If you’re in the Chicago area, Dastardly will be playing a release show at Lincoln Hall on July 10th with Gold Web and Oshwa. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance here.
After a few years of Ezra Furman fandom, you start to put unfair expectations on the singer. The past five years have seen a few great albums come out of the Evanston native. Every time a new record is announced I think “No way this could possibly be as good as the last one.” And time and time again, I’m proven wrong. Perpetual Motion People raised the bar once again, continuing Furman’s reign as North America’s best songwriter.
I had the chance to see Furman with his band The Boy-friends a couple months ago, so I had a rough idea of how a couple new songs would sound. The singles were already out at that point and they’re both phenomenal. “Lousy Connection” gets better every time I hear it. But there were still 8 or 9 tracks to be discovered. After listening it’s easy to say that we’ve struck gold once again.
“Haunted Head” is an early favorite for favorite non-single. The lyrics are typical Furman-clever, honest, relateable: “I’m naked now, because it doesn’t really matter when the shades are down. I was born this way I’ll die this way. I don’t know how I’m ever gonna tell myself the truth.”
The secret weapon on Perpetual Motion People is Tim Sandusky and his saxophone. Peppered throughout the record are moments of sheer woodwind brilliance reminiscent of Clarence Clemons on the E Street albums. Not only does it make the individual songs better, but it helps ease the transition from aggressive rock tunes to the more doo-wop and soul sounds of tracks like “Body Was Made.”
Furman sings about identity, sexuality, and feelings of alienation with a frankness and eloquence most can only dream about. His ability to write catchy pop songs that capture the essence of so many problems facing humanity is fascinating. Perpetual Motion People is another in a long line of albums that makes me wonder what he could possibly do next.
Kacey Musgraves-Pageant Material: Miss Congeniality 3 Red Solo Heels
Muse-Drones: Matt Bellamy’s songwriting will never improve
Jeff Bridges-Sleeping Tapes: I wish all my dreams sounded this good
Thundercat-The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam: In heaven, Thundercat is on bass.
Third Eye Blind-Dopamine: Stephan Jenkins finally “Graduate”s-into middle age
Florence And The Machine-How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful: How Boring, How Uninspired, How Void Of Life
Jamie xx-In Color: More like Jamie zzzzz (thanks to Sam for letting me use this one)
The Vaccines-English Graffiti-They had to hit a slump eventually.
Brandon Flowers-The Desired Effect: Flowers’ solo work reminds me how great the other guys in The Killers are
The Tallest Man On Earth-Dark Bird Is Home: Definitely his weakest album yet, but it’s not terrible
Desaparecidos-Payola: It’s been over a decade since their last album, but they don’t miss a beat
Nate Reuss-Grand Romantic: Hit skip and carry on
With every episode of Seinfeld now streaming on Hulu, I felt like it was a good time to look back and ponder which are the best. It’s been talked about before, and I think there are a few episodes that everyone can agree hits all the notes that make Seinfeld great (“The Contest” is the most popular pick for best, but it isn’t my favorite). Below, find the ten episodes that I think elevate the show to the lauded “Greatest Sitcom Ever” level it currently holds.
10. The Invitations
9. The Understudy
8. The Puerto Rican Day
7. The Andrea Doria
6. The Soup Nazi
5. The Contest
4. The Library
3. The Chinese Restaurant
2. The Parking Garage
1. The Outing
It’s been a pretty good year for music so far. Last week I posted my top albums that have come out this year (up to Friday of last week). Now it’s time for the best songs list, which I’ve limited to 25 (and yes, two of those spots are taken by Leon Bridges so deal with it).
25. The Decemberists-“The Singer Addresses His Audience”
24. St. Lenox-“Just Friends”
23. Of Montreal-“Virgilian Lots”
22. Hiatus Kaiyote-“Shaolin Monk Motherfunk”
21. Leon Bridges-“Lisa Sawyer”
20. St. Vincent-“Teenage Talk”
19. Fort Frances-“Anonymous”
18. Ivan & Alyosha-“Easy To Love”
17. Molehill-“Gain Green”
16. The Mountain Goats-“Heel Turn 2″
15. Torres-“Cowboy Guilt”
14. California Wives-“Over & Over”
13. Natalie Prass-“My Baby Don’t Understand Me”
12. Gloom Balloon-“You Are Shadowless, I Am Windowless”
11. July Talk-“Summer Dress”
10. Shilpa Ray-“Shilpa Ray On Broadway”
9. Ike Reilly-“Born On Fire”
8. Bhi Bhiman-“Moving To Brussells”
7. Thundercat-“Them Changes”
5. Ezra Furman-“Lousy Connection”
3. Kendrick Lamar-“King Kunta”
2. Leon Bridges-“Pull Away”
1. Tobias Jesso, jr.-“How Could You Babe”
The popularity of genres comes and goes with the wind. One day nu metal is all the rage, the next boy bands are popping up all over the place with no end in sight. It’s hard to predict what will be the next big thing: tastemakers create buzz around what they think will take off, but they aren’t always right. And sometimes random things will pop up from a genre that used to be popular and have a weird kind of life of its own. New jack swing isn’t the rage it once was, but “Uptown Funk” would certainly fit in that category and I think that one did pretty well.
There’s another weird thing that happens sometimes: a record harkens back to another era so sincerely that the demographic for record sales boggles the minds of the executives. That seems to be the case with Leon Bridges new album Coming Home. Not only was the release horribly mismanaged by his label, it appears they have no idea what kind of mass appeal their artist holds. People everywhere from teens to seniors can find something to enjoy here.
Bridges brings the soul for the entirety of Coming Home, with a voice reminiscent of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke (though I’ll wait a few more records before the real comparisons start). The whole album, recorded in the singer’s hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, oozes with old school class. The silky smooth vocals dance over horns and doo-wop bass riffs. You can almost picture Bridges standing under a lamppost on a dark street, snapping his fingers and crooning the night away.
There are a couple contenders here for best song: On first spin the standout was definitely “Lisa Sawyer,” an ode his mother. After a few more listens “Pull Away” started to make itself more known, providing a much different view of a relationship with a woman than “Sawyer.” Bridges wears his heart on his sleeve, and writes his lyrics as straight up and honest as possible:
“My pillow bears a tear of a man in pain
Our love, I thought I could sustain
Don’t worry about me anymore
Cause I’ll be gone by the morning time”
Listening to the whole record can get a little repetitious, but enjoyable. There were four singles released before the album, which was probably overkill because if you’ve heard the singles there isn’t much to surprise you on the record. That doesn’t ruin the absolute joy that is listening to Leon Bridges sing, so I still recommend getting Coming Home one hundred percent. If you’re a fan of soul music I’m sure you’ll be very pleased with what you get.