On May 20th The National will release Trouble Will Find Me, their sixth studio album in twelve years. I’ve heard it, and I find it disappointing. Much like High Violet, they’re moving further from the band I loved on their early albums. It started with Boxer, when they became the critics darling we know them to be today. They still write good songs, but I feel like they’re just repeating themselves now.
So instead of reviewing the new record, which I know everyone is going to pick up regardless of what I say, I figured I’d use today to remind myself how great The National can be. Here is my top ten songs from their career so far.
10. The Perfect Song
9. Secret Meeting
6. Start A War
5. Anna Freud
4. Lucky You
3. Fake Empire
2. Mr. November (Ed. note: This is a video Kari shot when we saw them at First Ave in 2009. The audio isn’t perfect, but the end is worth it)
1. Slipping Husband
As always, feel free to add your own lists or tear mine to shreds in the comments section below.
Tonight Josh Ritter hits Chicago, and I’ll be there just like I am every time he plays within 50 miles of me. I’m running through my usual show-day ritual of listening to some deep cuts, and I thought it might be a good time to shine a spotlight on some of the man’s unheralded work. Everybody loves “Kathleen” and “The Curse,” but let’s give it up for the songs that make up the other 90% of his records.
9. In The Dark
(Editor’s note: this video is from SxSw 2011, and I make a brief appearance around the 5:35 mark)
8. Hotel Song
7. One More Mouth
5. Open Doors
4. Long Shadows
2. Morning Is A Long Way Down
1. Naked As A Window
Feel free to share your favorite Josh Ritter song or one that you think deserves more praise below in the comments.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my old friend Patrick Tape-Fleming about the best albums Bob Dylan has put out. I don’t remember the genesis of the conversation, but basically he was saying someone had mentioned a record that he didn’t even consider in Dylan’s top ten. That got me thinking about how your top ten Dylan albums says way more about you than it does about Dylan. In the end we decided that you can’t really fault anyone because they’re all good in their own way (yes, even Empire Burlesque). As today is Bobby’s 71st birthday, I figured I would share my list with you and then if you feel like it you can put yours in the comments section, or up on Facebook and we can discuss them. Keep in mind I am not saying that these are absolutely the best, just the ones I think are best. Read more…
Ezra Furman is returning home to Chicago this weekend to finish up his tour with two shows at Schubas Tavern on Belmont. I implore anyone within driving distance to buy a ticket and get to whichever show you can. The early show is all ages and will be opened up by The Canoes (another great Chicago band) and the second show is 21 and up with Chamberlin filling in as support. Read more…
Whenever I get sent a record that mentions the word “punk” in any way, I assume I’m going to hate it. Not because punk music is bad or because I don’t get it, but becuase the era that I grew up in was such a down time for the genre that I am constantly reminded of it. When I was a teenager, the big “punk” bands were Good Charlotte and Blink-182. Music I hated, but people ate it up like yellow potato salad at a picnic (this simile assumes that everyone loves yellow potato salad as much as I do). So now every time I get a record that claims to be “punk” all I can think is “Great. Another Alien Ant Farm record.” It’s completely unfair, I know. But that’s where I am with punk music.
When I got Sharks record sent to me by someone that I’ve worked with a number of times, I gave it a chance based on my relationship with him. It’s a good thing I did, because No Gods may be the best album out of the UK all year. And for the record, I do give other punk records a shot sometimes-like last year I really like The Wonder Years album. Last week I ran a interview with Sharks singer/songwriter James Mattock, where he said that he didn’t like the label of “punk” or “post-punk,” and that he’d be fine if everyone called them a pop band. He isn’t too far off with the statement. The band is as heavy on melody as they are on loud guitars.
One thing that impressed me was Sharks ability to avoid the pitfalls many British bands fall victim to on their first outing. I don’t know how many bands I’ve heard over the last couple years that all sound exactly the same. Or if not exactly the same, you can pick out whole sections of songs and say, “Oh, they stole that part from Graham Coxon.” Or “Oh, I liked this song better when it was called ‘Seconds’.” They do well to keep everything sounding original, save for the lead single “Arcane Effigies,” which reminds me equally of The Fratellis and The Darkness.
For a first album, the band did a great job of creating a tracklist that flows nicely. The first four tracks, “Til The Wonders Rise” through “On A Clear Day You Can See Yourself” could stand up to the best of them as far as kicking off a record. No Gods does suffer a bit of a downward trend after that initial kick, but when the songs are that good, there isn’t really anywhere else to go. I commented during my interview that the song “Able Moving Hearts” really captured the feel of Sharks, giving a listener a great idea of who they are and what they’re about. After the first few spins, it was definitely my favorite track. Some ten listens later, I think “On A Clear Day…” is the better tune. It’s catchy as hell and has a nice bluesy feel that sets it apart from the rest of the album.
Everyone brings their A-game, musically. Though no one really gets a lot of spotlight time, you can tell that everyone performing is passionate about the songs and gives it their all. Andrew Bayliss and Mattock really delivers on guitar, while Sam Lister pounds the kit. Tony Corrales goes a bit unnoticed on bass, buried beneath the cymbals and shredding. His best work comes toward the end of the album on “Luck.”
If you read this site daily, or even weekly, you already know I added this album to my top ten. It is rare that an album of this genre finds its way to any list I make, regardless of how early in the year we are. If you picked up The Vaccines record last year on my recommendation, I suggest the same with this. No Gods is a very good record that promises a bright future for Sharks.