Quick Review (LP): The Smiths by The Smiths

thesmiths The Smiths
The Smiths
Rough Trade; 1984

My Rating: B

Best Tracks: “Reel Around the Fountain”, “You’ve Got Everything Now”, “Pretty Girls Make Graves”, “Still Ill”

The problem for The Smiths is that they were a great singles band, perhaps the best of the 80’s. As a consequence, their debut at times feels padded around the tracks that preceded the record, the classics “Hand In Glove” and “This Charming Man” and the great “What Difference Does It Make?” These tracks are pop supernovae, and everything that surrounds them pales in comparison, but not necessarily for want of brightness. Opener “Reel Around The Fountain”, as well as the propulsive “You’ve Got Everything Now” reveal quite a different side to the band, and the album’s second half is nearly perfect. As a debut, this one feels a lot like Murmur, plaintive out of the gate rather than charging. I’d argue that if they’d left the singles off of this, they might have achieved a masterpiece. Instead, they created an interesting debut, but one that is ultimately forgettable.

AMG review
Wikipedia article
BBC review

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Quick Review (LP): Simulacrenfield by Parlour

Parlour
Simulacrenfield
Temporary Residence; 2010

My Rating: C+

Best Tracks: “Destruction Paper”, “Wedder”

It’s happening to Parlour. I’ll call it “the slide into mediocrity.” The band’s first full-length, The Octopus Off Broadway, was a diverse, sci-fi, new-agey collection of instrumental indie epics that came off as utterly original. Simulacrenfield, the band’s third, sounds homogenous and under-inspired. It’s not that the tracks aren’t any good, it’s just that they are always on the verge of fading out of mind. Comparisons have been made to Neu! for this record, and that’s appropriate. However, even Neu! was able to inject a little drama into their best stuff. Simulacrenfield comes off like a bit of a workout, routine and precise, a bit like the last couple of Tortoise records. I’ll always have high hopes for the band that produced “The Living Beginning” and the Hives Fives EP, but Simulacrenfield unfortunately leaves me underwhelmed.

Tiny Mix Tapes review
Delusions of Adequacy review
Band’s Myspace site

Quick Review (LP): Interpol by Interpol

Interpol
Interpol
Matador; 2010

My Rating: C

Best Tracks: “Summer Well”, “Lights”, “Barricade”

The thing is I’ve never really loved Interpol. Even their first album, generally considered one of the best debuts of the last decade, only managed to plant three tracks under my skin. They’ve always seemed way too cold and a little too pleased with themselves. That being said, I will admit that those three tracks showed a lot of promise, but at this point, Interpol is beyond becoming what they might have been. When it comes to urban indie rock noir, The National crept up on Interpol and overtook them long ago. The theme here is apparently “success,” and predictably they sound bored with it. Their sound has become tired as well. Track titles like “Always Malaise” don’t suggest the irony I assume they are intended to, and the production, though huge, sounds sterile. All in all, I think Interpol’s story will soon come to an end. When all is said and done though, I guess they’ll always have “NYC.”

Pitchfork review
Metacritic reviews

Quick Review (LP): Volume 2 by She & Him

she & him volume 2 She & Him
Volume 2
Merge; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Thieves”, “In the Sun”, “Don’t Look Back”, “Riding In My Car”, “Lingering Still”, “Over It Over Again”

The first time around, having not been exposed to M. Ward’s excellent Post-War, I shrugged She & Him off as another example of crass celebrity indulgence. Imagine my surprise when Paste named Volume 1 the best record of 2008. This time around, I have to acknowledge the genius. First off, Zooey can write. And vocally, she manages to channel June Carter Cash pretty darn well. The fact that she had the foresight to collaborate with M. Ward says that she knows exactly what she’s doing. Big props there. What the two of them have created is one of the finest pop albums in recent memory, a stunning collection of nostalgic throwbacks that will put a big smile on your face. If these two had been making records fifty years ago, we’d be citing their work alongside Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. Volume 2 is a great record by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe one of the best of 2010. If you haven’t already, you need to hear it.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review

Quick Review (LP): Admiral Fell Promises by Sun Kil Moon

sun kil moon admiral fell promisesSun Kil Moon
Admiral Fell Promises
Caldo Verde; 2010

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “Third & Seneca”, “You Are My Sun”, “Admiral Fell Promises”

This is a record so snoozy that it makes “I’m Only Sleeping” seem like a Mastodon outtake (Yes, I’m here all night). Rarely does it approach that monolithic musical identity called pop/rock. Instead, it’s a serious departure even from the slo-mo epics of Red House Painters. This is more of a classical guitar album than anything else, and I can handle that on one level. The problem is that I don’t think Kozelek’s fans want him to fade away into obscurity as a “high art-form” musician, and unfortunately that’s what the trajectory on this record appears to indicate. Whereas there’s a handful of distinctively strong tracks, such as the world-weary “Third & Seneca”, most of the record feels academic, just a little too reasonable. In light of that, maybe a collaboration with Mastodon next time around wouldn’t be so outrageous. Wake me up the next time around.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review
Paste review

Quick Review (LP): The Five Ghosts by Stars

stars five ghosts Stars
The Five Ghosts
Soft Revolution; 2010

My Rating: B

Best Tracks: “Wasted Daylight”, “Fixed”, “The Passenger”, “Changes”

Fun. This is like a lost Depeche Mode record, though heavier on the pop and a little less devastated. Thematically, it may seem at first like an awful dark record, but I tend to think the 5 ghosts being referenced are the band members’ lost 80’s childhoods. Haters will hate it, no doubt, but I haven’t heard a record this chock full of deliciously Saturday morning electro-pop since that one mix I made that brought together The Cure, The Smiths, and Tears for Fears. Some truly fine moments here (Millan shines brightest), start with the recommendations above and don’t overthink this one.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review

Quick Review (LP): Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene

forgivenessrockrecordBroken Social Scene
Forgiveness Rock Record
Arts & Crafts; 2010

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “World Sick”, “All to All”, “Meet Me In The Basement”

For starters, “World Sick” is great. Unfortunately, though, I’m not so sure about the rest of these tracks. Truth be told, it’s amazing how bored they sound on the majority of this record. Cool will only take you so far; there has to be some creative intensity below the surface. Aside from the opener, “All to All” shows promise (though at best it’s merely this album’s “Anthems for a 17-Year Old Girl”), and there are decent moments in most of the rest of these tracks. But this is a band that, for all of its talent and experimental vision, shouldn’t be making records that sound like knock-offs of their previous efforts. This one only confirms that, since You Forgot It In People, they have been on a downward slide.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review

Back shortly…

I’ll be back by the end of this week. Big paper due and all…

For now, enjoy a great old jam and a hilariously dated video: