Initial Reactions (2012): Beach Boys, Best Coast, Bap Kennedy

Initial Reactions are just that: my reactions to records after only a few listens (usually 2 or 3). I try to be fair, but if a record doesn’t make much of an initial impression on me, someone’s going to need to tell me to pay closer attention if they think it deserves better. (see the sidebar for rating descriptions)

Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio [A-]: The Boys didn’t enlist Jack White to produce, so there is the cheezed-out sound. But be slaked by those opening harmonies. Enjoy the jingle of "Isn’t It Time." Marvel at the concept of "Bill and Sue." And just relish the fact that these well-advanced pop godfathers crafted a dirge for the closer "Summer’s Gone." TWGMTR isn’t a perfect album by any means, but it more than proves the abundance of greatness that is the Beach Boys. ("The Private Life of Bill and Sue", "Summer’s Gone")

Best Coast – The Only Place [B+]: Didn’t dig on Best Coast’s first album. Something about the "a-melodic drone" of the guitar, but I can safely say that the guitar playing here is jangly, sunny, and sprite-ish. Furthermore, the girl-group harmonies and Spector-ish flourishes realize an altogether lovelier sound. Now despite the presence of a couple of greats, the songs aren’t quite ‘A’ material. But the trajectory is on target, and I’m expecting big things from BCLP3. ("The Only Place", "How They Want Me To Be")

Bap Kennedy – The Sailor’s Revenge [B]: Mark Knopfler‘s production cred garnered my attention, but I’m pleased to report that Bap Kennedy has written a strong set of songs to boot. These are tunes shot through with a gentle sea, making TSR a reflective bookend to Fisherman’s Blues. Like any sea voyage, though it starts out full of promise, by the end it’s worn on you a bit, but all in all, you’ll keeping coming back for nothing more than the song of the sea away on that horizon. ("Shimnavale", "Jimmy Sanchez")

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