Quick Review (LP): Kaputt by Destroyer

Destroyer
Kaputt
Merge; 2011

My Rating: B (72/100)

Best Tracks: "Kaputt", "Chinatown", "Savage Night At The Opera", "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker", “Bay of Pigs (Detail)”

A Sleepy Aural Epic of Urban Proportions

RANDOM NOTES

– Smooth and seemingly effortless, this is the work of an artist seeking to emulate the soft rock precision of Steely Dan.
– More glammy than Smith Westerns without even trying.
– I’ve got no idea what Dan Bejar is singing about, and I assume it is rather depraved and essentially vacuous, but the melodies and the arrangements are fantastic.
– Love the Dire Straits-esque opening on "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker." Transporting.
– As great as many of these songs are, their remains a nebulosity that approaches jazziness, and I can’t help but feel that on a certain level Bejar might be a little lazy in terms of songcraft.
– One major drawback: Lacks impressiveness, that is, the ability to remain with you after you’re done listening.
– Begins to drag toward the end. For all of its excess, it lacks spark.
– Do NOT listen to this while driving. You might just fall asleep around "Song for America." 
– I have very mixed feelings about this – a sonic feast, but sort of boring and empty for all of its surface beauty.
Mark Richardson and James Christopher Monger both have lovely things to say about Kaputt.
– All in all, this is most certainly a grower, and a deep record. Nothing jumps right out and cries pay attention, but the more I listen, the more I find this a fascinating affair.

ATTRIBUTES

Cohesion (5/5) – Hard to beat the overall craftsmanship of the album.
Consequence (4/5) – No big single punch here, but it’s a very strong record.
Concept (4.5/5) – A fantastically smooth soft rock record.
Consistency (4.5/5) – Several brilliant moments really stand out above the rest.
Songs (4/5) – Could’ve been a bit stronger in the singles department.

Quick Review (LP): Together by New Pornographers

File:The New Pornographers - Together.jpgNew Pornographers
Together LP
Matador; 2010

My Rating: A

Standout Tracks: “The Crash Years”, “Silver Jenny Dollar”, “Bite Out of My Bed”

Let’s see…five albums in now. This should have been the epic fail, right? Not so. Instead, they’ve achieved a fantastic synthesis of the polite baroque rock of Challengers and the rocket-fueled zounds! pop of everything before that. It boasts some of their best work (Case is on another plane of existence here), and turns out to be the most consistent album from liftoff to crash landing they’ve yet made. High on melody, high on spark, high on all of the things that go to make heaven and earth. RiYL: anything they’ve done in the past, Destroyer, A.C. Newman, powerful power pop, Neko Case.

band website
Pitchfork review
Myspace page

A.C. Newman: Get Guilty (2009)

Album Cover via eMusic

A.C. Newman
Get Guilty; 2009
Matador Records

My Rating: 74/100

Power-Pop Hitman Guilty As Sin

I have a guilty pleasure I need to admit: I am a huge fan of pop superstar Phil Collins, especially his mid-80’s heyday. I am such a fan that I recently created a mix CD entitled “Phil Collins Galore.” Something about that man’s music simply butters my bread. Still, whenever I ponder the career of (the original) Dr. Phil, I often scratch my head about the ping-ponging he did between his solo career and Genesis, because when it all comes down to it, for the longest time I couldn’t differentiate between the two. In fact, at this given moment, I couldn’t tell you whether “Sussudio” is a Genesis or a Phil track. And that’s the way I feel about A.C. Newman’s solo work. Unlike the other two major indie artists working in the New Pornographers (Dan Bejar of Destroyer & Neko Case), Newman’s eponymous output  bears little immediate difference from the NP-sound. It can lead one to cynicism about the whole affair: “Why even bother?” However, a few careful listens to Newman’s second full-length shine a spotlight on the specific and dissimilar merits contained therein. For starters, there’s a rhythmic angularity and experimentalism that is, for the most part, absent from the hyperactive power pop of New Pornographers (“Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer”, “Elemental”), in large part thanks to the unorthodox drumming of Superchunk’s John Wurster. Second, while the songs are hooky and immediately accessible (“Young Atlantis”, “Prophets”), they are also deeply mysterious and entirely unyielding. These are tracks you can dwell in for a good while, discovering additional layers here and there to relish. Third, because he isn’t forced to share the spotlight with anyone else, we get to focus on Newman’s greatest strenghth: his penchant for writing memorable and distinguishable pop songs. Overall, Newman is at his best when he builds the song around a mind-blowing hook and lets it breath. His esoteric/enigmatic lyrics don’t distract so much then, but instead become the alternate universe into which we are initiated by a hummable, repeatable motif.  Get Guilty provides clear indication that Newman’s solo career is not merely a vanity affair. The record is an impeccably-crafted album of left-field baroque pop gems, as satisfying as any of the New Pornographers’ long-players, and ultimately the work of a master craftsman. Highly recommended.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve (4/5)
2. The Heartbreak Rides (5/5)
3. Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer (4/5)
4. Prophets (5/5)
5. Submarines Of Stockholm (5/5)
6. Thunderbolts (3.5/5)
7. The Palace At 4AM (4/5)
8. The Changeling (Get Guilty) (3.5/5)
9. Elemental (4/5)
10. Young Atlantis (5/5)
11. The Collected Works (4/5)
12. All Of My Days And All Of My Days Off (5/5)

What do you think of A.C. Newman’s Get Guilty?