Initial Reactions (2012): Bruce Springsteen, Magnetic Fields, Father John Misty

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)

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball [A-]: A strong record that could have been stronger. The problem? Springsteen picked a potent theme (avarice), gave it a compelling banner (who or what is the wrecking ball here?), and then cast it in pristine production. The result is a good, maybe great record instead of a classic. It’s a winner for sure, but dressed up too pretty for a blue collar manifesto. Still, surprisingly fine. ("Wrecking Ball", "Land of Hope and Dreams")

Magnetic Fields – Love At The Bottom Of The Sea [B-]: That first track is funny and all, but the double entendres start to ring hollow around the album’s middle, if not sooner. Now I’m not enough of a follower to know how this fits into Merritt’s career, but what I do know from my copy of Holiday is that the man doesn’t need to rely on cheek to create a compelling record. Sure, it can be fun for the novelty, but overall, the results are forgettable. ("God Wants Us To Wait")

Father John Misty – Fear Fun [B]: Good night! J. Tillman tries hard to make a great record and makes a decent one. There’s 5 times he comes close to writing a classic tune, but he crams so much in that the tunes sag under the weight. At times, I get the sense that he’s so taken with his own abilities that he forgets to serve the song. Now I know that sounds oh-so-criticale, but just listen to track 10. Not writing a novel sir – writing songs. ("Funtimes in Babylon")

Quick Review (LP): Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues
Sub Pop; 2011

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Montezuma", "Bedouin Dress", "Sim Sala Bim", "Helplessness Blues", "Lorelei", "Someone You’d Admire"

An “old soul” soul record.

NOTES
– Let me just get this out of my system: it is not humanly possible to top their debut LP and its accompanying EP.
– I think that is my favorite opening lyric in a long time: "So know I am older/Than my mother and father/When they had their daughter/Oh what does that say about me?"
– "Montezuma" is almost beautiful enough to reduce you to tears from the outset.
– Sounds like Fleet Foxes, but there is a wholly organic growth and realization here. They certainly aren’t resting on their laurels.
– Also, Pecknold is one of the most unconventional songwriters I’ve ever heard. Wonderful!
– Love the fiddle on "Bedouin Dress." And the lyrics…magnificent! "The borrower’s debt is the only regret of my youth." "Just to be at Innisfree again/All of the sirens are driving me over the stern."
– I saw these guys play the Ryman a few weeks ago. It was transcendent. Here’s clip of Robin performing "Oliver James." Again, it makes me tear up just thinking about how beautiful it was. Divine.
– Gettin’ their Led Zeppelin on during "Sim Sala Bim."
– Man, "Helplessness Blues"… you gotta love the heart on the sleeve. What a triumphant tune.
– "Lorelei" is beautiful. Sounds quite a bit like Dylan’s "4th Time Around."
– Gorgeous melody on "Someone You’d Admire." Recalls Simon & Garfunkel.
– "Grown Ocean" never quite reaches the heights of grandeur that I hope it will. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s missing. Anyone want to take a stab?
– There are a few less than transcendent moments on the record – "The Cascades", "The Shrine/An Argument" – so it’s not perfect by any means. However, it’s still pretty great, and a worthy follow-up to one of the best debuts ever.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)