Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 104) ALL NEAR PICKS EDITION


Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe    (Glassnote)

If indie really has decided it’s to be 1981 Sheffield or nothing at all, better these big dumb hooks and the populist simplicity it signifies than any number of avant-gardists mucking about with vintage Fairlights. Lauren Mayberry’s chirpy voice and penchant for baroque overstatement at times elevates this to the level of disco ear candy - lines like “bind me til my lips are silent,” “show me both knees / skin and bone,” “I will carry you and give you life” suggest these Glaswegians are made of bolder stuff than contemporary tinkerers Haim, who lack the conviction to deploy any lyric half so stupid. But once their OMD tribute act lurches into the aimless realms of “Science / Visions,” it’s time to question just why Martin Doherty left the shoegaze scene behind for these crystalline corridors. No matter how much the synths bleed and snort, a smattering of guitar overdrive might quell most concerns. Oh well.

Lorde, Pure Heroine     (Lave / Republic)

Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s most nettlesome turn doesn’t surface in anti-conspicuous consumption anthem “Royals,” which has certain quarters taking umbrage because a sixteen-year-old New Zealander dared highlight hip-hop videos as one emblem of bewildering yankee excess. Nor is it any big deal when she indulges in vague refusals teenagers have long deployed the better to infuriate earnest adults and peers, (ie, yawning about “kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air”), even if her “not me” philosophy exemplifies a Holden Caulfield tendency that can bring out the Phoebe in anybody. But a synth-pop album opening with the not-unreasonable observation “don’t you think it’s boring how people talk” should steer clear of recurrent gripes about other people’s white/clean teeth or twice falling back upon the claim unwanted cultural attributions don’t flow within one’s own blood. Besides, all this is so much noise obscuring the real troublespot - expert phrasing and compositional gifts can’t come to the rescue when you run out of beats midway through the show. 

Those Darlins, Blur The Line     (Oh Wow Dang)

Blame producer Roger Moutenot for his role in reducing these occasionally ‘Mats-worthy types to the level of The Smithereens - imagine what Dave Fridmann might have done with the raw materials. But don’t overlook the damage wrought by nearly two years of floundering, in which Kelly Darlin dropped out and an entire album was recorded and shelved before starting things anew with Mr. Moutenot. Keeping in mind that Screws Get Loose was a consolidation of earlier cowpunk flailings into far more sleek and catchy garage rock, maybe it’s little surprise this third album finds them getting too comfortable. But even barring production blahs, I hear three notable songs and that’s it: paint-by-numbers Ramones exercise “Optimist,” shambling indie mess “Can’t Think,” and epic sneer “Ain’t Afraid”. Drop in the rambling “That Man” (as in “don’t own me”), and you might even have yourself a tidy little EP. 

Old 97‘s, Old 97’s / Waylon Jennings     (Omnivore)

$9.99 (or more) will buy you two 1996 unreleased cut-in-Nashville tracks featuring the redoubtable band with Rhett Miller vocals swapped out for determined yet straining guest of honor Waylon, whose death was five years away. Plus, one two three four Rhett Miller demos!