Restorations Tackle The Tough Stuff on LP5000

On Restorations first album in four years, LP5000, the group delivers an emotional wallop over seven songs in a 25 minute span. It’s a look into being in your thirties – appreciating all the things that the age brings – love, stability and the prospect of a bright future still ahead, but sometimes just falling short. In addition, with what feels like a scandal-a-day in the news, the world seems to be retching at this point. Like vocalist/guitarist Jon Loudon says on the creeping, anxious “Nonbeliever”: “I love your protest lines/oh, but who has the time?” coupled with “Got a partner for starters/and a kid on the way/can’t be doing all this dumb shit no more”, it’s pitting ideology vs. reality. How are you supposed to stay engaged when there’s all this other stuff that needs your attention?

That’s just a part of it. “The Red Door,” LP5000’s sweeping, totally anthemic first single addresses the process of  gentrification. “Feel my pulse pick up with/every building that’s built/haven’t we all felt a little/a little in between before?”, Loudon says. Sure, he could be talking about the band’s hometown of Philadelphia, but it also doubles of the transitional point of your life of moving from one constant to something totally unfamiliar. It’s a clever sleight of hand, until the final dead giveaway: “All I want is to see you comfortable/In your own skin/In your own way.” It’s a simple statement conveyed with the disappointment and exhaustion of emotion of watching one of your favorite places being wiped away without a trace in favor of something hollow and empty, or worse, replaced with nothing at all.

LP5000 is a complicated record that has remarkable highs and lows in such a short amount of time. Restorations have always been a band that crushes with dynamic sonic shifts paired with bone-cutting truths. That’s no different here. “And now you can’t afford to live in the town you were born in/When they ask you where you’re from, you tell them the truth/You don’t know, and who does anymore?, Loudon sings at the end of “Remains”. They’re a band trying to live the best they can and admitting it’s fucking hard. We’re people less about where we’re from and more about how we relate to each other through our experiences. In the unbearable nowness of now, it’s the best we can do. It’s good that records like LP5000 exist to remind us of that.

LP5000 is out September 28 on Tiny Engines.

Lucero Address Change on the Magnificent Among The Ghosts

Lucero – Among the Ghosts


2018 marks twenty years together for the Memphis-based Lucero, a group no stranger to making classic record after classic record. That’s why it’s not surprising that their ninth, Among the Ghosts might just be their best. On the whole, the album sounds like Ben Nichols coming to terms with a new phase in life – both as a husband and a father, and the double edge sword that can be.

It’s an album that shows the true breadth of their talents – the album’s title track starts on a mediation about a lot of things – Nichols talks about leaving his family behind on the road – specifically his young daughter – and the toll it takes. “The first words she said to me were ‘goodbye’”, he sings. It almost breaks your heart to hear the resignation in his voice.

Nichols sounds a little hard on himself about how life transforming has impacted those around him. That’s apparent on “Everything Has Changed,” charged by Rick Steff’s inimitable keys. “Looking like darker days/ain’t nobody else to blame/somewhere down in hell they call my name.” It’s a classic Lucero slow-burner, but seems to hold so much more weight in the light of the birth of his daughter.

One of the album’s best tracks, “For My Dearest Wife” was inspired by Civil War soldiers writing back to their families, however, it’s really feels like a storytelling device about Nichols missing his wife. The band offers an interpolation of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the song, backed by Roy Berry’s marching drums. It’s a beautiful piece to talk about something personal and relatable with a historical context in a way that many musicians could not execute as well as this, or even bother with attempting.

Has this band ever written a song as tender as “Loving”? That’s debatable, “It might not be good enough for them/but I just want to be good enough for you” may be one of the most realistic and honest lines in a love song in recent memory. It’s a song Nicohols originally wrote for a film of the same name about Richard and Mildred Loving, whose interracial marriage in the late 50’s was illegal where they lived, and their challenging of the law resulted in a Supreme Court decision ruling the law unconstitutional. While the song is referencing the film, the feeling is universal.

Among the Ghosts shows a band still growing after two decades together. For a band to be making music this good, an album that feels so consequential and full this late in their career is incredible. Yes, the stakes are higher, but Lucero is there to meet them.

Among the Ghosts is out August 3 on Thirty Tigers.

Wild Pink’s “Yolk in the Fur” is Grand Ambition Unfolding in Real Time


Wild Pink – Yolk in the Fur

Any band’s second album is cause for concern. It can go two ways – a retread of the first, a brand new direction, or something entirely forgettable. Yolk in the Fur is none of those. In every way, it’s the sound of a New York-based Wild Pink accumulating mass, becoming something bigger than they seemingly ever intended, reaching beyond what they previously thought possible and forging something far different than you’d expect from a band out of New York City.

Opener “Burger Hill” is an excellent table setter, kicking off the record with placid synths and reverb-heavy guitar. “Lake Erie” is a majestic, sweeping single reminiscent of the last few The War on Drugs albums, while “Jewels Drossed in the Runoff” with it’s crashing riffs and Ross’s slightly above-a-whisper voice creating a song that’s both anthemic as it is gorgeous. Shortly thereafter comes “There Is A Ledger”, that churns only in a way that 1980’s pop-rock singles do – it’s a hard sound to describe here, but the jangly guitars and whooping synth feel so out of time but amazingly refreshing.

Yolk in the Fur is a major leap forward for Wild Pink. It communicates that they’re a band that’s deploying only a modicum of their skillset. The first two records show potential and possibility. Whatever is next feels like the scope will be much wider. Wild Pink’s wave is about to crest. This is your chance to catch it.

Yolk in the Fur is out today on Tiny Engines.

Hear/Here: Snail Mail, Culture Abuse and more


Snail Mail – Lush

Lindsey Jordan’s debut album is a confident collection of indie rock that could fit well in any decade – they’re confident, full-bodied anthems that have endless playback. “Pristine” is an amazing example of this – “Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” I’m marveling how “Heat Wave” starts as kind of a dreamy ballad before it nosedives into a straight-from-1993 speaker blaster. “Let’s Find An Out” brings things down with its simple strums as does the breezy vocals of “Golden Dream”. It’s an instant classic from a young artist on her first full length. With Lush as an example, whatever Snail Mail shows a ton of potential. She’s already an artist without limit. That’s so exciting.

Culture Abuse – Bay Dream

A runaway album of the summer in so many ways. Listening to their 2016 debut Peach, you’d think it’s an entirely different band. In some ways, it is. Frontman David Kelling is singing a lot more here, and it shows. While Peach had plenty of sludgy, ugly riffs, in place there’s big, bright riffs about songs about being kind to the bugs (Bee Kind to the Bugs), the sweetness of “S’Why” with lyrics like “I feel you pushing me forward/To the place I wanna go/There is no melody sweeter” and the California pop of “Bluebird On My Shoulder”. It’s the sound of a band spreading its wings in a totally unexpected, totally welcome way. I mean, it’s all really good. Get on this train now. Culture City Rockers forever.

Also enjoying:

Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever – Hope Downs – Breezy, jangly Melbourne-based indie rock that I’m still unpacking.

The Carters – EVERYTHING IS LOVE – A few requisite bangers, a nice way to cap off Lemonade and 4:44 but nothing totally major I think.

Flasher – Constant Image – D.C. punks from ex-Priests member Taylor Mulitz and others.

Natalie Prass – The Future and the Past – Great songwriter, “Short Court Style” is awesome.

What I’m Listening To: February 2018

Lucy Dacus – Historian

I first heard about Lucy Dacus the way a lot of people hear about new bands: from the playlist of the 2016 VP-nominee, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Seriously. He included her song “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” on a streaming playlist. Turns out his daughter is friends with Dacus. Obligatory next door neighborly plug it wasn’t: Dacus’s 2016 debut No Burden is seriously great. Historian is even better.

The Richmond based singer-songwriter builds on the confidence and songcraft of her debut by re-teaming with producer Collin Pastore, which was then mixed with John Congleton, who is known for his work with St. Vincent, among others. The result is a record that feels weightier and enveloping in sound opposed to the lo-fi sounds of No Burden. Dacus is 22, but the rich tone of her voice begets a singer whose doing it much longer. From the chugging opener “Night Shift,” a classic breakup song – “You got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift/And I’ll never see you again if I can help it/In five years I hope the songs feel like covers/Dedicated to new lovers” the sweeping, gorgeous “Body to Flame” and pop bite of “Next of Kin” – “I am at peace with my death/I can go back to bed”. It’s a career defining collection that’s worthier than the words written here, or like she says on “Addictions” – “invest your time in what’s worthwhile”. Historian might be the album of the year.

Titus Andronicus – A Productive Cough

If you’ve followed Titus Andronicus for a few record cycles, you know they tend to work on an odd-even structure: They start with a relatively straightforward rock record (2008’s The Airing of Grievances) coupled by an ambitious high concept record (2010’s all-timer The Monitor). Repeat with 2012’s Local Business and follow it up with the even more ambitious The Most Lamentable Tragedy, released in 2015. The band’s latest A Productive Cough seems like the most personal record yet from Patrick Stickles, something that plays less like a shambolic punk collection and more like “Exile on the New Jersey Turnpike”. “Number One (In New York)” is a bombastic opener that never really crests, while “Real Talk” feels a lot like the Stones “Rip This Joint”. “Crass Tattoo” pretty much eschews Stickles’s vocal, instead, sung by Megg Farrell who brings the house down. There’s also a really fun cover of “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan that Stickles changes the tense to first person. It’s totally unnecessary, but what really is here? Ultimately, it’s a minor work in the Titus canon that will have its fans and detractors.

Caleb Caudle – Crushed Coins

If you haven’t heard Caleb Caudle yet, start here. The North Carolina native has been making records for years, but on his eighth, Crushed Coins, his classicist country voice bends to explore different genres. Whether it’s the Laurel Canyon expanse of “NYC in the Rain” or the 60’s psych elements of “Empty Arms,” Caudle winds them together with ease. Guided by the steady hand of producer Jon Ashley, Caudle’s made his best record yet. There’s so many great moments, but the stripped down acoustic ballad “Until It’s Over”, is probably the sweetest. “There’s a light inside of her/cuts through my darkness/steals away these broken blues/punch for punch I’ve got an honest love/it’s true,” Caudle sings. He nails the words exactly. Way to put the rest of us to shame, dude.

Also check out

Screaming Females – All at Once
Turnstile – Time & Space
Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends

Superchunk’s What a Time to Be Alive Handles the Turbulence with Confidence

The world feels like it’s coming apart at the seams, some new scandal or piece of terrible news hits daily, or sometimes with even more frequency. It takes more effort to simply keep up than it does just to be able to digest the news. The result is mind numbing. Then you look to find respite from these things. There’s music. Superchunk knows this well, and somehow they found a way to channel the rage and anxiety of this turbulent time in history into their 11th album, the sardonically titled What a Time To be Alive.

Since the band’s return to recording at the top of the decade after taking most of the ’00’s off, 2010’s Majesty Shredding reintroduced listeners to Superchunk as a punk band with power-pop leanings, but imbued with an immediacy that at times make them sound like a different band from their earlier years. This continues on the album’s opener, the title track, a cascading ripper which pretty much puts this administration in the crosshairs – “There’s a crooked line that runs/through every crease in this map/and you want to take us all the way back” singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan sings. There’s virtriol in his voice – by the time the chorus hits “the scum, the shame, the fucking lies/oh what a time to be alive”, there’s barely a moment to catch your breath.

Just as that song halts, the punk stomp of “Lost My Brain” begins. McCaughan echoes the sentiment felt by so many pretty early – “I surrendered to the flow of shit/I gave up all my all my sleep/and I didn’t learn anything from it”. It’s a sobering lyric, but the rhythm section of bassist Laura Ballance and drummer Jon Wurster are pummeling, keeping the band buoyant despite the desperation of the lyric. If it already wasn’t clear,”Lost My Brain” makes it crystal – this is an album about trying to make it day by day living under the Trump administration.

Yet, the record is hardly downcast. McCaughan is pissed, but many of the album’s angry statements are filtered through classic Superchunk – the hooky as hell earworm “Bad Choices” with guitarist Jim Wilbur’s zig-zag leads and the similarly catchy “Dead Photographers”. Among these is the soaring standout “Erasure,” which is like a Merge Records roster showcase with Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields guest on background vocals. What these songs all have in common is that Quicksilver energy and pitch perfect execution of a band who has played together for decades.

Perhaps that is what makes What a Time to be Alive a great record. Nearly thirty years in, Superchunk are not only still making music, but they’ve made a vital record that rivals even their classic material. It’s a near impossible task, yet they keep accomplishing it time and time again. Now, during a time where getting up every day means feeling like you have to brace yourself for something terrible, there’s a record that comes out swinging in the face of that ugliness. It’s an album referencing a time and a place that somehow feels timeless. Superchunk’s exuberance and confidence in pushing forward is a good example that everyone can learn from.

What a Time to Be Alive is out February 16 on Merge.