Forgive the radio silence: I haven’t exactly been drowning in new music—deepening my Ashley Monroe obsession is more like it—but I do want to chime in about a few recent releases, one of which I quite like, a couple of which are decent, and one of which is a bit of a slog. Note that they’re not listed here in that particular order.
Wilco, Star Wars. I’ve never exactly bought Jeff Tweedy as a genius at work, but here he’s fairly persuasive as a rock star at play, which is of course a more rewarding role anyway. The songs don’t stick with me, but the buzzing electricity of the recordings keep my brain humming long after the record ends.
Yo La Tengo, Stuff Like That There. What does it say about a band when a relaxed, ramshackle covers album feels like an essential reflection of who they are—a mission statement by way of a lark? Maybe that their mission is human connection through words and melody, and that putting one’s finger to the beating pulse of a song is no lark at all?
Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands. Theirs, I will speculate, is The Band, and they do an uncanny impression here that still seems to miss the point completely—the point being spontaneous combustion of humor, myth, grit, and groove.
Florence and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. The Machine isn’t actually mentioned on the cover, and Florence is too big a personality for them to fit in the frame. How long before she just makes a solo album, do you think? And will the difference be discernible? Anyway, your enjoyment of this will hinge on how appealing you find that big personality, which uses a breakup album as a chance to invoke The Holy Virgin, Lot’s wife, and the biblical Delilah.