The Fall and more...
Your Future Our Clutter
In order to understand the Fall it’s useful to look at what happened last year when they shared a festival bill with Mumford & Sons. It’s a fairly standard set of events: Lead singer Mark E. Smith tells Mumford & Sons to shut up during their warm-up; Mumford & Sons don’t do so; Smith throws a bottle at Mumford & Sons. “I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers,” Smith later explained. Mumford & Sons probably don’t deserve to be violently accosted. Smith, though, clearly still believes in the not-so-fine line between wheat and chaff, or genius and shit, in rock and roll. It shows in this album, which combines thunderous drums, memorable riffs, abrasive guitars, and slurred vocals into a unique and powerful mess. After 31 years and 28 albums, the Fall somehow still manage to sound as hungry, inspired, and just plain good as ever. Tomas Hachard
Noted music geek and writer Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) had wanted to try his hand and writing lyrics for a while. He found a willing collaborator in piano player Ben Folds, and the end result is Lonely Avenue. Clearly, Hornby was already a fan of Folds work going in, because his lyrics aren’t too much of a departure from what Folds writes himself. But the job of writing songs around existing lyrics seems to have focused Folds, because this may be his strongest full album since 2001’s Rockin’ the Suburbs. The pretty-but-sad “Picture Window” joins a long line of excellent Folds ballads, while the jaunty “Doc Pomus” and “Claire’s Ninth” are very cool Hornby short stories in song form. “From Above” neatly refutes the idea that soulmates always connect above a bouncy, catchy tune. And Folds really cuts loose with the goofy lyrics of “Saskia Hamilton” and “A Working Day”, with the latter including one of the most withering retorts of the year: “Some guy on the net thinks I suck / And he should know / He’s got his own blog.” Chris Conaton
Charlotte Gainsbourg has an easier time releasing albums than acting in films. An outstanding actress she may be, but compare appearing in Lars von Trier’s Antichrist—with its infamous genital mutilation scene—to Jarvis Cocker writing you some songs. Having a father of such high esteem as Serge Gainsbourg makes musical aptitude seem a given, but it also brings living in his shadow into concern. Calling on Beck—whose love of Gainsbourg senior is no secret and whose recent solo output has been lackluster—seemed like a large risk, but it’s one that paid off wonderfully. As with the songs he collaborated on with Jamie Lidell for Lidell’s 2010 release Compass, Beck’s work with Gainsbourg on IRM has been his best in years. Songs like “Me and Jane Doe” are like musical chiffon; others, like “Trick Pony”, are loose and sexy. That all the songs sounded formidable on Gainsbourg’s first tour this past spring is a testament to their exceptionality. Maria Schurr
The Gaslight Anthem, and the band’s lyricist Brian Fallon, have fielded more than their fair share of comparisons to Bruce Springsteen for crafting catchy punk/folk songs that deliver a cinematic, Chayefsky-esque “slice of life”. American Slang holds slightly less of a retro feel than their previous albums, however, the Gaslight Anthem’s simple, yet driven musicality and Fallon’s emotionally evocative lyrics are still as potent as ever. Sometimes cryptic, but mostly clear as day, each song is packed with personal meaning that can be easily transposed to the listener’s own life. You may not know a “Queen of Lower Chelsea”, but chances are, you probably know someone a lot like her. And, in your travels, you’ve probably met a former couple (or twenty) touched by “The Spirit of Jazz” and the memories that come with such a visitation. That said, most of the material on American Slang is marked by a certain wistfulness mingled with pain that could easily slip into bitterness, but gratefully, doesn’t. Lana Cooper
It’s easy to immediately declare Glasser as another Bat for Lashes/Fever Ray clone, and indeed, when you hear the sparse arrangement and sumptuous vocals of “Apply” the similarity is striking, but the deeper you go into the gorgeous, hypnotic Ring the more it becomes apparent that singer-songwriter Cameron Mesirow is quickly emerging as a singular talent. With a voice capable of the seductiveness of Kate Bush and the sensitivity of Joni Mitchell, Mesirow shows a lot more maturity and restraint than the Florences and the Marinas of the world as she and her bandmates engage we listeners with songs so subtly arranged that we transfixed yet can barely elaborate why. All we know is by the time the stunning “Mirrorage” comes along, we’re in Glasser’s collective hands fully. Adrien Begrand