Music

The Minus 5 / Young Fresh Fellows: Killingsworth / I Think This Is

Scott McCaughey's twin engines of pop genius are on full blast with a fresh new Minus 5 and Young Fresh Fellows albums that stand as both groups' finest works to date.


The Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows
Albums: Killingsworth/I Think I Is
Label: Yep Roc
UK Release Date: 2009-07-07
US Release Date: 2009-07-07

Young Fresh Fellows

I Think This Is

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2009-07-07
UK Release Date: 2009-07-07
Amazon
iTunes

If you consider yourself to be any kind of educated R.E.M. fan, you are well aware of the Athens, Georgia, kingpins’ extended family of side projects and sidemen they’ve been connected to over the course of their near-30 years as a band.

While 3/4s of the group ventured out beyond the dichotomy of Michael Stipe’s mumblecore pop genius for what remains to this day the best R.E.M. side project, the loose-limbed 1991 jam session with the late Warren Zevon as the Hindu Love Gods, guitarist Peter Buck’s long-running collaboration with Seattle power pop maven Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows as the Minus 5 is by far the group’s most prolific endeavor outside R.E.M. yet. Over the course of the pair’s 16 years together, their rotating door of band members has included such alt-rock heavyweights as John Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies and Big Star 2.0, pretty much the entire line-up of Wilco, Kelly Hogan, John Wesley Harding, and, currently, members of the Decemberists -- the bulk of whom comprise the line-up of the 2009 incarnation of the Minus 5.

Killingsworth, released concurrently with the first proper new Young Fresh Fellows album in ten years, finds the Minus 5 continuing in the mellow country vibe they capitalized on for the stronger portions of their 2006 eponymous LP, nicknamed “The Gun Album”. That plaintive, breezy twang features on key tracks here, such as the album’s quiet opener “Dark Hand of Contagion”, the (Untitled)-era Byrds-esque “I Would Rather Sacrifice You”, and the great “Smoke On, Jerry”, which features some of Buck’s most exuberant country guitar playing yet. Having seemingly found comfort in a style they can actually stick with for a change, Killingsworth is by far the Minus 5’s most consistent and enjoyable album to date.

I Think This Is, the 16th Young Fresh Fellows album in McCaughey’s three-decade career and one that marks the 25th anniversary of the release of their debut album (The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest, benefits greatly from a more streamlined course of action in terms of its creation. This is thanks to the enlistment of British rock legend Robyn Hitchcock -- whom McCaughey serves as a member of the Soft Boy’s latest band, the Venus 3, alongside his Minus 5 bandmate Buck and current R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin -- as its producer.

Unlike previous YFF albums, which have been criticized through the years as being too all over the place, Hitchcock succeeds in harnessing McCaughey’s unparalleled love for psychedelic power pop and helps him focus on crafting the 13 tracks here into a cohesive whole, rather than a scattershot run through the eclectic jukebox of the singer’s mind. The result is the best Young Fresh Fellows album that has ever come out, where songs reflecting the obvious influence of the album’s producer, such as the Globe of Frogs-esque “Used to Think All Things Would Happen”, rub shoulders comfortably with the proto-Turtles shimmy of “Let the Good Times Crawl” and the Orange Juice-copping romanticism of “Ballad of the Bootleg”.

Now that this extended family of artists is all in cahoots with one another on the same record label, how soon can we hope to witness some kind of Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows/Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 super-duper-group to come together and officially wipe us all completely off the map with their uncanny melodies and indelible songwriting skills?

9

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.