Music

Jukebox the Ghost: Everything Under the Sun

This is the best pop album of last year. Need I say more?


Jukebox the Ghost

Everything Under the Sun

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2010-09-07
UK Release Date: 2010-09-07
Amazon
iTunes

My friend calls them "the bearded three", and yes, the three primary members of Jukebox the Ghost, pianist Ben Thornewill, guitarist Tommy Siegel, and drummer Jesse Kristin, do have beards, but not like Teenage Fanclub beards. Formed at George Washington University, they've been churning out infectious pop for seven years now, but only have one previous album, Let Live & Let Ghosts, which is obviously a take on the religious maxim "let go and let God", and quite clever, in fact.

So, after this bit of irreverence and non-essential information, let's get to the music, my favorite part of the review (it doesn't help me that the presskit totally sucks as far as providing information, anecdotes, history, quotes, and even personnel, aside from everyone harping on the fact that Everything Under the Sun was produced by Peter Katis who's manned the boards for Interpol and the National, two bands that have absolutely nothing to do with JTG).

We start with "Schizophrenia", the best song on the album, and one of the best songs of the year. It may be unwise to begin with your strongest material, but the other 10 tracks on here are so brilliant, for the most part, that it isn't a detriment in this situation. "Schizophrenia" is a successful new-wave throwback, in an era inundated with tired new-wave throwbacks, with melodies more pop than pop, and similarities to the recent output of the Killers and Ra Ra Riot. Careening vocals, brilliant hooks, and multiple parts soundly put together are all things that make this track essential.

"Half Crazy" is a fun new wave/power pop hybrid, recalling the forgotten 4 Out of 5 Doctors and Split Enz. "Empire" is exuberant and so infectious you'll need a gas mask to stay healthy. "Summer Sun" is a short, pleasant excursion with a definite UK sound (for the longest time I thought these guy were from the UK -- you'll see why if you listen) like early Athlete or the pre-commercial grandiosity of Snow Patrol. "Mistletoe" is another essential aural event, simply oozing melodies so perfect it's hard to believe they were conceived, and as indebted to the Beatles as it is to Squeeze.

"The Sun" is the only letdown on Everything Under the Sun, and it's really only a semi-letdown, a sonic Playgirl Hollywood loaf of a song, total madness, and a valiant attempt to subvert pop conventions. Unfortunately, like mid- to late-era XTC, it's too complicated for its own good, giving you nothing that you can really hold onto. "So Let Us Create" is a perfect rebound from JTG's only slide toward mediocrity, a piano-driven stomp somewhere between Jeff Lynne and Jason Lytle on anti-depressants, with some impressive, theatrical shots at Freddie Mercury-style vocals. "Carrying" continues this platter of pure pop (sorry), with another total Brit-pop feel, especially early Blur.

There's an interlude, for some reason, leading into "The Stars", expertly conceived pop/rock of the Ben Folds ilk, with flavors of new wave and synth-pop, perfectly combining the modern and the retro in one terrifically melodious package. "The Popular Thing" sounds like Jason Falkner and Squeeze recreating the sounds of the Bay City Rollers and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. Heaven, I tell ya. Heaven. The album ends as strong as it begins, with "Nobody", a Jon Brion-cumJeff Lynne jaunt overflowing with hooks like opiates and sporting structural perfection.

Listening to Everything Under the Sun, my mouth was usually agape. I'm a pop guy. Pet Sounds is my favorite album, and power pop is my favorite musical genre. Here, Jukebox the Ghost give me everything I need and more. For those mourning the loss of Jellyfish, Beulah, Blur, or the sounds of XTC's or Squeeze's heydays, purchasing this album is a direct order, and not up for debate.

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image