-->
Music

Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social: Love It to Life

Photo: Joseph Cultice

The former New York punk continues to perfect his own brand of Springsteen-esque rock. No surprises here, just the perfect summer record.


Jesse Malin

Love It to Life

Label: SideOneDummy
US Release Date: 2010-04-27
UK Release Date: 2010-04-26
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Over the course of a solo career that has now spanned nearly a decade, singer/songwriter Jesse Malin has honed his own unique brand of working class rock 'n' roll. A blend of New York punk and Springsteen-esque Americana, Malin has always had a penchant for simple songs with anthemic guitars and woeful tales of Johnny, Joanie, and the kids from the old neighborhood. Things are no different on Love It to Life, Malin's fourth original studio LP and the most consistent and fully realized collection of songs in his impressive discography.

Love It to Life is Malin's most accessible album to date and, in this case, that's a great thing. Filled with big, hooky choruses with sugary melodies and punky, power-chord-laden verses laced with doo-wop-esque harmonies, Love It to Life is infectious from start to finish. Malin's main attributes -- earnest lyrics, distinctly quivering voice, and rough-around-the-edges compositions -- are still present in full force, and they are still what make him better at his craft than most of his peers (take notice Jakob Dylan). Love It to Life is the most polished effort in Malin's oeuvre, with less distortion on the guitars, less pounding on the drums, and more elegant mixing than its predecessors. While these characteristics may increase the comparisons between Malin and Ryan Adams, they may also turn off some of Malin's fans from his days fronting underground hard rock band D Generation. That would be sad, indeed, as Love It to Life shows Malin on top of his songwriting craft and should serve as his breakthrough mainstream album.

There isn't a dud or wasted moment on the succinct, 10-song Love It to Life. "Burning the Bowery", the album's first single, is Malin at his most anthemic, with soaring, raggedy guitars, call-and-response choruses, and lyrics that recount the blood, sweat, and tears shed in New York's lower Manhattan blue blood neighborhoods. Malin shows his power pop chops on "All the Way from Moscow", featuring a "wee-ooo-wee" sing-along bit that will rattle through your head for days. Malin proves he is still one of the best rock balladeers on "The Archer", a wistful, acoustic-guitar strumming tale with poignant lyrics about lost love: "Always been a mystery / I often wonder if you miss / It was a long time ago when I let that arrow go / And baby, unconditional, in your body and your soul". Springsteen album rock blissfully oozes from "St. Marks Sunset", anchored by a sizzling lead guitar line that would make Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt holler with approval. "Disco Ghetto", with its '70s Television-esque lead guitar, and "Burn the Bridge", featuring monster power chords and drums reminiscent of the music of Joan Jett (who shares Malin's love of glam fashion), show Malin hasn't lost his noisy punk chops.

Malin hasn't broken any new musical ground with Love It to Life. Instead, he's simply perfected the solid rock 'n' roll that he's been championing for the last decade. In doing so, the New York singer/songwriter has created -- just like his labelmates Gaslight Anthem did two years ago -- the perfect summer rock record for 2010, filled with big, bright, shimmering songs that you'll be humming in your sleep and that sound great with the top down. As the album's title suggests, Love It to Life is filled with stories about love and struggle and heartache and the other stuff that fills in the cracks of everyday life. It won't move any buildings or change the state of music, but it will surely connect with you no matter who you are or where you come from -- and that's a triumph that Johnnie, Joanie, and even Springsteen would certainly admire.

8

Kuinka appeal to ornery Renaissance royalty with a joyous song in their infectiously fun new music video.

With the release of Americana band Kuinka's Stay Up Late EP earlier this year, the quartet took creative steps forward to deftly expand their sound into folk-pop territory. Riding in on the trend of moves made by bands like the Head and the Heart and the National Parks in recent years, they've traded in their raw roots sound for a bit more pop polish. Kuinka has kept the same singalong, celebratory vibe that they've been toting all this time, but there was a fork in the sonic highway that they boldly took this go-around. In this writer's opinion, they succeeded in once again captivating their audience, just in a respectably newfound way.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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

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

rating-image