John Hodgman isn’t primarily a musician, although he did introduce They Might Be Giants on their tour dates for a while. Still, I thought his new paperback edition of That Is All was pretty funny, so I reviewed it here. [Editor’s note: this review is no longer online.]
1. “Love You the Most” – The Shams. A timeless recipe: Country music + Rock’n’roll + touring = Ramblin’ Southern rock.
2. “The Road” – Nicolette Good. Evocative vocals, intriguing lyrics, and timeless instrumentation: This is the way I imagine country music.
3. “Patterns” – Autumn Owls. Crunchy, angular indie-rock reminiscent of Radiohead’s more personable moments and Menomena’s intensely structured early work.
You know what happened 20 years ago? The ’90s. Cub Scouts thinks that means nostalgia for the decade is primed to show up right about now:
“Adventuresome,” “experimental” and “quirky” are not the usual terms I append to “pop-rock,” but Lindby‘s Erikson necessitates it. How else to describe an album that celebrates six different people (two fictional) named Erikson in songs that are re-situations of the same melody? How about a band that sings an aggressive ska tune named “King of Condiments”? Lindby makes stream-of-consciousness pop music that includes jazzy asides, choral movements, funky rhythms, squelching synths, soulful belting, group shouts and more; it’s a head-spinning, smile-inducing whirlwind. I could go on listing things that are in this album, but it would get tedious for you: just know that there’s a ton happening. (One more: pseudo-Asian tune about a boxer!) The album isn’t as out-there as a Half-Handed Cloud record, but they’re approaching that level of eclecticism, with similar fantastical results. If you’re into something a little left of center but still hummable, this one’s for you.
Songwriters Josh Mordecai and Declan Ryan each contributed four tunes to create The Sad Bastards split EP. The title is indicative of the content, but not in the way you’d expect: the wry self-awareness of the title carries over to the lyrics more than the emotion they namecheck. In fact, the chorus of Mordecai’s “Repeat After Me” ends with “never let the sadness settle in your bones”; hardly a downer sentiment. Former IC writer Ryan’s “Maybe I’ll Go to Gainesville And Start a Band” shows him self-aware enough to realize that moving to another place may not be the solution to the problem anyway. (He decides to stay in the same city he started the song in.)
And the self-aware, DIY, populist, punk-tradition lyrics are the main draw here, as neither artist chooses to feature perfect performances in the recordings. Ryan pushes his baritone voice too hard in places, and Mordecai’s hyperactive strums and high voice evoke early Mountain Goats (which could mean you’re about to buy this or you’re about to flee). Instead, their performances substitute a bracing vigor and engaging enthusiasm for studio-made, pristine sounds. It’s self-awareness as celebration: Mordecai sings jubilantly in “Don’t Cut Yr Hair,” “And everything I’d want to say’s been said much better anyway / by guys who could write and sing and actually play.” But you know what? Singing your own song because you can is still cool. The world is better for it. If you’re into passionate, enthusiastic singer/songwriters in the DIY folk-punk tradition, check out The Sad Bastards EP.