I haven’t written an album review since late April, and at least two of the records I discuss here were released before that. I don’t always have a lot of time to listen to music, and even when I do, I don’t always get a sense of what I can say about it. And my vocabulary for describing what I like or dislike about songs is sadly narrow. How many times can I say something is catchy? But anyway, here are a few album reviews.
Amanda Palmer, There Will Be No Intermission – Amanda’s first new album in six years has a lot of content on it, and goes to some very dark places. That’s not unusual for her, but it’s often balanced by some funny or just plain fun songs, while here there isn’t a lot of reprieve (or should that be intermission?). They also tend to be rather long, all the tracks with lyrics clocking in at over five minutes, with the lead song “The Ride” the longest of all. That said, there are a lot of short instrumentals spaced throughout the record. There’s a general theme of survival in the chaos of life. “Voicemail for Jill” addresses the aftermath of an abortion, while “A Mother’s Confession” is a narrative about experiences with motherhood. “Drowning in the Sound,” co-written with Ben Folds, creates an engaging soundscape including choppy piano and high vocals. It’s a quality record, but also a lot to take in.
Jenny Lewis, On the Line – Okay, if that cover picture isn’t what the kids today call a thirst trap, I don’t know what is. She’s said it was a tribute to a similar picture of her mother, who had a mole in the same place. This is another largely sad album, with ballads about bad relationships and addiction, although that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have catchy melodies. And yes, her vocals are still excellent. Ringo Starr drums on “Heads Gonna Roll” and “Red Bull & Hennessy.” “Wasted Youth” is a jaunty song about drug addiction. “Do Si Do,” produced by Beck, addresses rock stars committing suicide. “Dogwood” addresses Jenny’s break-up with long-time boyfriend Johnathan Rice, and the percussion-heavy “Little White Dove” is about a visit to her dying mother at the hospital. “Taffy” makes good use of piano and a string section. When I looked for reviews of the album, several of them mentioned how Ryan Adams worked on it, and it wasn’t long before the release that was accused of abuse by women who’d worked with him, so that was unfortunate in retrospect.
David Lowery, In the Shadow of the Bull – The second solo record from the Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front man is a limited-edition product, originally only available at concerts, although I bought it online more recently. You can listen to it for free, at least for now. It’s an autobiographical album, intended to be the first of several, telling stories from throughout Lowery’s life. It’s stripped-down and raw, both musically and lyrically. There’s some great acoustic guitar work on it. “Plaza de Torres, 1967” describes Lowery’s visit to a bullfight as a kid, including details about breakfast and clothes, with the haunting refrain of “Do they really kill the bull?” The country ballad “Disneyland Jail, 1977” is about getting high on mushrooms at Disneyland, and how he now regrets doing things like that. “Mexican Chickens, 1989” is about a failed relationship. There are only seven songs, but they’re good ones.